A Comprehensive Ready-To-Go Travel Guide
Note: Map not to scale
Kinmen is on a special spot of the globe, only 3 km away from Mainland China. Kinmen County has 2 populated islands, both well-worth visiting: the main island called Kinmen, and Little Kinmen. They're a 10-min ferry ride apart. A 3rd island called Dadan, small and unpopulated but with an interesting military history, will be open to tourists after Chinese New Year 2019. Dadan is a half-hour ferry ride from Little Kinmen. A minimum stay in Kinmen of 2 nights and 3 days is recommended, but there's enough to explore for as long as you want…
Fly from Taiwan/Ferry from Mainland China
- Round-trip plane tickets from several cities on the main island of Taiwan cost between NT$2,500 and NT$4,000.
- The frequent ferry from Xiamen costs 160RMB. From Quanzhou, it's 140RMB. Returning to either place in China from Kinmen, the ticket is NT$650.
- For details about schedules and buying tickets: Getting Here
- Will you need a visa? Probably not. Passport holders from many different countries do not need a tourist visa to travel in Taiwan (and thus Kinmen). A list is here, along with the maximum length of stay allowed: https://www.boca.gov.tw/cp-149-4456-7630b-2.html
The New Taiwan (NT) dollar is the only currency accepted in Kinmen. You can change money at the ferry terminal, airport and at banks in Jincheng, the largest town. For details: “Money and Costs”
Almost all locals speak Mandarin Chinese. Some older people only know Minnanyu, a variant of Taiwanese. Simple English will be understood at tourist attractions.
The standard voltage in Kinmen is 110V/60Hz. Two-pronged flat-pin plugs are used.
Ambulance & Fire Brigade: 119
Country Calling Code: +886
Local Area Code: 082
Wi-Fi & Connectivity
Most hotels and B&Bs in Kinmen offer free Wi-Fi. Public buildings such as bus stations have the iTaiwan free Wi-Fi system. You need to register before using it: iTaiwan Wi-Fi
You also can buy various internet plans at local telecommunications shops. If you already have a Taiwanese Internet plan, it will work here. Be aware that in Kinmen's more remote areas, you might receive signals from China, possibly incurring international roaming charges.
Kinmen's time zone is the same as in Taiwan and Xiamen, China: GMT+8
Just like in Taiwan, tips are neither expected nor required; some restaurants may add a 10% service charge to the bill.
Travel Service Center
Major sightseeing spots, as well as the airport and ferry terminal, have staffed tourist information centers where you can pick up paper maps and ask for information in basic English.
Distances on either the main island or Little Kinmen aren't great, and there are several options for getting around:
- Public bus: It's reliable, and with a bit of planning, will get you to all of the attractions. To pay, you can use cash or the Taiwan EasyCard or iPass.
- Guided bus tours: 8 different routes going to major tourist attractions. The guides on board speak Mandarin Chinese. Each tour is a half day.
- Car rental: You'll need an international driving license.
- Scooter rental: You'll need an international driving license for all types of scooter except for 1-person electric scooters.
- Bicycle rental: 2 bike shops in Jincheng rent bikes by the hour and day.
- Public bicycle: There are bilingual K-bike kiosks at all major attractions and at the main bus stations in the 3 towns. You need a Taiwanese phone number and a credit card to use the bikes.
- For more details: “Getting Around”
Spring (March through May)
Kinmen's weather at this time of year is usually quite pleasant, with temperatures in the low to mid-20s centigrade. Light rain showers are highly possible in April and May. Spring is also the fog season. Both ferries and flights may be cancelled for a day (or sometimes 2). It's best to have a flexible day or two on either end of your trip, just in case.
Kinmen is one of a handful of places in the world where you can experience the special “sea of stars”. Go to a beach in the spring after dark, and you may see the water glittering with a bright, shiny blue. This magical effect is a natural phenomenon, caused by bioluminescent phytoplankton.
Summer (June through mid-Oct.)
This part of the world has a long, hot and sticky summer. The sun is strong, but since Kinmen's a fairly small island, almost everywhere there's usually a cool breeze coming off the sea. Besides enjoying the water at the beaches, you may also spot the summer migratory bird, the blue-tailed bee-eater, flitting in and out of sand dunes along the coast where it nests.
Autumn (mid-Oct. through mid-Dec.)
This is the best time to come to Kinmen, weather-wise. It's normally dry, with daytime temperatures hovering around 25 degrees centigrade. Many of the fields you pass will be golden with sorghum, the grain used to make Kinmen's famous kaoliang liquor. Whether you drink it or not, you can enjoy the beauty of the harvest to come.
Winter (mid-Dec. through Feb.)
Kinmen's winters are quite dry and often sunny, but the wind can be sharp and cold. As long as you wear plenty of layers, you can't help but be impressed at the late afternoon sight of huge flocks of migrating cormorants flying over the sea to their winter roosts on Kinmen.
Major Annual Events
Rock Oyster and Wheat Culture Festival (Spring)
Two of Kinmen's most important products from the land and sea are celebrated on one weekend every April. You can:
* Take a guided tour of an oyster farm
* Learn how to shell oysters
* Make DIY handcrafts using wheat straw
All activities are free, and of course there's local food to buy and try.
Wudao City God Parade (Spring)
A cultural explosion for the senses, this parade snakes around the streets and alleyways of Jincheng for a whole afternoon. It's been held for over 300 years!
You'll see and hear:
* 12-ft tall costumed deities dancing in the street
* local children dressed up in traditional costumes and makeup, riding in open carriages
* gongs, horns and drums
* lion dances
* visiting temple groups from Taiwan and Mainland China
Little Kinmen Taro Festival (Autumn)
A chance to both harvest your own taro in the fields of Little Kinmen, and try various delicious taro dishes, sweet and savory!
Kinmen Tunnel Music Festival (Autumn)
A unique concert experience! The waterway of Zhaishan Tunnel is turned into a performance stage for an ensemble of classical musicians, who are punted up and down in front of the audience, playing both Western and Chinese music. The acoustics are comparable to those in European cathedrals. But a bit different--besides being surrounded by rock and water, the musicians are accompanied by the sound of the waves crashing in the nearby sea. Unforgettable!
Fascinating Military History
Distinct Local Culture
Local Food to Try
Guangdong Congee (廣東粥 = Guǎngdōng zhōu)
A popular breakfast food in Kinmen. Rice is cooked in a broth until it's soft. Then a variety of ingredients are added, including pork and fish meatballs and slices of liver.
If you want to eat like a local, have a youtiao along with a bowl of Guangdong congee. Unlike the crunchy youtiao in Taiwan, Kinmen youtiao is crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.
These crispy pastries come in both sweet and savory versions. A nice inexpensive snack!
Fried Instant Noodles (炒泡麵 = Chǎo pào miàn)
During Kinmen's military period, this was the soldiers' favorite food. Along with the noodles, this simple yet popular dish also has vegetables, pork and an egg.
Kinmen's main shellfish product, you might well see locals harvesting or shelling rock oysters. Compared to other oysters, they're smaller and a bit sweeter. Try them the local way: fried or with noodles.
Beef jerky, beef noodles, beef served in many different local ways. If you like beef, you'll find lots of choice in Kinmen!
At the mention of Kinmen, many Taiwanese people immediately think of Kaoliang liquor, a strong spirit made of sorghum. It's thus a popular souvenir.
Taro Shaved Ice (芋頭冰 = Yùtou Bīng)
Little Kinmen's taro is cooked in syrup, then added in chunks onto shaved ice with other toppings. Its subtle aroma and smooth texture make taro shaved ice a special summer treat!