In this post:
- Budgeting your trip from Manila to Taipei
- How WorkAway works
- Taipei airport arrival guide
- Getting a sim card in Taiwan
- How to get to Dulan by train and bus
Time to travel? From Manila, Taiwan is just a hop, skip, and jump away.
Manila to Taipei: Budgeting
When flying from Manila, you’ll often find the cheapest flights through Cebu Pacific. We booked a round-trip for two with Cebu Pacific for about 15,000 pesos (less than $300, US). If you follow the airline’s promos or book farther in advance, you might find cheaper flights as well.
Instead of booking rooms, we planned our accommodation through WorkAway. That means we’re spending two weeks earning our keep at a surf hostel in Dulan and a third week at a hostel in Taipei. In short, we’ll spend 24 days in Taiwan and not a cent on accommodations.
Here’s a breakdown of our costs for getting to Dulan and spending our first two weeks here:
|Cost Estimates for Two||PHP||TWD||USD|
|Flights (round trip)||15,185||8,960||290|
|Food & Beverages (cost per day)||845||500||16|
|Sim card with data||675||400||13|
Transportation Costs in Taiwan
To get to and from Taipei airport to Taipei Main, you’ll spend 280 per person. To Dulan and back by bus and train, you’ll spend 1700 or less per person. For EasyCards, add another 100 each.
So to get from Taipei to Dulan, we’ve spent the following amounts:
Cost of getting to Dulan:
- 200 NTD for two adult EasyCards
- 280 NTD for the bus from the airport to Taipei Main
- 1566 NTD for two one-way tickets to Taitung Station (783 per person)
- 140 NTD for bus rides to Taitung City (25 per person) and Dulan (45 per person)
Food and Beverages
For a general idea of prices, you can get a satisfying meal at a local eatery or a convenience store for as little as 50-100 NTD and a 330ml can of Taiwan Beer is usually 30 NTD. A cup of Taiwan’s famous bubble tea will cost you 25-50 NTD.
Here’s an idea of how you can comfortably budget NT$500 per day on food and drinks:
- 70 for two cups of coffee or bubble tea
- 30 for fruit (e.g. a few bananas)
- 100 for breakfast (e.g. pastries or tea eggs with a rice snack from 7-Eleven)
- 120 for lunch (e.g. two bowls of noodles)
- 120 for dinner (e.g. a plate of dumplings and some side dishes)
- 60 for two cans of Taiwan beer
Of course, if you’re staying somewhere with a kitchen, you can save money by buying simple things to cook yourself.
For finding your way, translating all the Mandarin, or getting some work in while away, you may want to get yourself a sim card with a data plan.
At Chungwha Telecom, you can get a “passport” sim (meaning, as a traveler, you need to show your passport to get the sim) with 3.2 Gb, data valid for 16 days, for NT$400. Other options include unlimited data for 30 days at NT$1,100.
How WorkAway Works
I’ve already written about budget travel with WorkAway, but here’s a simple breakdown of how it works:
- Join WorkAway. Pay the annual membership fee (42 USD for an individual account and 54 USD for couples) and create a profile on WorkAway.info
- Find hosts. Set your travel destinations and contact hosts through the platform.
- Confirm your stay. Hosts provide information for volunteers on their WorkAway listings; once in touch, further communication and confirmation are often made via email or WhatsApp.
- Work. Volunteers are typically expected to work no more than 5 hours per day, 5 days per week in exchange for free accommodation, in some cases meals, and other possible benefits. Work can include everything from teaching and farming to bartending and housekeeping to helping with surf or yoga lessons.
- Stay. Outside of your work shift, your time is your own.
Arriving at Taipei Airport
The international airport nearest to Taipei city is Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport. Upon arrival, you’ll have a few things to do.
First item on the agenda: find an ATM and get cash.
