Taiwan was exactly what I needed after fast-paced Hong Kong. It was also a much needed relief on my budget. Although Taiwan is definitely not the cheapest destination in Asia, it was a hell of a lot cheaper than Hong Kong. I adored the good humored and playful nature of Taiwanese culture, and the friendliness that I came across time and again.
Besides a couple of rogue bus drivers who refused to let us off because they were late for the rest of their route (um, what?), I had very few negative experiences in the country. In fact, Taiwan is right up there with Vietnam as one of my favorite countries in Asia thus far.
Another cool part about my time in Taiwan was the lack of tourists and the little English we came across outside of Taipei. It felt like truly going off the beaten path, and there was that challenge there without the frustration because people were so friendly.
I’ll be continuing my travel budgeting series throughout my time in Asia, so that more people can understand the costs around this beautiful region. Taiwan is not a country that is heavily traveled, but that’s part of the beauty of it. If you want to discover that little taste of awesomeness that is Taiwan, these are the costs you can expect.
In Taiwan I went to Taipei, Taichung, Chiayi, Alishan, Tainan, Kaohsiung, Kenting National Park, Dulan, Hualien, and Taroko National Park.
Note: All prices are in US dollars, and I rounded when necessary to keep things nice and easy. Please note as well that this is the budget for one person in Taiwan. Although I was traveling with one other person the whole trip, so accommodation came out cheaper than if I was traveling by myself.
The currency in Taiwan is the New Taiwan Dollar, and the conversion rate (in 2017) comes to about $1US = 32 TWD
Time spent = 40 nights, 41 days
Accommodation = $406 (averaged around $14.50/night)
Chiayi (3 nights) = $9/night ($27 total). Half of a private double room in a guesthouse.
Fenqihu (2 nights) = $21.75/night ($43.50 total). Half of a private double room at Yeashow Villa Hotel.
Tainan (5 nights) = $14/night ($70 total). Half of a private double room at Tie Dao Hotel.
Kaohsiung (2 nights) – Free on credit card points. Double semi-private cabin in a mixed room dorm at Pon Pon Woo 85.
Kenting (4 nights) = $16.50/night ($66 total). Half of a semi-private double capsule at Starry Sky Boutique Hotel/Space Capsule.
Dulan (5 nights) = $12/night ($60 total). One bed in a mixed room dorm at Dulan The Travel Bug Bistro Inn. Highly recommended!
Hualien (6 nights) = Free on credit card points. Private triple room for two people at Hualien Holo Hostel.
One of those items that doesn’t come cheap in Taiwan is accommodation. I saved quite a bit of money from a recent influx of credit card points from my new Chase Sapphire Preferred, and that helped a lot in terms of budget. Without those points, accommodation would’ve come out to just under $600 for 40 nights – fairly expensive for Asia.
The cheapest spots for accommodation turned out to be Chiayi & Dulan, although you can find much cheaper accommodation in Taipei than we did. We opted to stay at a design friendly hostel for our first trip to the Taipei, which put us back a bit financially. Although Chiayi and Dulan were exceptions, it did seem like prices skyrocketed to more than twice as much at times once you got outside of Taipei.
I noticed that especially for locations that were near more touristy places, like Fenqihu near Alishan National Scenic Area, the prices jumped even higher. This was unfortunate because it made us hesitant to check out the more touristy nature spots, because we knew the accommodation and transportation would be much more expensive.
In Taipei, our first four nights were spent at a clean space-themed hostel called Space Inn. The last 4 nights were at Fun Inn Hostel. In Taichung, we stayed at two different hostels since our first one booked up after our third night. Both were within walking distance of each other: Matchbox Hostel and Lis Hostel.
Chiayi was by far the cheapest place we found during our Taiwan trip. We discovered a little nondescript guesthouse that was near the train station, and run by an awesome Taiwanese grandmother who randomly offered us oranges at times. I have no idea what it was called since it was in Chinese characters, pretty dirty but dirt cheap all the same.
