Taiwan is not at the top of most people’s “must travel” lists which is a shame because the small island nation has a lot to offer – and it’s a relatively inexpensive place to visit.
It’s easy to get around, the food is delicious, the natural attractions are beautiful and the people are incredibly welcoming and often speak English.
Here’s a breakdown of some representative costs during my month in Taiwan.
Food is more expensive in Taiwan than, say, Thailand but costs a lot less than in Australia or most European countries.
As usual, the cheapest food can be bought on the street or in night markets.
A spring onion pancake with a fried egg should cost about $NT25 and a steamed pork bun about $NT20.
Sit down restaurant meals are a bit more expensive with a delicious beef noodle soup from an average neighbourhood place costing somewhere between $NT80 to $NT120
At a food court you can get a set meal for about $NT110.
Prices just go up from there.
A bowl of ramen at a trendy inner-city restaurant could cost you $NT270 while five pork and truffle dumplings at renowned dumpling restaurant Din Tai Fung will set you back $NT450.
Water costs about $NT25 for 1.5L from a 7-11.
Compared to Australia, booze in Taiwan seemed pretty cheap to me but if you’re coming from countries where the governments don’t tax it so much it might seem a bit steeper.
The cheapest beer you can get is from 7-11s. A can of Taiwan beer will cost $NT50 while a six-pack will be about $NT180.
At a pub like 45 Bar in Taiwan a pint will cost $NT150 while a jug of cocktail $NT500.
I didn’t go to any really swanky clubs but I’d expect alcohol to be a lot more expensive there.
I stayed with a friend the entire time I was in Taipei but from a check of some hostel booking sites the cheapest dorm room you can get in the capital is about $NT260 and the cheapest single room about $NT350.
When I went to Hualian to visit Taroko Gorge I stayed in a 10-bed dorm room at the Sleeping Boot for $NT400 a night. It was air-conditioned, clean and comfortable with hot showers and wifi.
On Green Island I was in a single room in a bed and breakfast for $NT800 a night. The room had a double bed, was air-conditioned and clean if a bit spartan. The private bathroom had a hot shower but there was no internet.
Later I found out the Blue Safari Diving Center had dorm beds available for $NT600 a night, including breakfast.
When a friend and I went to Miaoli on the west coast we stayed in a comfortable two-person private room with cable television but no internet for a discounted $NT550 per night.
There is apparently a very strong Couch Surfing community in Taiwan. I met a guy who had been travelling around the country for two weeks without ever paying for accommodation. It’s also possible to camp for free.
The entrance fee to Taipei’s biggest cultural attraction the National Palace Museum, which features heaps of calligraphy, paintings and jade sculptures of pork and cabbage, is $NT160.
The hop-on-hop-off bus at Taroko Gorge costs $NT250.
Near Miaoli my friend and I spent a few hours soaking in the thermal spring waters at the luxury Onsen Papawaqa which cost $NT450.
My favourite free attraction was the hot spring baths at Wulai, south of Taipei, which sit alongside the river there.
The nation’s capital Taipei has an excellent public transport system of busses and light rail which makes it easy to get pretty much anywhere pretty quickly.
All forms of public transport accept “touch and go” Easycards – which should be a priority purchase if you’re going to stay in Taipei more than a couple of days. They cost $NT500 including $NT400 of credit and a deposit of which $NT80 is refundable.
The cost of ride on the highly developed metropolitan light rail network depends on how far you travel. Up to 5km costs $NT20, from 5km to 8km $NT25, 8km to 11km $NT30 and so on. Fares are 20 per cent cheaper when using an Easycard.
Full fare bus journeys start at $NT15 and increase if you travel between “sections”. The fare is halved if you transfer to or from an MRT within one hour of the bus ride.
The taxis are reasonably-priced as well and the traffic is not as horrendous as many other South East Asia cities.
Taiwan has an extensive regional train network, including the Taiwan High Speed Rail. To go from one end of the country to the other on THSR costs $NT1,490.
My three-hour train trip on a slow train from Taipei to Hualien – about 120km – cost $NT418 and my train from Hualien to Taitung to go to Green Island cost $NT345. From Taitung all the way back to Taipei was $NT605.
I’ve heard the cheapest way to get around the country is buses but I didn’t catch any. Apparently hitch hiking is pretty safe and easy.
A few other travel expenses include the ferry to Green Island ($NT900 both ways), a taxi from the train station to the Green Island ferry dock ($600 both ways) and bike hire at the Giant store in Hualien ($NT100 per day).
Taiwan budget per day
Like I said, Taiwan is generally cheap. If you watch your spending you can get by on about $NT1000 a day.
That would include: