MAKING THE JOURNEY BETWEEN XIAMEN, CHINA AND TAIWAN VIA KINMEN ISLAND
From 1949 to 2008, travel between China and Taiwan was not allowed, with the majority of trips between these two using Hong Kong as a stepping stone into mainland China, or vice versa. Since relations between Taiwan and China have improved, numerous flights between Taiwan and the mainland have been introduced, but most of them at a high cost to budget travelers ($300-400 usd) considering the proximity between the two.
One worthwhile option of travel is to make the trip of the beautiful colonial port city of Xiamen, on the east coast in Fujian province and one of the great unknown cities of China, to the Taiwanese island of Jinmen (about 13km off Xiamen island) and then onto the main island of Taiwan by plane. This trip can be made in either direction, though a Chinese visa is not easily obtained in Taiwan.
Let’s start in Xiamen, which is one of China’s most worthwhile mid-size cities to visit, and perhaps the most pleasant for living. It is certainly worth a few days to explore the impressive parks, old colonial district and the eerie Gulangyu Island. There are numerous hostels and reasonable hotels here and the weather is generally perfect. You may not want to leave. But let’s get onto Taiwan.
There are ferries from Xiamen’s Dongdu Ferry Terminal (东渡/厦门国际邮轮中心) each hour from 8:30am to 5:30pm each day. The cost is 170 yuan ($27 usd) The trip, often very choppy, takes 75 minutes to arrive at the port on Kinmen Island.
Staying one or two nights on Kinmen Island is a great introduction to Taiwan. The island, which has been pivotal in cross-straight relations between Taiwan and China (the capitalist ROC and the communist PRC), has wonderful historic villages featuring articulate saddleback houses. The markets are famous for oyster pancakes. Numerous homestays (from 1000TWD, $33usd) in historic quarters offer a solid value and friendly owners. You can rent a motorbike for 400TWD ($13usd).
But, if you must get onto mainland Taiwan right away…
From the port terminal building in Kinmen, you can take a taxi (300TWD, $10usd) to the Kinmen airport. If you’d like to take the public bus from the port to the airport, you have to transfer at Jinmen town, which is a bit of a hassle. The helpful tourist information center at the port building can help you with this bus route.
At the Kinmen airport, it should be possible to buy your tickets onward to the main Taiwanese cities (Taipei, Taichung, Chia-yi, Tainan and Kaohsiung). These ticket prices are fixed and don’t go up even on the day of flying. However, you preferred route may not be available if you are flying on a weekend or a busy day. As flights are difficult to purchase online, I’d recommend calling and making a reservation at least a few days in advance.
Flights from Kinmen to Taiwan’s mainland generally cost a very cheap (1,800-2,100TWD, $60-$70). Flight information can be found here:
You may want to call the airlines to make a reservation.
Mandarin Airlines 886-2-412-8008
TNA (TransAsia) 886-2-4498-123
Once you arrive in Taiwan, you’re on your own. Enjoy.
Coming the other way (Taiwan to China), just follow the same procedure, but be sure you have a visa. The boat from Kinmen to Xiamen is 700NT ($23). Be sure to arrive at the port at least by 5pm to get on the final 5:30pm ferry to Xiamen, China. You can exchange your TWD to RMB at a reasonable rate at the port, before going through immigration. They do not change other currencies such as USD or Euros. BE SURE to have your valid Chinese visa before making any plans.