Saturday, October 7, 2017

10 Tips for Planning a Trip to Taiwan with Children + Elderly Parents

It has been 2 years since we last visited Taiwan! Read our Taiwan Travelogue December 2015 here! We are visiting Taiwan again in December 2017, and this time we are bringing the children's grandparents along. As usual, our focus would be on experiential learning as a family

Here are our tips on planning a trip to Taiwan with children and elderly parents.

Tips #1: Planning itinerary with the children and elderly parents

We always involve our children in planning our family overseas trips. Of course, we are involving our elderly parents in planning the itinerary this time. Well, you may have guessed correctly, the parents would say "You all just plan, we are ok with anything." Do sound them out on their preference!

Tips #2: The best time for family travel to Taiwan

For families with school-going children, we don't have many options except for one week school holiday in March and September, as well as June and late November to December. But one week break in March and September may be too short for the trip. Plum rain season in Taiwan is from May to June, and typhoon season is from July to October. Therefore, I personally feel that the best time for family to travel to Taiwan would be late November to December. The winter in Taiwan is not too harsh as compared to some other places, so it is a good experience for our children. Yes, there is no winter in Singapore.

Tips #3: Booking accommodations

The location of the accommodation is our key consideration for this trip. For convenience, we have booked accommodations that are near train stations.

If your children (or yourself, or even the elderly parents) love to have slides in the room, do check out our compilation of Taiwan Child-friendly Accommodations with Slides!

Tips #4: Get free gift and travel information from Taiwan Visitor Association 

Read our post on how to redeem free gift if you are travelling free and easy to Taiwan. You must bring along documents or emails of air ticket from Singapore to Taiwan, as well as minimum one night accommodation (e.g. hotel, youth hostel, homestay, resort) in Taiwan. Do take note that different gift is offered at different time of the year.

In October 2015, we redeemed one-way bus vouchers between Taoyuan International Airport and Taipei, as well as discount vouchers for Window on China Theme Park.

In November 2017, we redeemed one-way Taoyuan Airport MRT voucher. Do take note that you cannot walk through the MRT gantry with this voucher! You have to exchange this voucher for a one-way ticket at any Taoyuan Metro Customer Service counter. In fact, this is not restricted to journey from or to the airport, you can use it between any 2 stops along Taoyuan Airport MRT line. So plan how to use this wisely to maximise saving!

Tips #5: Hiring driver for customised private tour (包車旅遊)

In our previous trip, we took public transport throughout the entire trip. This time round, we will be taking public transport when we are in Taipei and Taichung city areas. However, for our journey in Taichung outskirt areas and Nantou, some places that we plan to visit are not very accessible by bus or train, and because there are 6 of us, we would have to take 2 taxis. Therefore, we have decided to engage a driver. I would never consider driving in Taiwan, because I cannot orientate myself to the opposite way of how I drive in Singapore, and driving along the roads in mountainous areas is very challenging.

In Taiwan, there are many agents that provide a car with a driver cum tour guide, and there are drivers who operate independently. You can plan with the agent / driver on the itinerary and accommodation. To get reliable agents / drivers, I asked my friends for recommendations, instead of just searching on forums, because some posts on the forum that rave about some drivers look rather fishy.

Tips #6: Get the prepaid SIM cards at the airport / sign up free Wi-fi with iTaiwan
You can 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.

In our previous trip, I bought 7-day-pass from Chunghwa Telecom at Taoyuan International Airport. Instead of joining the crowd at the immigration clearance, I purchased at the outlet at the arrival hall, located on the left side of the exit, not the one on the right. The only problem I had with Chunghwa Telecom's prepaid SIM card with local call was that tethering was not allowed.

Why ain't we getting Wi-fi router since we have 4 adults for this trip? Well, I think I still prefer to use prepaid SIM card, especially when we are separated.

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. For children as well as seniors aged 65 years old and above, they can get Concessionaire card to enjoy half price when they take Taiwan Railway trains and buses.

This is a must-have item as we are travelling in Taichung. The bus system is quite developed in Taichung, and the bus fare for distance within 10 km is FREE when you are using EasyCard!

Tips #8: Useful smartphone applications and websites

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.

Useful websites for planning:

Tips #9: Getting from Taoyuan International Airport to Taipei

We took Kuo Kuang Bus 1819 during our previous trip. It took about 1 hour from Taoyuan International Airport to Taipei Main Station. The bus fare is NT$125 for adult, NT$65 for child and senior above 65 years old. It operates 24 hours, with frequency of every 10 to 20 minutes during day time, the frequency for night bus between 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. is every 1 hour.

We were glad to hear that the Taoyuan Metro is now in operation! So there is an alternative way to get from Taoyuan International Airport in addition to taking bus and taxi.

The metro fare is NT$160 for each adult and child,  it is more expensive as compared to taking Kuo Kuang 1819 bus. But of course, the travel time is shorter, Taoyuan Metro takes about 28 to 35 minutes.

So depending on your preference, you can choose to pay less with longer travel time, or pay more with shorter travel time. We hope to try out Metro Taoyuan this time, since we have already experienced taking the bus.

[Update in December 2017]
We took Taoyuan Metro from Taoyuan International Airport to Taipei, and took Kuo Kuang 1819 bus from Taipei back to the airport. Here is my take on the pros and cons of these two transportation modes.

Taoyuan Metro
Pros: Comfortable (if you get to sit down), shorter travel time (especially if you take Express Train)
Cons: More expensive, may not get to sit down, operates between 6 a.m. to around 11 p.m. only

Kuo Kuang 1819 Bus
Pros: Cheaper, confirm can sit down, operates 24 hours, no need to worry about the luggage as there is a luggage compartment
Cons: longer travel time

Tips #10: Take lots and lots of photos / videos for the 3-generation bonding moments

I am glad that our children have a very close relationship with their grandparents. Don't forget to take photos and videos of the precious 3-generation bonding moments!

Our Taiwan Travelogue 2017:

Our Taiwan Travelogue 2015:

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  1. hihi! can u share your taiwan drivers contact? thnk u!

    1. Our driver is Mr Richard Cheng, you can Whatsapp him at +886 973 511 609.


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