Across my (now numerous) trips to Taipei, I’ve stayed in about 8 accommodations — I love trying out different hotels and as I’ve found, particularly in Taiwan, the rule of thumb is that not all expensive accommodations are great, and sometimes the impressive ones are the ones that you didn’t have to pay all that much for.

THE WORST: #8 WORK INN 101

Price per night: ~S$25-S$70 (I paid S$70 at peak period in early June)
Standard: 2-star hotel
Address: No. 48號, Section 2, Keelung Rd, Xinyi District, Taipei City, Taiwan
Google Rating: 4.0 stars
My rating: 0 stars

My stay at Work Inn 101 was a disaster.

Work Inn 101 is located on the same stretch of road as Appworks — Keelung Road, though it was in Section 2 and demanded quite a walk. I lugged my luggage there around 8pm that night, completely exhausted from a day’s work. I had landed that very morning and had barely had any time to breathe since then. Functioning on 2 hours of sleep and with my adrenaline plummeting, to say I was looking forward to checking in, grabbing some food and then crashing was an understatement.

Cr: Agoda

This is what the hostel looks like from the outside. Very promising, yes? There’s a certain creativity in the Taiwanese hospitality scene that I enjoy very much. If this was what the outside looked like, the inside couldn’t be very different. And I couldn’t be more wrong.

Cr: Wotif

Upon entering the lobby, you’re met with a winding staircase and very industrial chic furnishings. Not too bad. I handed my passport over for check-in, and here comes Incident #1.

“Sorry m’am, the cable services in the rooms are undergoing upgrades and you won’t have any TV programmes. If you’d like to watch TV, please watch in the common area.”

Ooookay. Not great, but fine. I was tired. I love watching Taiwanese variety shows, but I was only here for 2 nights, how bad could it be?

I got my keycard and proceeded to my room. I turned to the lift and then realized, it wasn’t a lift. It was a luggage lift. It was basically a cage — you put your luggage in to be hoisted up to whatever floor you’re on. The human takes the stairs.

At this point, all was still well. I mean, it was a minor inconvenience, and yes I was tired, but I could cope.

Here comes the dealbreaker.

I had booked a private room and expected a private room. What I got was a bed and a table squashed up in a room the size of a lavatory cubicle, with walls so thin, I could literally hear my neighbour ruffling through plastic bags in her luggage.

Cr: Tripadvisor
Cr: Expedia

This bears repeating. The room was terrible.

The sheets were dirty. The spaces between the tiles on the floor had a layer of grime so thick, I could see it overflowing onto the tile. The table was dusty. I so did not sign up for this shit.

So I did what I could to keep my sanity. I decided to grab my stuff and take a shower.

Usually, hostels provide a basket of sorts to keep your items dry while you shower. No such thing here! Thankfully, I’d packed a furoshiki cloth (from BaoCloth) so I wrapped my cloths up in it and went to the shower. That’s when things intensified.

Cr: Tripadvisor

Everything looks so promising in pictures.

The cubicles themselves were not well maintained. There was black mould accumulating at the corners of the shower stalls, and I clean my own shower at home so I know it’s definitely not difficult to get rid of. What really sent a shudder down my spine, though, was when I looked up at the air vent, where mould is least likely to grow, and it saw it covered in a sparse but definitely visible layer of mould.

Now, I’m picky about hotels, but even at the very minimum I require that the place I stay in is hygienic. At the end, it was too much to bear. I just wanted a comfortable, clean place to stay for the night. I later swapped Work Inn 101 out as a hostel of choice for a hostel that goes for half the price and made it to #3 on my list, so there’s really no excuse for the terrible hygiene and cleanliness.

I’ve seen other reviews of Work Inn 101 on generic travel sites (I’m usually good with picking hotels so I went around reading and trying to figure out how I could have been fooled so badly) and all I can say is, if you read the comments carefully like I would have if I hadn’t been in such a hurry to book a place for the night, you’ll find that a lot of guests write bad comments and rate the hotel > 8.0 stars anyway. How misleading. This is the story of how Work Inn 101 landed at the bottom on my list. I promise it gets better from here!

