5.12.16

Taiwan Diaries 2016: P19,000 All-In 5-Day Budget, Pre-Planning & Travel Tips

Went on a 5-day adventure in Taiwan two weeks ago and it was one for the books. A number of people have been asking me to blog about this trip ASAP, so here it is! And as per tradition, I shall start this blogventure with pre-planning details, as well as budget & travel tips. But first-- Why TAIWAN? This is a question I heard a few times from a few friends, and I'll admit, myself. Read on...


I had this impression that Taiwan is boring and there was absolutely nothing to do there but eat. That's why it was always missing in my list of countries to visit whenever I do vacation planning. It was only after a few friends came back with wonderful stories that my curiosity awakened and my interest piqued. After a long time, I finally gave this place a chance. I'm so glad I did. Now, my only question is-- Why didn't I do it sooner??? I will share with you all the reasons why I fell in love with Taiwan on my next posts. :) 


1. PLANE TICKETS


It all started when Cebu Pacific announced a promo fare for Taiwan last July. I immedately asked my sister if she wants to go, and she said yes! So I booked a ticket for me, Nico, my sister and my brother. My mom & dad was supposed to go with us but my dad got hospitalized so they cancelled their trip. Sad. But the 4 of us pushed through. 

So anyway, I booked all of us a roundtrip ticket to Taipei with 15kg allowance each (I have extra 5kg free because I have a Platinum Get Go Unionbank card). Total fare was P4,858 each. 


2. VISA

Taiwan recently changed their visa-free entry requirements (as in early October lang) and it's now easier to apply! I was so relieved when I learned that those who have valid or expired visa (if expired, it should be less than 10 years prior to the date of arrival in Taiwan) in countries like Australia, Canada, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, UK, any of the Schengen countries or the United States can now enter Taiwan, visa free! All I did was go to the ROC TECO website and apply for a TRAVEL CERTIFICATE. The certificate is valid for multiple entry and allows you to stay for 30 days in Taiwan. It is compulsory to print this certificate and bring it with you during the trip because you need to present it to the airline staff & immigration officers. This is how it looks like...


photo grabbed from: https://janiscooking.files.wordpress.com (lost mine na so grabbed a photo online)


For visa-free travelers what do you need to bring?

1. Print out or copy of TECO Travel Authority Certificate

2. Passport valid at least six months starting from the date of arrival in Taiwan.

3. Return plane ticket

4. Optional: Print out of accommodation receipt with address and travel itinerary. (this is not included in ROC website but I prepared these na din for my own peace of mind haha)

* Given that the applicant has never been employed as a blue-collar worker in Taiwan.


I am not eligible for a visa-free entry, how do I apply for a Taiwan visa?

My sister has a valid US visa so she also only applied for a travel certificate. My brother Joot and Nico however do not possess visa of other countries (listed above), so they needed to apply for a Taiwan visa. I would walk you through the tourist visa application process. For studying, business or employment visa, they have a different set of requirements. It's best to check their website for the complete list of documents. :) Okay, game. 


Visa Requirements for Tourists

1. Accomplished online Visa Application Form (click link)
2.Two passport size photos 1.5”x2” with white background (taken w/in the last 3 months).
3. Passport valid for at least 6 months and old passport showing previous travels.
4. Birth Certificate issued by NSO (should be recent)
5. Marriage Contract issued by NSO (if female applicant is married)
6. Certificate of Employment
7. Financial statements of the applicant (ITR, Bank Book or Bank Statements) - Bank certificate is fine. :)\
8.Other Supporting Documents if required.
9. The applicant will be scheduled for an interview if required.
10. All documents submitted to this office should be Original and with 1 photocopy.

Optional/Supporting Documents:
 (not in the ROC website but for safety, we submitted these too)

* Return plane ticket
* Print out of accommodation with address
* Trip itinerary

NOTE: Applicants over 60 years of age for tourist purpose may waive the documents No.6 and No.7 above.

 What if you're a freelancer and you don't have an ITR? What documents should you pass?

My brother has no work because he's a PWD (borderline blind), so no ITR & COE. Nico works freelance and he also does not have an ITR & COE. I called the ROC hotline and asked what documents we needed to submit. The lady I talked to said they both need to write a letter explaining why they lack such documents and include it when they pass their applications. It was a little vague. I researched and read countless travel blogs to get an idea as to which documents to submit. I was not able to get concrete answers or specific requirements for freelancers or those who don't have work, so I panicked a little. It would really suck if they get left behind because their visa applications got denied db? So what I did was follow the requirements of my Japan visa application. In the end, they both got their visas!!! Yey!


