Prices are generally marked on goods and bargaining is not common. However, in tourist and wholesale markets you may be able to shave off 10% or 20%, particularly if you buy several items.
Dangers & Annoyances
- Taiwan is affected by frequent natural disasters, including earthquakes, typhoons, floods and landslides. Stay indoors during typhoons and avoid mountainous areas after earthquakes, typhoons or heavy rains.
- Urban streets are very safe, for both men and women, and while pickpocketing occasionally happens, muggings or violent assaults are uncommon. If you forget a bag somewhere, chances are good it will still be there when you go back.
Government Travel Advice
The following government websites offer travel advisories and information on current hot spots:
- Australian Department of Foreign Affairs (www.smarttraveller.gov.au)
- British Foreign Office (www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice)
- Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs (www.dfait-maeci.gc.ca)
- US State Department (http://travel.state.gov)
- Student discounts are available for buses, museums, parks, and movie and theatre tickets. Student cards issued in Taiwan are always accepted, while foreign-issued cards work in some places.
- Children's discounts are available and based on height (rules vary from 90cm to 150cm) or age (usually under 12). Foreign children are usually eligible for this discount.
- Seniors 65 years and older are usually given the same discounts as children. Seniors over 70 often get in free. Foreign seniors are usually eligible for this discount.
Taiwan has the same electrical standard as the US and Canada: 110V, 60Hz AC. Electrical sockets have two vertical slots. If you bring appliances from Europe, Australia or Southeast Asia, you'll need an adaptor or transformer.
Embassies & Consulates
Only a handful of countries and the Holy See have full diplomatic relations with Taiwan. It's likely that your country is represented not by an embassy but by a trade office or cultural institute. These serve the same functions as embassies or consulates would elsewhere: services to their own nationals, visa processing, trade promotion and cultural programs. The following are all located in Taipei.
Emergency & Important Numbers
When calling local long-distance numbers, the '0' in the area codes is used. When dialling from overseas, it's dropped.
|Fire and ambulance services||119|
|International access code||002|
|24-hour toll-free travel information hotline||0800-011765|
Entry & Exit Formalities
Immigration is usually hassle free. Fingerprints are electronically scanned on entry and exit and you will often be asked to provide the address of where you will stay when you first arrive. Most guards speak some English.
Up to US$10,000 in foreign currency (and NT$100,000) may be brought into the country but there is a limit on goods (clothes, furniture, dried goods) brought in from China. Drug trafficking is punishable by death.
Passengers who are 20 years and older can import the following duty free:
- 200 cigarettes, 25 cigars or 450g of tobacco
- one bottle of liquor (up to 1L)
- goods valued at up to NT$20,000 (not including personal effects)
Tourists from most European countries, Canada, the US, Australia (until December 2017; see Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs website for updates), New Zealand, South Korea and Japan are given visa-free entry for stays of up to 90 days.
Those coming to Taiwan to study, work or visit relatives for an extended period of time should apply at an overseas mission of the Republic of China (ROC) for a visitor visa, which is good for 60 to 90 days.
If you're planning to stay longer than six months, the law requires you to have an Alien Resident Certificate (ARC). See the Bureau of Consular Affairs (www.boca.gov.tw) website for more information.
- Applications to extend visas should be made at the nearest National Immigration Agency Office (www.immigration.gov.tw/).
- Only citizens of the UK and Canada are currently permitted to extend landing visas. They may extend their stay by another 90 days; the application must be made 30 days before the current visa expires.
Taiwanese are very polite in both the way they speak and how they treat other people.
- Transport Be aware of priority seating in buses and the MRT (the seat is usually a different colour). Most Taiwanese would never think of sitting here unless they are disabled, aged or pregnant. They also readily give up their seat to anyone who needs it.
- Queues Taiwanese queue for transport and in shops.
- Greetings It's fine to shake hands or just smile when meeting someone for the first time. Accept and offer business cards with both hands.
Taiwan's official stance towards gays and lesbians is among the most progressive in Asia. There is no sodomy law to penalise homosexuality and the Chinese-speaking-world's best GLBT Pride Parade has been held in Taipei every year since 1997.
Proposals to legalise gay marriage in a draft amendment were first tabled in 2003 and although it did not become law, the election of the more liberal-minded DPP into government in January 2016 may help to make gay marriage a reality. A 2015 opinion poll showed that 71% of respondents supported gay marriage. Opposition to gay rights usually comes from the older sectors of society or conservative religious groups.