Pro tip: Don’t exchange currency at the airport; rates are always inflated. Instead, withdraw from an international ATM upon arrival. There will be withdrawal fee but the exchange rate will be much better. To further minimize fees, try to budget and withdraw everything you’ll need for the trip in one transaction.
Next, go to 7-Eleven to get change and raid the hot food section.
After food, we bought and loaded up our EasyCards for convenient use of buses and trains. You can get these at vending machines in the airport. They cost NT$100 per adult card and can then be loaded up as needed.
We arrived at the airport around 2am and had a few options for getting to our end destination in Taitung. Our first thought was to take a bus to Banqiao Station, but those weren’t going at this time. A second option was catching the train, but the MRT station doesn’t open until six.
Our next option was to get on the next bus to Taipei’s main train and MRT station (台北車站) and catch a train to Taitung from there.
We got our tickets the bus to Taipei Main (台北車站) at NT$140 each. You can find out when the next bus is leaving and buy your tickets at the bus terminal in the airport.
The bus left at 3:10 and got us to Taipei Main in about an hour. However, the station is completely closed until around 6 am. To kill time, we continued our convenience store touring experience and ended up with some more hot food, this time from Family Mart.
Train to Taitung, Bus to Dulan
Next on the agenda: catch a train across Taiwan.
Our end destination is a small town called Dulan (都蘭), situated along Taiwan’s south-eastern coast in Taitung County.
A note on Taitung and Taidong: They are one and the same: 台東. In standard pinyin, this is written as Taidong but in the Taiwanese romanization system, it’s written Taitung. Also, Taitung is both a county (台東縣) and a city (台東市).
To get here from Taipei Main, you can take any train that stops in Taitung (台東) and catch a bus to Dulan. With the express train, you can make the trip in as little as 5 to 6 hours.
Since we got to Taipei Main around 4 am, we had to wait for the train station to open. Around 5:30 am, we were able to go inside and buy our tickets for the 6:14 train.
An express train ticket to Taitung costs NT$782 per person and gets you there in about 4 hours. The slow train will cost about NT$600 and get you there in 8 hours. We went with the 比加快 (bi jiao kuai, faster) one.
At 6:14 we were promptly on our way.
It’s funny to note that our takeoff from Manila was delayed by more than an hour but our bus and train connections in Taipei were all on the dot. And so organized here, even the trains have seat numbers.
We arrived in Taitung (台東) just after 10 and lingered at the station to get some information and fill up our water bottle.
Then we took a 25 NTD bus into the downtown area in search of a sim card before going off to the small town of Dulan (都蘭), 45* NTD. For these bus rides, we used the EasyCards we had bought and loaded up at the airport.
Taking the bus from Taitung Station (台東車站) to the downtown area was like getting a guided tour of this small city for only 25 NTD. Instead of a short drive down one straight road to our destination, the driver took my partner, myself, and one other passenger on an extensive tour up and down nearly every other street in the town before dropping us off at our stop.
Getting a sim card in Taiwan
After a seemingly endless journey through the streets of Taitung—asking for directions here, following them there, getting new directions elsewhere, and so on—we found a few places with sim cards.
(In hindsight, we could have gotten a sim at the airport. Ultimately, though, we were very happy with what we ended up with.)
The first option was at a small mobile store, where they pulled an NT$450 “no passport” sim card out from under the counter. It offered a gigabyte or two and was only good for 8 days. We decided to keep looking.
Eventually, we were lead to a large office belonging to Chunghwa Telecom. We got a number and waited to be called to the helpdesk.
The effervescent staff did the best to communicate with us and showed us a few options, the most attractive being a 30-day unlimited data deal for NT$1100 and a 16-day offer of 3.2 Gb for NT$400. We opted for the second option, submitted a passport, and were set up with the sim (activating it later wasn’t an option).
With our sim card mission complete, we were just in time for the 12:20 bus that would drop us off at Dulan Sugar Factory—a stone’s throw away from the surf hostel where we were booked to stay through WorkAway.
More on that coming soon!