1. Accomplished online Visa Application Form (click link)

2. Bank Certificate - this is the most important, I think. Even without an ITR and COE, I believe this was the biggest factor why they both got approved. We made sure they had at least P100k in their bank accounts. Thanks mother and father for lending us money. Haha! Request a bank certificate from your branch of account. There's a P120 fee when you request. Or it might depend on the the bank. 

3. PSA Birth Certificate - must be latest. They ordered online and just paid P300 via VISA debit card and 7-11 payment! It was delivered to them 3 days later. So efficient and hassle free. ;)


4. Passport - 6 months validity. You could also bring your old passport just to show your previous travels. Anything that could show them that you've traveled to other places and went back home.  

5. Passport photo - must be two or more. Size should be 1.5”x2” with white background (taken w/in the last 3 months).

6. Round trip or return plane ticket - to show that you have no plans of staying (or mag TNT) in Taiwan.

My brother also submitted my sister's documents (refer to letter for the list) as proof that someone will be responsible for him. But the person checking the documents said they were not needed anymore. Same thing happened to Nico when he submitted naman his brother's documents. They returned all documents that are not the applicant's own. They also did not get the letter, print out of accommodation and itinerary we prepared. Funny. Effort ha. Haha. Well, better sure than sorry. I think the super important document here is the bank certificate. Haha. As long as they know you have enough funds for the trip, you're safe. It's still a case to case basis though. 


Information on Visa Fees, Processing Timeframe, Filing and Releasing Time

項目

Item

種類 Type
費用
Application Fee
提辦費
Rush Handling Fee


VISA
 
 

 


停留簽證【單次】Visitor (Single Entry)
2400
1200
停留簽證【多次】Visitor (Multiple Entry)
4800
2400
居留簽證【單次】Resident (Single Entry)
3100
1550
相對處理費(僅適用美籍人士)
(Special handling fee for US citizens)
General
(一般事由)
7550
Visitor (Single Entry)  1200
Visitor (Multiple Entry) 2400
Resident (Single Entry) 1550
Investment
(投資事由)
9650
亞太經濟合作商務旅行卡(ABTC) 申請費
Application of APEC Business Travel Card (For ROC Nationals Only)
7550

亞太經濟合作商務旅行卡(ABTC) 換發費
Replacement of a Lost or Damaged  APEC Business Travel Card (For ROC Nationals Only)
550

Processing Timeframe
(作業時間)
Visitor Visa : 3 Working Days
Expedite Processing: 1 Working Day
Resident Visa : 4 Working Days
Expedite Processing : 2 Working Days
Resident Visa for Missionaries: 2 to 4 weeks    

Filing and Releasing Time(送件及發件)
Filing Time(送件) : Monday to Friday 8:45AM to 11:45 AM
Releasing Time(發件) : Monday to Friday 1: 45PM to 4:30PM

Note
1.      This Office reserves the right to withhold the reason for the disapproval of any visa application.
2.      In case visa applications were declined after review, the FEES CHARGED ARE NOT REFUNDABLE.
中華民國政府有權不透露拒發簽證之原因並不予退費


Where to submit visa application if direct and not through travel agency?
 RCBC Tower along Ayala Avenue


You could submit your application at the TECO or Taiwan Economic & Cultural Office (not an embassy) located at the 41st floor of RCBC Tower 1 in Makati. Submission is Monday-Friday from 8:45am to 11:45am. Approval takes 3 days, could also be longer if they ask you to submit more documents. 

TIP: Nico and my brother went there 5 days before our trip! So mejo panic mode. That explains the gazillion documents we prepared. There were no room for errors because they literally had not time na. They availed of the regular processing for P2,100 and then we agreed to have it expedited nalang if they were asked to submit more docs. So best if you file at least 7-8 days before your trip! They failed on their first attempt because they arrived at around 10am and there were no more available slots. Yes, you have to go early so you could get a number. They have a cut-off. They distribute numbers at around 8:30am. They came back the next day and finally, they were able to file their application na. :) So, now we wait. 

