This article is written based on my personal experience. It is true to the best of my knowledge at the time of writing (October 2019). I wrote this post end of last year but it was sitting in my “Drafts” for many months before I finally decided to post this up.
How much should you budget for Taiwan?
The purpose of this article is to help those of you who are planning a free and easy vacation to figure out how much to allocate while in Taipei, especially if you are budget-conscious (meaning, cheapskate), like me.
The total budget of course depends on how long you plan to be there, what you plan to do, and where you are staying.
If we compare the prices in Taipei against prices in Kuala Lumpur after conversion to MYR, the cost in Taipei is generally about 2-3 times higher than in KL.
Taiwan uses its own currency, which is New Taiwan Dollars (TWD or NT$). There are no decimals in TWD, meaning the smallest denomination is NT$1.
As of this blogpost, RM1 = NT$0.14.
There are many hotels in Taiwan, ranging from budget hotels to luxury hotels. Some hotels are strategically located near public transportation, so make sure you do your research before you book.
You can generally find budget hotels at about NT$300 per night, with luxury hotels averaging about NT$1,000-NT$2,000 per night.
AirBnb is also available in Taipei as an alternative accommodation, ranging from NT$300 to NT$1,000.
Getting around Taipei is quite convenient, with plenty of accessible and reliable public transport. If you are staying in Taipei for several days, you can opt for the Taipei MRT EasyCard, which you can use in the MRT, public bus, or even taxis. It is a prepaid travel card; just tap at the sensors to deduct the cost of the fare. You can also easily add cash value when the amount runs low.
You can buy the card at NT$100 at any Taipei Metro counter or most convenience stores, after which you do need to add cash value.
You can also buy day passes for unlimited travel within the time period (24 / 48 / 72 hours). Great for those who plan to do a lot of sightseeing! There are several types of day passes, with some providing access only for Taipei Metro; some provide you access to a few systems including the Metro, bus, and bicycle rental. They range from NT$150 (one day) to NT$700 (5 days). For more information, take a look at the list here.
TAIPEI METRO / MRT
The Taipei Metro, a.k.a. Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) is a train system that runs through the city, with conveniently-located stations.
You can use the EasyCard which will give you 20% discount on every trip. Alternatively you can also buy tickets at machines in every station. A one-way ticket ranges from NT$20 to NT$65, depending on the distance you travel.
I have not taken the Taipei Metro at all, so I can’t share my personal experience here.
The public buses in Taipei are quite reliable… or so I’ve been told. I didn’t try the public bus system either.
You pay for your fare upon entering the bus, either by using the EasyCard, or by cash.
If you are using the EasyCard, all you need to do is tap the card at the sensors once upon entering, and once again upon exiting.
If you are paying by cash, the fares depend on the distance traveled, based on three price levels: one-segment (NT$15), two-segment (NT$30), or three-segments (NT$45). The bus driver will let you know how many segments you need to arrive at your destination.
Taxis are generally trustworthy and reliable here. However there will always be taxi drivers who try to cheat visitors – so make sure you get into a taxi with a working meter! You can also take a photo of the name and licence plate number of the taxi, which is displayed on the back of the front seat inside every taxi.
If you accidentally left anything inside the taxi, you can make a police report stating the licence number of the taxi. If you did not record the number, you can state the time and place you were picked up and dropped off. The taxi company can help you trace which taxi was used, and if they can find the item, they will return it to you.
The moment you get in, there is a minimum of NT$70 for the first 1.25km. NT$5 is added every subsequent 250m, or every 100 seconds when moving at less than 5km/h. Additional fares are incurred around Chinese New Year; you can check the rates here.
UBER / GRAB / E-HAILING
Uber is available in Taiwan, while Grab is not.
The cost of using Uber is not much different from using a taxi. With taxis being quite reliable here in Taipei, there is not much need for e-hailing services. If you are already an Uber user, it is good to know that Uber is an alternative transportation system that you can use in Taipei.
YOUBIKE / UBIKE BICYCLE RENTAL
The city of Taipei sponsored a bicycle rental system for a convenient and environmentally-friendly way of getting around the city. There are plenty of Youbike stands all over the city.
To use the bicycle, you need an EasyCard and a local phone number (to register the EasyCard), or a credit card with security chip.
Tap the EasyCard or your credit card on the sensor, pick your iron horse, and be on your way! When you have arrived at your destination, return the bicycle to the nearest Youbike stand and tap your card on the sensor to complete the rental.
Renting a Ubike is about NT$5 for the first 30 minutes; free for EasyCard users. Subsequent half-hour blocs are NT$10. After 4 hours of use, every 30 minutes will cost you NT$20, and after 8 hours the 30-minute bloc shoots up to NT$40. If your EasyCard does not have sufficient credit, you would need to top up before you can rent another Ubike.
For more information on how to rent a Ubike, read this handy tip here.
P/S: I didn’t get to use the Ubike, although I would have liked to try!
FOOD & DRINKS
Taiwan is FAMOUS for its food, so if you don’t try any of their local specialties, it’s like… why did you even come??
Some of their local specialties include Taiwanese beef noodles, braised pork rice, pineapple cakes, and especially the latest craze to resurface in Malaysia – bubble milk tea.
You can opt for street food, which is where some of the best local food can be found, and yes – they are quite hygienic! Beef noodles average at about NT$200-300 per bowl, and you can add on side dishes of vegetables, tofu or nuts if you like.
If cafes are more your thing, there are plenty of local and international cuisines available as well. Expect to pay about NT$400-600 per person per meal.
If you are on a really tight budget and are looking for something much more economical, there is always the option of having a quick small meal at a convenience store. 7-11 offers ready-to-eat meals that you just need to heat up. You can even dine inside the store itself, as they have seats available for patrons to use. The price of the meals average about NT$90 to NT$150.
In a zone prone to typhoons and earthquakes, Taipei does not have many tall skyscrapers; however, the city is full of old buildings which are still in use, and give the city a lot of character. The trees which line the streets are not young, with thick trunks indicating they have been maintained for a long time – showing the city’s love for the environment.
There are a few places you can visit within Taipei for free, including the Chang Kai Shek memorial, Chiang Kai Shek orchid garden, Dr Sun Yat Sen memorial, national museums, and Lin An-Tai Historical House and Museum, some of which have beautiful well-maintained public parks. There are some places that you do have to pay a nominal fee, such as the Chang Kai Shek mansion (NT$100) which is next to the orchid garden. You can also visit the famous shopping mall Taipei 101, or go up the observatory for NT$600.
There are also a few mountains within and along the outskirts of Taipei, which you can hike or just visit. There are also hot springs you can go to soak your feet for free, or pay a little bit for a private room.
About an hour away by car or by MRT, you can take a look at the sea. You can also visit the Yehliu Geopark or Yehliu Ocean World.
There are many places you can visit around Taipei; Mr Google can provide you with lots of suggestions!
I will be sharing some reviews on places you can visit in Taipei over the next few weeks. Stay tuned!