2014年3月4日 星期二

[Travel Taiwan] Accommodation Overview

When I'm traveling,  even though I want to explore different options, I usually stay at a hostel or cheap hotel because it's the easiest way to go. I finally made a change when I stayed overnight at a jimjilbang in Korea and it was such a fun experience! The jimjilbang culture is definitely something unique and it let me understood Korean culture so much more. Taiwan offers some unique accommodation options too. There is a wide variety of choices, from luxurious hotels, to affordable hostels, to cheap or even free alternatives. Some are found only in Taiwan, and some can save you big bucks if you want to scrimp on accommodation costs. I hope this post will inspire you to take new routes when you come to Taiwan!

(In order starting from the priciest)

5 Star Hotels 五星級飯店

There are a lot of high end hotels in Taiwan, including international brands like Sheraton and several other local brands. Only 45 hotels are officially recognized as 5-star by the government, but it doesn't mean the other hotels do not have 5-star quality, it only means that they have not gone through the rating system. 5-star hotels will cost you a small fortune, going from NT6000/night and upwards, so it's definitely a splurge. I'm sure their service is great, but the facilities and location might not necessary reflect the price. If you have specific needs, remember to check with the hotel before booking.

Price Range
NT6000 upwards. 
5-star hotels in Taipei cost around NT7000-NT10000.
There are often promotional discounts, google google google! 

There are 5-star hotels in all cities and counties, most are close to popular tourism destinations.

English/Japanese speaking reception staff.
Lots of services available for additional price (e.g. airport transport, tour package, taxi service...... )
BUFFETS! Do not skip breakfast/lunch/dinner if it's included in the room price, they offer a good selection of dishes and have fresh sea food. They are meant to be "international" though, so you wouldn't find many Taiwanese dishes.

Keep in Mind
while there are a variety of services available, the hotel will often charge you an additional price for it.
Just because it's expensive does not mean it has great location.

High-End Motels 高級汽車旅館

Motels are a special scene in Taiwan and they are nothing like the ones you see in American movies. Back in the days, motel is where you go to have sneaky affairs or have a sexy night with your significant other. They were basically hotels which offers privacy for their guests, since you can drive right in without getting out of the car. Nowadays, to expand their market, motels have really upped their game. Thematic interior design is a must, guests can spend the night as pirates in a Caribbean sea, or as Cleopatra and her lover, or as a princess and her prince charming. There are lots of other bonus facilities too, such as pools, hot tubs, saunas, karaoke machines and more, all in the comfort of the room. Besides couples who want to have a romantic night, families might choose to stay at motels too. It is also very popular to hold parties in motels, since thematic motel rooms are usually huge and able to accommodate a large crowd. 
Taichung has the best motels, with the same price point, motels in Taichung are much more luxurious than motels in Taipei, and Taichung offers more choices than other areas.

Side note: There are cheap motels, but I don't think they are worth mentioning to travelers, unless you are looking for a sexual night with someone you just met in a club?

Price Range

High end motels are usually found in bigger cities.
Taichung has the most and best motels in Taiwan.

thematic interior design.
various leisure facilities.

Keep in Mind
As motels are still largely targeted at couples, there might be condoms or other sexual objects provided in the room. Ask the manager to remove them if you are traveling with family or friends and they might cause awkwardness. 

Other Hotels 其他飯店

There are a lot of hotels to choose from other than 5-star ones, there is a wide variety in regard to service provided, location and price range, you are sure to find one that suits your needs if you are willing to peruse the internet. 

Price Range
anywhere from NT1000-NT6000. Average price of hotels Taiwan is around NT4000 (5-star hotels included)

There are hotels in all cities and counties, there is usually more options near train stations.

great locations.
various price points.

Keep in Mind
not all hotels are equipped with English speaking staff.

