Here we go with the first article about my trip to Taiwan. A general article, rich in information and with the one-week itinerary in Taiwan I followed, all costs and useful information.
A week in Taiwan – costs & information
Being Taiwan one of the cheapest and closest destinations to reach from Japan, I decided to not organize the trip as “once in a lifetime” trying to see everything on this trip, but I focus only on the cities and leave the natural beauty and landscapes that Taiwan offers for a second future trip.
But if you are planning a trip to Taiwan from far away, I recommend you to spend at least 10 days and include also Taroko Gorge and Kenting National Park in the itinerary, and possibly also Sun Moon Lake.
But let’s get to the practical information on my week-long travel itinerary in Taiwan:
-Period and duration: one week, from February 26 to March 4 early morning(leap year with February 29!).
-Total cost of the trip: about 700 € per person, including everything, from the flight from Japan to the extras we have granted (see below). As cash, we changed around € 200 apiece.
- Flight Tokyo – Taipei, with Scoot Air (low cost airline) and hand baggage only, around € 14
- Fast Train Taipei – Kaohsiung, with discounted pass purchase on Klook for 1,490 TWD (about 44 €)
- Fast Train Kaohsiung – Taoyuan (where Taiwan’s international airport is located), also via Klook for 1,330 TWD
- metro, trains, local and highway buses paid for with the Easy Card, a prepaid card that I ordered online and collected at the airport already with credit inserted so that I can get to the city without needing Taiwanese dollars and change currency once in Taipei City. We used the Easy Card for a total of around 1,400 TWD
-Cities visited: Taipei, Kaohsiung and Tainan
-Overnights: In Taiwan, there are many nice and modern hostels, but since the trip should have been with my parents (even at the end they had to cancel due to Covid-19), we had opted for hotels with private rooms and bathroom in the room. For these solutions, I strongly advise you to choose structures that have soundproofed rooms and, given the low prices of the hotels, spend a few euros more on cleaner and more modern facilities, since many hotels are quite old.
The prices shown are for a double room.
– King Plaza Hotel, which I absolutely do NOT recommend and from which we escaped after one night because of a madwoman who spoke very loudly in the hall from 4AM but the receptionist didn’t say anything to her. And after my complaint she told that was morning and therefore she could not tell her anything!!! She didn’t even want to let us check out in advance and refund the unused nights but fortunately, having booked with Booking.com, their customer support came to our rescue and made us have a refund. Price 828 TWD one night, without breakfast.
– City Suites Taipei Nanxi, 10 meters from the King Plaza Hotel, far superior to my usual hotels, chosen urgently at 6AM due to the very short distance from where we were. Excellent large, clean hotel with a fantastic bathroom and in a great location: close to Ningxia Night Market, 5 minutes walk from Dihua Street, 10 from Taipei, and Zhongshan stations from where the green and red lines leave. Ximending can also be reached on foot with a walk of less than 20 minutes. Price 2,970 TWD for two nights, without breakfast (water, tea, and coffee available for free).
- Kaohsiung: J-Hotel, just over 5 minutes from Kaohsiung Station, convenient but not very comfortable as an area (depending on the movements you will make, I recommend staying more towards Formosa Boulevard or directly in Xin Zuoying, further away from the center but excellent for the movements). Excellent value for money, with coin laundy (free detergent), bicycle rental service, and convenient mini-market equipped with everything 20 meters away. Price 2,553 TWD for three nights, with breakfast and small buffet available at different times of the day.
- Taoyuan: City Suites Taoyuan Gateway, basically the only possible choice to reach the airport for the flight at 6.30AM the following day. A walking distance from Dayuan station and 10 minutes by taxi from the airport (220 TWD). If it had been a different period, without alert for Covid-19, we would have slept at the airport, which from information seems to be well equipped with relaxation areas with chaise lounges in quiet places. Price 1,150 TWD for one night with breakfast (which we did not use, however)
– General prices: Taiwan is generally quite cheap, both for travel and for food. With a few euros, you can taste different types of street food, especially in the famous night markets, but in general, even high-rate restaurants, are easily accessible to all pocket.
Public transport has tariffs based on the distance traveled, both on trains and buses, you have to pass the Easy Card on the sensor both at the entrance and the exit and the amount corresponding to the route is scaled.