Fenqihu was our most expensive spot. We decided to stay outside of Alishan to save some money, since it was even more expensive in the scenic area. Fenqihu is where the historic Alishan railway lets off. The sunrise journey to Alishan can be arranged by your guesthouse/hotel, but it’s not cheap either, and we unfortunately paid a lot of money to get there by sunrise on a completely clouded over day.
Our hotel in Tainan was one of my favorite spots we stayed. It was one of the cleaner hotels and it had a huge window that looked out over the city. It was also very centrally located and right near the train station. In Kaohsiung we stayed in little indoor cabins at a camping themed hostel for a couple of nights.
In Kenting, we experienced our first capsule style hostel and weren’t all that impressed with the staff or cleanliness of the place. I’m not a claustrophobic person, but I quickly realized that capsules are not my ideal type of room after four nights in a cramped space.
Lastly, the east coast made up our favorite time in the country. A lot of that is to do with Dulan, a tiny little surf town that is perfect for chill times. Believe it or not, this is the first time we met English-speaking backpackers during our month or so in Taiwan, so the social factor was nice as well.
In Hualien we stayed in a private room that had three beds. This was my time to really catch up on work so I didn’t get to see much of Hualien, just a day trip to Taroko National Park. And finally, we changed it up and stayed at a different hostel on our return to Taipei. Again I was working for most of the four days we were there, but Fun Inn was a clean enough hostel.
One aspect I highly enjoyed about Taiwan is that even in hostels you have your own space. Every dorm room bed would have its own curtain for privacy, which goes a long way when you’re sharing a room with 12 other people.
To my glee, we didn’t have to partake in any night buses in Taiwan. The country is very easy to travel around and we never spent more than five hours at a time on any given transport.
Transportation = $134 ($3.25/day)
In Taiwan, transport varies a lot depending on how you like to travel, but we found it to be pretty affordable just the same. Even though it costs more, I would highly recommend taking the high speed rail around the country as opposed to the local train.
The high speed rail is clean, efficient, timely, and can sometimes get you there in half the time of the local train. You also get assigned seats, which is a huge plus on crowded trains. We tried out the local train for our first journey down to Taichung, and after standing with all of our luggage on a hot, stuffy, and packed train for three hours, we decided to go with the high speed rail from then on. And it’s not even that much more expensive for the amount of luxury and comfort you get.
One downside about the transport in Taiwan, which I mentioned above, is that it costs so much money to get outside of the cities. Unless you’re willing to get a Taiwanese driver’s license and buy/rent your own scooter, you’re at the will of “tourist bus companies” that charge about 4x the amount of any other transport in Taiwan. We were looking forward to exploring many of the national parks and scenic areas around Taiwan, but found ourselves limited because it was crazy expensive.
And one note about the scooters in Taiwan, they’re strict about foreigners renting and driving scooters in the country. Unless you have a Taiwanese driver’s license, you may run into issues with renting a scooter. Your driver’s license from back home will probably not work in a lot of places in the country.
Some backpackers have better luck, or are simply persistent with going to a lot of scooter rental shops to ask around, but most places will refuse to rent to you if you’re a foreigner without the right license. This is especially the case around the north (Taipei) and the west coast.
They’re much more relaxed in the south and the east coast. We managed to rent a scooter for one day without any issues in Hualien to go see Taroko National Park. Just know that there is the chance that you could be pulled over and given a ticket for driving a scooter without the correct license. With that said, the amount of freedom and the reduced cost of traveling by scooter is very much worth it in my view. They generally cost about $12/day and a full tank of gas is only a couple of bucks.
Another things to note, purchase an EasyCard as soon as you land in Taiwan! It’s a country-wide transport card that can be used pretty much everywhere and on a number of transport options. You also get reduced transportation rates by using it, and it’s simply the easiest way to get around without having to worry about exact change all the time.
Our other transportation costs were made up of a mix of taxis, shuttles, and local buses.
Food = $285 ($7/day)
Free breakfast isn’t really a thing in Taiwan, which is disappointing with how expensive accommodation is in the country. Because of this, we spent far too many breakfasts at 7/11 to save on costs. We would generally pick up a pastry/bread product of some sort and fruit most days. We also saved on meals by eating instant noodles when we were in places for longer.