Taipei is an open, vibrant city for gay and lesbian visitors, and has gained a reputation as the place for gay nightlife in Asia. Other cities in Taiwan offer far less lively options.
Useful resources include Utopia (www.utopia-asia.com/tipstaiw.htm), Taiwan LGBT Hotline Association (http://hotline.org.tw/english) and Taiwan LGBT Pride (http://twpride.org).
A travel-insurance policy to cover theft, loss and medical problems is a good idea. There are a wide variety of policies available, so check the small print.
Some policies specifically exclude 'dangerous activities', which can include scuba diving, motorcycling and even trekking. A locally acquired motorcycle licence is not valid under some policies.
Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you’re already on the road.
Checking insurance quotes…
- Taiwan is internet-savvy; the majority of people own laptops, tablets and smart phones. In urban areas free wi-fi is widely accessible in hotels, hostels, homestays, cafes, restaurants, and in some shopping malls.
- The government's free wi-fi, iTaiwan (https://itaiwan.gov.tw/en/), has hotspots at MRT stations, government buildings and major tourist sites. Sign up at any one of the tourism bureau's Travel Information Service Centers. Once you are registered you can also use hotspots offered by TPE-Free, New Taipei, Tainan-Wifi and TT-Free (in Taitung). Service is spotty and slow, but it's better than nothing.
- The best option for continuous internet access is to buy a pay as you go SIM card from any one of the major telecom providers. A basic package offering 1.2GB with some call time will cost around NT$300.
- If you don't have your own device you can find computers with internet access at libraries, visitor information centres and internet cafes. The latter are not as common as they used to be, though most towns and cities do have them. Ask for a wǎngbā (網吧).
Smuggling drugs carries the death penalty; possession is also an arrestable offence. If caught working illegally, you'll get a fine, your visa will be cancelled and you'll be issued an order to leave the country. You may not ever be allowed back.
Oddly, adultery is also a crime.
If you're detained or arrested, contact your country's legation in Taiwan or the Legal Aid Foundation (www.laf.org.tw/en/index.php). You have the right to remain silent and to request an attorney (your legation can provide a list of English-speaking attorneys), although authorities are under no obligation to provide an attorney. You also have the right to refuse to sign any document. In most cases, a suspect can't be detained for more than 24 hours without a warrant from a judge – notable exceptions are those with visa violations.
- Newspapers The two main newspapers are the Taipei Times (www.taipeitimes.com) and the China Post (www.chinapost.com.tw). You can pick them up in most convenience stores.
- International news magazines and newspapers International publications such as the International Herald Tribune and the Economist are stocked at five-star hotels and larger bookstores as well as many libraries.
- Radio Taiwan's only English-language radio station is International Community Radio Taipei (ICRT, http://www.icrt.com.tw). It broadcasts nationwide in English 24 hours a day at 100MHz (FM) with a mix of music, news and information.
- Cable TV Available cheaply throughout Taiwan (and thus will be offered in almost all hotels and homestays), with some English movie channels (HBO, AXN), and news channels (CNN). Buddhist groups such as Tzuchi also have their own channels, as do the Hakka and Taiwan's indigenous groups. It's worth watching a Taiwan news show at least once for the sheer craziness of the local coverage, which focuses on domestic disputes and lurid crimes.
ATMs are widely available (except in villages), while credit cards are accepted at most midrange and top-end hotels and at top-end restaurants.
ATMs are widely available at banks and convenience stores. 7-Elevens are on the Plus or Cirrus network and have English-language options. ATMs at banks are also on the Plus and Cirrus networks, and are sometimes on Accel, Interlink and Star networks. There may be limits on the amount of cash you can withdraw per transaction or per day (often NT$20,000 or NT$30,000).
Taiwan's currency is the New Taiwan dollar (NT$). Bills come in denominations of NT$100, NT$200 (rare), NT$500, NT$1000 and NT$2000 (also rare). Coins come in units of NT$1, NT$5, NT$10, NT$20 (very rare) and NT$50. Taiwan uses the local currency exclusively.
The most widely accepted currency for foreign exchange is US dollars.
Credit cards are widely accepted – cheap budget hotels, however, won't take them. If rooms cost more than NT$1000 a night, the hotel usually accepts credit cards but many homestays do not accept them. Small stalls or night-market food joints never take credit cards. Most midrange and top-end restaurants do, but always check before you decide to eat.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
The best rates are given by banks. Note that not all banks will change money and many will only change US dollars. The best options for other currencies are Mega Bank and the Bank of Taiwan or money changers at the airport.
