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First thing’s first. Taiwan is super cheap. If you’re planning a trip abroad and you’re on a tight budget, you should definitely consider Taiwan. So how cheap is cheap? On our recent 5 days, 4 nights trip to Taiwan, we only had PHP 10,000 with us for pocket money. This is inclusive of food, transportation, and pasalubong shopping. YES! It’s that cheap! But what about plane tickets, airport fees, and accommodation cost? Read on to find out how we did our trip to Taiwan!

Table of Contents

  1. Pre-Travel Preparations
  2. 5 Days / 4 Nights Taipei, Taiwan Experience
    1. Arrival in Taipei, Taipei 101, and Tonghua Night Market
    2. Shifen Old Street and Jiufen Old Street
    3. Yangmingshan National Park, Tian Yuan Temple, and Shilin Night Market
    4. Sunday Mass, Taipei 101, Din Tai Fung – Taipei 101, Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, and Ximenting
    5. Taipei 101 Observatory and Depart Taipei, Taiwan
  3. Summary of Itinerary
  4. Budget Breakdown
  5. Insider Tips

Pre-Travel Preparations

Cash is king in Taiwan. I had my Philippine Peso changed to US Dollar a few days before our trip. So far, the best exchange rates I found is at Eastwest Bank. During that time, the exchange rate was at USD 1 = PHP 51.83 compared to other banks that were at least PHP 52. Do note that if you’re planning to do some currency exchange at a bank, you should have an account with them. If you don’t, you can try any of the following:

  • Currency Exchange Stores at the mall (avoid this as they have really bad rates)
  • Withdraw in Taiwan using your Philippine-issued ATM (I haven’t personally tried but my friends say the rates are okay if you’re planning to do the withdrawal one time, big time)
  • Bring in PHP and have it exchanged to New Taiwan Dollars (NTD) upon arrival (But you shouldn’t do this. Read on to know why!)

Best Currency Option

So why is the third option not ideal? Let me illustrate it to you in figures.

USD 1 = PHP 52.11 (Variable)
USD 1 = NTD 30.405 (Variable)
PHP 1 = NTD 0.518 (Variable)

Which means,

PHP 10,000 = USD 191.901746 = NTD 5,834.7726
PHP 10,000 = NTD 5,180

That’s a difference of around NTD 650. Go ahead and try to compute. Remember to get the Selling Rate. The condition here is that your PHP -> USD exchange rate should be lower than the usual average rate. I suggest that you check on foreign currency trends to get an idea on what the average exchange rate is for a particular date range.

5 Days / 4 Nights Taipei, Taiwan Experience

The reason why we chose Taiwan as the first country to visit this year is because it’s visa-free to Philippine Passport holders until July 31, 2019 (as of the time of this writing).

It was rainy season in Taipei when we visited with temperatures ranging from 17 C to 21 C. I strongly suggest to bring a jacket or two and always wear long sleeves.

Arrival in Taipei, Taipei 101, and Tonghua Night Market

Immigration in Taoyuan International Airport is quite slow. It took us about an hour to get passed immigration control.

After passing through immigration, we got the sim and Pocket WiFi we rented from Klook and went to the Airport Station to catch the Express Train to Taipei Main Station. You can purchase your EasyCard at the station and use it to pay for the Express Train. You may choose to take the Commuter Train which stops in all the train stations along the airport line or the Express Train which stops in certain stations only. Another notable difference is that the Express Train have cushioned seats while the Commuter Train have seats similar to the local trains in Taipei.

Your best bet is to alight at the Taipei Main Station (Airport Line) and transfer to the Taipei Main Station (Red and Blue Line). To clear things up, there are two Taipei Main Stations in Taipei. Don’t get these 2 confused. These Taipei Main Stations are connected underground. Just follow the directions to reach either of the 2 Taipei Main Stations.

You won’t get lost if you follow directions. From the Red and Blue Lines, you may take the line that’s going to take you to your hotel. The train system in Taipei is pretty easy to navigate as there are only 5 lines in Taipei (excluding the airport line).

We dropped our bags at the hotel and ate lunch at a nearby Taiwanese restaurant. We went to Taipei 101 after hoping to be able to do some pictorials. The weather was extremely bad so we decided to go inside the Taipei 101 Mall. We went around the mall for a few hours and went to Tonghua Night Market for dinner.

As we were walking by the streets of Tonghua Night Market, people from the different diners invited us to dine in at their place. A woman caught our attention when she shouted that they offer unli rice! When you’re Filipino and there’s unli rice, you couldn’t say no, right? The food was served hot and it was delicious. Before heading back to the hotel, we passed by Coco for milktea.

