Taiwan DIY Budget Travel Guide 2D2N
For the past 2 years, I’ve been wanting to book a flight to Taiwan but due to some circumstances (mainly money, visa fee and travel schedule), it doesn’t always push through. I guess this time around, all the moons in the universe aligned and granted my request.
First, the R.O.C. (Republic of China) or Taiwan, relaxed its VISA rules for its 6 neighboring Asian countries (including the Philippines) to eligible citizens who has certain requirements to be granted entry (more on this later). This solved our problem with the VISA fee part which we know, is a little bit expensive. Second, our travel schedule is not tight this year… meaning we haven’t booked anything yet prior to our flight to Taiwan. Good thing Cebu Pacific offered a seat sale and I booked the seats just a month before our travel date! Just in time for post-Valentine’s and budding cherry blossoms! Third, I’m glad we have extra travel fund (thanks to the left-over fund in Korea) so pocket money is not a problem anymore.
The only problem I have is limited leaves being an employee and all. We just stayed in Taiwan for 2 nights and all I can say is it is really not enough! Anyway, if you have the same problem like me and you only have the weekend to spend, well, here’s the perfect guide for you Weekend Warriors! This blog includes our itinerary, expenses summary and important guides like transportation, wifi, forex, etc.
For recommended accommodation in Taiwan, read Hey Bear Capsule Hotel Review – New Taipei City.
Day 0 (Feb 17)
10PM – Depart Manila
12:10AM – Arrive Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport Terminal 1
3AM – Check-in Hey Bear Capsule Hotel
Day 1 (Feb 18)
8:30AM – Breakfast
9:30AM – Longshan temple
11AM – Eat at Hangzhou Xiao Long Bao near CKS
12:30PM – Wufenpu Market
3PM – Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall
4PM – Taipei 101
5PM – Elephant Mountain
7PM – Ximending Market
Day 2 (Feb 19)
10AM – late breakfast
11AM – Tamsui
Street food and food souvenirs at Tamsui Old Street
3PM Ferry boat to Fisherman’s Wharf
5PM – Back to downtown Taipei
6PM – Shilin Night Market
9PM – Sleep
11:30PM – Check-out Hey Bear Capsule Hotel
Feb 20 (Day after)
3:55AM – Flight to MNL
6AM – Arrive MNL
UPDATE!!! (May 17, 2017)
VISA Free Entry to Taiwan is rescheduled to September, 2017 instead of the earlier announced date of June 1, 2017. No specific confirmation on the actual date yet on September so let’s wait for that and stay tuned for updates. For more info about this news click here.
In the meantime, you still have to get an e-visa or a travel authorization certificate while we await for the final date and confirmation of visa free entry. Click here for more info on ROC’s press release re easing of visa rules.
“Moreover, since September 1, 2016 Taiwan has eased its visa-free requirements for Filipinos who possess one of the following documents issued by Australia, Canada, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, any of the Schengen countries, the United Kingdom, and the United States: (1) a valid resident or permanent resident card; (2) a valid entry visa (electronic visa included); or (3) a resident card or visa that has expired less than 10 years prior to the date of arrival in Taiwan. Successful applicants are qualified to apply for the ROC (Taiwan) Travel Authorization Certificate which allows multiple-entries to Taiwan valid for 3 months with every stay up to 30 days.”
We applied for a Travel Authorization certificate since we possess a Korea and US Visa. Check my blog post here on how to obtain one.
You can bring PHP. We just exchanged ours in Taoyuan airport. Exchange rate was 1 PHP = .56 NTD
If you don’t plan to spend on mobile data in Taipei and you want to have a time-off on your smartphone and forget about checking social media for every minute, then iTaiwan is your best bet. You can connect to Taiwan’s free (yes, free!) wifi connection in various hotspot locations around Taiwan. We used this and in our experience, you can get always connected in MRT and bus stations. Just register here prior to your travel and go to a Tourist service center once you’re in Taipei. Click here for the locations of the tourist service centers in Taipei. We went to Longshan temple MRT station to get our passwords.
