Planning to visit Taipei soon? Taiwan’s capital has plenty of attractions and surprises for the adventurous, so you are sure to have fun!
I had the opportunity to visit Taipei in March 2018 and this is a compressed guide for everyone out there who is planning to tour the city as well. I was only able to sightsee for 3 days and I was mainly there for the cherry blossoms.
But I am sharing here anyway all of the things I’ve learned that will make your trip easier. Also, this is written from the perspective of someone from Cebu traveling to Taiwan, but most of the information here will still be useful to anyone.
Taipei, Taiwan Travel Guide
Please find below the juicy details. You can also use the table of contents above to jump to the information you want to know first.
Taiwan Visa for Filipinos: No Need!
Starting last November 1, 2017, it was declared that Taiwan was visa-free for Filipinos! Phillippine nationals can now stay in Taiwan for a maximum of 14 days for tour purposes without the need for a visa. Yay!
This is one of the main reason why I, together with a friend, decided to visit this interesting country. Additionally, Taiwan is actually nearer to the Philippines and their cherry blossoms come earlier compared to Japan and South Korea. Add to that a Cebu Pacific seat sale and I did not hesitate to book a return flight to Taipei!
Passing through the Immigration
Since Taiwan is now visa-free for Filipinos, all you need to present at the immigration is your passport. Have another government ID ready though just in case the immigration officer asks for it.
It is also standard practice to prepare details of your return tickets and your accommodation in case needed.
Have patience and be calm when facing the immigration officer. Answer questions truthfully and succinctly, no need to say a lot of stuff. Just focus on the answer. For example, if he asks what your work is, just state your position. No need to go into other details unless you are questioned about it.
Cebu to Taipei and Back
Cebu Pacific (at the time of this posting) does not offer direct flights from Cebu to Taipei. So I had to go through Manila first.
The same thing applies to Philippine Airlines. One must go from Cebu to Manila then to Taipei. Air Asia, meanwhile, offers direct flights from Cebu to Taipei (Taoyuan International Airport), but there’s only one flight per day and that gets sold out easily.
Since I went there with the help of a seat sale, I had no choice but to follow Cebu Pacific’s schedule.
How to Get to Taipei
No matter where you are from, the best approach is to land at Taoyuan International Airport as that will put you closer to Taipei. You can check Google, Skyscanner, TripAdvisor, and similar sites to find the best flight that fits your schedule and budget.
From Taoyuan International Airport, you can then take the airport bus or the subway to your accommodation. You can also take a taxi or hail an Uber ride if you arrive before or after the buses and trains’ operating hours.
Taipei Transportation: What Are Your Options?
As mentioned above, you can take buses or trains within the metro. For attractions outside of Taipei or New Taipei, buses are the best choice. By riding on the city’s mass transportation, you get to save money. Within the city, fares are usually just around 15 to 40 yuan (NTD/New Taipei Dollars).
Since our accommodation was an AirBNB and the best way to get there is through the airport bus, we took that and had to pay NTD 135.00 per person. The bus wasn’t bad at all because there were only 4 passengers when we took it, so it was quiet and spacious. The bus was clean and nicely decorated too.
As for the subway trains, they are easy to understand and very convenient to use. During the various times that we used the trains, they never got as jampacked as in Japan or Hong Kong during peak hours.
For those of you who have the money to spend and prefer utmost convenience, taxis or hailing an Uber ride is the way to go. We actually had to take an Uber back to the airport from our accommodation because we had a late-night flight back to Manila. For a 45-50 min ride, it cost us NTD 1,041. Quite expensive even when divided between my friend and me. 🙁
Taipei Transportation: The Easy Card
To make your bus and train trips more convenient, get the Easy Card. This is an electronic card that you can purchase in Seven Elevens, Family Mart, and the likes. It costs NTD 100 for the card alone and you can top it up as needed.
Since there is a Seven Eleven at the airport, we purchased an Easy Card there. We paid NTD 200 (100 for the card and 100 for the top-up credits).
The airport bus operates in another way, though. At the basement level of the airport, follow the signs pointing to airport buses. Near there are counters where you can purchase airport bus tickets. There are also signs for what time your bus arrives and departs. Please be alert.
