This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on my affiliate link and purchase something (at no additional cost to you!), I may earn a small commission that helps me keep the blog running. Thank you so much for your support!
Night markets are an essential experience to have while visiting Taiwan! They’re the best place to try local street food and experience a taste of local life.
There are a number of Kaohsiung night markets you can visit while exploring the city, but there are a number of things you should know before you visit any Kaohsiung night market.
And that is where this post comes in!
It gives you all the information you need to navigate the Kaohsiung night markets like a local and have the best experience possible!
The only place I’ve ever eaten dinner in Kaohsiung is at a night market. There is no better place to indulge in Taiwanese food without breaking the budget.
Before we get started, if you’re heading to Kaohsiung, be sure to read my 3 day Kaohsiung itinerary. It is the only itinerary you need to plan the perfect trip to Kaohsiung.
1. Don’t Haggle
Haggling is a common practice in many Asian countries, but you shouldn’t haggle at the night markets in Kaohsiung (or anywhere in Taiwan for that matter).
It is considered very rude to haggle in Taiwan, and you could seriously offend the person selling you their food.
The prices at Kaohsiung night markets are already set at a fair price, so there is no need to try to negotiate a lower price.
Haggling, in general, isn’t common in Taiwan, so you shouldn’t expect to haggle no matter where you are.
The exception to this is you can sometimes haggle with a street vendor selling goods (not food) if there isn’t a price tag on the item. And even in that scenario is isn’t common practice.
Be prepared to pay the listed price at the Kaohsiung night markets.
You’re getting a fair price and don’t have to deal with the stress of haggling. It is a win-win situation!
2. Be Prepared to Eat at Communal Tables
All of the night markets in Kaohsiung have communal tables in the middle of the street where you can sit to enjoy your food.
They’re plastic tables and plastic chairs that are pulled out of storage and set up every evening for the night markets.
You share the table with whoever else happens to be walking past and wants to sit down to enjoy their food.
It is kind of fun but can be a bit awkward if you’re sitting along eating like I was, but the Taiwanese are really nice.
You never know what type of fun conversation you’ll end up having!
The communal table approach to sitting is common at nearly every night market across Taiwan. The only night market I’ve been to that had a different arrangement was the Hualien night market.
At that market, there were tables behind the food stalls, so it was a more private and relaxing place to eat.
3. Bring Your Own Napkins
Napkins aren’t usually provided at the food stalls when purchasing food at a Kaohsiung night market, so you’ll need to bring your own.
There are a number of street food dishes that are served in sauce and are messy to eat. It is likely that you’ll need a napkin at some point while visiting a Kaohsiung night market, so you better be prepared.
I personally bring a reusable cloth napkin with me because it is better for the environment.
But any type of napkin or Kleenex will work!
You just don’t want to be stuck in a situation where you have to use your shirt sleeve to wipe your face.
4. Take Food Risks
You’ll notice a distinct smell when you visit any Kaohsiung night market. It wafts through the air and, frankly, doesn’t have the most pleasant smell.
That, my friend, is stinky tofu, and you need to try it.
The smell of stinky tofu can turn you off, but once you get past the smell, it tastes incredible.
There are a number of other Taiwan street food dishes you may be hesitant to try because they are unfamiliar to you, but you should take the risk and try them.
What’s the worst that can happen?!
You take a bite, don’t like it, put it in the trash, and then try something else.
But at least you were brave enough to try something new. You never know when you’ll find your new favourite food!
A few other dishes that may seem unfamiliar but are worth a try are:
- Oyster omelette
- Deep fried milk
- Taro balls
- Aiyu jelly
It should be your goal to try at least one new dish when you’re visiting the Kaohsiung night markets.
You might be surprised which one you like the best, and you’ll be so glad you gave it a try!
It would be a shame to go home and regret not trying more traditional food while you were in Taiwan.
5. Use the Washroom Before You Visit a Kaohsiung Night Market
This is a very important tip that not many people are talking about.
There aren’t any washrooms at the night markets in Kaohsiung, so you’ll want to be sure you use a washroom before you head out to a night market.
You don’t want to have to leave early just because you have to use the washroom!
If you do need to use a washroom while visiting a night market, you should look for the nearest metro station. They all have public washrooms you can use, so you don’t have to go back to your hotel.
6. Brings Your Cash
Kaohsiung night markets operate mostly in cash.
You’ll be hard pressed to find a vendor who will accept your debit or credit card (I’ve never personally seen one), so you’ll want to bring cash with you to the market.
It is best practice to bring cash in smaller denominations, so it is easy for vendors to make change, but most vendors will be able to make change in a pinch.
7. Look for Long Lines
Long lines are an excellent indicator that the vendor is selling something delicious.
If you’re not quite sure where to start or what your want to eat, keep an eye out for a food stall that has long lines. Then jump in the line if the food looks like something you’re interested in trying.
It is hard to go wrong with your choice if the locals like it enough to queue up for it!
You’ll often see the longest lines at black pepper bun stalls. They’re an incredibly popular street food found at all the Kaohsiung night markets.
It is essentially a bun filled with black pepper and either beef or pork that is cooked in a clay oven right in front of you.
Black pepper buns are on every list of foods you need to try in Taiwan and for good reason!
There is a vegetarian version of black pepper buns made with potato as the filling, but it isn’t that great. You can find much better vegetarian and vegan options at night markets, so I don’t recommend you give the vegetarian black pepper bun a try.
Other dishes that often have a long line are:
- Fried chicken
- Braised beef cubes
You should, of course, give less popular dishes a try as well.