On our 2nd day, my friend who we met there in Taipei gave us a Taiwan mobile 3G prepaid sim. Connection was fast even though it’s only in 3G! I can even play COC (Clash of Clans) while mobile. I wish it’s this fast here in the Philippines!
Going to Taiwan
For budget airfare, wait for Cebu Pacific and Air Asia seat sales. Doesn’t matter if it is way ahead of your travel date or 2 or a month before as long as there’s a seat sale and it fits your budget. For the past 2 years of trying to book (and was really close to booking), I observed that base fares are within the range of P999 to P2000 (one way). I’ve then set our budget to just P4000 net for a roundtrip flight and it seems we got lucky to get one for P4,439.55 (net of fees, seat reservation, baggage allowance) each in Cebu Pacific a month before our travel date!
My advice is to subscribe in Cebu Pacific and Air Asia’s email notifications and join travel groups because sometimes they leak out info when there’s going to be a seat sale. Just note though that Cebu Pacific usually offers their seat sale for their 10PM flight out of Manila then around 1AM going back to MNL from TPE. For me, this is actually a good schedule if you’re just traveling to Taiwan on a weekend! Fly 10PM on Friday, arrive TPE Saturday 12AM – sleep at airport or check-in Hostel/hotel – Fly either late on Sunday evening or early Monday morning then go back to work on Monday haha! Vacation leave not required! But of course, as I’ve said, 2 days is not enough so if you got more leaves then at least stay for 3 days.
Note: The original schedule of our return flight to MNL is Monday, 1:25AM but it was re-scheduled to 3:55AM same day.
Going to/from airport/Taipei
From Taoyuan airport, you can take Bus 1819 operated by Kuo-Kuang Motor. It’s a 1hr ride from the airport to Taipei main station for 125 NTD. Click here for more info about the routes and fare.
I believe the train from the airport to downtown Taipei is not running yet, so this the best way to get to the city from the airport. Don’t worry if your arrival is past midnight because they have a 24hrs operation. The only downside based on our experience is it took a while for the bus to arrive and there are lots of passengers queued in line already.
The train from the airport to Taipei Main station is now operational. Click here for the time table. Unfortunately, it only runs from 6am to 11pm. So if you’re arriving past midnight, you won’t be able to catch the last train. You’d either go for the bus ride or sleep at the airport and wait for the first train going to Taipei.
By the way, the MRT in Taipei is only operational from 6am to 12mn. So once you’re in Taipei main station, you can just take a cab to your hotel/hostel. Taxi’s flag-down rate is 90 NTD.
Or to avoid all these hassles and if you are travelling with heavy luggage with you, it’s better to book a car transfer from the airport to your hotel. You can choose from a private transfer or carpool (cheaper). Book it in the provided links below:
Going around Taipei City
We bought a Taipei Easy Card that cost 100 NTD plus 300 NTD load for a total of 400 NTD. You can use this card in MRT, bus and some stores.
Some say that you should buy the Taipei pass which offers unlimited rides for 1, 2, 3 or 5 days. I say, it all depends on you if you are taking the trains very frequently (as in like every hour) but if not, then an easy card is sufficient. You can easily refund the remaining balance anyway if you have some left. In our last night, we refunded the card with 92 NTD left less the 20 NTD handling fee charge. So we got back 72 NTD only per card. Easy card is available in all Taipei metro stations.
We stayed in Hey Bear Capsule Hotel for 3 nights. It was our first time staying in a capsule hotel and we’re very much satisfied with Hey Bear’s cleanliness, services and affordability! Just around P500 per person (or 320 NTD booked through Agoda including fees) for a bed in a mixed dorm room and you can have a peaceful and quiet stay. The capsule is complete with TV, big fluffy pillows, warm blanket and electrical outlet. They do provide a locker too but we didn’t use it since we used one capsule bed for storing our things. The bed is spacious that it fits me and my wife together but please note that you still have to book a bed per person ok?
