Ok. I am super reluctant to write this post because it reveals something about me that though I joke about with my closest friends, I don’t mention too often because I personally think it makes me look bad. After all, no one likes a braggart or someone who is seemingly thoughtless with money.
And honestly, I can be pretty thoughtless with money.
Not in the sense that I don’t think about money – but in the sense that I know our general threshold and that as long as an expenditure is below that threshold, I don’t even blink.
We are very comfortable and live a very privileged life. I know it.
You see, I have a thing that Hapa Papa likes to call Rich Girl Syndrome (RGS) in the sense that I think all things can be solved if you throw enough money at it. (Irish Twins’s husband, MBE calls it the Wallet Save.)
As a result, I don’t really think about budgets or how much something costs unless it is exorbitant or something I personally find outrageous. Also, my mother gave me a very generous sum of money for the summer so that I wouldn’t have to worry about taking taxis and books and food. She wanted to make sure I wouldn’t be stingy – and that I would make sure not to get over-tired and take things easy.
Obviously, my budget will likely not be yours in the sense that I thought very little about the costs except in terms of how it cut into the amount I was willing to spend. But in general, I did not count pennies or dollars or NT. I just did what I wanted when I wanted.
I suppose it helps that I’m not exactly a luxury shopper and all I really spent my money on was food and books. But still, the money went fast and Hapa Papa is mad I didn’t save more money from the trip. (Although I did save a bunch of money two years ago from the generous sum my mother gave me then. But I suppose that doesn’t count for this year.)
Now you know.
My budget likely will not be your budget.
However, at least you will know a bit more about pricing.
I realize that I am a very privileged person in terms of finances and that me blithely saying, “Just go to Taiwan for six weeks! Easy! Just say goodbye to $12-13,000!” is somewhat implausible for many of you.
Also, keep in mind that we choose not to spend money on many other things during the year that likely other people choose to spend their money on (eg: trips, sports, etc.) because I know we’re going to be spending a lot of money on a trip to Taiwan.
So. Please consider my breakdown not in terms of what you HAVE to do, but more in terms of what I spent as best as I can remember it. (Which, honestly, has huge gaping holes in it because um, RGS.)
Obviously, YMMV in terms of costs depending on how often you eat out, how often you take taxis vs buses vs MRTs, how much you shop, where you buy groceries, what extracurricular things you do, what programs you choose for your children, and where you choose to live (and if you choose to rent or live with family).
Author’s Note: Any comments insulting me or the people who spend similar amounts on this type of trip will be deleted.
I’m sure if any of us were to examine how you spend your money, we could come up with plenty of ways you are a wasteful asshole.
So since you do not know anything about our family income, monthly expenses, or financial situation other than what I choose to share on this blog for the purposes of you having an idea of how much a trip such as this can cost, any judgmental bullshit about how I am such a horrible snob or how it sucks to be poor (which, we can all readily agree that given the choice between having more money or less money, most of us would prefer the more financially secure position), or how it must be nice to be rich can just go suck on an exhaust pipe.
So, without further ado, here are the costs for my Taiwan Trip 2016. All costs are in USD unless otherwise noted.
– Round trip airfare for 1 adult and 3 children: (We used airline points for Hapa Papa’s tickets) $4400
– Airbnb newly renovated 1br 1 bt apartment in a trendy/popular/convenient neighborhood for 40 nights: $3800 (includes about $200 in Airbnb fees)
– Hotel in Kaohsiung 1 night including breakfast: (bought as part of a business package deal including 1 night hotel and breakfast and with a Taiwanese discount so prices are approximate) $175
– International School Tuition, 4 weeks: $1,121/child (Total: $2,240)
– Local Camp A, 2 weeks: $306
– Local Camp B, 2 weeks: $339
– Taxi from TPE to apt: $40/$1300NT (7 passenger car with 2 rented car seats at $9 per car seat)
– Taxi from apt to TPE: $30/$1000NT (7 passenger car, 0 car seats, private car)
– Taxis in general: $600 (estimate)
– MRT for 1 adult, 1 child, and 1 adult for 2 weeks: $150 (estimate)
– Bus: N/A
– High Speed Rail ticket for 1 adult, 2 kids reserved seating: (bought as part of a business package deal including 1 night hotel and breakfast and with a Taiwanese discount so prices are approximate) $150
– Airport Parking: $20 (Keep in mind, we saved a bunch here because we asked friends to drop off our minivan at the long term parking lot the night before we arrived home. Otherwise, if we parked in long term parking for the entire time Hapa Papa was in Taiwan like we did in 2014, the cost for airport parking would be closer to $250-300.)
– Groceries/Toiletries/Misc: $382 (estimate)
– Eating Out: $1212 (estimate)
Incidentally, I likely would have spent far less if I didn’t have to provide my boys with food for lunch. I only did so because I worry about their food allergies. Otherwise, I would not have to worry about those “extra” meals as they were included in our school tuition.