Shifen Old Street and Jiufen Old Street

We woke up at around 7:00AM the next day, had our breakfast at the hotel, and left for Shifen and Jiufen. We took the train from Taipei Main Station to Ruifang Station. You may check on the schedules for trains to Ruifang Station in this link.

Think of Ruifang Station as the junction station between Shifen and Jiufen. To reach Shifen, you may take the train along the Pingxi Line from Ruifang Station. Ruifang Station is pretty small so don’t worry about getting lost when transferring to or from the Pingxi Line. To reach Jiufen, you may take Bus 788. Alternatively, you can ask the locals which bus to take to Jiufen. The young ones are very helpful. Don’t expect much help from the old ones!

I highly suggest to visit Shifen before Jiufen. Upon reaching Shifen Station, alight and walk towards Shifen Old Street. You will know you are at the right place because you will find a lot of people taking photos with a sky lantern! My friends and I shared one sky lantern and we wrote our wishes in the 4 sides of the lantern. We had our photos taken and we released the sky lantern up!

We passed by the hanging bridge (I didn’t go with my friends because I felt like the bridge was about to give up 🙁 ). By 2:00PM, we left Shifen to proceed to Jiufen. We went back to Ruifang Station and took Bus 788 to Jiufen. The bus ride to Jiufen took about 15 to 20 minutes. Despite the heavy rain, Jiufen was packed with tourists. We made our way through the alleys and reached the end of Jiufen Old Street. The fog made it impossible for us to see the great view. We decided to leave and go back to Taipei.

On the train ride from Ruifang Station to Taipei Main Station, we met a group of Filipinos from Bohol who were on vacation. I didn’t realize that we arrived at Taipei Main Station until the last minute. I managed to get out but my friends were left inside! It was a funny experience to be honest. I was lucky that I got myself a 5-day data sim card in addition to the pocket WiFi we rented from Klook.

To cut it short, my friends and I met at the Taipei Main Station Underground Mall. We went back to the hotel and had dinner at a nearby McDonald’s. After dinner, we passed by Coco for some milktea fix and went back to the hotel.

Yangmingshan National Park, Tian Yuan Temple, and Shilin Night Market

We expected to see a lot of cherry blossoms in Yangmingshan and Tian Yuan. Upon reaching these places, we were disappointed because majority of the blossoms in Yangmingshan have already fallen and Tian Yuan’s blossoms haven’t bloomed yet. We spent a few hours in Yangmingshan and only saw one tree with a few cherry blossoms in it. We took advantage to take some photos with it.

My friends and I had lunch in Yangmingshan as well. I had Taiwan Beef Noodle Soup and a gigantic piece of fried chicken. I spent around NT$ 150 and I was extremely satisfied!

After having lunch, we left Yangmingshan to proceed to Tian Yuan. We took the bus from Yangmingshan to Jiantian Station. From Jiantian Station, take Bus 875, 876, 877, or 866 to Tian Yuan Temple. We didn’t see much as the blossoms have not bloomed yet. I found out that the blossoms in Tian Yuan bloom in late March to early April.

Our day ended in Shilin Night Market. There’s a food court below Shilin Night Market. You might want to have dinner in the food court aside from the food stalls that are along the streets of the night market. Moreover, you can purchase your pasalubongs in Shilin Night Market as prices here are extremely low compared to other places.

Sunday Mass, Taipei 101, Din Tai Fung – Taipei 101, Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, and Ximenting

My friends and I made it a point to hear Sunday mass. The nearest Catholic church to our hotel is St. Christopher’s Church located in 51 Chungshan N. Road, Sect. 3, Taipei. Steven’s friend, Steva (this is just a made up name my friends and I decided to call her), met us at our hotel. The walk from our hotel to St. Christopher’s Church took about 15 minutes.

After hearing mass, we went to Din Tai Fung in Taipei 101 for lunch. The waiting time was extremely long so you have to be patient if you really want to eat here. We ordered a couple of xiao long baos, soup, and fried rice. The food was REALLY GOOD. In fact, it was the best meal I had in Taipei. I cannot explain how good the xiao long bao is. You just have to try it for yourself to know exactly what I mean.

After having lunch, we went to Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. We were surprised to see cherry blossom trees in the area.

After spending hours in Chiang Kai-Shek, we went to Ximenting. We went around the area and finally went back to the hotel to rest. We walked to the nearest KFC which was about 15 minutes away. After dinner, we passed by 7/11 before we went back to the hotel.

Taipei 101 Observatory and Depart Taipei, Taiwan

I woke up and a sad feeling hit me. It was our last day in Taipei. I decided to skip the buffet breakfast at the hotel and have breakfast at a nearby 7/11. I had Chicken Nuggets, Chicken Curry Rice, Beef Noodles Bowl, and some dessert. Coming from the Philippines, you wouldn’t expect that food in a 7/11 is actually really good.

