Taiwan 101 – Getting to Tainan

Taiwan Tourism Having worked in Taipei some 20 years ago, friends still consult me about  Taiwan. But I realised that with cheap air tickets, many Singaporeans know Taiwan travel better than I do.

This blog post sserves to remind me of what to do to plan for a visit to  Taiwan after purchasing  air tickets.

1. Check TripAdvisor for hotel bookings. If you want to  around Taiwan, staying near the Taipei Train Station is helpful to hop on and off the Taiwan Railway or of you’re taking the High Speed Rail (HSR).

2. Taoyuan International Airport has a HSR station, so it’s not necessary to come into Taipei city. Especially if you’re travelling south west into Taichung.

3. In the other Taiwanese cities. differentiate between staying near HSR station vs the Railway station.

4. After booking your air tickets and hotel accommodation, check out the Taiwan Tourism  Bureau. This is a helpful website on how to get there and what to do.

5. Visit the Taiwan Tourism bureau where you’d be asked to show your booking reference for airticket and hotel (electronic is fine). At the office I was given a free entry pass to the National Palace Museum. But the freebie is not the most important. What’s useful are the maps and the advice from the officer on where to visit. I was surprised to find very informative maps on visiting Tainan, Taitung and Yilan which were on my agenda.

6. Before you reach the immigration checkpoint, there’ll be a few booths where you can buy a WiFi and phone card. Choose the plan that fits you. Some have data but no phone call. I chose a 7 day with NT$120 phone call for NT $450. Kiasu. Just in case I need to call a cab. Otherwise unlimited data is only NT $300. I got T-Star 台湾之星. It’s quite good and I could even share hotspot with a friend. Having phone call plan allows you to call a cab/taxi, the B&B Hostel to confirm or even call the hostel if you need to locate it upon arrival. Which happened to us. So it was a blessing that we had a call+data plan. You can even top up at any 7-11 or local convenience stall.

7. I chose not to get into Taipei but go to Tainan immediately. So after exiting immigration, I took a bus shuttle to High Speed Rail. NT $30. The same area has bus services going into Taipei as well. The bus booth is just beside the ticket counter. After about 15 mins, the bus arrived at Taoyuan HSR High Speed Rail station. Ticket to Tainan is about NT $1305 = S $57 (runs every 30 mins). Buy a drink at 7-11 or a burger at MOS Burger or Burger King. Enjoy on the train as the journey takes 1.5hrs. Remember that the time stated on your ticket is train departure and the train departs promptly unlike in France where it’s arrival time and train lingers for about 5 mins. Himself nearly missed the train thinking he can dash to 7-11. There’s no drink or food service on the HSR. But you can consume food and drink. Take note of your seat number and car number.

How to check the timing of the trains? Google Map is the best option. Although it takes information from the Taiwan Railway Administration, it presents the information in an easily digestible format.
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8. The Tainan HSR station at Shalun is 25 min train from the City Centre. Take the TRA (Taiwan Railway Authority) train to Tainan Station. Ticket cost NT$50 and runs every 30 mins.

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Shalun Station at Tainan

9. If you’re going to Taipei, the Airport bus to your hotel or a taxi is a better option. Taxis from Taoyuan airport to Taipei city is about NT900 to NT $1000 (flat fee). If there’re 2-3 of you then taxi is better option as it goes straight to your hotel. HSR is more for travel from Taoyuan to Western Taiwan rather than to Taipei as the Taoyuan HSR station is at least 15mins away. Even then from Taipei HSR station is another distance to your hotel. So it’s better to take a airport bus shuttle which drop at major hotels. Train station may not have lifts or escalator which means you’ve to carry your luggage up and down several flights of steps.

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Taiwan is environmentally friendly. Some shops such as 7-11 do not provide plastic bags. Bring your own.

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