The rest rooms are separated for men and women and they are well-maintained and regularly cleaned. Shower rooms provides shampoo and shower gel so don’t worry if you didn’t bring your own.
The staffs are accommodating and the reception is open 24 hours so if you arrived late, there is someone there to welcome you.
Great location. It’s just a stone’s throw away from Taipei Bridge MRT station. It’s kind of a residential area too so there’s a lot of small eateries nearby.
Highly recommended! Click here for our review and experience of the Hotel.
If this is not what you’re looking for, check out these recommended accommodations:
Or search and compare accommodations in Taipei here.
Note: We actually intended to stay just for 2 nights but our flight on Monday was re-scheduled (see Transportation) so we opted to book another night for rest. We don’t mind paying for another night as it is relatively cheap and we really like to have at least some hours of sleep before heading back.
Since we’re only in Taipei for 2 days, we only picked a number of places to visit. Realizing it now, I wish we have stayed at least an extra day because 2 days is not enough. Anyway, that only gives us a compelling reason to go back and explore the country more.
You can see the places we’ve visited in our itinerary above but I’ll highlight some of it here because I might just write a full story blog on some of the places.
A place dedicated to Taiwan’s great leader, Chiang Kai-Shek. It is a park with a wide open space with the main hall at the center, the National theater in its right and a national performing arts center in the left. At the left of the memorial hall is a garden park with a pond and cherry blossom trees. At the back of CKS hall is Hangzhou road where we ate at Hangzhou Xiao Long Bao 😀
Get there: Take Red Line 2 or Green Line 3 to Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall Exit 5.
Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall
If you’re going to Taipei 101, you can first visit Sun Yat-Sen memorial hall. A park with colorful and beautifully decorated flowers. Nice view of Taipei 101 from there too.
Get there: Take the Blue Line 5 to Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall Station, sometimes labeled as “S.Y.S. Memorial Hall”.
Reach the top and you can have an awesome view of Taipei city and Taipei 101 at eye level. Start climbing at around 4:30PM and stay until it gets dark to see the city lights and the color of Taipei 101. At the very top, there are some huge rocks where you can further climb and take a nice photo.
There are also cherry blossom trees near the foot of elephant mountain.
Note: If you’re not physically active then it might be a struggle to go to the top especially since some of stair steps are small. But hey, we did it so can you!
Get there: Take the MRT and alight at Xiangshan station. Leave from Exit 2 and walk up to Xiangshan Hiking Trail.
TIP: You can book a ‘4 hour’ or ‘Day pass’ unlimited bus rides here to top attractions in Taipei such as Taipei 101, National Palace Museum, CKS Memorial Hall, Ximending and many more! You’ll avoid the train transfers and just hop on/off the double decker bus!
Walk along Tamsui Old street and eat street foods and buy food souvenirs here. Go to the river bank, get some fresh air, laze around and enjoy each other’s company. After an hour or so, go to the ferry pier and buy roundtrip tickets to Fisherman’s wharf. Alternatively, you can rent a bike to go there if you’re feeling to get some exercise. Eat seafood and laze around in Fisherman’s wharf again. If you want, you can stay up until night and get a table in a bar and just enjoy your drinks and the musical performances. Just note the time of the last ferry ride back to Tamsui. The ferry we rode is only until 5PM, so if you’re planning to stay for the night, it’s better to get a one way ticket then either take a cab or bus going back to Tamsui station.
Optional: You can also pay a visit to Fort San Domingo for an entrance fee.
Get there: Take the Red Line 2 to Tamsui. Exit 1 is Tamsui Old street.
Besides the places we visited in our itinerary, you can plan to visit these places too:
Yangmingshan National Park (This was part of our planned itinerary but didn’t get to visit since we focused our Day 2 in Tamsui)
Beitou Hot springs
Maokong Gondola (was closed due to strong winds that time)
National Palace Museum
Yehliu Geopark – Book a shuttle bus going there here.
