Taiwan on a Budget: Taipei Travel Guide 2017

When people ask me what my favorite destinations are, I have a difficult time responding. To me, a “favorite destination” can mean many things. It can mean a place that I totally fell in love with during my visit. But it can also mean a place where I would want to stay for a looong time or maybe for good. There’s no thin line between these two favorites. For example, the most memorable trip I ever had was in the Australian Outback, but I don’t think I would enjoy staying a month, much less spending the rest of my life there.

In my library of travel experiences, filed under where-I-want-to-settle is Taiwan. It was a surprising addition to a very short list previously occupied only by Thailand and Japan. Taiwan was never in my bucket list, but as early as my first day in Taipei, I realized it was a travesty not wanting to see this island. I had been to Taiwan twice since then, and we’re geared to return on two different occasions this year!

 

Understanding Taipei

Taipei City is the capital and the political and economic center of Taiwan. Situated near the northern tip of the island, it is completely surrounded by New Taipei City. (I know this can be confusing, but these are two separate units.) Together with Keelung, Taipei and New Taipei form Taiwan’s largest metropolitan area, which is home to over 7 million people.

For the longest time, tourism was not a major economic driver in Taipei or Taiwan in general. Just like the Philippines, Taiwan is on the so-called “wrong side” of the South China Sea. Most Asia-bound travelers head for Thailand and then travel by bus or train to other parts of the ASEAN peninsula. Taiwan requires plane tickets, which means additional budget and effort. But you know what they say, those who go the extra mile get the reward, or something like that. Hahaha. (Is there such a saying? Let’s make it a thing.)

However, tourism has grown significantly over the past several years! Taiwan has been so aggressive in promoting destinations internationally that immigration policies have been relaxed in many countries.

 

When is the Best Time to Visit Taipei?

Quick answer: autumn. November is ideal. But I wouldn’t mind going in winter. The last thing I want is for the rain or typhoons to ruin my plans, and they are least likely to make a mess from November to March.

Taipei enjoys a humid subtropical climate that is heavily influenced by the monsoon. This means that although people keep referring to the four seasons, they are not as pronounced as in temperate countries like Japan or Korea.

  • Summers (June-September) are hot, reaching as high as 35C, and wet, sometimes bringing powerful typhoons.
  • Autumns are pleasant. October marks the end of the typhoon season, and precipitation drops significantly (although you’ll never know these days). The temperature is also comfortable, playing between 22 and 28C in October, and 19 and 24C in November.
  • Winters (December-February) are mild, rarely dipping below 10C. But it is the driest period.
  • Springs (March-May) have comfortable temperatures but are unpredictable in terms of rainfall.

 

How to Get to Taipei

The Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (TPE) is the primary gateway to the island and the 11th busiest airport in the world. It is also hub of China Airlines and EVA Air.

If you’re coming from Manila, AirAsia offers the cheapest year-round ticket, sometimes as low as USD33 for a seat. Other airlines don’t even come close. The catch is, the flight leaves just before midnight. (In case you’re wondering: This post is NOT sponsored by AirAsia. Price comparison websites just reveal they offer the lowest fares.)

Manila-Taipei Flight Scan (Skyscanner for October travel)

If you’re coming from Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur or Singapore, AirAsia shares the budget crown with TigerAir and JetStar. However, some flights require transfers in another ASEAN city.

Bangkok-Taipei Flight Scan (Skyscanner for October travel)
Singapore-Taipei Flight Scan (Skyscanner for October travel)

 

How to Get to Taipei from Taoyuan Airport

Located in Taoyuan County, Taoyuan Airport is less than an hour away from Taipei City. The two efficient modes of transportation are the Taoyuan Airport MRT and the bus. (Taxis are available too, but they’re expensive so let’s pretend they don’t exist. Haha.)

By Train/Metro

Both Terminals 1 and 2 have their own station: A12 Station for Terminal 1 and A13 for Terminal 2.

  • Operating hours: 6am to 11pm
  • Travel time: 37 minutes (if Express)
  • Fare: NT$160
By Bus

Several bus companies ply various routes from the airport. If you have decided where to stay, you may ask the hotel/hostel staff in advance what bus number you should take. For more info, check out: Taoyuan Airport Bus Info

To book a ticket, go to the Bus Counters near the Arrival section of the terminal. You’ll find it easily. There are a lot of bus signs around the airport. Fare varies depending on bus company, but it’s within the NT$125-145 range.

However, the Taoyuan MRT and most of the buses do NOT operate 24 hours a day. Last trip of these carriers are usually between 11pm and 1am.

