Monday, October 26, 2015

8 Tips for Planning a Trip to Taiwan with Children

We are travelling to Taiwan in late November, and this is our first time taking a flight without the grandparents! DaDi and I visited Taiwan a decade ago. Back then, our focus was eating, eating and eating. Oh, and sightseeing too. We are not shopaholics, except for snacks! With the children in tow this time, our focus would be on experiential learning as a family

You can choose from group tour, free & easy, and customised private tour / hiring of driver (包車旅遊). Oh, what is meant by customised private tour / hiring of driver? In Taiwan, there are many agents that provide you a car with driver cum tour guide, you can plan with the agent on the itinerary and accommodation. This is very convenient for families with young children and elderly. I have heard of very good experience, and very bad experience from my friends, so it really depends on words of mouth to get reliable agents and drivers.

For us, we decided to be a bit adventurous - free & easy on public transport! We are not going to drive, since we are not familiar with left-driving, and not confident of driving in mountainous areas.

Here are our tips on planning a trip to Taiwan with children:

Tips #1: Booking of Accommodations
We booked different types of accommodations for different experience - hotel, homestay (民宿 minsu), and farm stay. Other than these options, you can also consider service apartment.

If your children (or yourself) love to have slides in the room, do check out our compilation of Taiwan Child-friendly Accommodations with Slides! Guess which one we have booked? (You can find the answer based on the amount of "research" in the post!)

For Taipei, we chose our accommodation that is located near Taipei Main Station, since we are travelling by railway and metro. The hotel that we have booked is York Design Hotel (約克設計旅店). You can read our review of York Design Hotel here.

We also booked one night stay at Flying Cow Ranch (飛牛牧場). I emailed Flying Cow Ranch, and was informed that the booking for December would be opened on at 9 a.m. on 1 September. But when I clicked on their official website at 8.50 a.m., almost all the cheaper rooms with two double beds were taken up for December! I thought I was "kiasu" enough to attempt booking 10 minutes earlier! Anyway, we managed to book the cheaper room by adjusting our itinerary. You can read our review of accommodation at Flying Cow Ranch here.

Tips #2: Get your free gift from Taiwan Visitor Association 
Read our post on how to redeem free gift if you are travelling free and easy to Taiwan. We redeemed one-way bus vouchers between Taoyuan International Airport and Taipei, as well as discount vouchers for Window on China Theme Park.

Tips #3: Plan, but don't over-plan
There are many activities for the families in Taiwan - eating, shopping, sightseeing, hot spring, tourism factory tour, farm visit, whale and dolphin watching (seasonal), fruit picking (seasonal), releasing of sky lanterns (天燈) and many more! Do try out different activities with the children! Here is our plan:

Shifen (十分) - release sky lantern
Yilan (宜蘭) - homestay, factory tour, hot spring
Miaoli (苗栗) - Flying Cow Ranch farm stay, strawberry picking, railway museum
Taipei (台北) - night market, BabyBoss (learning centre for children to experience different occupations)

A lesson from our Hong Kong trip is that we have to be flexible to cut down the activities when the children were too tired.

When I was doing research on Taiwan travel, I find that travel books, websites and Taiwanese family blogs written in Chinese are more informative than English ones.

In Singapore and Hong Kong, you can expect the MRT or bus to come frequently. However, in some rural areas of Taiwan, the train or bus may come every 2 hours! If you are travelling on railway and buses like us, do check the schedule of the railway and buses, and consider alternative methods to get from a place to another.

Tips #4: Clothing for winter in Taiwan - Layering
When I asked a few friends who have experienced the winter in Taiwan what to wear, they gave me the same response - when there is cold current, the wind is 刺骨 - the wind penetrates the bones! So the key to clothing is dress like an onion - layering!

Winter clothing is not cheap in Singapore. For the adults, we already have winter clothing as we visited snowing countries in B.C. (before child) years. It is our children's first time experiencing winter, to prevent our wallets from burning big holes, we bought their winter clothing when there was sale. Shops that we bought the winter clothes include Uniqlo and Winning.

Our children are not very thick-skinned, I mean, they can't stand coldness - they feel very cold when I shop at the frozen food section in supermarket!

[Updated in December 2015]
The weather was quite unusual this year. On the first few days in Taiwan, even though the temperature was 18-24 degree Celsius, we still felt quite warm when there was no wind. As I "complained" about bringing too many winter clothing, it became very cold on the next day, and we totally understood what it is meant by 刺骨 wind!

Tips #5: Bring along your notebook
There are many places that provide nice rubber stamps for you to stamp on your notebook!

Tips #6: Get the prepaid SIM cards at the airport or sign up free Wi-fi with iTaiwan
There are telecom service providers like Chunghwa Telecom (中華電信) and Taiwan Mobile (台灣大哥大) at Taoyuan International Airport. You just need to show them your passport (and VISA) to purchase the prepaid SIM card. Prepaid SIM cards are available at convenience stores too, but you need to provide 2 photo-identity cards.

There are 3G and 4G day passes with unlimited internet usage, and varied talk time depending on the package:
Chunghwa Telecom (中華電信)
Taiwan Mobile (台灣大哥大)

You can also sign up free Wi-fi access at government public indoor area with iTaiwan. However, do note that the coverage is rather limited in rural areas.

[Updated in December 2015]
I bought 7-day-pass from Chunghwa Telecom when we reached Taoyuan International Airport. Before we reached the immigration counter, there were counters of various service providers. But it was very crowded at those counters. My suggestion is to purchase your SIM cards after you walk to Arrival Hall after the baggage belts - turn right and you will see counters of various service providers, or you may turn left and turn left to go to Chunghwa Telecom office which is less crowded than other counters.