Just because a vendor doesn’t have a long line, doesn’t mean the food isn’t worth trying.
One of my favourite night market foods is corn on the cob. It sounds basic, but the spice they put on the corn is incredible. The corn on the cob stalls never have a long line, but they are still delicious. And the same goes for many other street food.
In general, searching for food vendors that have a long line is a great place to start if this is your first time visiting a Kaohsiung night market.
You’ll be able to get a sense of what you like and don’t like, and you can choose less popular stalls with the information you learn by trying the most popular food.
8. Take Time to Play a Few Games
Games are available to play at all Kaohsiung night markets. They’re similar to the typical carnival games you’ll find at a county fair, but they’re a little more DIY.
They’re still really fun though!
The most common game you’ll find at Kaohsiung night markets is trying to throw a ball into small baskets behind a counter.
It is fairly difficult to win but is a lot of fun.
Another popular game is the balloon popping game where you’re given darts and have to try to pop the balloons behind the counter.
It is also quite difficult to win but is a great way to kill some time while you’re digesting your food before you head in for another round of eats.
The games are inexpensive, but it can still add up if you play a lot. Be cautious of how much you spend on them, so you don’t blow your budget. Plus the prizes aren’t that great, so they’re more for fun rather than winning something of value.
I suggest playing a game with your travel companion(s) (if you’re not a solo traveler), and the loser has to buy the winner their favourite Taiwan street food!
9. Bring Your Own Tea
What is a day in Taiwan without a nice refreshing glass of bubble tea or iced tea?!
Tea is an essential Taiwan experience, and I guarantee you’ll be sipping more tea than yo ever imagined!
Tea is so refreshing on a hot, humid Taiwan day, and it is absolutely delicious.
The fact that it is incredibly inexpensive doesn’t hurt either!
But, interestingly, it isn’t so easy to find tea at the Kaohsiung night markets!
You’ll need to bring your own tea to the night market if you want to sip on it while wandering through the vendors and trying food.
There are normally tea stalls within a block or so of all the Kaohsiung night markets, so it isn’t difficult to find a place near the market to grab a tea before heading into the market itself.
You’re more likely to find fruit juice vendors than tea vendors at all the Kaohsiung night markets.
The juice is super fresh and squeezed in front of you, so it is a great alternative to tea.
I suggest trying the freshly squeezed juice at least once while you’re at a Kaohsiung night market, but I personally find that the flavour of tea goes better with the street food than the fruit juice.
I personally enjoy grabbing a fruit juice as I’m leaving the night market and enjoying it as I walk back to my hotel. It is the perfect way to cap off an evening of food!
10. Don’t Arrive at the Night Market Too Early
Kaohsiung night markets normally open around 6 pm or 7 pm, but you don’t want to get there right when they open!
The markets are officially open at that time, but they aren’t fully set up and ready to go.
Some of the vendors will be open and ready to sell you food, but the majority won’t be. You want to arrive at the night market about an hour after it opens.
That way nearly all of the stalls will be open, and you can have any food your heart desires.
If you arrive at a Kaohsiung night market right when it opens and it is pretty dead, you can wander up and down the stalls to see what you might want to eat once the market gets going.
Exploring the area around the night market is another great way to kill a little time before the night market is fully operational. I love wandering around side streets and alleys while traveling. It is one of the most fun ways to get to know a more local (and less touristy) side of the country.
11. Bring Your Own Bag
You’ll be offered a plastic bag on a regular basis at Kaohsiung night markets. Nearly every time you purchase something, you’ll be offered a plastic bag.
It is terrible for the environment.
But, lucky for you, there is a simple way to combat this excessive plastic use and that is by bringing your own reusable bag!
It is a small thing you can do, but it makes a big difference in the long run.
I like to bring a water resistant bag to the market just in case anything spills out of a container while I’m walking.
12. Kaohsiung Night Markets Aren’t a Tourist Trap
It isn’t uncommon to hear stories of a traveler who has gone to a market and gotten scammed. It is an unfortunate thing, but it can happen if you’re not careful and aware of your surroundings.
But that isn’t the case with night markets in Kaohsiung.
Kaohsiung night markets (and all night markets in Taiwan) are legitimate, safe, and fairly priced.
Locals frequent Kaohsiung night markets, so you know they are legit. The night markets in Taiwan are not designed as a way to lure unsuspecting tourists in and scam them out of a bunch of money.
Of course, there is the risk of being pick pocketed. It is a risk you take wherever you go- even while walking in your home town. But petty crime rates are very low in Taiwan, and you’ll be safe by exercising a basic level of awareness of your surroundings.
So you can rest assured that the Kaohsiung night markets are not a tourists trap. You can explore them and enjoy everything they have to offer without a worry!
They’re one of my favourite things to do in Taiwan, and it would be a shame if you missed out on them because you had the misconception that they are a tourist trap!
There you have it! 12 essential tips you need to know before visiting a Kaohsiung night market.
Every tip on this list is purposeful, and if you follow all of them, you’ll have an amazing experience at the Kaohsiung night markets.
What might seem obvious while reading this post isn’t always as obvious when you’re on the road exploring a new country.
You’ll thank me for these tips when you don’t have to run to find a washroom in the middle of a night market!
I hope you enjoyed these tips! If you have any other expert Kaohsiung night market tips, drop them in the comments. I’d love to read them!
Now stop reading (unless you’re going to read another one of my blog post *wink wink*) and get out there and eat some delicious Taiwanese street food!