9 Things to Note When Touching Down in Taipei
I love Taipei, in her sunniest glory and in her moodiest winters. There's something captivating about this city that I cannot get enough of, even if I'm missing bak chor mee from Singapore. All luggages packed and ready to jet off miles away? Be sure to get the basics laid out before all the fun. That will save you a lot of heartache, money and leg power. An additional note: do not rely on English addresses and names, despite being a modern city, Taipei is still quite Mandarin-based (that is, if your Mandarin is rusty and can be brushed up in time). This article points out nine things to note before and after touching down in Taipei!
1. Flying with Scoot (or any other budget airline)
Not the most comfortable, but Scoot provides the most competitive prices for the period that I was flying. They are not kidding you when they say no frills provided. They get you from Point A to Point B, and that's about it. Do get your own neck rest - or at least a towel to bundle up to act as one. Either feed yourself sufficiently before boarding or bring some food aboard. The in-flight meals are too expensive to be not made of gold. Remember to ask for the Arrival Card, the air stewardesses aren't as attentive to provide for everyone down the rows. Not complaining too much - only 5 hours of discomfort and I was at Taoyuan on the dot.
2. Clearing immigration at Taoyuan International Airport
Clearing immigration is efficient and takes about 30 minutes to reach the bus station at the other end. They actually require you to match your passport face too. 30 minutes do not include waiting for luggage/ toilet breaks/ wandering.
3. Applying for a sim card in Taipei
*Check out this post on getting free Wifi 24/7 in Taiwan. I haven't tried it myself, so if it doesn't work out you might still need the sim card information below. It looks like it is worth a try though! (:
You can find the Telecommunication service counter at Taoyuan International Airport itself, where there is a myfone 台湾大哥大 station for you to purchase a sim card. Note that the operating hours for the service counter is from 8am to 9pm. If your flight lands in Taoyuan at 5.30am, it will be wiser to sign up for the sim card at one of their branches in Taipei city itself. There are plenty of service locations with different operating hours (usually opens 11am/12pm). There are many prepaid card plans available:
3 Day Pass - NT300 (Unlimited data + NT100 airtime balance)
5 Day Pass - NT300 (Unlimited data + NT50 airtime balance)
5 Day Pass - NT500 (Unlimited data + NT300 airtime balance)
7 Day Pass - NT500 (Unlimited data + NT150 airtime balance)
10 Day Pass - NT500 (Unlimited data + NT100 airtime balance)
30 Day Pass - NT1000 (Unlimited data + NT450 airtime balance)
Things you need: I/C, Passport, Hotel Address and Phone Number
Duration taken: 15 - 20 minutes
4. Getting from Taoyuan International Airport to Taipei
Follow the sign directions to get to the bus station at the airport. There are many buses available - most people either take Kuo-Kuang or Da-You bus. The difference is in the routes that they take (look at above blue screen picture). Bus fare for Kuo-Kuang (per pax adult) is NT125 and for Da-You (per pax adult) is NT145. The duration for both Kuo-Kuang and Da-You bus to reach Taipei Main Station is 50 minutes (without traffic jam). I've taken both before, not much difference in service but it really depends on where you are headed (ie. your hotel/hostel) and which route fits best. Know your hotel name and address (street/road name in Chinese) beforehand to ask the driver.
Equip your phone with this map. Mostly you will be travelling around Xinyi (red) line and Bannan (blue) line. It is very easy to navigate from station to station, just keep following the signs at each metro station. Xinyi line has extended with the new stations Dongmen, Daan Park, Daan, Xinyi Anhe, Taipei 101 and Xiangshan since November 24, 2013.
6. Applying for EasyCard 悠游卡 (You1 You2 Ka3)
The EasyCard is affectionately known as the 悠游卡 (You1 You2 Ka3). You can choose to apply for one with the machine or the information counter. You will need NT500 per card. At the end of your trip, you can refund for the remaining sum in the card - so don't worry about topping up too much.
Note: When boarding the bus, always look out for the 上车打卡 (tap card when getting up) / 下车打卡 (tap card when getting down)/ 上下车打卡 (tap card when getting up AND down). If you do not follow the instructions, especially for 上下车打卡 or if you do not tap card out of a metro station properly, your card will end up being locked ("锁卡"). You will need to pay a fine of NT50 as administrative fees to unlock; not to mention a lot of hassle to find an information counter to do so. Guilty for being caught in this :(
7. Getting your pockets fed - exchange rate
NT23.04 = SGD$1
The money changers with the most competitive exchange rates are at People's Park Complex and Lucky Plaza. Most shopping malls have less than satisfactory rates, but if you are tight on time it's not a choice.
Reader advice: "For the money changing part I would recommend changing at the Taoyuan airport, I got a much better quote as compared to Singapore when I went last year!" - Darren Teo
Note: the money exchanger at Taoyuan is not open 24/7, so get some NTD ready on hand before you reach Taipei.
8. Student discounts
You might have heard about applying for a student discount card ("Let's be Friends"). Most of the attractions with student discounts can actually work with your usual student identification card, . Pro tip: Sometimes, even flashing your identity card (pink I/C) works as long as you are still young enough to be a student. You can enjoy more summer discounts by going to attractions in July!
9. Travel journal
Pack a travel journal with all the important information - hotel address phone number, emergency phone numbers, passport numbers - and to scribble down your adventures! Taipei has tourist-friendly ink stamps at many different attractions for you to stamp on your journal to go along with your anecdotes. You can even tape tickets and cute stickers which you can buy from Ximending to commemorate your trip to Taipei.