Taoyuan International Airport to New Taipei
We actually stayed at the New Taipei area, which should not be confused with Taipei City. They are very near to each other though and can be reached by subway within just a few stops.
Fortunately for us, our AirBNB host already provided the bus number and bus stop near the accommodation. So we just found the corresponding bus ticket counter at the airport and showed the lady there the text from our host saying where we needed to stop.
She got the gist of it and we managed to purchase our tickets without problems. The language barrier was not an issue since we barely spoke. I just showed the lady at the counter the text haha.
Taiwan Transportation: How Much Are the Fares?
If you are taking the subway trains, fares within the city range from 15 to 40 NTD depending on the distance. You can use Google Maps to assist you with this as it displays fare costs too. In my experience, the fare costs displayed are often not accurate, but the actual costs are actually lower than what is displayed. That is a good thing.
When taking buses, the fare ranges from 15 to 30 NTD. Unless you are taking the airport bus from Taoyuan. Then you’ll have to pay 100+ NTD one-way. You can check out airport bus schedules here.
For taxi and Uber fares, again it varies depending on distance. Note that these are way more expensive than taking mass transit. To compute taxi or Uber fares, you can use this guide.
How to Use Taiwan’s Trains?
I really cannot give you a turn-by-turn direction here because this depends on where you are staying in the city. But, you can follow these general steps if it’s your first time taking the subway in another country.
- Use Google Maps as it will tell you the stations where you need to go and the train lines and colors that you need to ride on.
- Take out your Easy Card. See above how to get one. Swipe it on the turnstiles or mini gates at the station. Just look at the signs on the mini gates to find where to swipe. You know it worked if you heard that ding upon swiping and the balance is displayed on the screen. Of course, make sure your Easy Card has enough credits.
- Once the turnstile opens, enter.
- Look up and around you. Be alert of the signs. There are big English signs so it is not that hard. Just have the presence of mind and do not panic. The Taiwanese people are calmer in the stations compared to other countries like Japan and Hong Kong.
- Find the train line and color that you are supposed to board. Google Maps will tell you which one so, again, pay attention to it and the signs.
- Stay behind the yellow/safety lines while waiting for your train to arrive.
- Once the train arrives, observe courtesy by letting the outgoing passengers alight first before entering. If there is a line for new passengers, fall in line.
- Once inside the train, sit on vacant chairs. But observe different colored seats as they are labeled Priority Seats. Unless you are differently abled, aged, or pregnant – try not to sit on those seats even if they are empty. This is just common courtesy.
- If you cannot find a seat, then stand and hold the handle rings/bars. This is important, especially if you are not used to riding trains. You do not want to be outbalanced and ending up falling and hurting yourself.
- Look at the flashing signs inside the train. An English version will flash and will tell you the next station. Be alert so you do not miss your stop.
- Once you are at your stop, exit the train carefully and do not dawdle at the doors blocking people. Find the exit sign or the line you need to transfer to right away. If that is not possible, go stand somewhere you will not be blocking other commuters.
- At the exit gates, swipe your Easy Card again. You will see the deducted amount and remaining balance.
That’s basically it. Once you get used to it, using the subway in Taiwan is fairly easy and convenient. Just remember to exercise courtesy always because we are visitors to this country and we surely do not want Taiwan to retract its decision on being visa-free for Filipinos. 🙂
Where to Stay: Taipei Accommodations
Taipei is a large metropolis filled with accommodation choices for a wide range of tastes and budget. To make your search for a place to stay in Taipei go smoother, take advantage of Agoda.com. I cannot count anymore how many times I’ve booked through Agoda and, so far, I have not been disappointed by my bookings. Feel free to use the search widget below.
Aside from Agoda, you can also check out AirBnB. We did so this time and we were able to book a whole studio apartment in the New Taipei area. It was located on the 13th floor and so has gorgeous city views. Our hosts, Mary and Johnson, were extremely helpful and welcoming as well.
Will write a separate review of our AirBnB accommodation so stay tuned for that.
Then, there is always Google, TripAdvisor, and other travel sites. They can help you zero in on the accommodation that fits your style and holiday requirements.
Internet in Taiwan
Having an internet connection in Taiwan is no problem. At the airport, you can enjoy fast and free internet. They also have kiosks where you can rent (or pre-book) a portable Wi-Fi. Alternatively, you can purchase a SIM card with data from the airport convenience store upon arrival.