Hotels and some larger shopping malls may also change currency, but the rates are not as competitive.
Apart from at the airport there are few private money changers in Taiwan.
Tipping is not customary in restaurants or taxis (but is still appreciated).
- Hotels It is usual to tip the porter at better hotels (NT$100 is considered courteous).
- Tour guides A 10% addition to the fee if you are happy with the service is common.
- Restaurants & bars The 10% to 15% service charge added to bills at many establishments is not a tip that is shared with the staff.
Not widely accepted. It is best if your travellers cheques are in US dollars.
The usual day of rest for many restaurants, cafes and museums is Monday.
Banks 9am to 3.30pm Monday to Friday
Cafes Noon to 8pm
Convenience stores Open 24 hours
Department stores 11am to 9.30pm
Government offices 8.30am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday
Museums 9am to 5pm Tuesday to Sunday
Night markets 6pm to midnight
Offices 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday
Post offices 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday
Restaurants 11.30am to 2pm and 5pm to 9pm
Shops 10am to 9pm
Supermarkets To at least 8pm, sometimes 24 hours
In general people in Taiwan are fine with you photographing them.
On Kinmen and Matsu Islands don't photograph military sites. On Lanyu and when attending indigenous festivals, it is polite to ask before taking pictures.
For photography tips check out Lonely Planet's Travel Photography.
Taiwan's postal service, Chunghwa Post (www.post.gov.tw), is fast, efficient and inexpensive. A postcard to the UK, for example, costs NT$12 and takes about a week to arrive.
- Founding Day/New Year's Day 1 January
- Chinese Lunar New Year January or February, usually four to nine days
- Peace Memorial Day/2-28 Day 28 February
- Tomb Sweeping Day 5 April
- Labour Day 1 May
- Dragon Boat Festival 5th day of the 5th lunar month; usually in June
- Mid-Autumn Festival 5th day of the 8th lunar month; usually September
- National Day 10 October
Smoking is not allowed in public facilities, public transport, shopping malls, restaurants or hotels and this is strictly enforced. Even some parks are marked smoke-free. Smoking on the street, usually by older men, is common.
Taxes & Refunds
Prices in Taiwan include 5% value-added tax (VAT). Foreigners can claim back the VAT paid on any item costing NT$3000 and over and bought from a Tax Refund Shopping (TRS) store (www.avi.com.tw/Tax_Refund/Tax_Refund.htm).
Claiming Tax Refunds
You can claim the refund from Foreign Passenger VAT Refund Service Counters at any of Taiwan's international airports or seaports provided 30 days have not elapsed since you bought the item. You will need to submit an application form, the original receipt, your passport and show that you are taking the item with you out of the country. They will issue you with a certificate which you can present to a bank to claim the refund.
The country code for Taiwan is 886. Taiwan's telephone carrier for domestic and international calls is Chunghwa Telecom (www.cht.com.tw/en/).
Do not dial the area code when calling within that area code.
The number of digits in telephone numbers varies with the locality, from eight in Taipei to five in the remote Matsu Islands.
Most foreign mobile phones can use local SIM cards with prepaid plans, which you can purchase at airport arrival terminals and top up at telecom outlets or convenience stores.
- The main mobile operators are Chunghwa (www.cht.com.tw/en/), Taiwan Mobile (http://english.taiwanmobile.com/) and Far EasTone (http://www.fetnet.net/cs/Satellite/eCorporate/ecoHome).
- Both Chunghwa and Far EasTone require foreigners to have two forms of photo ID in order to register for a SIM card, so you will also need a driver's licence or an ID card as well as your passport. If you only have a passport, buy your SIM from Taiwan Mobile.
- Costs vary slightly between operators but expect to pay around NT$300 for a new SIM with about NT$100 worth of call time and 1.2GB of data. Calls to a user on the same network cost between NT$3 and NT$6 a minute, while calls to users under another network cost between NT$7 and NT$10 per minute.
Taiwan is eight hours ahead of GMT and on the same time zone as Beijing and Hong Kong. When it is noon in Taiwan, it is 2pm in Sydney, 4am in London, 11pm the previous day in New York and 8pm the previous day in Los Angeles. A 24-hour clock is used for train schedules.
- Taiwan is fantastic for toilets. Free and usually spotlessly clean facilities are available in parks, transport stations, shopping malls, public offices, museums, temples and rest areas.
- While most public toilets are the squat style, there are usually at least one or two stalls with Western-style sit-down toilets. They often also have toilet paper.