Taxis are also very cheap, and I suggest that you also evaluate taxis shared by/for tourist areas. They are practically normal taxis that make a predetermined route and you share the ride with other people searched by the driver. Don’t worry, if after a certain period of time (usually 10-15 minutes) they don’t find other people, they will take you to your destination anyway without increasing the fare. We used shared-taxi on two occasions, to return to the foot of the Maokong Gondola in Taipei (there was a long queue and the price was lower) and to return from the Fo Guang Shan complex, where we had the taxi all to ourselves, which for only 20 more TWD brought us back to Xin Zouying station in less time than the bus.
-Extra expenses: being the first international trip since I moved to Japan, and coinciding the trip with Dice’s birthday, we decided to give ourselves some extra treatment not really low cost (for Taiwanese standards). So if you want to treat yourself to something special during your trip to Taiwan, here are some ideas:
- Mountain and Sea House Restaurant – one of the most popular Taiwanese cuisine restaurants in Taipei, where we had dinner on the first evening to celebrate Dice’s birthday. The menu is also in English and you can also consult it from the website in advance. They have both set and à la carte menu, advance booking recommended (from the site, in English). Around € 100 total, great food and generous portions!
- Private Onsen in Beitou – In Beitou there are several solutions to immerse yourself in thermal waters. I will tell you more about it in the post dedicated to what to see in Taipei. We decided to give ourselves a couple of hours of relaxation in a private onsen also to recover from the nightmare night at the King Plaza hotel. Japanese-style room, private onsen, soft drinks and sweets available and transfer to Beitou station – around € 100 total.
- Jiufen Tea House – the oldest teahouse in Jiufen, where you can taste excellent tea in a traditional setting. The type of tea is chosen and the various infusions are shown. The unused tea leaves are then given to you to take home. Recommended experience to fully savor Taiwanese tea. Around € 35 in total, including tea to take home.
- Foot Massage – Taipei is famous for its foot massages, they are noticed in every corner. After a long day of walking there is nothing better than to enjoy this relaxing experience. We decided to give ourselves a full hour (but you can also choose a shorter one) at Six Star Massage, also visited by several celebrities. Cost 1,000 TWD per person for neck massage 10 minutes + foot and leg massage 50 minutes.
Other useful information
Here is also some general information about Taiwan that will help you organize your trip to Taiwan.
-Climate: late February / early March is, in my opinion, a perfect time to visit Taiwan. Temperature is around 25°C, with cool and pleasant evenings. Sunny but not sultry days and the risk of rain is also limited compared to other times of the year. Of course, Kaohsiung and the south of the island are warmer, however, it is perhaps a bit early for beach life. I think after mid of March is better, before the arrival of the summer heat and the typhoon period.
-Wi-fi connection: you can find free wifi connections very easily, and also, by registering with the government system, you automatically access the government wifi present in many areas, including fast trains. But if like us you need to be sure to be always connected, you can rent the pocket wifi via Klook, collected at the airport and returned to the same place, for about € 8.
-Electricity: the technical description of the type of sockets is “Plug type A and B, voltage 110V and frequency 60Hz. I don’t know in detail what these data mean, I admit it. But let’s simplify things and say that the sockets are like the Japanese ones 🙂
-Currency Exchange: although many things can be paid by credit card, many small businesses and street food stores only accept cash. It is generally possible to withdraw with international credit cards at various ATMs. It is also possible to exchange your currency in Taiwanese dollars at the numerous branches of the Taiwan Bank, which offer correct and commission-free exchange rates. You can find them almost everywhere, but also at arrivals at the airport, the exchange rates are identical everywhere.
-Insurance: Taiwan is a safe country (except if you plan to rent a scooter in Taipei …. scooters whizzing everywhere and flashing traffic lights that do not understand well how they work…), but it is always better to travel with travel insurance covering every eventuality. I did it with HeyMondo, and I also had the medical chat available 24h on the app. Also as readers of my blog, you can take advantage of a discount on your policy.
My one-week itinerary in Taiwan
Now a brief summary of the days and things seen during my one-week trip, for more detailed information, refer to the individual posts that I am going to write as soon as possible.
