Taiwan Travel Guide: Exploring Taipei, Jiufen, Shifen, and Hualien for 4 Days with only PhP17,000

If you have traveled with me and you know my travel preferences, you would perhaps be a little surprised why I did a solo trip to Taiwan for my birthday this year. Why not Thailand? Boracay? Hong Kong? Or Myanmar, which is a huge dream? To tell you the truth, even I was a bit surprised at my choice, but there are 3 reasons why Taiwan came on top: 1) it has an efficient public transportation system, eliminating all possibilities of me getting lost, since I am so stupid with directions; 2) my friends couldn't stop raving about Hualien, a coastal region in Taiwan; and 3) everyone says the food is amazing, and I thought to myself, "let's find out".

I've read so much about Taiwan, seen so much about it on Instagram, that it was as if I had been there before myself. And to be honest, I was afraid that it was all hype. That I would be disappointed once I experience it myself. But after 4 whole days in this beautiful country, I came back home loving its orderliness, its nature, and its food—plus one more thing, one that's more important than the rest: its people. The Taiwanese has got to be the nicest, kindest, most polite, most helpful Asians in the world (except maybe the Japanese, but I haven't been there, so I don't know).

So it doesn't matter if you don't like Chinese food, if you hate big cities and prefer the countryside, or you like party destinations like Bangkok better—you have to experience Taiwan at least once in your life. Whether you're into the vibrant food scene, colorful nightlife, or stunning nature, Taiwan has something to feed you, to satiate your thirst, to pacify you with beautiful views.

Was it the best birthday I've had? Maybe not, because I was away from friends and family. But it comes really close and it is certainly the most memorable so far, because traveling solo made me experience and learn so many new things, and if I could do it again, I definitely would.


First Things First: The Basics

After reading 1 million Taiwan travel guides saying the same things, having the same formats, I decided to skip all that introductory stuff. I'm sure you've already read it somewhere, but feel free to browse the little summary I have below.



Some Tips Before You Go:

1 | Pocket Wi-Fi. I never rent one in my trips, because I like being cut off from "the real world" whenever I travel, but because I was solo and was so scared of getting off the wrong train or something (wake up in the wrong region, OMG), I decided that I needed one to check train schedules, maps, etc. Google. Contact friends. If you think the same way, secure one too. You can rent here, for only PhP139/day.

2 | Check the weather. I went in May and it was INSANELY hot. Like, annoyingly hot. Prepare to bring appropriate clothes. (My friend went in July and it was even hotter, hahaha.)

3 | Book long distance train tickets in advance. The worst part of any trip is getting your plans ruined because you couldn't get into a train anywhere. Do it. I wrote about this in my Hualien Travel Guide.

4 | Visa. As you might already know, Filipinos can enter Taiwan for 14-days visa-free until July 31, 2019. Yay!


Where I Stayed

Taipei:

Airbnb at Zhongzheng District (near Ximen MRT Station) CHECK LISTING HERE 

Booking a reasonably priced hotel/Airbnb was not as easy as I had thought. With only two weeks of planning, I found myself unable to get all the options I liked—they got fully booked/reserved really fast! Luckily, I still found a nice Airbnb near the Ximen area. This wasn’t as cute as the others I had found, but its location is SUPERB. It’s only 5 minutes by foot from the MRT station (Ximen)—perfect for my city excursions! Also, just cross the Zhonghua Road and you will be in the Ximen shopping area and night market! I found the room small for its price (it’s almost the same price as some hotels nearby), but I guess you’re paying for its prime location.

Price for 2 nights (nights 1 and 2): ~NT$2,400/PhP4,198.75
Would I stay here again? I would probably check out hotels near the Ximen area next time.

NK Hostel at Songshan District |  BOOK HERE 
105, Taiwan, Taipei City, Songshan District, Section 5, Nanjing East Road, 399號

What can I say about this hostel? It’s chic, really clean, and very comfortable—plus conveniently located near the Raohe Night Market! I loved the rooms—OK, I meant beds—and it’s not your typical hostel. The amenities are of great quality. They have private rooms too if you don’t like hostel-style accommodation. Check out my full review here.

