Last month, while visiting my family in Singapore, my husband and I booked ourselves a short trip to Taiwan. During our visit to Taipei, Taiwan, we had so much fun trying out their local dishes and made good use of their free wifi internet service and many more.
This was our first time travelling to Taiwan and we have learnt a lot during this trip. Their signs are heavily worded in Chinese characters especially their food stores, so it is best to learn a few words before you head there! For me, I don’t eat beef or lamb, so by looking at the Chinese characters words, I know which dishes to avoid!
Also print out their Metro map in English before you head there. Some of the places might have a free English map but they are quite often in Chinese. Or have Google Maps handy on your phone!
Booking Cheap Air Tickets
We planned this trip a year ago and bought our air tickets during a sale. We saved about half the usual price as the two tickets cost us what an average ticket price would normally cost (around £270 for two adults)! We went for a budget airline – JetStar which flies from Singapore to Taiwan in 5 hours from Changi airport Terminal 1 to Taiwan Taoyuan Airport. As this is a budget airline, the default ticket does not include food or luggage allowance, with the options for you to buy a hot meal and add the 20kg luggage allowance etc.
Soon after we took off for Taiwan, the cabin was filled with the delicious aroma of food and our stomachs started rumbling. Then the flight attendants went down the aisle and identified the few seats that had purchased food and they put a sticker on our seats! We later found out that we had purchased an inflight meal! What a result! The meal included a small portion of a hot meal, a packet of biscotti, a bottle of water and tea/coffee. It was quite decent, but it was just so exciting to get a meal when you’re hungry and not expecting any food!
To get cheap air tickets, it is always worth signing up to those budget airline newsletters and then keeping an eye for deals. Besides JetStar, you could also try Tigerair or Airasia etc.
Free Wi-Fi service
Check out Taipei Free Wi-Fi service website for more information. I registered the account using my passport number instead of my UK mobile number. The reason is because I didn’t want to turn roaming on my UK number during the trip.
After we landed in Tao Yuan airport, we went to their airport information counter (or you could go to any of their 10 Tourist Service Centres) to open an iTaiwan account and get our password. The counter opens from 7am onwards. If you prefer to have unlimited Wi-Fi, then it’s worth getting their local mobile data cards to surf. There are a few companies’ booths around the airport for you to get a card.
There are over 300 convenience stores of WIFLY hotspots e.g. tourist areas, metro station etc. We found it very handy especially while waiting for a train!
Do remember that you have to always select Taipei Free on the account. If you register your account using your passport number/mobile number, then this is your account name. The password is your date of birth DDMMYYYY!
Get an EasyCard
EasyCard is a contactless smartcard for the Metro, the city bike scheme, buses, ferries, and even taxis. We only used it on their Metro and some buses. It is equivalent to an Oyster card in UK but the EasyCard can also be used to pay for public parking and items from convenience stores and supermarkets.
You can buy them at the Metro, bus stations or in convenience stores. Also travelling using the EasyCard would save you money rather than buying paper tickets. I love using their public transport (Metro & bus) as it was real cheap! Each single one-way trip we made was on average around NT$16.
As I mentioned earlier, not all stations will have an English metro map or tourist information counter, so do print out your own Metro map in English or download their Metro map to keep it handy. All their stations do have English signage and are very clearly labelled with the exit/building. It is very easy to navigate your way but do remember that their map is not always pointing north! So check it out before you plan your route because each exit can be quite far from one another!
Another thing I love about Taiwan is that they respect their elderly, pregnant ladies and children. There are a lot of assigned seats for them on public transport and they do give up their seats for them!
Hiring a Ubike is another quick way of getting around Taipei. There are a lot of UBikes around and they can be found in many convenient locations. Look out for the whole row of bright yellow bicycle stations!
Personally we didn’t try this as it was too hot but it is worth considering in cooler weather as you’ll see more of the sights above ground than if you were underground on the Metro.
Taking an Umbrella, Water & Good Walking Shoes
It seems that a lot of Asian people love using their umbrella to block the sunshine! There are a lot of umbrella stores around and their prices are very reasonable from around £2 onwards. We went in their hottest season where it got up to 39°C!
I am a big fan of their bubble milk tea hence during my trip, I must have drank at least 2-3 cups a day! If you do not like cold milk tea, you can always pop over to their Family Mart or 7-11 to get bottled water or other soft drinks for around NT$18.
During this trip, I didn’t take proper walking shoes and ended up having blisters on my feet! So remember to take comfy shoes/trainer. Also don’t forget to bring insect repellent if you would like to go more rural or up one of the nearby mountains.
Look out for Scooters
There are millions of scooters and they go everywhere! As a first time visitor, it was quite a daunting experience to have scooters driving up the pavement or next to shops! We had to keep looking out for the sneaky scooter that tried to squeeze in between you through the gap! If you travel with a child, always keep them close to you.
For my next few posts, I will share my experience on their tourist locations, night markets and many more of our short trip there so look out for it!
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