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Jinmen, Taiwan

The Deyue Tower in Shantou village Jinmen, Taiwan

In addition to sandy beaches, charming Fujianese-style villages, impressive villas, quiet country roads and a fascinating history that comes complete with tales of China's legendary pirate Koxinga, Jinmen is a great visa exit-stamp alternative to Hong Kong and a cheap flight option to Taipei. >>>

Just two kilometers off the coast of China's Fujian province lies the small archipelago of islands formerly known to the west as Quemoy and today called variously Kinmen or Jinmen.

Though just a stone's throw (well a one-hour ferry ride at any rate) from Xiamen, the largest of them, Greater Jinmen Island, makes for a refreshing break from the mainland.

With a 6,000-year long history, one of the island's most recent incarnations was as the front line for the Nationalist/Communist struggle of the 1950s. After decades of bitter fighting, evidenced by a profusion of military sites and bunkers scattered across the island, in the end it was the Nationalists who won out over the little slice of territory and it remains under the administration of Taiwan and the ROC to this day.

Anyone who has to regularly leave the country on a visa run should definitely consider Jinmen as a cost-effective alternative to Hong Kong for getting their exit stamp!
Of course, it's hasn't all been war games and politics, and the island has a long and rich history as an administrative center, porcelain producer and, from 1633, home to the infamous pirate Zheng Cheng-Cheng or Koxinga and his army. China's most famous pirate and defender of the remnants of the Ming dynasty based himself there for over a decade, harvesting trees to build the ships used to repel the Dutch East India Company and take the fight to the invading Manchu and their Qing dynasty.

Later, in the 17th to 19th centuries, wealthy Overseas Chinese left a notable mark and on the island's heritage when, unable to return home for various reasons, they flocked to Jinmen and used their fortunes to build grandiose houses, characterized by unique East-meets-West architecture. Many of these buildings still stand, towering amongst the low-slung saddle back Fujian-style traditional local architecture. The latter is also found in charming villages throughout the island, often surrounded by lush green national parkland or alongside wide sandy beaches fringing its coastline.

Jinmen, taiwan

Military-style buildings are a common sight

Since the easing of cross-Strait relations, Jinmen has undergone an economic boom with many mainland Taiwanese relocating to take advantage of the huge market that has opened up and, though they're rarely sold out, the ferries from Xiamen are full of Tawainese making the journey back and forth to and from the Mainland.

There are 30 countries that are exempt from needing a visa for Taiwan and, though PRC residents don't need a visa as such, they do need an entry-exit permit to set foot in the country. So, if you're planning a trip out to Jinmen, be sure not to end up on one of the Chinese tourist boats that simply circle the island for a look-see from afar before turning back to Xiamen. Our taxi driver initially took us to a dock for such tours that was not much more than a car park and a ticket booth.

Though the ticket seller there, with his white cap and smoke blackened teeth insistently tried to convince us that we were in the right place, the lack of passport control gave us the sense all was not quite right, so we hopped into another cab and made our way to the international ferry terminal at Dongdu. (Speaking of passport control, anyone who has to regularly leave the country on a visa run should definitely consider Jinmen as a cost-effective alternative to Hong Kong for getting their exit stamp)! You could also use the island as a springboard to a longer Taiwan tour with its small airport offering regular flights to destinations in Taiwan at a snip of the price of a direct China-Taiwan flight (as little as RMB 500 one way to Taipei! See below for list of airlines and contact details).

My recent trip only allowed for an afternoon on the island into which we packed a reasonable tour of the southwestern corner and although brief, it was enough to get a taste of this little pocket of Taiwan, though you could quite easily spend a day or two exploring. Stepping off the boat and through customs, we quickly hooked ourselves up with a scooter (TWD 400 or about RMB 80) and a map thanks to a kindly tourist information booth attendant who let her lunch go cold to help us find some wheels and sketch out a three-hour tour, and off we went to explore.

