Hello! This is the first post of a series to document our Taiwan trip! We spent 8 days in Taipei & Taiwan.
Here is a map of some Taiwan spots with 3 layers:
- Places to Visit (recommendations from friends that I did not squeeze into the schedule)
- Taipei: places we visited
- Attractions from 5 Day Best of Taiwan Tour
This post will cover:
- The Best of Taiwan Tour
- Currency Exchange
- Getting Around
Best of Taiwan Tour
I highly recommend this tour on TripAdvisor/Viator: 5 Day Best of Taiwan.
I typically do not travel on tours and like to plan our own itinerary. When I was browsing through the highlights of Taiwan, I noticed many were around the country, especially Southern Taiwan. To save myself some hassle of mapping bullet train schedules, figuring out a reputable taxi service, and find good accommodations, I took the lazy route 😀 . Because vacation should be enjoyable and not a big headache.
It’s $582.50 for one (double occupancy, so grab or a friend or pay double the price of $912).
Day 1: Sun Moon Lake (Ri Yue Tan 日月潭)
Day 2: Sun Moon Lake > Kaoshiung (Gao Xiong 高雄)
Day 3: 屏東 Ping Dong County | Kaoshiung > Kenting (Ken Ding 垦丁) – Taitung (Tai Dong 台東)
Day 4: Taitung > Hualien (Hua Lian 花蓮)
Day 5: Taroko Gorge > Taipei (Tai Bei 台北)
Btw, I notice that a lot of the English names for these places are written in British phonetics (?) vs the Chinese pinyin. If you type what I have above in a Chinese keyboard, you will get the right characters (ex: “kao” will not show the character 高, since it’s “gao”).
Our tour guide was Alan Chou. He definitely made this tour enjoyable and informative. Alan spoke in English of course. He also said a few things in Chinese but since the group mostly didn’t understand, it was English the entire way. The first few things he said was that it won’t be like those crazy bus tours where you go to a million places for a few minutes, check in to hotels super late, and check out super early. He stayed true to his word. Each stop was timed very well to see the highlights and take pictures at a leisurely pace. Each time we took a stop, he was very clear what time we needed to be back using images on his phone projected to the mini TV screens. He also had a good amount of jokes. I’m sure he is tired of them, but it was nice for us 😁. He said the tour group had the most amount of young people he’s seen (6 under 30) and usually the tours are 50+. We got to our hotels around 5 – 6 PM every night and checked out around 9 AM. Ample opportunity to relax after a day of sights and enjoy the hotel amenities. (Definitely request Alan if you can. Also note he covers 90% of tours now; likely from all the raving reviews)
Speaking of hotel amenities, the hotel’s on the trip are 💯. Two hotels had a personal hot spring tub to enjoy in the comfort of your own space. I was pleasantly surprised for a bus tour!
If you’re doing the math and think you can do better on the $582 price, here’s a quick break down for ya on what this tour costs if you booked it yourself.
I’m quoting prices for the first week of November, which is when we went (starting on Nov 5, 2018) and including tax (the final total on Expedia). Total for the 4 nights is $783 for a shared room, so individual cost is $392, which means you are paying about $191 for the tour bus and the guide ($38.20 a day). Not bad at all. November is when the high season starts to cool off (and temperature too from 100F to 85F).
If you’re thinking you can do better on the price, then you can find the hotels/Airbnbs, the high speed rail times/costs, the transportation costs to/from the scenic spots… All in all, it wasn’t worth the headache for me. I’m not going to write about that either since I avoided doing the leg work 🙂
Fleur de Chine
Cost: $338 on Expedia
Our first night AND there was a private hot spring tub!!!! It was so relaxing that we used it twice, just as Alan advised!
Since Taiwan occupied by the Japanese 1895-1945, there is a lot of Japanese culture and influence still embedded today. Check out how cute these hotel outfits are hehe:
You’ll want to wear these all night after going to the Indoor Spa… and then to buffet dinner XD
Cost: $126 on Expedia
Since this is on the second largest city, it wasn’t as amazing as the other hotel stays. Think of it like the Marriott/Hilton business hotels. The lobby felt like it was the ground floor of a mall.
We opted out of the buffet dinner and went to a night market nearby (sorry, forgot the name. I thought I wrote it down but it’s way too far). It was not impressive and the streets were not closed off… so it felt strange trying to explore and being mindful of the cars (felt a bit like Hanoi again). We ended up trying to popular bubble tea shop, Go. The hotel has a food court on the bottom, so that can be a good dinner option as well.
Cost: $169 on Expedia
Our second hotel stay with a private in-room hot spring tub! The room we stayed in also had these slidable walls for the bathroom. So cool 🙂
We went to check out the hot springs pool area. There were different scents.
Cost: $150 on Expedia
We went to dinner across the street instead of eating at the hotel. Cheap and local, FTW. We also played a crazy Jenga game here. The rooftop pool is pretty swanky too.
This wins the best breakfast award.
Currency Exchange – Taiwanese Dollar
We went to Taiwan with approx $500 USD for 4 people ($125pp) converted to 15,000 TWD. At the end of the trip, we barely had any cash left and wish we converted more.
Most places in Taipei did not accept credit card (this will likely still be the case). They use debit cards instead, which are cute plastic cards (can be bought at 711) and loaded with cash at the register. Almost all vendors accept this card as payment by tapping on the payment console.
In Taipei, I think we saw 2 banks? We barely noticed them or little booths that convert money like in other cities. I think Taipei is one the cities that I visited that did not have much FX exchange. Plus, we were in the city on the weekend and banks were not open. Upon doing an online search for this paragraph, I read on Guide to Taipei that money exchanges must be by a bank or licensed partner. This is why the little booths do not exist. Do not believe the credit card portion. I can literally tell you cc was less than 5% of total transactions. We were hoping a city like Taipei would welcome credit cards more… but nope.
We tried to convert some FX at a nearby hotel but they wouldn’t let us. On Day 1 of the tour, Alan did say to convert money since no other hotel during the tour would accept it. This is what happened when we didn’t listen to Alan: we didn’t have enough cash to buy ourselves cute Taiwanese pants.
Getting Around Taipei
The awesome thing about going as a group is… you can split the taxi fare! We got around town using taxi the entire time because:
- It was just so easy to hail a cab
- They are not shady
- Taxi cab fare total was less than taking MRT (metro)
- Uber either didn’t work or was too expensive (or our international roaming data was too slow to handle)
- We’re on vacation and I didn’t want to route 🙃