This is a summary of all our travel expenses for the 31 nights / 32 days we spent in Taiwan during April / May 2019. You should keep in mind that if one travels at a slower pace it's easier to make savings as especially transportation can eat into your budget quickly. That said, we found that if one can contain accommodation costs and avoid specialised or fine-dine restaurants, Taiwan need not be an expensive destination. Travelling full-time changes the way one travels and it becomes less of a quest to tick off the 'popular' sights than it becomes a way of experiencing your surrounds in a slower, relaxed fashion. Many further cost savings are indeed possible, but one should also not completely deprive oneself of unique local experiences that ultimately add value to your visit to a foreign country. However, more often than not, the events, encounters and connections with people that stand out, are those that you do not foresee or could even have planned for. Like most things in life, a balance between being frugal and making use of opportunities should be sought.
You can also listen to our podcast on this topic here:
As the southern parts of Taiwan were experiencing loads of rain we kept to the North East of the island. Although we would have loved to stay longer, the unpredictable weather made us decide to rather move on and we hope to return at a drier time of the year.
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(Note that the following spending does not include flights to and from Taiwan.)
Taipei 4 nights - Fun Hotel Linsen
(Double room with buffet breakfast included)
The room was very compact with a modern bathroom. Everything was extremely clean and the rooms are serviced daily. There was free water, coffee and tea available at all times, a pool table, chill-out zone and even 3 free massage chairs to enjoy some relaxation! The breakfast buffet is Chinese style and plentiful. Location is close to public transport and plenty of eateries.
Hualien 7 nights - Arch Inn
Nicely decorated room with en-suite bathroom and separate shower. Although there is a tiny fridge, it is more of a "cooler" than a fridge! There are two common areas downstairs with coffee, tea and snack noodles available at all times. We really enjoyed the outside (undercover) area where we could sit and work while enjoying the free freshly ground coffee - especially on those rainy days. Well located close to the Hualien train station and with plenty of local eateries nearby. Just note that this is not in the downtown area!
Qixingtan Beach 4 nights - RainBow BnB
Spacious room with a small balcony and en-suite bathroom and shower. This was great value for money, but there is not much in the immediate vicinity in terms of local budget eateries. One can choose between a few pricey tourist restaurants or a Family Mart convenience store for the more budget-oriented travellers! Great location for enjoying Qixingtan beach and the coast, just note that Qixingtan is not a swimming beach. To get here from the Hualien Train Station will be around NT$ 200 by taxi and NT$ 160 from downtown.
Hualien 3 nights - Xiang Pin Hotel
(Double room with breakfast included)
Lovely spacious but minimalist room and wet room style bathroom. The breakfast is a simple, but tasty toasted sandwich, small salad and tea. Water and tea are also freely available throughout the day. The rooms were recently renovated and great value for money as the location is very close to the popular Dongdamen Night Market and also situated right in the downtown area of Hualien so everything is within walking distance. It's also just a few kilometres from the Hualien train station and a taxi will be around NT$ 140 from there.
Loudong Yilan 3 nights - Y.E.S. Bear
Lovely spacious room and bathroom with separate shower. There is hot and cold water available at all times. Well located very close to the Loudong Night Market and also in walking distance to the Loudong train station. Our choice of the family room (for more space) made this accommodation expensive relative to others. This was also over a weekend and we found prices to be slightly higher in Yilan than in Hualien in general.
Ruifang 4 nights - Delicate Perfume
We were upgraded to the 'bigger' room with TV and fridge. It was still very small, simplistic and lacked any attention to detail and did not feel particularly clean. You can request disposable towels each day, no "real" towels available! However, it is very well located close to the Ruifang train station and the Ruifang Food Court. The main street linking these two places is lined with street vendors so grabbing a bite to eat is always quick and easy. Great location, but don't expect much from the accommodation itself.
Keelung City 3 nights - Yung Feng Hotel
Small room with wet room style bathroom. Fridge and hot/cold water dispenser in the room and free coffee and tea available at all times downstairs. Great location next to the Keelung Night Market and within walking distance to the harbour and train station. A little expensive for what you get in our opinion. Once again, we were in Keelung City over a weekend and we found prices to be higher than in other locations.