Here's a little of what we found:

Jinmen, Taiwan

After losing sight of Xiamen, the waters soon turn a brighter shade of blue

Taking a high speed ferry from Xiamen, we could peer through the dirty windows to see a landscape that brought to mind the islands of Hong Kong with blue green waters and sandy colored rocks.

Jinmen, Taiwan

Hittin' the road

Renting a scooter is one of the most convenient ways to get around; the roads are wide and in good shape, there's very little traffic and you can cruise around at your leisure. Although the rental agencies are in the nearby town of Jincheng, our lovely tourist information lady at the ferry terminal had them come and pick us up by car and later drop us back with no extra charge.

Jinmen, Taiwan

A tumbledown deserted village

We headed first to check out the National Park but, as we couldn't take the bike inside and with our time limited by the last ferry departing at 5:30 p.m., we decided to settle for a drive around its outskirts. We came across a small lake to one side of which was this deserted and ramshackle village. Like much of the island, this didn't feel at all like China; instead these clapboard houses made me think of the slave quarters of 19th century cotton plantations across America's southern states.

Jinmen, Taiwan

The endless sandy beach of the southern coast

Heading south, we soon hit the beach. The sky may have been overcast, but the weather was still warm and a lone windsurfer was riding the waves. A small car park and toilet block sit just behind, but its hard to imagine it ever getting very busy here. A small delegation of Taiwanese students were just setting up for a litter pick when we arrived, though in comparison to other beaches I've seen, there wasn't very much litter to pick.

After posing for some photos with them, they kindly gave us a lunch box filled with pastries which we snacked on while watching the waves. We admired the spot's rugged beauty, pondering its potential for development and mentally noting that we should return one day with our kite surfing gear to test out the wind and waters.

Jinmen, Taiwan

Traditional saddle-back houses

Not far from the beach, we came to a local farming village where traditional architecture was on display down every narrow alleyway. Here you can see the rounded saddle-back style houses typical of regional working and farming classes and, in the background, the pointed, swallow tail roofs that were once the reserve of the gentry.

Jinmen, TaiwanFast-fruit trees

Mandarin and pomelo trees were plentiful around the village but this enterprising farmer seems to be one step ahead of the rest, bagging his fruits while they're still on the the tree!

Jinmen, Taiwan

The Wentai stone pagoda near Jincheng

The area around the base of this simple pagoda was undergoing some renovations into what looked to be a small garden or park. We climbed to the nearby peak hoping for a view and though it wasn't much of a climb (only about twenty steps)  we were still disappointed to be looking at a factory below.

Jinmen, Taiwan

The Deyue Tower in Shuitou village

The village of Shuitou offers some of the best examples of the East meets West architecture left behind by the wealthy overseas Chinese and the neighboring buildings now house an interesting museum documenting the development of this group of  Peranakan or Straits Chinese.

Jinmen, taiwan

Shuitou Deyue Tower rises above the low slung traditional houses that surround it

The largest concentration of such buildings on the island, such a concentration of wealth and  grandeur needed protecting from marauding pirates--and the Deyue Tower provided just that. Portable wooden stairs connected its four stories and if the village came under attack, residents could take refuge, pulling the stairs up behind them and firing at the enemy from the upper windows. It is connected to the main house by a tunnel which was used both as an escape route and a means to bring in supplies and ammunition. The connecting building is in fact a "false house"; an uninhabited, narrow building with an impressive facade but no interior to speak of, it was intended to fool aggressors into attacking it instead of the real residence.

Jinmen, Taiwan

The slow boat home

After returning our scooter, we were dropped back at the ferry and bought our tickets to return to Xiamen. It was only after boarding the boat that we realized something was amiss and, instead of the sleek, high-powered ferry we'd arrived on, we were standing on the lower deck of a two deck behemoth. Checking with the crew, we discovered we would end up in the right place but it would take us twice as long to get there.  Initially infuriated, we were soon calmed by the reality of a boat where you could easily move around, order steaming bowls of noodles and cold Tsing Taos from the bar, and enjoy the passing scenery on the open upper deck without a grubby window to spoil the view.