Bed &Breakfast 民宿

B&Bs have been really hot in Taiwan for the past few years. Some B&Bs aim to offer an alternative to hotels, and others aim to provide their guests homey experiences. The most popular B&Bs in Taiwan are not necessarily the most suitable for foreign travelers, they usually look like exotic and appeal to Taiwanese people who want a vacation but can't afford a trip abroad. The government is only catching on to the boom of B&Bs, as of now there are more than 3800 registered B&Bs, but there are still many unregistered ones on the market. The biggest difference is that the unregistered ones might not comply with the government's safety standards (number of emergency exits, fire extinguishers, etc). I personally would not want to stay at unregistered B&Bs because I am a paranoid person, but it's essentially not anymore dangerous than staying at your own house.

Price Range

There aren't a lot of B&Bs in Taipei since there aren't many houses in Taipei. There are lots of B&Bs to choose from outside Taipei.

Homey experience
Traditional Taiwanese breakfast
Interaction with local owner and their family

Keep in Mind
Since B&Bs are mostly run by local families, they may not speak English or other languages, or they might be fluent in 5 languages, you never know. Body language and Google always helps!

Hostels 青年旅社

Hostels are to go-to choice for travelers on a budget. They are a great place to meet other travelers, but they can also have potential risks. Hostels often offer shared rooms, theft and unwanted solicitation is not unheard of. If anything bad happens, report to owner or police immediately. 
The only time I lived in a hostel in Taiwan is when I was in Taichung, it was cheap, NT500/night, but its location was SO bad, it took a 30 min bus ride to get to anywhere, so I would definitely advise you to check out the location and available transportation before booking a hostel.

Price Range

There are hostels all around Taiwan, but some of them are in really discreet locations.
There are lots of hostels in the vicinity of Taipei Main Station, but they might be a little more expensive than those in other locations.

Opportunity to make friends from all over the world

Keep in Mind
Some hostels have curfews and they will close off the public area after a certain time. 
There might not always be a staff around to help, remember to get the owner's contact numbers should anything happen.
Keep your valuables close!

Couch surfing 沙發客

Couch surfing is not very popular in Taiwan. Some might attribute this to Taiwanese people not being adventurous, but there are also other practical restrictions as well:
1. Most people live in small apartments or studios and might not even have a spot on the floor to spare.
2. Taiwanese people don't like to let strangers see their home messy, and it's usually messy because we are too busy with work.
3. For most people working overtime is common, when they get off work they don't have the energy or time to entertain their guests.
You can still find hosts on couch surfing sites, though it might be hard to find your dream host since the choices are limited.
If you are an adventurous backpacker and decide to find places to stay along the way, you have a much better chance of finding a home willing to take you in in the country than in the city, since houses outside big cities are usually cheaper and much bigger.

Price Range
free, but be sure to reciprocate your host's hospitality with respect and maybe some interesting travel stories.

There isn't a lot of hosts available online, but if you search hard enough you can probably find hosts that fit your travel itinerary.

Interaction with local families

Keep in Mind
Always have a backup plan to couch surfing. See alternatives listed below.

Alternative: internet cafes, fast food, convenience store 其他選擇

Besides conventional accommodation options mentioned above, there are other alternatives for those who really want to cut back on their travel costs and those who find themselves stranded without a place to stay. The central philosophy of Taiwan is "convenience", we have more than enough 24/7 shops to prove this, and they are very helpful to the traveler in distress.

A lot of internet cafes are open 24/7, they usually have a special overnight price which is about NT150-NT250/8 hr. Comfy sofas and unlimited internet access are basic necessities for internet cafes, and most have unlimited access to soft drinks and/or comics. Some specifically cater to people looking for accommodation, and may provide pillows, quilts or shower units.

Chain fast food restaurants like McDonald and MOS Burger have some of their restaurants open 24/7. You can spend the entire night there with the mere cost of a coke, or no cost at all if you are thick skinned. 

Convenience stores are life savers. Aside from a huge stock of snacks and drinks, they are now starting to offer other facilities such as washrooms and dining seats. 

Price Range
Almost free.

They are everywhere!

Safer and more comfortable than braving the elements outside
Little to no  cost

Keep in Mind
These options are not for peple who needs to lay on their backs to sleep.
Always be attentive to your belongings, keep your valuables close to you when you sleep!
Bring ear plugs and a eye mask to improve sleep quality.