Taipei 3 nights - One Plus One Hotel
Spacious apartment with a small enclosed balcony with views over the city. Great value for money and also very well located almost within the Ximending Walking District! Also within walking distance to the river and Taipei Main Station (both train and metro).
We generally try to eat like and with the locals. In Taiwan this is easy, seeing as eating is an integral part of the Taiwanese culture. There are food stalls along almost all streets and food is generally available at all times of the day. Although the night market scene is very popular in Taiwan, we found this to be a rather expensive way of eating as one inevitably ends up trying many different dishes which each only cost a little, but cumulatively adds up to a lot more than a simple dinner meal of meat and veg with rice or noodles. We generally found a good breakfast for the two of us for NT$125 and that either buffet or box-lunch style meals (where you have a choice of meat, rice/noodles and 3 vegetables) were the best value for money at around NT$80 per person. Check out our videos on the many Night Markets in Taiwan for a taste of the local cuisine.
We make use of local transportation as much as possible and only resort to taxis if there's a good reason or no alternative. Public transport is really easy and convenient to use in Taiwan. We purchased EasyCards (you need one per person) which we used for the metro, all local buses and also the Pingxi train line. The card is a convenient and efficient way of using public transport and also offers cheaper fares compared to using cash. You can also use the EasyCard to pay for other purchases at most convenience stores, which is handy for using any remaining balance! Especially as foreign debit and credit cards are not widely accepted in Taiwan.
When travelling by train, there is usually a choice between a local commuter train (unreserved) or an express train for which you can reserve a seat online. For longer trips, we would recommend reserving a seat about a week in advance as these train tickets do sell out. There is a great Taiwan Rail App which saves you from needing to print out any tickets and we found this to work very well. In order to do this, you need to book your train ticket through the app and collect it 'digitally'. For shorter distances and travelling during off-peak times, we were very happy making use of the local commuter train usually for much cheaper than the price of the express trains! You can buy these tickets at the train station just before you board.
We rented a scooter in Hualien for NT$900 for 2 days. Renting a scooter was not as cheap as we had expected but it is a great way to have more freedom to explore your surrounds. See our Tips for Scooter Rental in a foreign country. We wanted to do the same in Ruifang, but were not able to rent a scooter without a Taiwanese driver's license. There are options to rent bicycles and electric scooters, but the distance that one can travel with these is limited.
Taxi's are easily available all over Taiwan and they generally all make use of the meter and are reasonably priced. In saying this, making use of a local bus is a fraction of the price!
CELLPHONE & DATA
Being very dependent on data for getting around and rather heavy data user generally, this is one of the first things we investigate when staying in a country for a period of time. We found the best option for us was from Chunghwa Telecom. We bought 2 prepaid sim cards, one with unlimited data valid for a period of 30 days as well as limited free calls for NT$1000 and the other sim with 2GB of data valid for a year for NT$300. We had no hassles and both worked well.
There are generally a fair number of free Wi-Fi spots available throughout Taiwan, however, for some of them you do need a local cell phone number in order to use the Wi-Fi. Often the log-in instructions are only in Chinese which can make it rather challenging!
Our "General" category includes everyday expenses like toiletries, medical, laundry & small shopping items. We both got a slight cold in Taiwan and had to find some decongestants and lozenges. We found these to be reasonably priced and pharmacies are on almost every street corner. We also bought an umbrella as we had not expected as much rain as we experienced in April. We only paid NT$10 for laundry powder once, the rest of the time we either washed by hand or made use of free laundry facilities where we stayed.
We generally try to stay away from very touristy places and prefer to explore independently. In Taiwan, almost all "tourist attraction spots" can be reached by an organised tour from the main cities. These may be very convenient, especially if your time is limited. In general, many of the tourist destinations themselves are free to public access and we really enjoyed this about Taiwan. There are also usually very good and clean toilet facilities near all public places.