However, I suppose since I got treated out a lot by family and family friends (and at way more expensive places than I would have personally chosen), it more than evens out in my favor. So, um, nevermind.
– Kid Playspaces and Activities: $274 (Incidentally, I was an idiot and forgot a pair of tickets I had already bought so I ended up having to buy an extra two tickets. So, I guess I have two tickets for next year. Sob.)
– Kid Crafts: $90
– Cel Phone: $60
– Books/DVDs/CDs: $720
– Family Gifts/Reimbursements: $400
– Misc: $50
Good Lord. Now I really feel like an asshole.
One of my other friends is ALSO in Taiwan and in the same city and they were NOT as thoughtless as I am and STILL, they spent a similar amount. Why? Because some fixed costs you just can’t get rid of like round trip tickets and lodging.
Here are some of her basic numbers:
– Travel: (roundtrip tickets for 2 adults and 2 children) $5,400
– Housing: (4 br, 2 bt, washer/dryer in a less popular neighborhood for 7 weeks) $4,900
– Local camps, 5 weeks: $800
– Adult Language camp, 7 weeks: $500
– Books/DVDs/CDs: $625
– Food/MRT/HSR/Misc: (didn’t really take taxis due to safety concerns) $1642
Keep in mind, her housing costs are so high because she had other family members crashing at her place during various points. But she really didn’t eat out at fancy places (mostly the food stands and corner restaurants) and they definitely paid attention to their bottom line.
So, if you are a typical family of four and have no means to get free plane tickets and do not have access to free housing in Taiwan, the bulk of your costs are fixed at approximately $8-9,000. That’s BEFORE you do ANYTHING else.
So, are you just screwed with the costs?
While the fixed costs likely will not move much, you can do some small things that might change the hugeness of the number to slightly less huge. (I do concede housing is a place you can fiddle with – but it really depends on what amount of discomfort you are willing to endure for 4-6 weeks.)
So, here is a way to redeem myself.
Therefore, another list: Where you can save money on your trip to Taiwan.
1) Keep all your receipts and get a tax refund.
If you bring your foreign passport to the malls or save all your receipts, you can receive a tax refund on your purchases at the mall or at the airport. But that would require you to keep ALL your receipts.
2) Eat street food and shop at local groceries.
If you didn’t eat out at the more expensive restaurants and ate mostly food court food or street food, you will save a lot of money. I ate a LOT of shaved ice. Some were cheap. Some were not.
I also ate at places that were close to $40USD/1500NT for lunch or dinner. That’s a lot of money in a place where you can get a decent and filling meal for $6USD/200NT or less.
3) Enroll in local schools and camps.
The reason camps were so expensive for Gamera and Glow Worm were because they were in an international school. I got many comments from locals that the school they attended is one of the most expensive schools in the city.
I would have preferred to send them to a local school, but they wouldn’t take Glow Worm due to his food allergies. According to family friends of friends, a month of a local 幼兒 (you4 er2/preschool 3-6yo) or 大班 (da4 ban/kindergarten 6yo+) for $300USD a month.
4) Live in less popular neighborhoods.
I chose to live in a very expensive neighborhood because I wanted to be close to the MRT, to a lot of convenient restaurants I like to frequent, have a renovated space, and I like clean streets that don’t smell. I also don’t like being too far away from my children’s schools and activities.
You do NOT have to choose this for yourself. There are plenty of decent places to live that are larger and cheaper than what I got for my money. If you do not mind living further out on less popular MRT lines, or doing more research in terms of local schools vs. the big popular names, or even choosing less popular cities, you will save a lot of money.
I don’t think your experience will suffer for it.
5) Take the bus or MRT instead of cabs.
Trust me. There were many times I would have preferred to take the MRT or bus – but as things shook out (and with the number of children and them being uncooperative or the weather being sopping wet), I took cabs more often than I technically needed to.
In general, though, I took the MRT as much as possible. I didn’t go for buses at all this time, but I loved buses my last trip to Taiwan. I think it depends on your location and your destinations and what ends up being most convenient.
That said, my average taxi ride was about $5-6/150-200NT. However, an MRT ride is $0.50/16NT regardless of distance and the bus is approximately $0.31/10NT. (Keep in mind that kids are free unless they are 6 or above a certain height. Their fares are even lower.)
I’m certain there are plenty more ways to save money. (Such as not buy so many books or CDs or DVDs – but since you would spend more to have the items shipped since shipping to the US is approximately $75-100/22kg box and takes at least 2-3 months, personally, I think it costs more money not to.) But being as I am likely the last person on Earth to be useful in this arena, I am all tapped out for suggestions.
If you have any to share, please do so in the comments! (But keep in mind: not every one has access to mileage points or relatives in Taiwan. That, in itself, is a privilege of sorts.)
Alright, I’m done for today. Have a great day!