If you’d have told me back when I first started travelling that Taiwan would end up being my favourite place on the planet, I’d have blinked multiple times in surprise.
Let’s face it: it doesn’t sound like that exciting a place. Back then, I didn’t know anybody who had been, knew very little about it, and pictured it as an island blanketed in factories and electronics.
I was delighted, then, to discover that Taiwan is all about the dazzling cities, beautiful beaches, impressive architecture, spectacular scenery, delicious street food, and some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. After spending four weeks on the island during that initial trip, I’ve since paid two additional month-long visits to this kickass country. Yes, I’ve spent three whole months in Taiwan and I’m still keen to return to explore further.
Having spent so much time in this wonderful place, I feel qualified to share how much you should plan to budget for a trip to Taiwan, especially as I’ve tried out several different travel styles during each visit.
I’ve spent a month travelling solo on the tightest backpacker budget I could manage, and averaged $22 a day.
I spent a month travelling as part of a couple in mid-range-priced guesthouses, and averaged $35 a day.
And I spent a month as a digital nomad, basing myself in an apartment in Taipei for a full month, averaging $50 a day.
Let’s take a look at how much of my expenses I spent on accommodation, transportation, food, and activities. First up: how to travel in Taiwan on a backpacker budget!
How to Travel Taiwan on a Budget
Taiwan was my first destination in Asia and the first place to show me just how affordable backpacking could be.
Rather than staying in the cheapest dorm room I could find, like I had been doing in Europe, I could afford to book the highest-rated hostel in town because it was just $10 a night; I could head to a street market and find an entire meal for a couple of dollars; take a train across the length of the island for the price of a 30-minute journey back home in the U.K.
I spent $599.82 in 27 days. That’s $22.22 per day!
Let’s take a look at my budget breakdown to see how affordable travel in Taiwan can be.
How to Save on Accommodation in Taiwan
If you’re looking to stretch your dollar as much as possible, aim to stay in dorm rooms in hostels. For some reason, private rooms in hostels and budget guesthouses in Taiwan are strangely expensive — often as much as $50 a night, whereas you’ll be able to grab a dorm bed for around $10 in most places. If you’re a solo traveller, dorm rooms are definitely the way to go, and hostels in Taiwan are clean, modern, and great value for money.
I’ve stayed in so many hostels in Taiwan over the three months I’ve spent travelling there, so I’ve put together a list of where I most recommend staying (all prices are listed in USD, as that’s where the majority of my readers are based):
Taipei: A six-bed dorm in Star Hostel Taipei East at $24/night
There’s a reason why this is the top-rated hostel in the city: it offers up so much for your money. What I love most about this spot is its location, between Daan and Xinyi, which are two of my favourite neighbourhoods in the city! The hostel itself is slick, modern, and well-designed, with a cosy common area and clean, comfortable dorm beds. I wouldn’t consider staying anywhere else in Taipei. Check out prices and availability here.
Taichung: A four-bed dorm in Stray Birds Taichung Hostel at $20/night
If you’re going to check out beautiful Sun Moon Lake while you’re in Taiwan, Taichung is the best place to base yourself, as it’s expensive to stay beside the lake. And Taichung is a worthy destination in its own right, with plenty of museums, parks, and night markets to explore. Stray Birds Hostel is in a great location, close to my favourite park in the city. And it’s *beautiful* — the design is seriously impressive. The staff are welcoming and friendly, the common room is lovely, and the terrace is the perfect place to have breakfast each morning. Check out prices and availability here.
Kaohsiung: A six-bed dorm at With Inn Hostel for $19/night
If only every hostel was as wonderful as With Inn! The staff are what make staying in this hostel so great, as they’re always only too happy to help out with any questions, assist you with travelling to your next spot, and offer plenty of recommendations for restaurants and bar. This is yet another well-designed hostel in Taipei, with a beautiful roof terrace and garden, wonderful dorm rooms, and plenty of amenities. Overall, it offers great value for money. Check out prices and availability here.
Tainan: A four-bed dorm at Cao Ji Book Inn Hostel for $26/night
Tainan is full of excellent hostels, but my favourite is Cao Ji Book Inn Hostel. This place is particularly cool because it’s a hostel that’s book themed! There’s even a library! How awesome is that? It’s also the highest-rated hostel in town. The property’s aesthetic is just as interesting as you’re imagining, there’s a super-fun rooftop area to hang out on and chat with travellers, and it’s right beside the train station. Throw in some amazing staff and you’ve got yourself the perfect hostel. Check out prices and availability here.
Hualien: A six-bed dorm at Shining Forest Hostel for $16/night
What I love about Shining Forest Hostel was the friendliness of the owners (yes, this is a common theme in Taiwan!) It’s a family-run hostel, and Owen and his mother are so kind and welcoming. It’s in a great location, beside the train station and close to the excellent night market. I highly recommend staying here for both the owners and the Taiwanese breakfast they cook up for you every morning. So good! Finally, there are free bicycles to hire from the hostel and free coffee, tea, and cookies! Check out prices and availability here.
How to Save Money on Transportation in Taiwan
I used a mix of transportation in Taiwan, ranging from daily metro trips in Taipei, to hopping on a local train around the country, to checking out the high-speed rail between Taichung and Kaohsiung. If you’re on a budget, local trains are definitely the way to go.
Fortunately, trains in Taiwan are available to book through 12Go Asia, which is one of my secret weapons when it comes to travel throughout Asia. It makes booking onward travel so simple and convenient! Instead of having to buy train tickets in advance from the train stations, you can just book your ticket online instead and have peace of mind that you have a seat.
