Five for firsts: a first-timer’s solo trip to Taiwan
I’ve never been to Taiwan, and it sometimes comes as a surprise to some people when I’ve been to other countries but not one so close to the Philippines. I wanted to remedy that, especially now when Filipinos are granted 14 days visa free access. What better time to visit? ;) I resolved to do some solo travel in Taiwan initially in December, but ended up booking for March instead.
I’ve maxed my trip out to fourteen days, and I’ve been in Taiwan for a bit under a week. While I typically prefer DIY travel, this first week was a week full of travel tours, mostly to reach further places and buy me time to be more acquainted with Taiwan. While the language barrier is a challenge, I generally get by with a lot of hopeful smiles, a lot of preemptive “hello” and reactive “sorry?”, plus a smattering of hand gestures.
Taipei itself is super easy to get around in, even if I did get lost in Taipei Main Station anyway! Here are my favourite solo-friendly things for my trip so far:
The subway/MRT system and the EasyCard
I will forever be a fan of subways and MRTs, in almost every city. Taipei is no exception — fast, clean, well-ventilated, and reliable. I can count the stops to my destination whatever the language, so I don’t need to always be looking out for landmarks to know when I should be alighting (I’m looking at you, bus in Kyoto).
The EasyCard is obviously a staple for any subway-traveling-lover like me. For short Taipei stays the EasyCard may not be the most cost-efficient thing (due to a nonrefundable NT$100 deposit) but if you are staying longer or going back at some point in the future (and why would you not?), it works out cheaper in the long run due to the 20% discount on EasyCard fares (and a discount if you transfer between the subway and buses, but I prefer to walk, sooooo…). Plus, the stored value in the card is also usable at many locations, from fast food to convenience stores.
Pro tip: don’t try to tap your card while it’s within your wallet. I had mistakenly thought it would be able to detect my card within my small to-go wallet like I used to do with my Singapore EZ-link card, but I only held up the queue instead :( (I will try if I can insert it in my much-thinner phone case sometime in the next week, when there isn’t anyone else in the station.)
My cute little apartment
I always check out AirBnb when I’m traveling, and compare prices against hotels in the area. My friends said hotel rates are good in Taipei, and I’ve seen some pretty interesting boutique hotels, but for a 14-day stay, finding an apartment (where I could do my laundry, maybe cook some quick meals) was slightly more preferable. The apartment I found didn’t have a kitchenette (so I only have the fridge and electric kettle), but it is entirely too adorable, and I love being able to wash my clothes (the coin/self-service laundry shops I’ve seen around here intimidate me a bit!).
Plus I get a free-to-use-while-in-Taiwan pocket WiFi, for free! WiFi is life.
Shameless link: everyone has their own AirBnb account nowadays, but in case you don’t, my referral link for signing up for AirBnb gets you some credit to use against booking somewhere to stay on AirBnb (I get some too, eventually). Or get a friend to invite you. Don’t waste that travel credit!
Date yourself at Table for One
I want to write a bit more about Table for One when I get back home, because it is that fantastic an experience. When I found out about them, I was just thinking that it was a cute concept that allows you to sit and dine in peace, so I brought along a book to read.
Oh, I read some of the book, but it was quickly put aside as the dinner went under way for some of the interesting activities that were included with the dinner concept that promotes introspection. Or you could also ignore the activities and eat (and the food is great) but the gem really is the full experience.
Klook for short trips
Okay, so they have apparently been around a while, but I only found out about them while I was planning for this trip. While I’ve also booked some tours direct from the agency, tours and activities booked through Klook have an accompanying credit reward (as well as rewards after reviewing the experience), so it’s pretty nifty to use them where it makes sense (discounts notwithstanding).
For Taipei, Klook has a range of things, from tours with a tour guide, to shuttle transportation to further places outside of Taipei, to activities and pasalubong. And even if you don’t plan on booking anything through them, it’s a good gauge for things that you can do around Taipei (or whatever location you are traveling to). I discovered Table for One through them, which I’m quite happy about.
Shameless link number two: if you sign up for Klook using my referral link, you get some credit to use for whatever tour or activity you book (and I get the same amount). Or you can ask your friends to invite you too! Just don’t be like me and sign up blind :P
Street food and night markets
Street food and I have never particularly been friends. Oh, I love eating street food, but the process of obtaining it tends to stop me in my tracks! Most especially if it’s compounded by a language barrier–oy vey.
But the added plus of my cute apartment being near one of the night markets? I can just head out without too much effort every night I feel like it and take a look at what’s on offer. If I don’t get to try that one dish one night, I can go back the next and pluck up the courage to point at it (DON’T LAUGH). And no matter how late I finish that day’s sightseeing, there will always be that night market to fill me up (or convenience stores, too).
One more week
I’ve got one more week of solo travel in Taiwan, a week where there are less booked tours and more DIY, and hopefully a place or two a little more off the (tourist) beaten track. Have you got any recommendations for this language-challenged solo traveler? Leave me a note in the comments or over at @angelamaria!