How to get to Jinmen Island:

To travel from Xiamen to Jinmen head to one of Xiamen's two international ferry terminals, Wutong Passengers Port on Huandao Road near to the Xiamen International Airport in Wuyuan Bay, or Xiamen International Ferry Terminal in Dongdu. Fast boats (approx. one hour) depart every hour from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and tickets cost RMB 160 one way--be sure to arrive 20 minutes before boarding for customs formalities.

Flights from Jinmen to other parts of Taiwan are operated by:

TransAsia Airways / Taipei: 02-29724599; Jinmen: 0823-21502
Mandarin Airlines / Taipei: 02-27171230; Jinmen: 0823-28000
Uni Air / Taipei: 02-23583131; Jinmen: 0823-24481

All photos by Aimee Groom

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  1. Someone thinks this story is fantastic...

    This story was submitted to Hao Hao Report - a collection of China's best stories and blog posts. If you like this story, be sure to go vote for it....

    By Hao Hao Report October 09,2010 11:54 AM

  2. [...] the rest here: Jinmen: A Tawainese treasure just an hour from Xiamen|China Travel October 9th, 2010 at 3:22 [...]

    By Jinmen: A Tawainese treasure just an hour from Xiamen|China Travel October 09,2010 02:22 PM

  3. Nice story and nice to know information. Thanks for sharing. Well written!

    By Aajada January 30,2011 10:07 PM

  4. Hi,
    When going to Jinmen from Xiamen, do you need a re-entry Visa into China?

    By Hany March 15,2011 12:06 PM

  5. @Hany - yes, as a foreigner you will need a re-entry visa - you'll be exiting China and going through customs & immigration into Taiwan and vice versa on the return journey.

    By Aimee Groom March 15,2011 12:36 PM

  6. Hi, am also planning a trip for my folks from xiamen to jinmen! i supose we do not need to apply for special visa?

    Please correct me if am wrong?

    btw, we are singaporeans..

    By audry April 26,2011 03:05 PM

  7. @audry - Nope, looks like Singaporeans do not require a visa for a stay of up to 30 days in Taiwan - have a great time there with your family!

    By Aimee Groom April 26,2011 03:43 PM

  8. hello what are the bad checks like when going through customs as I was thinking of bringing my paintball marker (gun ) back to china, and yes I know that really your not supposed too, also how far is the airport from the ferry port on Kinmen would it be possible to catch a ferry in the morning and then jump straight on a flight in the afternoon to Taiwan without pre booking tickets, thanks

    By john July 26,2011 05:47 PM

  9. forget get about the first part of the question as I just got off the phone with a friend and they said it is a big no no to have your marker here in China even though it is for sports game they could treat it as a firearm so I will just leave it in Taiwan.

    By john July 26,2011 05:56 PM

  10. Hi John... yes, it's probably a better idea to leave the paintball gun behind! The customs, as I remember were pretty standard, metal detectors and x-ray checks for bags etc. Jinmen is pretty tiny and the ferry to airport is only a few kilometers. There are tourist information counters at the ferry port who will help you book a cab or other transportation. Flights depart pretty regularly to major cities in Taiwan (schedule and price guide here) but you'll need to call the airlines direct to confirm. As far as just getting a ticket on arrival, I think you should be fine. My parents did that coming the other way last year and had no problems, though you may not be guaranteed the best price. Let us know how you go!

    By Aimee Groom July 27,2011 10:12 AM

  11. Nice story. I'm in Xiamen now and a colleague suggests visiting Kinmen (Jinmen) as a day trip this coming weekend. However, I have a single-entry China (PRC) visa, and am in Xiamen (i.e., I have used my visa to enter the PRC already) and I do need to return to Xiamen afterwards on the same day. I have been checking several sources, but am still not clear whether this is possible. The comment earlier in this thread seems to indicate it is NOT possible, but I've also seen comments on other forums that this is no problem at all. I don't want to be stranded on Kinmen and have a hard time getting back to Xiamen for what should be a pleasant day trip... Thanks for any advice!

