Taiwan provides the full range of lodgings, from basic hostels to world-class resorts, though it's at the midrange level, especially at homestays, that you will get the best value for money. You would be wise to book well in advance during summer, Chinese New Year and other national holidays.
- Homestays Family-run places that often offer a simple breakfast with the room.
- Hotels Run the full gamut from world-class international names to budget with threadbare carpets.
- Hostels Focus on dorm rooms; pricier than Southeast Asia.
You can reserve by phone or internet (which often gives better rates) but unless you go through a booking site you will likely need to use Chinese. When reserving homestays you may be asked to wire a deposit.
Camping is generally safe and inexpensive, and hot showers (may be limited to the evenings) and toilets are standard. It is best to bring a freestanding tent, as many sites have raised wooden platforms.
Along the east coast you can set up a tent on pretty much any beach, but it can get very hot if you aren't under the shade. Public campgrounds tend to have the best facilities.
There has been an explosion in new mínsù (民宿; homestays) in the past few years, and most are well run and offer good accommodation at a fair price. In fact, many are far superior to hotels and often offer locally cooked meals.
Signs for homestays are everywhere (look for the characters 民宿) and you can usually just drop in without reservations on weekdays (when rates are often substantially discounted).
Taiwan doesn't have the same kind of budget accommodation as many other countries in Asia (although it is still cheaper than Japan and Singapore).
Basic dorm beds start at NT$400 and vary widely in quality, from clean berths with curtains and private lockers to stuffy rooms with no windows and half a dozen people stacked in like sardines.
Private rooms, when available, tend to be on the small side and start at NT$800. You can often arrange weekly or monthly rates.
Taiwanese hostels affiliated with Hostelling International (www.yh.org.tw/en) offer discounts for cardholders.
Almost all genuine hostels are technically illegal, though there is nothing dodgy about them (it's just bizarre regulations, such as the need to have a parking lot, that prevent them from getting licences).
Hostels generally have a laundry, simple cooking facilities, computers, wi-fi and a small kitchen or lounge.
Budget hotels in the NT$800 to NT$1200 range give you bare bones accommodation with cheap furniture, a private bathroom and a TV. No English will be spoken.
In the midrange (NT$1600 to NT$4000) you're likely to find a fancy lobby, one or more restaurants on-site, wi-fi, plasma TVs, and these days a laundry room with free DIY washer and dryer (this service is an island-wide trend).
The big cities abound with international-standard, top-end hotels. Typical amenities include business centres, English-speaking staff, concierge services, and a spa, a fitness centre and a swimming pool.
If you're looking for somewhere more permanent, the go-to website is www.591.com.tw (Chinese only). Other websites in English with rentals are TEALIT (www.tealit.com) and Facebook (search for the city and the words 'rentals', 'flats' or 'apartments').
Taiwanese apartments can be depressingly dark (no windows or opaque glass), with damp bathrooms and tiny rooms. Area is measured in píng (坪), which is about 3.3 sq metres.
Basic studio apartments (with no kitchen) in Taipei cost around NT$8000 to NT$15,000 per month depending on location. Small three-bedroom apartments start at NT$20,000 – in good downtown neighbourhoods, rent is about double this.
Temple & Church Stays
Many cyclists stay at small temples and Catholic churches, though you'll need to speak Chinese if you want to do this. A small donation is appropriate. Foguangshan near Kaohsiung offers accommodation as part of a Buddhist retreat.
Types of Rooms
- What is called a 'single' room in other countries (one single bed) is rare; a 'single' in Taiwanese hotel lingo usually means a room with one double-sized bed, suitable for a couple.
- 'Double' generally means a double bed but could also mean a twin (for example, two beds per room).
- In general use the term dān rén fáng (單人房) to mean a room for one.
- Use shuāng rén fáng (雙人房) to mean a double or twin.
- Emphasise yī dàchuáng (一大床) to mean one large bed for two; liǎng chuáng (两床) to mean two beds.
- A suite is generally called a tàofáng (套房; a room with a separate living area).