Address: 41F Tower 1 RCBC Plaza, Ayala Ave, Makati, 1200 Metro Manila


Release of Passport & Visa (if approved)

Two days after filing, and a day before our flight, they finally got their visas!!! Yey!!! On our way to TECO, we prayed hard talaga because we didn't know if they got approved or not. Nico was the one who picked up my brother's visa (no need for authorization letter, he just brought my brother's ID). Success!!! Thank you TECO and travel gods. Haha. 


3. ACCOMMODATIONS
For this trip, I booked our accommodation through Airbnb. There were a lot of affordable places for rent but one factor I seriously considered is LOCATION. It has to be near a train station and near the city center. Luckily, I found one near Ximending, one of the most popular tourist spots and a known shopping district in the Wanhua District of Taipei, Taiwan. JACKPOT! It was also super affordable! 


Click here to book this place: 

It's located in Zhongsheng District near Taipei Main & Ximen!

Pros:
*Walking distance to Ximen, Taipei Main and other tourist sites like Presidential Office Building

*Convenience stores & restos just below the building. 

*Secured building (you need to use key for elevator & main door)

*Located in the city but not noisy

*Bathroom is small but clean with washing machine inside

*Hot shower available

*Provided room slippers & towels

*Provided toiletries

*Has refrigerator inside the room so we can store water and other food.

*Theres a closet, drawer & dresser inside the room.

*Someone cleans the room everyday. 

* Bags & luggage storage allowed (they have a spare room) if you need to check-out already but your flight is late in the evening pa.

*Our host Kenta is very responsive, nice and accommodating!

*Bed was comfortable and not itchy! Yey. 

*Nice view from the window!


Cons:
*Wi-fi was working but for some reason an error pops up whenever we try to post or like photos on Instagram. Something about the IP. Good thing I brought my own portable wi-fi. Hehe.



Here's a tip & some good news!!! Before booking, always check if there's an ongoing SMART AirBnb promotion. In our case, meron! Swerte!!! Get P1,200 discount for every booking worth P4,500. So instead of paying P12,170 for our 4 nights stay in Taipei, Taiwan accommodation, we only paid P10,670. Great deal! Best news? You can avail of this promo until December 15, 2016!!! Go go go guyzzz.



How to avail the SMART AirBnb promo:

1. You must have SMART number or sim. Of course. 
2. Text SMARTAIRBNB to 2855 to get discount code.
3. Open AirBnb app or AirBnb.com on your computer and choose a listing.
4. Click "Request to Book" or "Instant Book" button 
5. Type your Airbnb discount coupon code in the "Coupon" box. Discount will appear and this will be deducted from the total. 
6. Upon confirmation of host, you're good to go!


You only have until 11:59pm of December 15 to do your booking and avail of the discount! Travel period until March 31, 2017. :) 


To know more, click here: 


4. PORTABLE WI-FI / SKYROAM

Prior to Taiwan, whenever I travel, I only rely on Free WiFi in accommodations I book or public places. Sadly, they are not always reliable. Like in Japan, 2 of our AirBnb hosts provided portable wi-fi but they were SOOOOO slow. Haha. The speed was just enough to google some things and reply to a few instant messages. Sending 1 email takes forever, it was super frustrating. The only place where wifi was fast were in major train stations and some convenience stores! Last time in Osaka, we had to walk for almost an hour under the rain looking for our rented AirBnb. We couldn't contact our host or google directions. We also almost didn't get in because we didn't know the door code of our building and it was in my email. We were just fortunate that a kind lady from the same building arrived and she let us use her internet via hotspot so I could open my email. So much of a hassle and a waste of time! In Singapore naman, free public wifi is super scarce. 

I also don't use roaming (I always switch to airplane mode when I travel) after a bad experience wherein I turned it on for just 5 minutes just to check my emails and upload a few photos on Instagram only to be slapped with a shocking P12,000 bill. NEVER AGAIN PO. 


Skyroam unit + Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall!

But now, I can travel worry free!!! There's now a solution to my connection problem-- bringing my own PORTABLE WIFI HOTSPOT! I don't even have to buy it because it is rentable! Why didn't you come sooner??? Hehe. I'm just happy it's now an option for travelers/bloggers/freelancers like me! For my Taiwan trip, I partnered with global brand, SKYROAM. :)

What is SKYROAM?

Skyroam's pocket-sized global WiFi hospot is the easiest way to get fast, secure mobile internet in 100+ countries. Never worry again about hidden charges or the complication of configuring devices. You can buy or rent this portable wifi based on your travel plans. Get 24-hours of unlimited internet at one low daily rate worldwide for your smartphone, tablet & laptop! 

