Taiwan reopened to visitors on 13 October 2022, ending mandatory quarantine and restoring visa-free access for Singaporeans and other selected nationalities. Pre-departure testing has also been removed, and while there’s some form of on/post-arrival testing, it’s entirely self-administered.
While I may not be as crazy about Taiwan as some, I am crazy about the opportunity to review new airlines. Especially if the airline in question is STARLUX- the luxury upstart that’s champing at the bit to take on the big boys.
|🇹🇼 When You Wish Upon a STARLUX|
Travel to Taiwan: Pre-Departure Checklist
|🇹🇼 Summary: Travel to Taiwan|
Travelling to Taiwan is refreshingly straightforward.
There’s no need to take a pre-departure test or be vaccinated, and there’s no mandatory travel insurance requirement. Singaporeans are eligible for visa-free entry of up to 30 days, with nationals of other countries enjoying up to 90 days.
On arrival, you’ll receive a free pack of four ART kits for your seven day health monitoring period. Self-administered ARTs are to be done on:
- Day 0 (i.e. arrival day)
- Day 2
- Day 4
- Day 6
There is no need to report your test results; the entire system is honour-based.
Masks are still required both indoors and outdoors in Taiwan, but there’s no government-mandated mask requirement on airplanes (individual carriers reserve the right to enforce them, however).
|✈ When You Wish Upon a STARLUX: Flights|
As the name of the report suggests, the purpose of this trip is to check out STARLUX, an airline with a fascinating origins story.
In 2016, Chang Yung-fa, the founder of Evergreen Group and EVA Airways, passed away at 88. This sparked a succession battle, which Chang Kuo-wei, his youngest son from his second wife, won- at least for a while. He was eventually ousted from EVA at a board meeting called by fellow family members, and decided to launch an airline of his own: STARLUX.
Some have called this the aviation world’s own Hamlet story, but Chang Kuo-wei denies that revenge is on his mind. All he wants, he says, is for STARLUX to be the “Emirates of Asia”, a boutique airline targeting the high-end market.
Boutique it may be, but the ambitions are big. STARLUX already has a fleet of 14 aircraft, with 3 A321neos, 4 A330neos and 17 A350-900s still to come (the first of which arrived a few days ago, and will have a First Class cabin).
Instead of buying second-hand planes like so many cash-strapped startups, STARLUX is getting them factory-fresh from Airbus. The seats are designed by BMW Designworks, with cabin-wide personal inflight entertainment and Wi-Fi connectivity. Business Class offers full-flat beds across the entire fleet, menus created by Michelin-starred Longtail and a cocktail programme overseen by mixologist Huang Yixiang (behind Taiwanese watering hole Bar TCRC and restaurant Bar Home) .
Economy Class packs some nice surprises too, like 4K resolution monitors (on the A330neo, and presumably the A350s) and Bluetooth connectivity for personal headset use.
STARLUX isn’t part of any major alliance (yet), so I couldn’t redeem miles for this trip. Fortunately, I spotted that buying two separate one-way tickets would allow me to fly Economy out and Business back for S$1,096. It’s is still a lot of money to pay for a review, but hey, the people demand it.
The unfortunate thing about STARLUX is their schedule isn’t great for tourists from Singapore. You arrive in Taiwan late at night, and the return flight to Singapore is in the morning, thereby requiring two additional nights of accommodation.
Singapore Airlines has the more favourable schedule, letting you reach Taiwan at 12.55 p.m and depart at 5.35 p.m.
|🏨 When You Wish Upon a STARLUX: Hotels|
|Night||Hotel||Per Night Cost (Nett)|
|1||Kimpton||24,650 IHG points|
|2||Grand Hyatt Taipei||Free night cert|
I recently managed to snag IHG Diamond thanks to that incredible status challenge offer, and since it remains unclear if/when IHG will claw it back, I figured I should make hay while I still can.
I opted for the Kimpton Da An Hotel, since I’ve never stayed at a Kimpton before. This property opened in March 2019 as Asia’s first Kimpton property, a 129-room hotel built around the “urban sanctuary” model.
A one-night stay cost 24,650 IHG points (IHG practices dynamic pricing now), and as a Diamond member, I’ll enjoy complimentary breakfast and a shot at an upgrade.
For the second night, I saw an opportunity to burn a Hyatt free night certificate, earned from the Brand Explorer promotion. This maxes out at a Category 4 property, which is what the Grand Hyatt Taipei happens to be.
The Grand Hyatt Taipei is Taiwan’s largest hotel with 850 rooms, and popular with heads of states and celebrities. Some will focus on the ghost stories associated with this hotel, I prefer to think about the two gyms, outdoor heated pool, full spa facilities and nine dining concepts.
|🍸 When You Wish Upon a STARLUX: Lounges|
|SIN||SATS Premier T1|
|TPE||Plaza Premium Lounge|
Some time last year, I matched my KrisFlyer Elite Gold to STARLUX COSMILE Explorer, the second highest tier in the programme. This provides complimentary lounge access even when flying in Economy, which I’m doing out of Singapore.
STARLUX uses the SATS Premier Lounge in T1, which I’m not really keen to review. What I am keen to review, however, is the STARLUX Galactic Lounge in Taipei.
Unfortunately, the lounge is closed due to COVID-19, and only reopens on 7 November- I’ll miss it by a few days.
Something for next time.
I’m only going to be in Taiwan for 48 hours, but that’s more than enough time to review both STARLUX cabins, check out a couple of hotels, and get my Din Tai Fung fix (I don’t care what anyone says, it’s different in Taiwan).
Let’s see if STARLUX warrants the hype!