Summarising the 10D9N Taiwan trip, putting everything into one post – hopefully this guide helps to kick-start your dream trip to Taiwan, minimising all the hassle of planning and soon be in beautiful Formosa (literally “beautiful”, former name for Taiwan)!
For 10 days in Taiwan, we covered 6 cities/counties in total – Taichung City, Nantou County, Hualien County, Taipei, New Taipei and Keelung City. We went up to Cingjing visiting sheep at Green Green Grassland and had steamboat in the mountain, did a beautiful road trip across the Central Cross-Island Highway which runs through gorgeous Taroko Gorge, explored a Geological park, Yangmingshan National Park, old streets, aboriginal town, went crazy shopping at a wholesale market, stuffed ourselves silly at numerous night markets and even soaked in wild hot springs! All within S$500 budget!
Some of the highlights of our trip:
Eating nonstop at Fengjia Night Market – the biggest night market in Taiwan.
Had a great meal at Carton King Restaurant and visited Green Green Grasslands in not the most pleasant weather, but perfect for hotpot!
Road tripping through the gorgeous Taroko National Park with cherry blossoms along the way, and Chihsingtan which overlooks the Pacific Ocean.
Visited old streets of quaint town, and wrote our wishes on a Chinese Lantern.
Blessed with beautiful weather at a Geological Park near the harbour, and went to feast on seafood after.
Bliss is; to feast on nutritious hotpot after a hot spring bath.
Getting surrounded by beautiful flowers at the annual Yangmingshan National Park’s Flower Festival.
For details of this itinerary, visit the following links:
Day 1: Exploring Taichung City
Day 2: Green Green Grassland + Steamboat up on the mountain in Cingjing
Day 3: Road Tripping from Cingjing to Hualien via Taroko Gorge
Day 4~10: Guide to Northern Taiwan – Taipei, New Taipei and Keelung City
Exchange rate was then approx. S$1 = NTD23. So S$500 was approx. NTD11,500.
We spent NTD25,160 in total for accommodation (NTD5032/pax), which is almost half of our budget. But this amount includes some overlaps as some cost of accommodation covers dinner and breakfast. The remaining 52% were spent on food & transport. Did not keep a record on these then, therefore no exact value.
And here are some tips on how to keep the expenses low:
(1) Purchase an iPass and use public transport
Similar to EZ-link, an iPass is a smartcard to take public transport. By using this card, you get discounts on city buses, trains and metro instead of paying full fare. You may even get free rides with this card! In Taichung City, bus rides within 10km are free, but only if you use the card. There are two types of smartcards in Taiwan – iPass and EasyCard. Not too long ago, iPass could only be use mainly in the South while EasyCard was mainly for the North. But iPass can now be use for all public transports including Kaohsiung and Taipei Metro. These passes can be purchase at all metro stations and some convenience stores. Check this website for more information.
(2) Check out free attractions
Looking back at what we did on this trip, I can say that Taiwan is awesome for budget travellers. Not that we intentionally looked for free attractions but, it just so happened that all the attractions we visited were either free or admission fee was affordable. The only entrance fee we paid for attraction(s) was Green Green Grasslands for NTD200 and Yehliu Geological Park for NTD50 (now NTD80).
Apply for the Youth Travel Card [discontinued as of 2017]
If you are between 15-30 years old, remember to apply for the Youth Travel Card upon arrival in Taiwan as it entitles you to discounted rates on admission tickets, tour buses, accommodations, languages lessons and even purchase of products, and the savings can be huge. Take Green Green Grasslands in Cingjing for example; the entrance fee for general public is NTD160 or 200 for adults, but only NTD80 (which is more than 50%) if using the Youth Travel Card.
(4) Choose +1 when booking accommodation if you are travelling in odd numbers.
Since we were travelling in odd numbers, we have to settle for triple + double room, or 5pax rooms which are also harder to find. But while searching for accommodations, I found out that it would be cheaper to book a 4pax room and add 1 person at an additional cost of, usually, NTD300. They would then thrown a mattress into a 4pax size room. But if you are lucky, it could be a sofa bed or 5pax room depending on availability.
But before you go..
Remember to collect your free Taiwan Promotional Gifts.
If you are an independent traveller to Taiwan, you are eligible for collection as long as you have your flight itinerary and 1 night of accommodation booked as proof. Gifts can be redeemed at Taiwan Tourism Bureau at 30 Raffles Place #10-01 Chevron House, and you can find out what are the current gifts offered by giving them a call or from this hardwarezone forum where it is updated by others who have gone down recently for collection. The gifts are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis until supplies run out, and some of the gifts you can expect are: one-way bus voucher for travelling between Taoyuan International Airport and Taipei City which could be worth NTD125, and hot spring vouchers.
2016 Free Stopover in Taiwan [discontinued]
This year, the Taiwan Tourism Bureau rolled out a campaign which offers visitors of Taiwan to free accommodation, tour, metro card, meal & dessert. How awesome does this sounds? But this is only for North America travellers, with the traveller entering Taiwan on an American or Canadian passport. Check this website on how to qualify for these giveaways.
Free Half-Day Tour
Based on their website, these tours are currently offered only at Taoyuan International Airport, and those who can participate are transit or transfer passengers with 7- to 24-hour layovers before their next connecting flight, who have valid R.O.C. visas or come from countries eligible for visa-exempt entry. You can visit this website for more information on this tour and how to participate.
[Updated as of July 2017] The above 10d9n itinerary for under sgd500 was a trip taken in 2013. Some of the tips to keep the budget low are no longer in effect e.g. youth travel card. What I would suggest is to follow your country of residence’s Taiwan Tourism Bureau’s Facebook Page (Singapore | North America | Malaysia,Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei) to keep a lookout for other promotional activities such as the free half-day tour above.