As a whole, we found the food to be very affordable in Taiwan. You can find a variety of prices and types of food in most cities. In Taipei, my favorite meal was a huge steaming bowl of dumpling soup for about $2. It was heaven.
Coffee = $35
Did you know that Taipei is the coffee capital of Asia? Well, we definitely had to try out quite a few brews while we were in the city. We continued our love of coffee in the morning throughout most of our trip, but through getting iced coffees in a can from 7/11 most days, we managed to still keep down costs.
If you were to drink coffee at a cafe each day it would set you back $2-$3 per drink.
Smoothies/juices/milk teas = $36
My love of fresh fruit in the form of smoothies and juices has been reawakened in Asia, it’s great! In Taiwan, we especially fell in love with fresh watermelon juice. Who knew that watermelon is so freakin’ tasty and even more refreshing in juice form? I also grew to really love milk teas during my time in Taiwan, so I included those in my smoothie costs as well.
Fresh juice and smoothies weren’t as cheap as what you’d find in Southeast Asia, so I didn’t have them every day. You can generally expect to pay anywhere from $2-$3.50 for fresh juice in Taiwan.
Water (1500ml) = Around $1 each/$8 total for 8 bottles
We saved a lot on water costs because we were given so much free water in our accommodations. Thus, we only bought 15 bottles in total for around $1 each. That was split between two people, so I paid and drank about 8 bottles during my time in the country.
Alcohol = $88
We went a little mental on the beer in Taiwan. Taiwan lager is actually not that bad as far as Asian lagers go and we drank plenty of it. With that said, beer is not that cheap in Taiwan. It came out to about $2 for a small can of local beer in a grocery store. At a bar, cheap beer would generally cost around $4-$5. You can get high quality craft beer in Oregon for that price at a bar so we were a little baffled.
If you want to drink in Taiwan, I’d recommend finding a grocery store (not a convenience store) and buying beers in six-packs. You’ll pay about the same amount for a six-pack of local beer as you would for one beer at a bar.
Besides Taipei, it didn’t seem like there was much nightlife in Taiwan. We went out a couple of times but mainly stuck to drinking in a hostel or with dinner. There’s not a huge drinking culture (or backpacker culture for that matter) in Taiwan, so if you’re looking to party, you probably won’t find much outside of Taipei.
Misc = $95.25
Breakdown of my miscellaneous purchases:
- Night market/arcade games = $6
- Skirt from a night market = $8
- 30-day SIM card (with unlimited data!!) = $35
- Re-usable mask (for the pollution) = $4.25
- Entries to historic sites in Tainan = $4.50 (for three sites)
- Movie in Kaohsiung (Fantastic Beasts) = $6.50
- Handmade ring from Dulan = $14
- Laundry (3x during our trip, 1x was free in Chiayi) = $3.75
- Souvenirs/postcards = $4.50
- Entry to National Palace Museum in Taipei = $8
- Printing documents at 7/11 = $0.75
Including everything, I spent about $27 a day, or $1,087 total for 41 days in Taiwan.
Overall, Taiwan is a fairly inexpensive destination, but not compared to other places like Southeast Asia. It sits right in the middle in terms of prices in Asia – cheaper than Hong Kong, Japan, and maybe South Korea, but not many other Asian destinations.
Even though Taiwan was more expensive than we originally hoped, our time in the country and the many wonderful experiences we had were well worth the cost. Accommodation is by far the most expensive item, so if you budget for that accordingly, you should be fine. I also didn’t have to spend money on alcohol, coffee, and the many other miscellaneous items throughout my trip, so someone else who is stricter with their budget could easily spend less than $1000 for the same amount of time in the country.
In any case, I can’t wait to head back to Taiwan someday soon, it’s one of those countries that left a lasting impression of happiness on me.
I’d love to know – do these costs in Taiwan surprise you? Do they seem expensive or quite affordable to you? It’s all relative really!
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