#7 HEJ HOTEL

Price per night: ~S$80-S$140 (I paid S$140)
Standard: 3-star hotel
Address: 7F., No.87, Sec. 4, Zhongxiao E. Rd., Taipei, Taiwan
Google Rating: 4.5 stars
My rating: 2 stars

Cr: Booking.com

Hej is located in a very interesting building on Zhongxiao East Road that is also home to #4 on my list, Eastin (they’re on different floors). This hotel is ridiculously convenient in that it’s within walking distance of all my favourite haunts, including Partyworld @ Dunhua the 24-hour Eslite Dunnan Store (I’ve heard it’s closing down, sadly). To be fair, it’s Taipei, and the city centre is so small you’re walking distance to pretty much anywhere by my standards.

Hej gets #7 on the list because there’s nothing fancy about the hotel. A lot of what’s in the picture above is good lighting. It’s moderately clean. Power plug points were very inconvenient but that’s a minor gripe. The toilet was bare bones, there was a bathtub that I don’t think anyone should ever dream of sitting in. If you’re just looking for a place to sleep, I think ~S$100 a night is too high a price to pay for such a drab hotel.

#7 FOLIO HOTEL

Price per night: ~S$120-S$210 (I paid S$180)
Standard: 4-star hotel
Address:No. 23號, Lane 30, Section 4, Xinyi Road, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106
Google Rating: 4.4 stars
My rating: 2 stars

Cr: Agoda

Oh my my, the mother of all decepticon hotels. Doesn’t the stock photo look amazing?

I had very high hopes for Folio Hotel. In fact, I’d paid extra and booked it for the part of my trip that I had decided to splurge a little to reward myself for work done. And with that level of expectation comes great disappointment as well.

Arriving at Folio is a wonderful experience. The hotel looks like it’s just come right off Park Avenue, beautifully modern and so charming!

Cr: Tripadvisor

The lobby was equally charming, with cement floors and eccentric furniture. I was bubbling with excitement but that slowly turned into dread as we entered the lift. See, for a hotel that was decorated with such contemporary furnishings, the lift looked awfully dreary.

Upon stepping out of the lift, we entered a gaudy corridor with pink walls and clashing striped carpeting. It was a drastic change of scenery from the lobby. We followed a long winding path to our room, and once we opened the door, it looked exactly like it did in stock pictures — just lacking a little aplomb, perhaps because we don’t always have strobe lights to give it that photography lustre. Nevertheless, it provided. The room was very clean, but for a place I’d paid S$180 for, the corridor was creepy and musty, not at all what we expected. The room was also much smaller than properties in the same price range (#1 and #2 on this list) It was like someone had been paid to renovate the place and missed the corridors.

Thinking of a Singaporean comparison, it felt a lot like The Regent. It’s a 5-star hotel that really looks and feels a lot like a HDB on the inside. Had the corridor looked exactly like the pictures, and had the room been a little bigger, it would have been rated much higher. It just was not bang for the buck. Shame!

#5 TAIWAN YOUTH HOSTEL AND CAPSULE HOSTEL

Price per night: ~S$55-S$80 (I paid S$70)
Standard: Think hostel and capsule hotel.
Address: B1F., No, No. 11, Qingdao West Road, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City, Taiwan
Google Rating: 4.5 stars
My rating: 3.5 stars

Located just a short walk away from Taipei Main Station, this was the first hotel I chose on my first trip to Taiwan, and I must say, I enjoyed my stay!

Cr: Tripadvisor

Coming into the lobby, the first impression that struck me was, “Wow, this place has a lot of spirit.” It felt lively, cozy, and was somewhere that even an introvert like me would choose to chill out in after-hours.

Cr: A-hotel.com

I’d initially picked the bunk beds but later changed to a private room because I’d just been injured and my knees really couldn’t take the climb.

Cr: Lonely Planet

The rooms are bare but not sparse, with clean sheets (don’t expect too much from the mattress) and modern furnishing. It was so cozy I could barely get up in time for my flight!