Tips #7: Get EasyCard 悠遊卡 
Taiwan's EasyCard is similar to EZLink card in Singapore. It can be used at Taipei Metro, Taiwan High Speed Rail (non-reserved seats), Taiwan Railways (non-reserved seats), buses and so on.

Get Second-generation EasyCard (晶片悠遊卡), which costs NT100 which is just the card, it does not consist of refundable deposit and disposable value. You can purchase this type of EasyCard from Information Counter in Taipei Metro stations, 7-Eleven, OK Mart, FamilyMart, Hi-Life and EasyCard Service Centre at Taipei Main Station.

[Updated in December 2015]
In the end, we didn't buy EasyCard because we travelled on Taiwan Railways with reserved seats more often - EasyCard cannot be used if you take reserved seats.

When we were in Taipei, we bought single-journey ticket which looks like a token. When you enter the station, tap the token like how we use EZLink card in Singapore. Then when you exit at your destination, drop the token into the slot at the gantry.

Tips #8: Useful smartphone applications and websites
5 smartphone applications that I find useful:

1. 臺鐵e訂通 (iOS / Android) - in Chinese or English
For checking the schedule and fare of Taiwan railway, and booking of tickets.

2. 台灣高鐵 T Express 手機快速訂票通關服務 (iOS / Android) - in Chinese or English
For checking the schedule and fare of Taiwan high speed rail, and booking of tickets.

3. 台灣等公車 (iOS / Android) - in Chinese only
Key in the bus number, and it will show you how long more the bus will arrive a particular bus stop.

4. 愛評生活通 (iOS / Android / Window) - in Chinese only
For finding food by area or by type, and there are reviews on those eateries.

5. Google Maps or HERE Maps
[Updated in December 2015] Google Maps couldn't provide the correct location of where we were at times when we were in Taipei, especially when we were at underground places.

Taiwanese family blogs that I read to get the local's point of view (all in Chinese):

Useful websites for planning:

Our Taiwan Travelogue 2017:

Our Taiwan Travelogue 2015:

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  1. Sounds like fun! If you're heading to Cingjing, do scour for Matina Mill! It's a hidden gem and conducts hands-on bread making workshops for kids and family too! It's a beautiful English-style place housed in the quiet nature - very lovely and relaxing :) It's on our blogazine too:

    Oh and do keep warm, and you might need to prepare to get brollys there too cos the year-end weather can be rainy in Taiwan. Cingjing is up in the highlands so it gets colder too. Have fun!!! :D

    1. Thanks Cindy for your sharing! What a lovely experience you had in Cingjing! Matina Mill looks so interesting! I wanted to visit Cingjing, as my friend shared with me a lovely homestay with a tree house + slide! But my hubby rejected this idea as he said that our children cannot 'tahan' the coldness in mountain area during December, sob! Hope to have a chance to visit Cingjing next time!

  2. Very helpful tips and links in this post! Hope to go to Taiwan soon too, might be more fun travelling with another family, and all the kids can share the rooms that look so fun.

  3. You've really done your research very thoroughly! Taiwan is a really nice place, with so many different areas to explore. We've only been there once with Noah, and absolutely loved our experience at Juhu Villa. Good to let the kids experience the outdoors, especially when they don't get as much greenery in SG! Hopefully, we'll get to go again soon, and we'll be sure to check out some of the places you've recommended. Looking forward to reading your posts about your trip when you return!

    1. Glad to hear that you had a great trip! There are more places that you can bring Noah to when he is older!

  4. I also find those written in Chinese better and more informative. Have to make the effect to read through the websites and brochures. Hopefully we can embark on our trip to Taiwan soon.

    1. The Chinese books and websites are very informative, it is nice to read some local's points of views of some places.

  5. Wow, great travel tips! I have yet to visit Taiwan - have been told that it really is quite easy to navigate and get around there too.

    1. I find that some places are not so accessible unless we hire driver or self-drive, some buses or trains only come every few hours.

  6. Sounds like you've got it all planned out! I also chose to stay near Taipei Main Station because we moved around with public transport. And I love reading Taiwanese blogs too!

  7. That's quite a lot of tips. Thanks for sharing! And I agree totally about 'plan but don't over plan'. Enjoy your holidays soon!!

  8. Wow! You have really done your homework for your trip to Taiwan! I will definitely come back to visit this post when I need to go to Taiwan. Mind if I share this post on my FB or link on my blog? I am hopping over to read your rooms with slides. How FUN!! Have a great trip! Can't wait to read all about it.

    1. Sure, Meiling, please feel free to share! Hope this post is useful to those who are travelling to Taiwan!

  9. Enjoy your Taiwan vacation, it's one of the MOST family friendly destinations. Even my Banana husband loves it, nuff said :D

  10. Thank you! I look forward to you sharif about the trip. I hope to go to Taiwan next year!

    1. Stay tuned and we will share more about our trip when we come back!

  11. Thanks for sharing such informative blog as I was a bit confused about the destinations to visit this vacation with my kids.

  12. Thks for the info...planning to bring my kids to taiwan at Nov school holiday.. is it a good time to go there?..

    1. Sky, if you are planning to visit in November, the weather is cooling, and there is usually floral display in Taichung area. But if you would like to experience strawberry picking, then you should visit in December.

  13. Thanks for sharing. I'm planning a trip there. Your tips are very much appreciated :))

  14. Hi, do you mind sharing where is the 'lovely homestay with treehouse + slide' in Cingjing please? Thanks!

    1. Please refer to our post on Taiwan accommodation with slides -
      The address and website is in the post. We have not stayed there before, but according to my friend who had visited, the homestay is quite nice.


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