    By Hans van der Veen February 29,2012 12:43 PM

  12. Hi Hans van der Veen,

    If you have a single entry visa and you are already in Xiamen, you will NOT be able to re-enter China. Sorry to break it to you. Perhaps in the future you can obtain a multiple entry visa and visit Jinmen then. There are so many cool places to go in the PRC, I'm sure you won't have any problem going on a day trip somewhere. Good luck and happy travels!

    Warm regards,

    By Amber Mizerak February 29,2012 05:24 PM

  13. Answering my own question: now I received feedback from the Chinese visa office, confirming that it is NOT possible to return to Xiamen on the single-entry visa.

    By Hans van der Veen February 29,2012 05:39 PM

  14. Dear Amber,
    thank you very much for your confirmation. I'm sorry, I did not notice your reply before posting my own answer. I'm aware there are many nice places to visit in China; I've been on several private multi-week China trips as well as many business trips ;-) . Regarding the visa, since I'm in Xiamen for work, and my employer organised the visa it would have been hard to argue that I needed a multiple entry visa (for my passport, this at least doubles the cost compared to a single-entry visa), because of a private weekend trip. Kinmen sounded interesting as it is 'special', but I will have no problem finding alternative destinations in or near Xiamen on the mainland.
    Best regards,

    By Hans van der Veen February 29,2012 06:02 PM

  15. Have you been out to the Hakka houses yet? They're just a few hours from Xiamen and pretty amazing. You could also head up the coast to Dongshan island which is supposed to be lovely and relatively unspoilt or Pingtan which has some great beaches and local villages with similar architecture etc as Jinmen. Check out our Fujian content on the blog for more on these and other destinations in and around Xiamen and let us know if you discover any hidden gems!

    By Aimee Groom March 01,2012 03:45 PM

  16. Hi, thanks for this very useful article. Perhaps you can answer one question for me. I currently have an F visa which I need to renew by leaving the mainland. Is it possible to visit Jinmen island and to return to Xiamen on the same day? Will this satisfy the needs of my visa or will I have to stay overnight on Jinmen island?

    By Tito Burritto April 28,2012 07:31 PM

  17. I asked a question here yesterday about whether it is necessary to stay over night on Jinmen island in order to satisfy the requirements of my China business visa. The comment was posted but then deleted later. I am going to Xiamen tomorrow and then shall take the ferry to Jinmen island the day after.If I dn't have to saty overnight on the island that would be great. Any information on this is greatly appreciated.

    By Tito April 29,2012 10:54 AM

  18. We didn't delete your comment- we were on vacation! Yesterday was a Chinese holiday, May Day, and we were out of the office. To answer your question, yes, a day trip to Jinmen Island will satisfy the F visa requirements. All you need to do is leave the mainland, and then reenter with a new, up to date stamp.
    Hope this got to you in time to be of help!

    By James Weir May 02,2012 09:45 AM

  19. 20120625

    Iposted 1 week ago but no reply.

    We are 9 people going to Jinmen for a 1 day tour from Xiamen. Upon arrival , we need a trasport that could take 9 of us to a city tour. End of the tour at 4pm,set us to Jimen ferry termial, that's all.

    Who can hlep to arrage ad how much per vehicle. Please assist as we shall arrive on the 30 Jue 2012.

    HP 65-91457629

    By Michael Lee June 25,2012 12:04 PM

  20. 20120626

    I posted today at 12.04 pm. I asked for assistance for arrangement of a mini van that can take 9 people upon arrivig at Jinmen ferry terminal ( 0930 hrs ) to a city tour. Just round city iterestig places. No lunch. Sent us back to Jinmen ferry termial by 1600hrs.

    Can someone help.

    By Michael Lee June 25,2012 01:35 PM

  21. Hi Michael,

    Our parent company, Ctrip, unfortunately doesn't offer tours in Jinmen, so I can't help you book a trip. But a simple Google search for Jinmen tours should give you a bunch of information about how to do it!