To avoid the hassle, my friend and I decided to pre-book a portable Wi-Fi modem. Renting upon arrival is an option but there is always a chance that the providers run out of modems for rent.
So, we decided to pre-book and we did it through Klook. Klook’s 4G Wi-Fi modem rental is, for me, really affordable. At the time of posting, it only cost PHP 141.00 per day. And since up to 5 people can connect to the modem at a time, this is really great for me and my friend. Divided between the two of us, it ended up costing only PHP 70.50 per person per day. Great deal!
Add to that the fact that you will enjoy unlimited 4G data. And the best part, the modem can be picked up at the Unite Traveler kiosk located near the arrival gates! Whether pre-booking or not, take note that Unite Traveler’s operating hours are from 6AM to 10PM.
Dropping off the modem before departure can be done anytime. All you have to do is drop it into the provided drop box.
SIM Card with Data
If a portable Wi-Fi is not your cup of tea, you can opt for a SIM card with data. Take note that your phone has to be open-line for this to work. This is a good option though if your arrival hours does not fall within the Wi-Fi rental shops’ operating hours. Or if you find carrying a portable modem too much of a hassle.
As for your SIM card with data options, check them out here.
Taipei Sample Itinerary and Budget
This sample itinerary and budget are based on what my friend and I did in Taipei. Please use it as a guide to planning your own trip. You may or may not follow everything here. What’s important is you organize a trip that fits your interests and budget 🙂
Oh, and about the budget, it is always my belief to fit the travel plan to the budget and not the other way around. Whatever amount you can afford, you can always find ways to ensure you don’t overspend. ^_~
Here is our Taipei itinerary and budget for your reference:
Cebu —> Manila —> Taipei
(not including the amount here because flight fares vary)
- Upon arrival, purchase an Easy Card === NTD 200.00
- Book the airbus from Taoyuan airport to New Taipei === NTD 135.00
- Train to Chiang Kai-shek to view the cherry blossoms === NTD 28.00
- explore Chiang Kai-shek === FREE
- Train to Shilin Night Market ===NTD 20.00
- Train to Ximending Night Market === 20.00
- Train back to accommodation ===NTD 23.00
- Food (depending on your appetite and interests) === Meals range from NTD 50.00 – 100.00
Total costs for Day 2 === approximately NTD 720.00 (around PHP 1,250.00)
- Train to Longshan Station === NTD 24.00
- Longshan Station to Taipei City Mall / K Underground Mall === NTD 16.00
- Taipei main station back to accommodation === NTD 28
- Meals and drinks === NTD 650.00
Total costs for Day 3 === NTD 718.00 (around PHP 1,250.00)
We did not go to “must-visit” attractions on this day because on this trip, our plan really is to just view cherry blossoms and we did not have much of a budget either. So, we just went to this mall to chill. My friend decided to check out all the Taiwanese skincare stores while I went coffee-shop hopping because I love coffee. So, again, your itinerary and budget should be based on your interests 🙂
- Train to Shilin Night Market === NTD 32.00
- Pit-stop exploration of Longshan Temple === FREE
- Food trip/fun/shopping at Shilin Night Market === NTD 1000.00 (yes I kind of went crazy here haha)
- Train back to accommodation === NTD 32.00
- Uber to Taoyuan airport === NTD 1,041.00 / 2 = NTD 520.50 (this totally hurt but we had no choice since we had a red-eye flight back to Manila and the buses and trains have stopped running)
- Travel back to Manila then Cebu (cost not included as flight fares vary)
Total costs for Day 4 === NTD 1584.50 (around PHP 2,800)
Accommodation cost is not included here because it is up to you where you should stay. My friend and I booked this AirBnB accommodation. They weree great!
Total Taipei travel costs (without airfare and hotel) === NTD 3,022.50 (around PHP 5,400.00 per person)
You can totally lower this cost by tweaking the amount you spend on food and by carefully selecting your activities and spots to visit.
Our main purpose of going to Taipei is for me to see the cherry blossoms, which I have not experienced before. We also wanted to do a food trip and take a quick peek into Taiwan’s culture and history. We accomplished all of these with the itinerary above and we are definitely satisfied with our trip.