Day 1: Arrival in Taipei and Dihua Street
After landing in Taoyuan in the afternoon, we immediately collect the Wi-Fi and the Easy Card ordered on Klook and with the Jichan Line, we arrived at Taipei Station in about 40 minutes. We walk in nearby Dihua Street, the traditional street of the artisans and then birthday dinner and cocktail bar.
Day 2: Beitou Onsen, Confucious Temple and Ximending
After changing the hotel, we take the metro to Beitou, the onsen area of Beitou onsen which well, very reminiscent of the Japanese onsen (which have precisely brought and developed the culture of onsen in the area). After seeing the hot springs, we took a relaxing break in a private onsen before returning to the city center and stopping at Yuanshan station to visit the temples in the area, above all the Confucious Temple. After exploring the Dalong area, we move to Ximending, the youngest, most colorful and modern area of the city, where you absolutely must try Tapioca!
Day 3: Lungshan Temple, Memorial in Chiang Kai Shek and trip to Juifen
A day dedicated to the “unmissable” of Taipei, the colorful Lungshan temple, and the iconic Chiang Kai Shek Memorial. Here I was really impressed by the immensity of the square and the huge buildings, amazing! Lunch at the Din Tai Fung Michelin restaurant, where for € 35 we ate and tasted the famous Baozi.
After lunch, excursion by bus to Juifen, the ancient city of gold mines which is now a succession of narrow streets and red lanterns. Juifen is also famous because it is considered the inspiration for the Enchanted City of Miyazaki. I will tell you more about it in a dedicated article.
Rahoe Night Market and foot massage.
Day 4: Elephant Mountain, Maokong Gondola and transfer to Kaohsiung
How could we visit Taipei and not want to admire the famous Taipei 101, the 101-storey skyscraper designed to withstand the shock caused by earthquakes? We did not go up to the observatory, but we preferred to walk up the Elephant Mountain from where you have the best view on Taipei 101.
In the afternoon we take the Maokong Gondola, a 4 km cable car that leads to Maokong, a town in Taipei surrounded by green mountains. We waited over 40 minutes for one of the transparent-paved cabins, and unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to explore the area and walk the various hiking trails in the area because we had to go back to retrieve our luggage to move by fast train to Kaohsiung.
Day 5: Fo Guang Shan Monastery and Lotus Pond
By far my favorite day. Fo Guang Shan Monastery is the main seat of Humanist Buddhism and in addition to the buildings of the monastery where the community lives, there is also the Buddha Museum with the giant golden Buddha statue. This place is pervaded by a particular atmosphere, a sense of peace and serenity is perceived and for those wishing to deepen, you can spend a whole day there!
Around mid-afternoon we come back by shared taxi to the city center and we are amazed and stunned by the eccentricity and colors of the super kitsch temples of the Lotus Pond. It seems to be in an amusement park, I don’t know if it is also thanks to the positive sensations experienced in the morning, but really the Lotus Pond is one of the places I loved most on my trip to Taiwan.
Day 6: Excursion to Tainan
Full day dedicated to Tainan, the ancient Capital. You can discover what to do in Tainan on the dedicated post.
Day 7: Cijin Island and transfer to Taoyuan (airport)
Last day of vacation, we decide to spend it “at the sea”, exploring the small island of Cijin at 5 minutes by ferry from the Kaohsiung port area. Here we rented bikes and after exploring the main points, we relaxed at the kiosk overlooking the beach and wet our feet in the ocean. Unfortunately, only the part near the kiosk is suitable for swimming, while swimming is forbidden in all other areas. However, early March is still early to dive into the water.
After recovering the luggage, we take the fast train back to the north of the island from where the next morning we will have the flight back to Tokyo.
Some considerations on this trip to Taiwan
As written, during this trip we covered only a part of the island of Taiwan and we didn’t visit the famous and more naturalistic areas such as the Kenting National Park or the Taroko Gorge because we aim to return again, being Taiwan easily accessible from Tokyo.
My parents should have stayed an extra week and visited these areas too, so I would advise you to consider at least 10-15 days for your trip to Taiwan.
Taiwan is a very interesting destination, a mix between China and Japan bur compare to other Asian countries not have a lot of “to see” things. Taiwan is more to live, to walk, to get lost in the streets of its cities without a specific destination.
We liked Kaohsiung very much, much more than Taipei, and certainly, on the next trip, we will fly directly to that airport, and then leave Kaohsiung to explore the rest of Formosa Island!