    Have fun!

    By James Weir June 25,2012 02:36 PM

  22. Does anyone have the schedule of the high speed and slow ferries? I would like to see how I can fit the ferry ride and Jimen visit into my Xiamen trip before leaving. Thanks!

    By Joe Constanty July 04,2012 08:18 AM

  23. Hi,

    I'm also interested to know if there's an alternative to paying the 160 RMB each way. Perhaps there's a "slow" ferry? Or perhaps I can purchase roundtrip for a discount? Or a frequent boater program??


    By Dan Bartlett July 05,2012 11:41 PM

  24. Hi, My husband and I are Malaysians. We have multiple entry visa to China. We will be going to Xiamen on coming Tuesday. Plan to go to Jin Men on a day's trip by ferry. Can we do that and re-enter Xiamen? Tq if can reply us before our trip.

    By yanglim July 08,2012 08:04 PM

  25. Hello yanglim,

    With a multiple entry visa, you won't have a problem going back into Xiamen.

    Enjoy your trip!


    By Miller Wey July 09,2012 10:10 AM

  26. Xiamen to Jinmen Ferry schedules (checked on 2 August 2012)

    From Dongdu Port(东渡码头)
    Tel: (0592) 202 2516
    Ten sailings daily from 8am to 7pm.

    From Wutong Port(五通码头)
    Tel: (0592) 321 6666
    Ferry departs at: 8am, 10am, 11:30am, 12:30pm, 1:30pm, 2:30pm, 3:30pm & 5:30pm

    By Aimee Groom August 02,2012 10:31 AM

  27. He hee I think farmers bag their fruit on the tree to keep pests away. They do that all over Taiwan. We're going to Jinmen from Taiwan this Thursday. Your site was very helpful. Thanks

    By Teacher Gerald August 14,2012 08:28 PM

  28. @ Teacher Gerald - aaaah, that makes sense! I hadn't seen it before. Have a great time in Jinmen, let us know what you get up to!

    By Aimee Groom August 15,2012 04:31 PM

  29. Hi, I'm french with a simple entry visa L , may i can go to kinmen and back to xiamen . Or what i need to do for realize this trip.
    thanks by advance

    By peuportier October 19,2012 12:18 PM

  30. Hi Peuportier - unfortunately no, you cannot. You will have to pass through customs to travel from Xiamen to Kinmen so you are exiting China. You will not be able to re-enter if you only have a single entry tourist visa. It is not possible to "upgrade" a single entry for a multi entry once it has been issued but if you apply for an extension while in China you can probably ask for a multi-entry. Alternatively you can go to Hong Kong to apply for a new multi-entry visa. I don't believe it is possible to apply for a new China visa in Taiwan without a valid Taiwan residence permit.

    By Aimee Groom October 22,2012 10:10 AM

  31. Am I right to say the Malaysian with multiple entry visa to China, Xiamen can go over to Jinmen with applying Taiwan visa? Hope you can help to clarify . Thanks.

    By Cheryl November 04,2012 08:35 PM

  32. Yup! If you have multiple entries on your China visa, you can travel freely between China and any other county as often as you'd like. Have fun!

    By James Weir November 05,2012 09:32 AM

  33. I heard you need an international bike license to rent a motor scooter in Taiwan? Is that the case? Would an electric scooter have enough juice to get around the whole island?

    By wonderingwanderer November 16,2012 05:15 PM

  34. if i am malaysian, i travel from xiamen to jinmen and i need to travel back to xiamen the next day. do i need a china visa to enter back to xiamen?. i hope you understand my question.

    By may March 24,2013 12:46 AM

  35. Hi May - If you currently need a visa to be in China, then you will also need a visa to return. If your current visa is a single entry, you cannot leave the mainland and come back on the same visa. If it is a multiple entry visa then you should have no problem. Have fun!

    By Aimee Groom March 25,2013 11:11 AM

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