The toilets are located a distance away from the room, but booking a private room also means you get a toilet all to yourself. They’re moderately clean, though not fancy. Simple toast and jam was provided for breakfast, which I never got to enjoy since I never manage to get up with time to spare for food in the mornings. Still, there were lively conversations in the pantry amongst strangers, so it was nice to feel like you had a community winding down at the end of the day with you!

I left the place with good memories and felt like I’d gotten my money’s worth during the stay. The staff were very friendly and I’d definitely consider going back as a solo traveller!

#4 EASTIN TAIPEI HOTEL

Price per night: ~S$60-S$85 (I paid S$60)
Standard: 3-star hotel
Address: No. 87號, Section 4, Zhongxiao East Road, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106
Google Rating: 4.3 stars
My rating: 3.5 stars

I had a one-nighter in Eastin Taipei and I’ll admit I chose this place because I thought it was affiliated to another hotel that I was a big fan of, Eastin Grand in Ho Chi Minh City. Turns out, it’s completely unrelated. Chose a private room for a simple one-night stay and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the hotel.

Cr: Agoda

Location-wise, it’s convenient (as mentioned above for #7). No exceptional expectations for the bed, but the room was very space-efficient and clean, too. The toilets were the great surprise in that it was quite literally sparkling, looked very modern, and had good water pressure and temperature. The breakfast menu is also quite appealing, with a variety of choices (usually a bun, crepe or burger) paired with a drink of your choice. They’ll deliver breakfast to your room, which is a nice touch!

Nothing to complain about here — the hotel was a fair price for its amenities. I’d come back here for business trips due to the killer combo of affordability, location and quality!

THE TOP THREE

My stays in the top three hotels were so incredible, they will always stay in my heart as places I fondly remember. As I travelled alone most of the time and paid for them myself, you can count on these being unbiased reviews, based on my own wallet and untainted by emotional attachment. If you ever find me missing and also find clues that I might have headed to Taipei (my second/third home by now, I love the city!) try one of these places.

#3 NK HOSTEL

Price per night: ~S$20-S$50 (I paid S$35)
Standard: Think hostels and 3 star hotels.
Address: 105, Taiwan, Taipei City, Songshan District, Section 5, Nanjing East Road, 399號
Google Rating: 4.6 stars
My rating: 5 stars

I’d considered this place when booking my first stay, and based on reviews, ultimately went with Taiwan Youth Hostel and Capsule Hotel. If I hadn’t been in such a hurry that night to book a place, I probably wouldn’t have come here. And I’m so glad I did, because it is honestly one of the cheapest yet most beautiful places I could have ever found.

Isn’t the lobby so welcoming and homely?

Cleanliness, wi-fi and hygiene are minimum factors for me when it comes to choosing a place to sleep in overseas. I have a minimum requirement for design too, and location comes a little later in priorities. NK Hostel is one of the cleanest among all the hotels/hostels in this list (no mean feat given that the toilets are public) and I was happy as a lark even staying in the dorms. I mean, look at this.

How absolutely beautiful is this furnishing?

The pods are each very well-designed, including the following features:
1. There’s a small vent for ventilation in every pod, which is a nice touch if you’re a sustainability buff like me and bring reusable cotton pads to remove makeup which need to be washed and dried after use.
2. The lockers have charging pods in them so you can charge your devices while you’re out. This one’s an absolute winner!
3. The curtains block a lot of sound out and the walls between the bunks are quite solid and also cancel out a lot of noise.
4. The light inside the pods have a flexible neck and can be adjusted for brightness. Always useful when you’re reading just before bed!
5. The entire pod is so cozy, you won’t want to crawl out of your little den.

See? Well thought out designs can change the game. There are hangers in the locker area too. Usually I just hoist my cabin luggage (quietly) onto my bunk so I’m pretty self-sufficient up there.

The toilets, while not entirely clean (notice the grime between the tiles, honeycomb tiles are definitely a lot of work to maintain as a flooring) was sufficiently hygienic. There’s a separate wet and dry area too so you have some space to dry off. Only gripe being that this is really tiny and you’ll find even turning around or shampooing quite the squeeze.

NK Hostel had me over the weekend and while I was thinking I’d have to find activities just to get out of a dinghy accommodation, it was so impressive that I ended up spending the weekend potating in there. I loved it, and will definitely, 100% be back. I highly recommend this place for all solo/female travellers!

#2 HOME HOTEL DA’AN

Price per night: ~S$157-S$250 (I paid S$180)
Standard: 4-star hotel
Address: No. 219-2號, Section 1, Fuxing South Road, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106
Google Rating: 4.4 stars (Only?! HOW?!)
My rating: 5 stars

#1 and #2 are pretty tied for first place — the only edge #1 has over #2 is that I’ve had one of their amazing breakfast sets and I like their furnishing theme better. Still, Home Hotel Da’an is one of the best hotels I’ve ever been in globally, because it really does feel like home.

Let’s begin with the bed. Each room has a king sized bed that’s made of some magical material that put me to sleep almost immediately. It was just so insanely comfortable, I want one for my own place as well! The room is too, it’s probably the size of an entire living room in a 2BR house in Singapore.

Wooden furniture and warm yellow lights are recurring themes in this hotel. A lot of effort was put into providing good service as well, and that always earns you points in my book. The sprawling space and the well-designed furniture just added to the sense of comfort and luxury.

I can’t go without mentioning the toilet and toiletries here because they’re so posh — the soaps and shampoos are from a local Taiwanese brand called Cha Tzu Tang which produces the most luscious, lusher-than-Lush toiletries. I first encountered the brand in the hotel and subsequently left Taipei with a full set of them — and I’m not even someone who uses luxurious toiletries. Talk about being sold.

If you’re a security freak, Home Hotel is also right beside a police station. You couldn’t be safer.

#1 SWIIO DA’AN

Price per night: ~S$160-S$250 (I paid S$180)
Standard: 3-star hotel
Address: No. 185, Section 1, Da’an Road, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106
Google Rating: 4.5 stars (I can’t believe they’re not at least 4.8 stars)
My rating: 5 stars

I will rave about this hotel to anyone who will listen.

Beautifully designed interiors. Super-luxurious bed, daybed and incredibly modern bathroom furnishings. Incredible staff, great breakfast (and one of Taiwan’s most famous steak restaurants in its lobby). What’s not to love?

I’ve written a long, extensive review of this place before but it bears repeating: Swiio is hands-down my favourite hotel in the world. It is worth every expensive cent you pay. There’s a 7-11 right next to it for convenience, and it’s in my favourite neighbourhood to boot – Da’an is near all my favourite haunts and within walking distance for long late-night walks.

If you need a little extra convincing, head over to their Instagram and have a look at their beautiful aesthetics. The hotel is exactly as pictured — none of it is extra lighting. And that, in my opinion, is what makes it so extraordinary.

Tips for Choosing a Good Hotel

As much as I’d like to be considered a guru in this area, given my love for reviewing and exploring new luxe properties, I’d have to say I only have two hard and fast rules I apply to most property bookings (provided I’m not in a rush *cough* like the one I was in which resulting in the calamity of #8).

First, always read the 1-star, 2-star and 3-star comments.

Every hotel will have good comments. But it’s what the bad comments say that matters. The hotel can be as posh as the 5-star/4-star comments claim it is, but what if the 1-star comments are true? I’ve seen stories of dirty (bloody) towels, cockroaches scuttling around in rooms, or even more mundane stories of low water pressure = no flushing, or simply no air-con/warm water in the rooms. Just remember, it could very well be you.

Second, and most importantly, look at the ratio of 5-star to 4-star ratings.

On TripAdvisor (my go-to site), I usually make sure that there are at least 75-80% 5-star ratings and a large disparity between the 4-star and 5-star ratings. Because that’s what separates a hotel from good and great. Whether this applies to Airbnb or Agoda or not, I’m not sure, but so far, I’ve found this to be pretty reliable a gauge as to how extraordinary an accommodation can be.

If you’re in Taipei any time, be sure to try out one of these top three hotels. They won’t disappoint, I promise 😉

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