This guide features a list of cheap, direct flights from Taiwan for planning visa runs and inexpensive vacations. Most non-Taiwanese simply fly across the Strait to Hong Kong to file paperwork but I prefer spending a few days wherever I go to make up for the needless hassle and bureaucracy of international air travel. I have put a lot of work into compiling and updating various lists of potentially low-cost routes to destinations in East and Southeast Asia so I figure I may as well share my findings here.
Note: as of 2021 this guide is no longer being maintained. It might return after the pandemic is over… but for now, consider everything here to be obsolete.
All routes on this list should have return flights for under USD$300 or so—with most clocking in around $200 and several as low as $100 depending on when a booking is made. Since the cost of air travel changes from day to day and month to month it isn’t possible to rate each of these routes; you’ll just have to try them out and see for yourself. Most of the airlines listed below are low-cost carriers so you will typically have to pay extra for checked baggage, in-flight meals, and the like. If you can last a week with nothing more than a small backpack these routes will serve you well—but if you tend to check in luggage you may find that these flights aren’t quite as thrifty as they appear. More research into the cost of staying at each destination will be required in any case—this list is only meant as a starting point for trip planning.
For what it’s worth, my budget airlines of choice have not been constant over time. Peach and AirAsia were favourites from 2013 to 2015; more as of 2018 I’ve been flying VietJet (their fares are hard to beat (and Vietnam is awesome) but their website is among the worst) and Tigerair Taiwan (which has a much better website and an expanding list of destinations in the region). Certain other airlines offer great rates if you don’t mind digging—but I usually get rather tired of mucking about with horrid user interfaces in search of a fare perhaps $20 lower than someplace else. For reference I have purchased return flights for as low as 3,000 NT (taxes and fees included) on several occasions with the information contained within this guide.
Of course, much of this information may be out of date by the time you read this. Airlines, especially those dealing in low-cost fares, regularly modify routes and fares in response to changing market conditions. If you’d like to search for your own I suggest consulting this list of low-cost airlines in Asia and the homesites of the various airlines you find there—or search for news on Airline Routes. Most of the usual flight searching tools (Kayak, Skyscanner, etc.) do not include low-cost carriers or fail to display the absolute lowest fare and won’t be of much use. There might be better tools out there but I’m not that much of a travel hacker—I like to keep things nice and easy if I can. And besides, there are plenty of inexpensive routes to choose from below.
If this list is of use to anyone please let me know in the comments—that way I’ll be more motivated to update it now and then. Oh, and one last thing worth noting: I don’t make a dime off of any of this and there are no affiliate links below. If you derive some value from this project you’re welcome to tip me on Patreon.
Note: Taipei to Hong Kong (TPE—HKG) is the world’s busiest international air travel route so there are many other deals to be found if you go looking. Nothing beats flying out of Taichung on HKexpress though (see below).
Taipei Songshan Airport 臺北松山機場 is another option but this airport is more for business travel and flights are priced accordingly. Occasionally I notice promo fairs but they’re so inconsistent that it isn’t worthwhile to list any. If you’re interested in South Korea you might want to take a look at Eastarjet or T’way Airlines but that’s all I’ve got for Songshan Airport.
Taichung International Airport 臺中國際機場 (RMQ) is a pleasure to fly into and out of but there aren’t many options. It’ll make your life easier if you live south of Taipei but there’s use in going way out of your way to catch a cheap flight down south given how much it costs to get there. Departing from Taichung:
|Hong Kong (HKG)
|HKexpress / Dragonair
|Ho Chi Minh City (SGN)
VietJet introduced a low-cost route connecting Tainan Airport 臺南航空站 with Ho Chi Minh City in 2017. It is not otherwise an airport that you’d usually think of flying from. If this route persists or if other LCCs start flying into Tainan I’ll expand this section.
Kaohsiung International Airport 高雄國際航空站 (KHH) is also good if you happen to live down south. I’ve only flown out of here once but the experience was a positive one and the fact that the airport is on the transit line makes it easier to get to and from than the one in Taichung. Departing from Kaohsiung:
|Hong Kong (HKG)
|Tigerair Taiwan / Air Macau
|Peach / Scoot / Tigerair Taiwan
|Vanilla Air / Tigerair Taiwan
|Kuala Lumpur (KUL)
|Ho Chi Minh City (SGN)
There are numerous low-cost routes to China from Taiwan but I won’t be maintaining a list of these. Costly visa restrictions typically apply for most non-Taiwanese travellers and there’s such a dizzying variety of routes and carriers that it would be hard to keep up. If you’ve already got a multiple-entry visa you’re set; if not you might be able to wrangle a 72+ hour visa-free stay if you get fancy and book a flight that passes through China on the way to another nation. Consult the visa policy of China for more information. To keep this short here are some airlines to check out for low-cost flights to China: UNI Air, EVA Air, Mandarin Airlines, Xiamen Air, Shenzhen Airlines, Spring Airlines, China Airlines, China Southern Airlines, and Air China. Here, as well, are some destinations to consider: Shanghai (PVG), Xiamen (XMN), Fuzhou (FOC), Guangzhou (CAN), Quanzhou (JJN), Shenzhen (SZX), Shijiazhuang (SJW), and Wenzhou (WNZ). If all else fails check the Wikipedia entry for the airport you intend to fly from; they’re usually well-stocked with information about available routes.
Relative Costs and Visa Issues
For very rough estimates of cost-of-living upon arrival consult Numbeo or NomadList. From experience (and a certain amount of common sense), I can say that Hong Kong and Singapore are very expensive, Japan and South Korea are fairly expensive, Malaysia is modestly priced, and you can get by without spending much at all in Vietnam, the Philippines, and Thailand.
If you’re looking for the absolute cheapest weeklong trip consider Manila, Cebu, Ho Chi Minh City, or maybe Kota Kinabalu. If you don’t mind spending more money I suggest checking out Okinawa or maybe Seoul. If you’re just looking to get in and get out (and perhaps get some paperwork done), Hong Kong is the place to go, especially if you head to Taichung and catch an ultra-cheap flight with HKexpress.
Also for reference: visa requirements by nationality and the specific visa policies of Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Macau, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam. For most westerners the one to watch out for is Vietnam, for which you might need an introduction letter (here’s a recommended provider), some passport photos, and USD$25 on arrival.