How does it work???

To be honest, I had so many questions even before I got my unit. Like how does it work? Do I need to reload everyday? Does it have a data cap? Is it user friendly for not so techie people like me? My friend from Skyroam (Hi Ate Mhe!) explained everything when she handed me the unit.

1. The unit she gave me was already pre-loaded. No need to reload everyday. It automatically resets after 24 hours.

2. It uses a secure, encrypted connection so your data is safe. No need to be praning.

3. It has a data cap everyday but you won't really feel it because as I said, it resets after 24 hours. 

4. It is super user friendly! You won't have to press many buttons to operate it. Simply turn it on and press "Start". Easy peasy!

5. As soon as I turned it on, my phone automatically detects the wifi! 

5. It is super lightweight so it fits even in small purses and I love the minimal black/orange design. 

6. It comes with a usb cable which you use for charging the unit.

7. A fully charged unit could last almost the whole day! For example in Taiwan, I turn it on mga 10am and then it lasts til 9pm. Walang patayan! Love it!

8. Up to 5 people could connect, all at the same time!

9. 3G/4G connection wherever we go! Even if we went to remote places I still had a signal. 

10. You just pay one flat rate worldwide, as little as $8 for 24-hour global daypass with unlimited data!


How much is it???

If you want to buy your own unit, it retails at P6k+ in Lazada. If you don't need your own unit and you just want to rent for a trip, it's P490 a day and it works in 80 countries!!! BUTTTTT they only charge P390 a day in 15 Asian countries --- Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Hongkong, Vietnam, Macau, Singapore, China, Malaysia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. :) Free delivery within Metro Manila! Woots. I got the unit 2 days before my trip. Super convenient! You may also pick up a unit at Mobile1 in Powerplant Mall or Alabang Town Center. You're welcome!:)


Want to know more about Skyroam or want to rent a unit? Click here:


5. BAGGAGE ALLOWANCE

I'm smarter this time! Haha. Instead of booking my baggage allowance AFTER purchasing our tickets (just like what we did during our last Japan trip), I bought it na with the ticket. It's more expensive if you buy extra allowance at the airport or a few days before your trip. So better buy it na early. Also, I was able to save on baggage allowance because of my Unionbank Get Go Platinum card!


Platinum card holders get an extra 5kg baggage allowance for FREE! Yipee. Instead of buying 20kg, I bought 15kg lang which Nico and I shared. Achieve naman! Sadly, I forgot about it when we checked-in at NAIA (buti we were not over naman) but I used it na on our way back from Taiwan. :)


6. CURRENCY EXCHANGE

Whenever I travel, I normally exchange na a few bills in Manila and then some in whichever country I visit. But for this trip, we had all our money exchanged at Bank of Taiwan located inside the airport. I researched a few days before leaving and a lot of people said bank rates are the best or just withdraw from the ATM. We decided to have it exchanged nalang than use the ATM because we wanted to avoid bank charges haha. Okay naman! The banks have the same rates. :) Rates are steeper if you have it exchanged in hotels or the mall daw. Which brings us to the next question--HOW MUCH MONEY DID I EXCHANGE???


7. POCKET MONEY

How much money did I exchange? P10,000!!! For that amount, I got NT$5,900+ :) It was more than enough for our 5-day trip! I had pa NT$700 with me at the end of the trip which I used to buy more food and pasalubong from a convenience store inside the airport. Nico had P6,000 exchanged and my brother P5,000 only! D naman sila nagutom or naghingalo. Haha! My brother had NT$1000 left pa at the end of the trip. But no shopping for the both of them. Puro tour and commute and food. :)

TRANSPORTATION - We mostly took advantage of their efficient train system (easy to navigate and it connects everything) and hopped on buses. We also mostly walked! BUT, there was a day wherein we had no choice but to ride a cab. That was  when we took a cab from Shifen Railway to Shifen Waterfalls, and then from Ruifang to Jiufen and back. We went beyond our budget, but at that time we were willing to pay for convenience na. Time constraint and my brother's disability were also factors in our decision. 

 Train fares in Taiwan are surprisingly cheap! Ranges from NT$20 to 50:) Special trains like for Riufang (with reserved seating) was a little more pricey for NT$59 one way. :)

So easy db?