If your flight is scheduled to arrive outside these hours, your only choice is Bus 1819, operated by Kuo-Kuang Motor Transport. Bus 1819 terminates at Taipei Main Station. From here, you may take a taxi to your hotel.
Travel Time: 55 minutes
Fare: NT$125

 

Where to Stay in Taipei

Hmmmm. The thing with Taipei is that it’s so convenient to get around and daily commute doesn’t go as crazy as Tokyo (or Manila). Their MRT system isn’t complicated at all. Most tourist spots are located along the Red (2) and Green (3) lines so when it comes to choosing accommodations, as long as you’re staying somewhere near a red or green station, you’re good!

In addition, the areas surrounding the following MRT stations are ideal options:

  • Taipei Main Station. Main MRT and bus terminal, so transportation won’t be a problem especially if your flight is set to arrive past midnight. There are also malls around.
  • ZhongXiao Fuxing Station. Also a big station, where Lines 1 and 5 connect.
  • Taipower Building station. Near Shida Night Market.

 

Top Budget Hotels Under USD50

If you only have USD50 or less for accommodations, here are the top budget hotels according to Agoda users.

C U Hotel
Address: 2F., No.198, Minsheng W. Rd, Datong District, Taipei

Check Updated Rates

Colormix Hotel and Hostel
Address: No.22, Ln. 55, Neijiang St., Ximending, Taipei

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Hotel Fun – Linsen
Address: 1F., No.487, Linsen N. Rd, Zhongshan District, Taipei

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Poshpacker Hotel
Address: No. 39, Sec. 1, Chongqing S. Rd., Taipei Main Station, Taipei

Check Updated Rates

 

Top Taipei Hostels

Taipei Taipei Hostel

Taipei Taipei Hostel
Location: 2F, No. 63, Sec. 1, Chongqing S. Rd., Zhongzheng Dist., Taipei Main Station

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Taipei Sunny Hostel

Taipei Sunny Hostel
Location: No.92-2, Huaining St., Taipei Main Station

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Sleepy Dragon Hostel

Sleepy Dragon Hostel
Location: 7F, No. 399, Section 5, Nanjing East Road, Songshan District

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Miniin

Miniin
Location: Section 1, Zhongxiao West Road, Taipei Main Station

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Search for more: Taipei Hotels

 

Places to Visit in Taipei

Tap the thumbnails below to read more information about the attraction. (If it’s not clickable, then I haven’t written a post about that specific place. Haha)

I have also included translations so you could easily show this to a local in case you get lost, the operating hours, the nearest MRT stations, and the admission fees. But as you will see, most attractions in Taipei can be enjoyed for FREE.

Taipei 101
Taipei 101 Observatory
Traditional Chinese: 台北101觀景台
Simplified Chinese: 台北101观景台
Nearest MRT Station: Taipei 101 station (Red Line 2)
Operating Hours: Daily 9am-10pm
Entrance Fee: NT$600

Elephant Mountain
象山 (Xiàngshān)
Nearest MRT Station: Xiàngshān station (Red Line 2)
Entrance Fee: FREE

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall
中正纪念堂
Nearest MRT Station: Chiang Kai-shek (CKS) Memorial Hall (Red Line 2 or Green Line 3)
Open: Daily 9am-6pm
Entrance Fee: FREE

Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall
Traditional: 國父紀念館
Simplified: 国父纪念馆
Nearest MRT Station: Sun Yat-sen (SYS) Memorial Hall Station (Blue Line 5)
Open: Daily 9am-6pm
Entrance Fee: FREE

National Palace Museum
Traditional: 國立故宮博物院
Simplified: 国立故宫博物院
Nearest MRT Station: Shilin station (Red Line – 2), then take Bus R30
Open: Daily 8:30am-6:30pm
Entrance Fee: NT$250 (NTD $150 student)

Martyrs’ Shrine
Traditional: 國民革命忠烈祠
Simplified: 国民革命忠烈祠
How to get there: From Jiantan Station (Red Line 2), take Bus 267, 556, or 902.
Open: Daily 9am-5pm
Entrance Fee: FREE

Lantern Festival in Pingxi
Happens every Chinese New Year (early Feb) in Pingxi (平溪)
How to get there: At Taipei Main Station, take the train to Ruifang Station. Transfer to the Pingxi Line.