Or simply browse for more tours and activities here.
Advice: Don’t squeeze a number of places in one day. There’ll be lots of walking in Taipei and you should allot around 1-3 hrs per place to enjoy the scenery and relax (and eat). Consider the travel time between the places and check google maps and the mrt map for the distances. Less train transfers, the better.
Wufenpu Market – Lots of cheap, fashionable clothes for women. Think about Ewha/Sinchon area in Seoul or Pratunam area in Bangkok.
Ximending Market – This is like the Myeongdong of Seoul. Branded items everywhere.
Shilin Market – Honestly, we didn’t like the clothes here. There are much better choices in Wufenpu market. It’s nice to go shopping here for souvenir items though. Besides that, go here for the food.
Man oh man, I think this is the main reason we went to Taiwan in the first place haha! Sorry, we really just love food!
Here’s a brief summary of the foods we ate but if you want a full length detailed post of our food adventure, click here.
Xiao Long Bao
Ok, I’ll start with the Taiwan’s famous Xiao Long Bao. If you’re a follower of our blog, you do know that we’re not a fan of high end restaurants or too much commercialized food. Outside the country, we tend to eat at sidewalks, mom and pop eateries, food courts, etc. We’ve done the same in Taiwan. We didn’t eat at the famous Din Tai Fung since 1) We have it here in the Philippines 2) We’re in Taiwan. There’s definitely a cheaper Xiao Long Bao somewhere 3) We’re on a budget.
We ate Xiao Long Bao twice and we tried it first at Hangzhou Xiao Long Bao just at the back of CKS Memorial Hall. An 8 pcs order of the pork and green onion XLB is priced there at 150 NTD as far as I recall. Cheap compared to DTF but definitely good too. We paired it with a hot and sour soup – we love it. It’s like Batangas lomi 😀
Then there’s a small restaurant 3 minutes’ walk away from Hey Bear where we had 7pcs of Xiao Long Bao for just 55 NTD. It’s good considering its price.
There are lots of places to try Taiwan’s street foods and they’re mostly located in markets. Below are the places where we sampled some of Taiwan’s finest.
Ximending Market, Tamsui Old street, Shilin Night Market
Some of the delicious food we ate:
Stinky Tofu – We love it. For me, it’s not that stinky. Abnoy (pancake rotten duck eggs) is stinkier. Love the spicy sauce that comes with it. We had it for 50 NTD in Ximending market.
Iron Eggs – this specialty egg-based dish originated from Tamsui. At first sight they look like big grapes or duhat but they are actually recooked red cooked eggs that were chewy and taste really great.
Quail Egg Takoyaki – Cooked with the same process of Japanese Octopus Takoyaki but using quail eggs and adding silver fish or dulong. They also have baby squid takoyaki.
Deep fried octopus tentacles – One of our most favorite. Deep fried breaded octopus tentacles (or maybe giant squid) sprinkled with salt, pepper, spices and maybe other special seasonings as well. A must try!
Shaved ice or Baobing – Hallelujah. Whoever thought about this dessert is a hero. Heavenly amazing food. We ordered the Mulberry flavored one and we love the combination of the sweetness of the milk and a little sourness from the mulberry fruit.
These are just some of it and we actually have to control ourselves from further eating because I think my blood pressure is going up from eating lots of fried goodies!
I might just write a separate blog post for our food trip so stay tuned. Just wrote it, click here for our food trip in Taiwan.