If you're planning to spend your vacation hopping from one place to another, better buy the 24 hour Metro Taipei Pass for NT$180, 2-day pass  for NT$310, 3-day pass for NT$440, and 5 day pass for NT$700. You can also choose to buy the standard EasyPass card for NT$100 and top up as you go. The tickets are unlimited for both metro and bus rides during the time of validity. :)

 Buses are cheap too! Average of NT$15 :)

Taxi rides are more expensive. For example, we paid NT$100 from Shilin railway to waterfalls. That's just more or less 1 kilometer. Riufang train station to Jiufen was NT$200.


FOOD - This is my favorite thing about Taiwan! Food is everywhere and affordable too! There are a lot of options. You could eat in restos or buy food from the streets. 

 There are lots of eateries like this all over Taiwan which locals frequent. Menu is in Chinese though. Hihi.

 Bought from this stall! NT$10 each! So delicious!:)

 When in doubt, you could always Family Mart or 7-11! OMG guys in fairness ang sarap ng food nila. :) We ate here often because most stalls outside do not serve rice. Haha.

If you love variety, then night markets are for you! This one is in Ningxia:) Prices range from NT$50 - NT$200 :)

 The famous Chinese Pork Bun for NT$50!

 Chinese noodles na super sarap for NT$50! OMGGG

The famous torched beef cubes for NT$100!

TOURS - The most expensive entrance fee we paid was NT$250 at the National Palace Museum. But super sulit because there was so much to see! Most tourist spots are free. :) Oh, mejo pricey also our trip to Jiufen because we bought the Pingxi Line one-day pass for NT$80 and train to Riufang which was NT$59. This was also the day we rode taxis haha. 


 National Palace Museum. Will blog about this soon!

Pingxi Line one-day pass. Buy this if you plan to explore the Pingxi area including Jiufen & Shifen. 

SHOPPING - My favorite shopping area in Taiwan is the Shilin Night Market!!! So much cheap and nice finds. The Ximen area is a little expensive but there are a lot of independent stores carrying merchandise by local designers. :)

 Where we bought souvenirs and some Totoro stuff!


 So many stalls! You could buy cheap clothes, shoes, souvenirs, etc!

Anyway, for this trip I only packed a few lightweight clothes, 2 jackets and 2 pairs of shoes. I was able to fit everything inside a medium sized luggage. :) I also did not bring a camera with me. All photos were taken using my Huawei P9 camera phone. I bought a micro SD card a few days before our trip for extra storage. Super sulit! :) 


Let's summarize my expenses:
Airfare - P4,858
Accommodations - P2668
Airport Tax - P1,620
Pocket Money - P10,000
__________________________
Grand Total = P19,146


Will blog about our itinerary per day and will breakdown my expenses further in my next posts. Taiwan Day 1 soon! :)

16 comments :

  1. Love this! Thanks Aisa!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Grabe, super galing mag-budget! (And I can't believe the prices of the food! THE BEEF CUBES!!!)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Very informative! Thank You!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hello Aisa!! I will check on you from now on... you are so detailed in everything.. so helpful! Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hello Aisa. Nice blog. =) Question re visa: sa bank statement, at most ilang days prior to the day of visa application dapat sya kunin? Like if today ako magsubmit sa teco, dapat kailan ko kinuha yung bank statement? Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not later than a week old statement!:)

      Delete
  6. Hello Aisa. Had fun reading your blog. But I have a question re visa: sa bank statement, at most ilang days dapat sya kunin prior to the day of visa application itself? Like if magsubmit ako ng docs sa teco today, dapat kailan ko kinuha ang bank statement? Thanks! =)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi, did you have problems with immigration regarding your airbnb accommodation? Did the Philippine or Taiwan immigration asked about it?

    I'm worried that my visa will be approved but denied entry once they find out that I booked through airbnb.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi! Did you have a problem with immigration with your Airbnb booking? Did the Philippine or Taiwan immigration asked about it?

    I'm worried that my entry would be denied even if I have a visa since my booking is through airbnb.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi! Did you have any problems with immigration regarding your airbnb accomodation in Taiwan?

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hi,

    When they say expired visa, does that mean the same thing as used visa? like for example if I have been to Japan or Korea and was issued a single entry visa and have traveled there, am I qualified to the visa free for taiwan?

    Thank You!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes!!! My Japan visa was single entry and used na din. :)

      Delete

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