Yangmingshan National Park
Traditional: 陽明山
Simplified: 阳明山
How to get there: From Jiantan Station (Red Line 2), take the City Bus R5 or small bus S15 or S17 to Yangmingshan station. Fare: NT$15
Entrance Fee: FREE

Shilin Night Market
士林夜市
Nearest MRT Station: Jiantan Station (Red Line – 2)
Best Time to Visit: 5pm-1am
Entrance Fee: FREE

Dalongdong Bao’an Temple
Traditional: 大龍峒保安宮
Simplified: 大龙峒保安宫
Nearest MRT Station: Yuanshan Station (Red Line – 2)
Open: Daily 6:30am-10:30pm
Entrance Fee: FREE

 

Other attractions to visit:
  • Longshan Temple 龍山寺
    Nearest MRT Station: Longshan Temple Station (Blue Line 5)
    Open: Daily, 6am-10pm
    NO Entrance Fee
  • Ximending Youth Shopping District 西門町
    Nearest Station: Ximen (Blue Line 5 or Green Line 3)
    NO Entrance Fee
  • Shida Night Market 師大夜市
    Nearest Station: Taipower Building Station (Green Line 3)
    Open: 12pm-12am
    NO Entrance Fee
  • Raohe St. Night Market 饒河街觀光夜市
    Nearest Station: Songshan (Green Line 3)
    Open: 5pm-11pm
    NO Entrance Fee

 

Day Tours from Taipei
Lantern Festival in Taiwan

Aside from Yangmingshan, you might also want to consider a day tour of any of these destinations:

  • Wulai Atayal Aboriginal Village and Hot Springs 烏來
    How to get there: Make your way to Xindian Station (Green Line 3), walk to Bus Stop B along Beiyi Road, and take Bus route 849 going to Wulai. Get off the last station. Fare: NT$15
  • Beitou Hot Springs (Xinbeitou) 北投溫泉
    How to get there: From Beitou Station (Red Line 2), transfer to a train bound for Xinbeitou.
  • Fulong Beach 福隆
    How to Get There: Make your way to Taipei Main Station, Nangang Station (MRT Blue Line 5), or Songshan Station (MRT Green Line 3). Then, board a train to Fulong Station.

 

Sample Taipei Itinerary

Here’s a sample 4-day 3-night Taipei itinerary.

DAY 1
Arrival
Check in at hotel
National Palace Musuem
Shilin Night Market

DAY 2
Yangmingshan National Park
Shida Night Market

DAY 3
Chiang Kai Shek Memorial
Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall
Taipei 101
Elephant Mountain

DAY 4
Departure

Inter-city travel is fast and convenient in Taiwan so I always recommend seeing other parts of the island like Hualien, a lovely small city, which is the gateway to the marble-ous Taroko Gorge. If you have more days, here’s a sample Hualien-Taipei itinerary.

DAY 1 – Arrival
Travel to Hualien
Check in to hotel in Hualien
City tour of Hualien (Martyr’s Shrine, Night Market, Baywalk, Pine Museum, etc)

DAY 2
Taroko Gorge (FULL DAY TOUR)

DAY 3
Back to Taipei
Check in at Hotel in Taipei
Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall
Taipei 101
Elephant Mountain

DAY 4
National Palace Museum
Changing of the Guards (Martyr’s Shrine)
Chiang Kai Shek Memorial
Shilin Market

DAY 5
Check out
Departure

 

More Tips for the Poor Traveler

  • Taipei is a very walkable city. It’s clean and safe, and there are wide sidewalks. If your destination isn’t that far, travel on foot! For example, the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall is just a few blocks from Taipei 101, which is also not too far from Elephant Mountain.
  • Get a Metro Pass or Easy Card if you feel like you’re going to take the train often. Taipei’s MRT system is easy to use (much less complicated than the bus system) and there is often an MRT station near key tourist spots. Having a Metro Pass or Easy Card will allow you to skip getting single-journey tickets every ride. There are many types available depending on validity duration. A 24-hour pass is at NTD180, 48-hour pass at NTD280, and 72-hour pass at NTD380. You can get one at the Information Counter of any MRT Station. For more information\, visit: Taipei Metro Pass
  • There are lockers at many MRT stations. If you’re coming from other parts of Taiwan and you wish to explore Taipei on a day tour, you can leave your bags inside a locker and wander around the city baggage-free. I’ve tried this myself. Most lockers will give you a small printout of the code. Take a photo of the code immediately just in case you lose it. More info here: Taipei Lockers

    Sample Locker Code
  • Prepare for language barrier. Many locals, including many taxi drivers, do not understand English at all. Make sure you have a Translation app on your phone or ask hotel staff to write down the name of the destination for you.
  • Some of our readers commented that they found Taipei not budget-friendly because of expensive food. Hmmmm, they probably ate at restaurants a lot. I don’t think Taipei food is costly at all. If you’re looking for good but inexpensive places to eat, try Gongguan St., which is located near a university so meals are at student price. I also found small eateries in many parts of the city that serve cheap pre-cooked food. They usually have small trays which they fill with dishes that you want. You’re expected to have 2-3 dishes per tray. And they’re super cheap, like NTD70 per full meal.

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