Here were my costs for transportation in Taiwan:
Ten days of metro use in Taipei: $3.60
Local train from Taipei to Taichung: $12.03
High-Speed Rail from Taichung to Kaohsiung: $26.13
Local train from Kaohsiung to Hualien: $17.43
Local train from Hualien to Taipei: $13.00
How to Save on Food in Taiwan
Food in Taiwan is cheap, thanks to the plethora of night markets in every city. I always recommend eating the local food and doing so on the streets. Not only is the street food safe, but you’ll gain a cultural insight into Taiwanese life, too. In fact, the only time I got sick in Taiwan was when I ate in a restaurant rather than at a street food stall. Most dishes are around $1-2 per meal at the markets, so local is definitely the way to go!
For food, I paid $248.56 for four weeks of backpacking across Taiwan. That works out to $9 a day.
How to Save Money on Activities in Taiwan
The great thing about Taiwan is that many of the activities you’ll want to do in the country are free.
The only things I paid for in Taiwan was my bus tour around Taroko Gorge ($7.92) and my minivan tour of the Lotus Pond temples ($4), making my activities budget extremely low for my four weeks of travel.
While I limited most of my activities to free things, like hiking, prioritising museums with free entry, and wandering through markets on foot, Viator does list several budget tours that receive exceptional reviews.
I definitely want to jump on this Taipei street food tour ($18), as Taiwanese food is one of the most underrated cuisines on the planet and I’ve always wanted to delve deeper into the food scene. I also love the sound of this Taroko Gorge tour ($33), too. If you’re not confident on scooters, having somebody else show you around and explain the significance of the different trails is a great way to explore one of the prettiest parts of Taiwan. Finally, I’m totally adding this small group tour to the northeast coast of Taiwan ($33) to my next itinerary for Taiwan.
The Mid-Range Couple Budget
Several years later, I returned to Taiwan, but this time with my boyfriend in tow. My budget had expanded over that time, too, and I was looking to stay in mid-range guesthouses and hotels. When it comes to transportation, my boyfriend and I travelled across the island in much the same way as I had as a backpacker, and definitely still ate mostly street food! Activity costs were low once more.
The Cost of Mid-Range Accommodation in Taiwan
I didn’t stay in hostels while I was travelling in Taiwan this time around, instead opting to stay in the best-rated guesthouses in the country. Here’s what the costs looked like for us (this is for the total cost of the room, rather than just my share):
- Taipei: Old Door Hostel and Bar at $64 per night
- Kaohsiung: Kindness Hotel at $85 per night
- Kenting: Kenting My Home at $27 per night
- Hualien: Aria 2 Home at $81 per night
Transportation was similar to my first visit: a mix of metro use in Taipei, the High Speed Rail, local trains for much of the rest of the country, and a scooter rental in several places. Here’s my breakdown in detail:
- High speed train from Taipei to Kaohsiung: $46.70
- Return ferry ride from Kaohsiung to Qijing Island: $1.58
- Bus from Kaohsiung to Kenting: $10.15
- A day’s scooter rental in Kenting: $9.50
- Bus from Kenting to Kaohsiung: $10.15
- Train from Kaohsiung to Hualien City: $17.65
- A day’s scooter rental in Hualien: $12.66
- Train from Hualien City to Taipei: $13.74
- Taipei metro costs for our 10-day stay: $10.93
- Return bus from Taipei Airport to Taipei: $9.06
Food was vastly different to my first visit! With my eating horizons now having widened to roughly 18 million times the size they were before, I dove headfirst into night market eating and surfaced several hours later with a duck tongue in my mouth. Dave and I ate mostly on the streets when it came to lunches and dinners, but usually headed to a cafe for a bread-based meal for breakfast.
My total food costs came to: $525.41.
Once more, many of the activities we did in Taipei were free, like access to Taroko Gorge, Kenting National Park, Yingge Ceramics Museum, and exploring the temples of Lotus Pond.
The only entrance fee we paid was for Taipei’s Museum of Contemporary Art, which was $1.58.
Taipei is fantastic for digital nomads! If it wasn’t for my extrovert boyfriend needing to know roughly 7,984 people in a city in order to keep his energy levels high, we would have seriously looked at making it our home base.
For this particular trip to Taiwan, we spent our entire month in Taipei. We booked out an Airbnb apartment for 30 days, didn’t even leave the city for any day trips, and spent the vast majority of our time eating our way around the city.
Our Airbnb apartment came to $105 per night. We were in the heart of the Xinyi district, a few minutes’ walk away from Taipei 101, surrounded by dozens of cafes and restaurants, and my favourite night market in the city: Tonghua!
No real transportation costs came up during the month.
We used the metro to get around and I paid $3.25 for a month’s worth of rides. We also paid $15.00 each way for a transfer from and to Taipei’s airport.
Street food galore! Our main reason for being in Taipei was to eat, and because we didn’t really have much of a kitchen in our apartment, we ate out for every meal. There were lots of date nights, lots of visits to international restaurants, and many, many wanders around the night market. Western breakfasts in cute coffee shops were around $7, lunches at restaurants in shopping malls and international restaurants around our neighbourhood were roughly $10 each, and our evening meals were predominantly from Tonghua night market and were around $4 a meal.
I spent $650 on food for the month.
All of our activities (mostly hiking in the nearby mountains, walking in parks, and wandering around markets) were completely free in the city!
And that’s how much it costs to travel in Taipei! To summarise, these are my daily costs for these different travel styles (so that means only my share of the accommodation is included):
Solo backpacker on a tight budget: $22.22 per day
As part of a couple on a mid-range budget: $34.71 per day
As part of a couple based in Taipei for a month: $50.03 per day
And if the affordable prices aren’t enough to convince you to visit, check out my post about why Taiwan is my favourite country to give yourself a nudge towards booking your flight.