I went back to our hotel and prepared my things. My friends and I had some money left so we decided to visit the observatory at Taipei 101. The view from the observatory was just amazing.

After spending a good amount of time in the observatory, we went back to the hotel to get our bags, took the express train to the airport, returned the pocket WiFi, and checked-in for our flight back to Cebu, Philippines.

Summary of Itinerary

Day 1:

  • Check-in
  • Depart Mactan-Cebu International Airport
  • Arrive Taoyuan International Airport
  • Clear Immigration/Customs
  • Claimed sim card and Pocket WiFi
  • Express train to Taipei City; transferred lines to get to Zhongshan Elementary School Station (nearest station to our hotel)
  • Left things at the hotel
  • Taipei 101
  • Tonghua Night Market
  • Hotel; Sleep

Day 2:

  • Breakfast at the hotel
  • Shifen
  • Jiufen
  • Hotel; Sleep

Day 3:

  • Breakfast at the hotel
  • Yangmingshan National Park
  • Tian Yuan Temple
  • Shilin Night Market
  • Hotel; Sleep

Day 4:

  • Breakfast at the hotel
  • Mass at St. Christopher’s Church
  • Taipei 101
  • Din Tai Fung – Taipei 101 Branch
  • Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
  • Ximenting
  • Hotel; Sleep

Day 5:

  • Breakfast at a nearby 7/11 (I just had to)
  • Taipei 101 Observatory
  • Hotel to pick-up things
  • Express Train to Taoyuan Airport
  • Returned Pocket WiFi
  • Check-in
  • Depart Taoyuan International Airport
  • Arrive Mactan-Cebu International Airport

Budget Breakdown

Here’s a breakdown of our budget divided into 4 parts.

Hotel and Plane Fare:

  • Roundtrip Tickets via AirAsia = PHP 6,000
  • Agoda Accomodation = 14,040/6 pax = PHP 2,340
  • TOTAL = PHP 8,340

Online Bookings:

Terminal Fee and Travel Tax:

  • Terminal Fee (Cebu) = PHP 850
  • Philippine Travel Tax = PHP 1,620
  • TOTAL = PHP 2,470

Taipei Expenses:

  • Average cost per meal = NTD 200 x 2 times a day (since breakfast is free at the hotel) x 5 days = NTD 2,000
  • Taipei 101 Entrance = NTD 600
  • Taipei Transportation = NTD 1,000
  • Din Tai Fung = NTD 400 (but we were able to save on this because Steva treated us lunch)
  • Milktea Fix = NTD 50 x 5 days = NTD 250
  • Pasalubong = NTD 1,000
  • TOTAL = NTD 5,250 = PHP 8,925 (Exchange Rate: NTD 1 = PHP 1.70)

That’s a GRAND TOTAL of PHP 19,810.

Insider Tips

  • Plan your trip ahead of time.
  • Book tickets that are on sale. We booked via Air Asia for a roundtrip direct flight from Cebu to Taipei, Taiwan. If you’re flying from Manila, you can try Cebu Pacific Air as they offer PISO Fare seats once every few months. If you are lucky enough, you can get roundtrip fares for as low as PHP 3,000.
  • Choose an accommodation that’s dorm type. This should save you a lot of money. You probably won’t be in the hotel for most of the time.
  • Purchase an EasyCard at the airport before taking the train to Taipei Main Station. The EasyCard makes it very easy and convenient when taking public transportation.
  • Get a copy of Taipei’s Railway Map. It’s much easier to navigate if you have one. You may get a copy in any train station or you may choose to store a digital copy in your mobile phone.
  • 7/11 is HEAVEN. You have to trust me when I say that they offer good food plus you get to save a lot of money.
  • You have to drink a lot of milktea. If you can, make milktea as your water substitute. You can’t go wrong with milktea in Taiwan.
  • Purchase your pasalubong at the night market or at the airport.
  • There is a lot of rainfall in Taiwan on March. You can purchase an umbrella and/or raincoat in Taiwan since it’s really cheap. We purchased ours in the Taipei Underground City Mall.
  • The Taipei Underground City Mall is an extremely huge mall that’s connected to the Taipei Main Station. You have to pay a lot of attention to the signs if you don’t want to get lost.

It rained a lot when we were in Taiwan. The only time it didn’t rain was on our last day. Despite the heavy rain and getting super soaked, I personally had a great time with my classmates! We did some initial plans on where to go next year (2020) and we look forward to it.

That’s it for our trip to Taipei, Taiwan! Post a comment below or send me an email at jasper.g.m.ramirez@gmail.com if you have any concerns or clarifications!

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