Here is a summary of our expenses of our Taiwan DIY budget travel. Please note that shopping items and souvenirs were not included as this may vary per individual preferences. Food and drinks are shared between the two of us. I converted taiwan dollar to peso using Taoyuan airport’s exchange rate that time where 1 PHP = .56 NTD.
|Roundtrip Cebu Pacific fare (MNL - TPE)||4439.55||8879.1||All in including tax, fees, advanced seat reservations, check-in baggage|
|Day 0 (Flight to TPE, Check-in Hey Bear Capsule Hotel)|
|Philippine Travel Tax||1620||3240||Booo!|
|Bus from Terminal 1 to Taipei Main station||223.21||446.42||Bus 1819 (Kuo-Kuang Motor)
Fare: 125 NTD
|Taxi from Taipei Main station to Hey Bear||156.25||312.5||175 NTD (90 NTD flag down rate)|
|Hey Bear Capsule Hotel (2 nights)||1000||2000||P500 per person per night|
|Day 1 (Longshan temple, CKS Memorial, Wufenpu market, Sun Yat Sen Memorial, Taipei 101, Elephant Mountain, Ximending Market)|
|Breakfast (Sandwich)||75.89||151.79||Black Pepper sandwich - 30 NTD
Clubhouse sandwich - 35 NTD
|Easy Card||714.29||1428.58||100 NTD - Card Cost
300 NTD - Load
|Lunch (Hangzhou Xiao Long Bao)||200.89||401.79||Xiao Long Bao - 150 NTD
Hot and sour Soup - 50 NTD
Drinks - 25 NTD
|Street Food||190||380||Vegetable dumpling soup - 120 NTD
Stinky Tofu - 50 NTD
Pancake with corn and pork floss filling - 60 NTD
Pork bun - 20 NTD
Lemon tea - 20 NTD
Sausage - 35 NTD
Corn dog - 25 NTD
Bubble tea (almond) - 50 NTD
|Day 2 (Tamsui, Shilin Night market)|
|7pcs Xiao Long Bao near Hey Bear||49.105||98.21||55 NTD|
|4pcs Bread||42.855||85.71||12 NTD each|
|Food trip in Tamsui||272.32||544.64||Wintermelon oolong tea - 35 NTD
Spring Roll - 45 NTD
3pcs Quail egg (iron egg) - 15 NTD
Fried shrimp spring roll - 15 NTD
Quail egg takoyaki - 25 NTD
Breaded octopus - 100 NTD
Softdrinks - 40 NTD
Ice Cream - 30 NTD
|Roundtrip Ferry from Tamsui to Fisherman's Wharf||214.29||428.58||60 NTD one way, 120 NTD roundtrip|
|Shilin Night Market food||334.1||668.2||Seafood noodles - 90 NTD
Shaved ice (mulberry) - 70 NTD
Fried Pepper Bun - 45 NTD
|Easy Card refund||-128.57||-257.14||72 NTD Refund per card|
|Hey Bear Capsule Hotel (additional night)||594.64||1189.28||333 NTD per person per night|
|Train from Taipei Bridge to Main station||35.71||71.42||20 NTD|
|Shabu-shabu snack at Bus station||85.715||171.43||Snacks at convenient store|
|Bus 1819 to Airport, flight to MNL||223.21||446.42||Bus 1819 (Kuo-Kuang Motor)
Fare: 125 NTD
We spent a total of P10,343.37 each all-in including airfare, travel tax, 3 nights of accommodation, transportation and food. Not bad considering the airfare cost. If you can get lower than that then much better. And don’t scrimp on food, it’s the best thing to do there! Eat-all-you-can! You can actually just book 1 night in a hostel in this schedule by sleeping at the airport on your arrival then go to the airport at around 11PM on your return to Manila. As I’ve mentioned earlier, we booked another night since our flight was re-scheduled from 1:25AM to 3:55AM.
I really hope we can return back soon and explore the country more. Maybe go to nearby provinces too… We really love the sceneries, the food but mostly especially the people. They are very disciplined, kind and respectful. So put Taiwan in your list of countries to visit. It’s amazing there. Hope you like this guide.
- Hey Bear Capsule Hotel Review – New Taipei City
- Taiwan Food Trip – What and where to eat
- Tamsui in Pictures; A place to relax and forget
- Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall