More and more people use Airbnb when they travel. Even though there had been some unfortunate things happened sometimes, I was an Airbnb host for a short period of time and I also have been an Airbnb user for more than 5 years. From my own experiences in Taiwan, instead of adopting the “sharing” concept, running Airbnb is more of an investment, so usually hosts would rent out the spaces from their previous purchases or properties of their investment. The spaces can have some flaws that you might not enjoy, so I am sharing these 10 things to look for when you book an Airbnb in Taiwan.
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1. Running Airbnb in Taiwan Is NOT Legal
Running Airbnb is actually not legal in Taiwan. It’s still under negotiation between the government and the company. Hosts would get fined up to 2 million NTD (approx. $65,000USD) if they get caught. But if you are a traveler, it’s not your problem to worry about. In Taipei, you probably wouldn’t meet or talk to neighbors in general, however if you do, your host(s) would ask you to say that you are a friend of them. So if this legal thing bothers you, staying in an Airbnb might not be an option when you visit Taiwan.
2. Natural Light and Ventilation
The housing is too crowded in Taipei, so sometimes even there’s window, you can’t get any sunlight. We all hope for a room with sunlight, don’t we? To avoid a room lack of natural light, you can pay attention to the window on the photo and make sure it shows some lights from outside, street view or sky.
Ventilation is quite important as well as it’s pretty humid in Taiwan. And in Taipei, Airbnb are mostly located in older buildings. If it’s not well ventilated, the room would feel damp or have weird smell. It’d be better to have both good ventilation and air conditioning.
3. The Noise
Some people are more sensitive to noise while some people, like me, are not. Taipei’s living condition is more crowded, and residential and commercial areas are often mixed. Usually there are restaurants, and bars just next to you and it’s always the most convenient location that you would like to stay at. If you are very sensitive to noise, you can ask the host about the night and do they use soundproof/airtight windows which are common in Taiwan. Or you can always bring earplugs with you to prevent noise.
Smells are something that is difficult to find out when you check the listings online.
It can be smoky smell from the restaurant downstairs or neighbor’s kitchen, smell from the drain in the bathroom, moldy smell from stairway, rotten smell from the garbage room, or smoke pollution from the road.
I know it can happen anywhere in the world but since the living condition is more crowded and not as good in Taipei, it’s possible to get one of those. Smells are hard to identify from photos or description, so the best way is to read the reviews carefully to see if there’s any complaint in the past. And I’d also recommend you not to stay next to the big road or in a room above a restaurant. The smell from the bathroom drain is the hardest to avoid, since it can happen in either old or new buildings.
5. Which Floor? Elevator?
Many apartments in Taipei do not have elevators. Because there’s no complete address showing floor until your booking confirmed, the issue can be easily overlooked. Not every host states floor in the description. We had an experience where we stayed in an Airbnb on the 4th floor with no elevator and very narrow stairway. We almost fainted after carrying all of our luggage up.
If you travel with heavy suitcases, make sure you ask the host on which floor the room is and if there’s an elevator. Sometimes they have more than one room in the same building, you don’t know which room you get until you get the host’s confirmation, so it’s better to know in advance.
6. The Space
Housing in Taipei is extremely expensive and has not much space. When you search for rooms, if most of the photos are close-ups or only show a specific angle, the room is probably not big. Some hosts take photos with wide angle lens to make the room look bigger, so if you see distorted edges, the photo is possibly taken by wide angle lens, and the space can be much smaller than the photo shows.
7. Do You Want to Interact with the Host?
For some people, staying in an airbnb home in a foreign country is to interact with the host and experience the culture. However, many Airbnb hosts in Taiwan are doing this for profit or investment so they wouldn’t have connection with you. Some don’t even show up when you check in, but just inform you a passcode or put the key in a key box.
This can be a benefit too for some people who want privacy and don’t like too much interaction.
8. Which Area to Stay in Taipei?
Quite a few people would choose to stay at Ximen when they visit Taiwan due to the variety of choices and lower prices, yet for locals, not a lot of people want to live/stay in the area. It’s more chaotic, noisy, and too touristy. And you are more likely to encounter the issues mentioned above including the smells, smaller spaces, or noise.
If you’d like to stay in a fun area and have nightlife, you can stay around east district or Xinyi; if you’d like to be in a city center but not too crazy, you can choose Songshan or Zhongshan district.
I would recommend to stay around these MRT stations:
- Dongmen: Good food. Yellow line and red line both pass here.
- Zhongshan: Lots of places to shop and eat. It’s on red line and close to Taipei Main station.
- Blue line (from Zhongxiao Fuxing, Zhongxiao Dunhua, SYS Memorial Hall, to City Hall) : one of the most lively areas in Taipei. Lots of good food, bars, shops, clubs and it’s convenient to go to the airport.
- Nanjing Fuxing: Very convenient. Green line and brown line cross here.
- Taipei 101: The fanciest area in Taipei. High end restaurants, malls, clubs, and Taipei 101.
If you have a choice, don’t stay near Taipei main station, where most Taipei people don’t go for leisure. Nothing really fun or good around there except the station itself.
9. The Decor
After staying in different Airbnbs in the world, I’d say the thing I like the least about Airbnb in Taiwan is the decor. Except those fancier ones, it’s very difficult to find a decent looking room. Many of them look like the hosts move all the furniture that they don’t want to the Airbnb room. Everything doesn’t match and lots of colors are placed in one room. You can see old fashioned couch, tacky wallpaper, colorful bed sheet, or cheap decorations altogether.
So basically you can’t expect good tastes in these rooms. Sometimes the place looks okay on the photos, but when you get there, some unmatched stuff has been added to the room. These are the things people don’t mention in the reviews. Anyway, keep this in mind and you wouldn’t feel too upset when you open the door and see the wallpaper.
10. Security and Safety
Even the safest place has bad guys. Taiwan is one of the safest countries in the world, yet the safety is still the top priority to consider when you pick a place. Besides personal harassment, you need to be aware of that there’s security camera in the room. A host is permitted to install a security camera in the common area but not in your room. Another thing to look after are the fire facilities in general and building strengthening during typhoon season.
The place might not be perfect, but the host is usually the best.
Lastly, it might be difficult to find a perfect Airbnb in Taiwan, but most hosts are super nice, repostive, and easy to communicate. If you have any requests, they are more likely to make that happen. The kindness and connection are more precious than anything else, therefore if you don’t mind staying with the host, I’d totally recommend to choose the room but not the entire apartment. By having conversative and building connection with the host, you will get to know more about Taiwan and the Taiwanese kindness and hospitality.