Want to immerse yourself in culture while being frugal and not worrying about a fast-paced itinerary?
Taipei is a great destination for you. I promised myself to check out new places this 2017 instead of sticking to our usual comfort zone destinations so we booked a promo fare ticket to Taoyuan International Airport via Cebu Pacific. Taiwan is perfect for budget travelers and for even first-timers due to the efficient transportation system and the affordability of food and lodging. Plus the people are generally friendly except when they do not understand english.
Getting there (from Manila):
- AIRFARE– Surprisingly, Cebu Pacific and AirAsia offer flights for about 4,000 Php roundtrip. The catch is that you have to travel at 10pm & 1:30 excluding the (forecasted) delays.
- VISA – We were visa-exempted due to our existing ME visas in JP, CA and KR so we just applied for an online travel certificate which is free, YAY! For those who do not qualify for the exemption, PHP 2500 fee is the visa cost as far as I know: Check out the website HERE
Lodging & Transportation around the city:
- Getting to Taipei – Purchase a bus #1819 ticket bound for Taipei station for $125 TWD and from there, you can take a cab to your hotel. Or you can take a taxi directly, they’ll give the price to your for $ 1200- $1400 but you can haggle for $900. This is a good option for late night flights and if you’re at least 5 people since there’s only one bus at a time and a lot of people are going to Taipei.
- Hotel – This was a very unplanned trip, we booked a few weeks before so we did not have much hotel choices. We stayed at King Plaza hotel in Nanjing Taipei which is a 5 minute walk to a night market, near Zhongshan station. I only paid for 2,800 for a triple room for 3 nights, w/ breakfast included. I can’t say I like the hotel but it was “manageable”, and at least they change towels and sheets everyday. I won’t stay there again though.
- Transportation was a breeze. Getting lost here is not an option due to the efficient transportation system and our unlimited ride access. Even bus rides aren’t difficult for they show the bus stop names unlike the ones in other countries. Robby and I didn’t have a very difficult time walking from a station to another, most stops (train and bus) are only 300-400m away from each other.
Recommended for a hassle-free travel:
- Taipei Metro (TP Metro) App – downloaded it for free on the App store
- Taipei Pass – 3 day unlimited bus and MTR pass – I wanted to maximize our first time in Taiwan so we bought a 3 day pass for only 770 pesos. You can purchase them at any station.
- Pocket wifi – You can get it at Klook.com for less than 150 pesos per day, for Taoyuan airport pick up, just show your voucher.
- Important note for CEBU PACIFIC/AIRASIA travelers: The counter closes at 1AM so I don’t think you’ll be able to avail the wifi rental. Instead, you can buy a sim card for 525 php with unlimited data and TWD credit. Chunghwa or Taiwan Mobile is okay.
- What I did was I already downloaded the directions to my hotel and just bought the simcard at a local store the next day. You can ask the hotel receptionist for the nearest store.
Weather in Taiwan:
- January: We weren’t blessed with good weather during our stay so we had to skip some parts of my planned itinerary. Yet I am still thankful that we just experienced periods of light drizzling and wind. The little umbrella we bought for $99NTD was able to sustain the bad weather. The weather was ranging from 11-14C during our stay.
- Food in Taipei is relatively affordable. You can already get a decent meal for $200 NTD but you can find a lot of cheaper eats at the night markets and stalls outside of malls.
Night markets- You need not to worry about doing something late at night if you’re not anymore the party-goer type like me. Taipei gets even colorful at night thanks to these night markets that close as late as 2:00AM. Take note that some buses only operate til 10:30 or 11 so prepare a budget for taxi rides.
Shilin- The most popular in Taipei.
Directions: Take Jiantan Station Exit 1, not Shilin station!
Raohe- Located in Songshan District.
Directions: Take Huoshanpi station and walk to the market.
Ningxia- The nearest market in our area, Zhongshan District
Directions: Shuanglian Station, walk out Exit 1 and head west down Minsheng Road for about 15 minutes until you reach Ning Xia Road.
Street Food – There are lots of options! From medicated noodles to stinky tofu that smells like horse poop but much worse, to cheese tarts and a lot more.
NEW FOUND FAVORITE!! PEANUT ROLL WITH TARO ICE CREAM AND CORIANDER. MUST TRY. There’s also this $25NTD braised pork rice bowl that’s worth a try
Jiufen – An old district in New Taipei that inspired the setting of Spirited Away. It is just an hour away from Taipei. You can also opt to visit Pingxi District if you’re early. Getting here: Take a train to Riufang Station from Taipei Main station. $49 From there take bus 788 to Jiufen Old Town. $15
Shopping- I didn’t shop here ’cause there’s not much variety.
Ximending Youth Shopping District offers global brands. This place is similar to Myeongdong but smaller. Take Exit 6 of Ximen Station to get here.
Zhongxiao Fuxing has the more upscale brands while Da an District offers a variety of specialty streetwear stores.
Guanghua Digital Plaza is the place to shop for computer parts.
Syntrend is another electronic plaza but it’s more expensive.
Other activities to check out:
- Elephant Mountain
- Yeh Liu Geopark
Taiwan is best for:
- Travelers who want a more relaxed itinerary,
- Foodies who aren’t fond of too much spicy food
- Those who prefer night market shopping
- Those who are looking for budget-friendly travels
Expenses in PHP:
- Airfare via Cebu Pacific: 4,200 php
- Philippine Travel Tax: 1,620
- Hotel for 3 nights: 2,800 (w/breakfast)
- MTR/Bus around Taipei: 770
- Roundtrip bus and train to Jiufen: 224
- 4G Sim card: 525
- Roundtrip bus to Airport: 500
- Food and other incidentals: 3,000
- There are only a few currency exchange shops so you must buy at the airport already. The smaller ones in the city do not accept PHP, only usd and other currencies.
- There are cafes that have a minimum drink order per person, so be wary if you’re just gonna use the cafe for restroom breaks lol.
- Taxi rates start at $90 TWD
- Lockers in the train stations are full most of the time
- Language barrier is present, most characters are in chinese so better get your hotel card just in case you get lost.
- Wifi rental is highly recommended!!
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