- Restaurants and cafes usually have their own bathroom facilities, and Western-style toilets are standard in apartments and hotels.
- It is handy to remember the characters for men (男; nán) and women (女; nǚ).
- Many places ask you not to flush toilet paper but to put it in the wastebasket beside the toilet.
Visitor information centres are present in most city train stations, High Speed Rail (HSR) stations, popular scenic areas and airports. They stock English- and Japanese-language brochures, maps, and train and bus schedules, and usually staff can speak some English.
- Welcome to Taiwan (http://eng.taiwan.net.tw/) The official site of the Taiwan Tourism Bureau; the Tourist Hotline (0800-011 765) is a useful 24-hour service in English, Japanese and Chinese.
- Alishan National Scenic Area (www.ali-nsa.net)
- East Coast National Scenic Area (www.eastcoast-nsa.gov.tw)
- East Rift Valley National Scenic Area (www.erv-nsa.gov.tw)
- Maolin National Scenic Area (www.maolin-nsa.gov.tw/User/main.aspx?Lang=2)
- Matsu National Scenic Area (www.matsu-nsa.gov.tw/)
- North Coast & Guanyinshan National Scenic Area (www.northguan-nsa.gov.tw)
- Northeast & Yilan Coast National Scenic Area (www.necoast-nsa.gov.tw)
- Penghu National Scenic Area (www.penghu-nsa.gov.tw)
- Sun Moon Lake National Scenic Area (www.sunmoonlake.gov.tw)
- Tri-Mountain National Scenic Area (www.trimt-nsa.gov.tw)
Travel with Children
The Taiwanese are very welcoming, and doubly so when it comes to children. However, they are very conscious about disturbing other people and so young children are generally taught to be quiet and well-behaved in public.
- Restaurants You're not likely to find high chairs or booster seats for kids at lower-end restaurants, but they are more common at more expensive places. Upper-end restaurants may have set menus for families or kids.
- Shopping You can generally find Western baby formula and baby foods at supermarkets.
- Resources The Community Services Centre in Taipei has lots of information for families relocating to Taiwan.
- Lonely Planet's Travel with Children prepares you for the joys and pitfalls of travelling with the little ones.
Taiwan for Kids
While seats and parking for people with disabilities are respected, in general Taiwan is not a very disabled-friendly environment. Street footpaths are uneven, kerbs are steep, and public transport, other than the MRT and HSR, is not equipped with wheelchair access. Taipei and other cities are slowly modernising facilities.
Taiwan Access for All Association (https://twaccess4all.wordpress.com/) provides advice and assistance for travellers with disabilities.
Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.
Animal help groups often hire volunteers to work at shelters, walk dogs, participate in fundraisers and also foster dogs and cats (something you can do even if you are in Taiwan for a short time). Contact Taiwan SPCA (台灣防止虐待動物協會; www.spca.org.tw).
You can also volunteer at an organic farm through WWOOF (www.wwooftaiwan.com).
Weights & Measures
- Weights & Measures Taiwan uses the metric system alongside ancient Chinese weights and measures. Fruit and vegetables are likely to be sold by the catty (jīn, 600g), teas and herbal medicines are sold by the tael (liǎng, 37.5g), and apartment floor space is measured by píng (approximately 3.3 sq metres).
Taiwan (and especially Taipei) is a safe place to travel, and that includes for women.
With a new female president in power in May 2016, Taiwan is fairly progressive when it comes to gender issues; even so, society still borders on the conservative: women who dress in a particularly revealing manner, drink or smoke could garner stares.
To work legally in Taiwan you generally need to enter on a visitor visa, have your company apply for a work permit, apply for a resident visa after you receive your work permit, and apply for an ARC after receiving your resident visa.
Visitor visas are issued at any overseas Taiwan trade office or foreign mission, although it will be easier to apply in your home country since you often need to provide notified documentation.
Once in Taiwan, you apply for a resident visa from the Bureau of Consular Affairs (www.boca.gov.tw). The ARC is issued by the National Immigration Agency (www.immigration.gov.tw). For short-term employment rules see the BOCA website or visit your local Taiwan trade office or overseas mission.
Job listings can be found at Forumosa's (http://forumosa.com/taiwan/) work classifieds and TEALIT (www.tealit.com).
Teaching English is not what it once was and there are fewer openings. Salaries have not risen in 15 years. The most popular website for teaching and tutoring jobs are TEALIT and Dave's ESL Cafe (www.eslcafe.com). Note that it's illegal to teach English at kindergartens.