How to Shop Successfully in Taipei (at Night-Markets and with Street Vendors!)

Shopping in Taiwan can be an exciting adventure or a total nightmare, depending on what you are looking for, how you approach the situation and what your expectations are in finding just what you want.
all of these items were purchased at Taipei night-markets.

Buying cute, fashionable, and cheap clothes in Taiwan is an experience that is definitely very different from the states- especially if you are willing to put yourself to the test of buying from the city’s many street vendors and night-markets- which will surely save you money if you are up for the challenge! 

Clothes at night markets and from street vendors generally cost less than 300-500twd ($10-17 usd) per item, though higher priced items are usually priced around 1000twd ($35 usd) while shopping in these areas, though these higher prices are usually only found in the shops. 

However, most of the items I have found have ranged from about 100twd ($3.50 usd) to 200twd ($7 usd) which, with a little bit of patience and experience, can be found quite easily. Department stores are much more costly, and generally have items priced similar to how they would be in the states.

In Taipei there will always be a wide array of very up to date, hip fashionable and trendy clothes for unbelievably cheap prices, but finding the best deals and making your way to the stylish clothes among all the cheesy, overdone white noise of shopping can be overwhelming at best. 

The trick is to hit the night-markets when the least number of people are around but the shops are still open- which usually happens around 5 or 6pm, when most of the other shoppers are still at work. This way you have more access to the vendors to haggle prices, and have a chance to browse the racks without bumping elbows with others. Night markets in Taiwan are famous for selling stylish clothes at very low prices, but also are known for being extremely crowded and congested. 

crowds at Shilin night-market

When shopping in a night-market for the first time, the last thing you want is the added stress of being stuck in a crowd, pushing your way through just to move. This is why late afternoon is a much better time to visit the stands, as you won’t have to deal with the added traffic of students coming to get a cheap meal for dinner, or young professionals just getting off work.

Alongside stands and vendors, there are also many shops in Taipei night-markets, that hold slightly better quality merchandise than you will find out on the street for slightly higher prices. These shops are generally very small and compact- which is another reason to avoid them at peak hours!
Many of the styles of clothing you will find in Taipei and Taiwan fit a very different aesthetic than the standard for most American women, leaning a bit more towards extremes of either “cuteness” or “edginess” with not to much in between in many cases.
The huge push towards more “girly” styles in a lot of the clothes  in Taipei is largely due to the heavy influence of Japanese pop culture, especially the “Kawaii” culture that you see in many magazines and advertisements- in looks that often seem to be gearing towards a goal of “ultimate cuteness” in everything. I quite like this style as I am a particularly big fan of Japanese clothing and pushing the envelope a bit, but I understand that this is absolutely not for everyone!
This often includes a lot of ruffles, lace, flowers, animal ears, bows and rhinestones- which can be a bit much for the average American girl. However, if you are willing to have a little bit of fun with it, you can build a very cute and stylish wardrobe for very little money! 
Another thing that you will find in Taipei shops and night markets is a wide array of t-shirts with English writing on them that makes absolutely no sense. This is one of my absolute favorite things to buy- as these types of shirts are often very cheap, and always make me laugh. 
this is a dress I picked up last night- it says, “how can I forget all the letters you wrote” which actually makes sense! Bravo, Taipei. I guess the “cutie” part is supposed to be the beginning of a new letter..?

One thing that can be particularly frustrating about shopping in Taipei for foreigners is the sizing of the clothes for sale. Many shops and vendors only carry very small sizes (up to around a US size 6 or 8) and vendors often sell clothing that is only “one size”- that would fit someone around a size 2 to a size 6 most of the time. 
Regina from the movie “Mean Girls” shopping at the store “1, 3, 5”
Most of the night-market and street vendor shopping in Taiwan is a bit like the store in the movie “Mean Girls” that is called “1, 3, 5” that doesn’t carry anything above a size 5. So, for petite girls like me this is fine- and actually makes things a bit easier (especially for buying petite length pants!) but for anyone a slightly more average size, or for girls that are very very tall- unfortunately Taipei may not turn out to be so much of an amazing shopping mecca. (The photo above captures Regina’s look of horror when she can’t fit into the largest size in the store).
Another thing that is very important to mention is that most items that cost less than 200twd aren’t usually available to try on, and are almost always final sale. So, there is a bit more of a gambling aspect to shopping in Taiwan in this way- as you may find something that looks cute on the rack, and terrible on. But, if you have an idea of what styles and shapes fit you best, this isn’t too much of a problem.
pants that fit my inseam! yay!
One very commonly sold one-size-fits-all item in Taipei is what I like to call the “pegging” (pictured above)- a pants and legging hybrid made out of a sort of water-resistant lyrca fabric that comes in one size, is usually very flattering, and is also totally comfy! These pants are also generally very cheap! 
These pictured below are only 250 TWD, which is roughly US $8.50. 
But…if you are not ultra- tiny, and don’t like super-mega-girly things, you may still have a few chances to find stylish clothes that you like! Most of these photos were taken at Shida night market, (which is right off of exit 2 at the Taipower MRT station) but a better place to find a more “edgy” look in the most up-to-date styles is the Ximen area, which I will cover in another upcoming post! 
Below are some examples of things I was still able to find at Shida that represent the sort of “punk” edgy look that you find in Ximen – in clothes, shoes, accessories, and pretty much anything else you can imagine! 
I really want these shoes! heehee.
And last but not least, as far as shopping for men goes, you will find that a lot of styles are quite a bit more feminine than American men’s clothes, and often men’s styles will push the envelope of edginess a bit more- which I love! 
On the left you can see among these “preppier” styles, a drop-crotch pant showed on the mannequins outside this shop. Very edgy! And definitely something that you wouldn’t find in most shops in the U.S.
I always find shopping in Taipei to be really fun and exciting- but I think the best way to approach it is to not expect too much, and see what you find!
What do you think about the difference in shopping in Taipei versus the United States? Do you think you would be up for the challenge? 

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