Price for 1 night (night 4): ~NT$600/PhP1040
Would I stay here again? Yes. And will probably try the private rooms.


Hualien:

Sleeping Boot Hostel BOOK HERE 
No. 73., Jinfeng St, Hualien City, Hualien, Taiwan

If Hualien is cozy, Sleeping Boot Hostel is just as cozy. I loved how friendly the staff, named Allan, was—he gave so many tips on where to drink and eat. They offer only shared accommodations, which is OK especially if you’re exploring Hualien alone. It has all the basic necessities for a comfortable stay, including a common living area, kitchen, and dining room. Fifteen minutes by foot from the train station too!

Price for 1 night (night 3): ~NT$406/PhP705
Would I stay here again? Yes.


My Itinerary

Day 1 – Taipei

My first day in Taiwan was a really laid-back day of sightseeing and an intense hunt for food and good drinks. LOL. To be honest, I wasn’t interested at all to see the temples and museums so I just went to see one—the Chiang Kai-Shek (CKS) Memorial Hall—for the sake of it (sue me).

Afterwards, I just ate and drank my way around Taipei, concentrating on the CKS and the Ximen areas. I tried the famous braised pork from Jinfeng Lu Rou Fan near CKS but I found it ordinary. My recommendations:

Ay Chung Flour Rice Noodles (Ximen)
Cheesy Chicken (Ximen night market)
The pink bakery a few steps away from Jinfeng Lu Rou Fan, LOL (CKS)
Café Dalida (Red House, Wanhua District – for drinks)
Woo Bar and Wet Bar at W Taipei (Xinyi District – for posh night-outs)

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Total Day 1 Expenses: PhP 2,427.30. (Click here for the breakdown.)

If you want to see the city’s attractions (those that I skipped, haha), I highly recommend getting a Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Pass from KKday (only PhP470), which allows you to explore Taipei in 4 hours. The stops are mostly situated near the tourist spots like Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, Taipei 101, and the National Palace Museum. I think you can cover everything in a day.

Alternatively, you can simply take the Taipei metro to get to your desired locations. Going around is very easy and the one-way fares range from NT$20 to NT$25 only—around PhP35 to PhP44. 

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Taipei Metro Pro Tips: 

1 | If you have internet, go to Google Maps, type in your destination, and go to the “train” tab. This will show you which trains will go to your destination; which metro line (i.e. color) you need to take; where you have to get off if you need to transfer trains; train fares; and accurate train departure times! I love it! Of course, I learned it from my friend Will Fly for Food.

2 | Need temporary storage space for your luggage/backpack? The Taipei metro has lockers installed in different stations. I had to get one because I arrived in Taipei very early and my Airbnb check-in was still at 3:00PM. Go to this website to check available lockers and their locations—it is updated real-time!
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Day 2 – Day Tour to Yehliu, Shifen, and Jiufen

If you plan to see the famous mining town of Jiufen, the eerie land formations of Yehliu Geopark, and perhaps release a lantern in the sky in Shifen, you can allot a whole day to do all these and book a tour from KKday. That’s what I did—since I didn’t want to be hassled with all the bus transfers.

To be honest, I wasn’t too smitten with Yehliu because I think I have seen a lot of more breathtaking landscapes in the Philippines. My favorite out of the 3 was Shifen (though I didn’t do the waterfalls) but Jiufen had a lot more food options. At some point, I got so tired eating that I just retreated into a little quiet coffee shop with a nice view. For food, I highly recommend that you try the following:

Zhang Ji fishball soup (Jiufen)
Peanut ice cream roll (Shifen and Jiufen)
Stuffed chicken wings (Shifen and Jiufen)
Stinky tofu (Jiufen)

One can only eat so much, so I wasn’t able to try a lot of the food I researched about, as much as I wanted to. Jiufen also has a nice tea shop, which I didn’t try because they wanted me to buy a whole tea set for 5 persons for myself—I mean, how can I finish all that?