Now, if you plan to stay longer and see more in Taiwan, here are some of the country’s popular attractions/things to do or see that maybe you can include in your itinerary:
- Taipei 101 observatory – offers excellent city views on a good day/night
- Yangmingshan National Park – great for nature buffs and cherry blossoms chasers
- Wuling Farm – gorgeous cherry blossoms but nothing else during other seasons and you need to pre-book a tour there because the number of visitors is limited by the government.
- Jiufen – best explored for a whole day, considered as the Santorini of Taiwan
- Taipei’s National Palace Museum – for art and culture lovers
- various night markets in Taipei – Shilin is the most popular and accessible but there are so many others; great for shopping and food trips
- Pinxi Old Street – great for history immersion and you can release sky lanterns there
- Beitou Thermal Valley – for hot springs and relaxation
- Various temples – Taiwan has so many Buddhist, Confucian, and Taoist temples worth exploring
Here is some more information that you might want to know before your trip to Taipei, Taiwan.
It always pays to check the weather before you go. Although weather forecasts aren’t always accurate, at least you’ll have an idea to help with your travel preparations.
For example, it was still Spring in Taipei when we went. Most of us would think that Spring weather is below 20°C but on our first day in the city, the temperature was around 29-31°C. This was just like the usual temp we experience in the Philippines. The next two days, however, proved to have Spring-time temperatures.
I was glad I had an idea of this beforehand as I checked Accuweather. I was then able to bring the right clothes and did not overpack jackets/coats.
Spring – March to May: At this time of the year, expect Taipei’s weather to be unpredictable. Temperatures can go higher than 25°C and below that within the day. Expect rain as well. So, plan to pack layered outfits. Bring a jacket or two that you can just take off if needed.
Summer – June to August: Expect it to be hot and humid in Taipei during the Summer. Temperatures can be as high as 35°C. There might be typhoons as well. This time of the year is off season though so there is bound to be great travel deals.
Autumn – September to November: Typhoon season should be over at this time although the weather can still be unpredictable. Temperatures will be mild, around 20°C. This is a great time to visit and sightsee around the city.
Winter – December to February: As is the case of most winters, it will be rainy, cold, and foggy in Taipei. Temperatures can fall below 10°C. Still, it is a great time to explore the city as long as you wear warm clothing.
Currency for Taipei Travel
Taiwan’s currency is NTD or the New Taiwan Dollar. It is also called “yuan”.
Their paper currency are: NT$2,000, NT$1,000, NT$500, NT$200, and NT$100
Coins are in these denominations: NT$50, NT$20, NT$10, NT$5, and NT$1
Check conversion rates before you go as this will, of course, affect your budget.
It is best to learn a few words to help you in communicating with the locals. Taiwanese speak Mandarin, by the way. Although we really didn’t have much difficulty in the city because English signs were all over the place, a simple Ni Hao to your host or server goes a long way.
- Ni hao – Hello
- Xie-xie – Thank you
- Bu yong – No need (some shops will ask and gesture if you need plastic bags for bought items. You can say this if you don’t need any.)
- Ting bu dong – I don’t understand (say this just in case a local talks to you and expect answers you can’t give)
- Cèsuŏ Zài nǎli – where is the bathroom? (pronounced as Tse sue-oh Zeye nah lee)
You might want to watch this video too as it helped me grasp the pronunciations better.
- If you booked that Wi-Fi modem I recommended above, the drop-off is the same kiosk where you’ll pick it up. Note that this is at the Arrival section though. The Departure area is a bit of a long walk away from it, so go to the airport earlier for the modem drop-off.
- When riding escalators, stand on the right side if you’re not in a hurry. If you are, walk on the left side. That person blocking the left side and irritating others? Don’t be that person.
- There are locals who can speak English, but if you don’t want to go to the trouble, you can just take pictures of menu items or products you want to buy and show it to the shopkeeper. They’ll understand.
- Reiterating this here: taxis and Uber are expensive. Ride mass transit wherever possible.
- Download Google Maps for navigation. It worked excellently for us. Of course, you can use your own preferred map app if you want to.
That’s it, folks. I hope I covered everything important here and that this Taipei travel guide can help you with your own trip.
For questions or if you want to share your own tips or travel experience, I would love to hear from you in the comments below!