For the KKday tour, you have to pay NT$1,000/PhP1,735—the activity is from morning ‘til afternoon (9:00AM – 5:00PM). The entrance to Yehliu Geopark is not included (NT$80/PhP139) as well as the shuttle to Jiufen (NT$30/PhP52) and the sky lantern, which is optional anyway (NT$200/PhP348). Click here to book your tour—you can find all details such as meeting time, meeting place, and itinerary here.

Note: I originally wanted to do the Jiufen Old Street, Golden Waterfall, and Bitou Cape tour but I was the only one who booked it for the day I wanted, so it was cancelled. Hahaha!


Total Day 2 Expenses: PhP 4,199.40. (Click here for the breakdown.)


Day 3 – Taipei to Hualien

Day 3 was actually my birthday (yay!) and since I drank (alone, by the way) and celebrated the night before, I got up late and cancelled all my plans to explore Taipei more. Hahaha. I did have lunch at the incredible Yen Restaurant in W Taipei (thanks for having me!)—they have amazing food, especially that dreamy BBQ Pork Bun and the Custard Buns and the Scallops with Truffles, OMG! I will tell you more about Yen Restaurant in a separate blog post!

After lunch, I headed to the Songshan HSR Station to catch my train to Hualien. I arrived an hour early because I didn’t want to miss my ride. The journey takes around two hours—I thought of sleeping but the trip was scenic, especially as you approach Hualien. For details on how to get to Hualien, where to stay, and things to do, check out my Hualien Travel Guide.

After checking in at Sleeping Boot Hostel, I relaxed a bit before heading to the Dongdamen Night Market. Afterwards, I met up with a Spanish friend I met at the hostel and we checked out several bars downtown, including this amazing gin bar called Ginsman bar—I highly recommend that you drink here when in Hualien!



Total Day 3 Expenses: PhP 1,035.30 *. (Click here for the breakdown.)
*excluding W Taipei


Day 4 – Taroko National Park

The whole morning was dedicated to exploring Taroko National Park. KKday’s more popular tour to this astounding Hualien destination lasts for 8 hours (check it out here); since I was pressed for time, I opted for the Half-Day Chartered Tour (book here), which took me to almost the same spots, but in 4 hours only. If you are going with friends, I highly recommend this as it can accommodate up to 4 persons. As you know, I traveled solo so my only companion was the driver, hahaha.

Check this out: My Hualien Travel Video



After the tour, the driver dropped me off at the train station. At this point, I would like to emphasize that you shouldn’t forget to tip your driver/tour guide—it is not mandatory but let’s just say customary in Taiwan (I gave NT$200/PhP348). Anyway, after grabbing a quickie lunch at the station, I headed back to Taipei.

Once checked in at NK Hostel, I walked to the nearby Raohe Night Market and tried several dishes. I only had my mind set on the Fuzhou Black Pepper Buns though—definitely one of my best eats in Taiwan. Since it’s my last night (as if this makes a difference, LOL), I went out for more drinks.


Total Day 4 Expenses: PhP 5,019.60. (Click here for the breakdown.)


Day 5 – Back to Manila

I did nothing. After a quick breakfast at NK Hostel, I walked to the MRT station to get to the Airport line. In the airport, I bought some pineapple cakes for pasalubong.

Total Day 5 Expenses: PhP 2,845.50. (Click here for the breakdown.)


Summary of Itinerary

Day 1 - Taipei
Day 2 - Jiufen/Shifen/Yehliu
Day 3 - Taipei + Hualien
Day 4 - Taroko National Park + Back to Taipei
Day 5 - Back to Manila


Have you been to Taiwan? What do you think about this itinerary? Which is your favorite place in Taiwan?

If you like my posts and would love regular updates on travel photos, food finds, restaurant reviews, dance articles, and drunken tales, follow Pepe Samson on Facebook!

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