Dangers & Annoyances

  • Taipei is affected by frequent natural disasters, including earthquakes, typhoons and floods. Stay indoors during typhoons.
  • 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.
  • Watch out for 'wayward' scooters on the roads, and especially when they come up on to the pavements.
  • While still relatively safe, Wanhua and the area around Linsen Rd have a slightly seedy reputation.

Discount Cards

  • 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 are 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.
  • Pop into a Tourist Visitor Information Centre: many of their maps and leaflets have coupons for small discounts at tourist-oriented shops and restaurants.

Embassies & Consulates

At the time of writing, Taiwan had 22 diplomatic allies. All other countries do not have an official embassy presence here: instead their missions hide behind the veil of investment or commercial representative offices, but they are essentially embassies in all but name.

American Institute in Taiwan

Australia Office

British Trade & Cultural Office

Canadian Trade Office in Taipei

French Institute

German Trade Office

Institute for Trade & Investment of Ireland

Interchange Association, Japan

Korean Mission in Taipei

Liaison Office of South Africa

Netherlands Trade & Investment Office

New Zealand Commerce & Industry Office

Thailand Trade & Economic Office

Emergency & Important Numbers

24-hour toll-free travel information hotline0800-011765
English-language directory assistance106
Fire & ambulance119
Police110

Entry & Exit Formalities

For visa extensions or any immigration inquiries head to the National Immigration Agency.

Etiquette

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 on the MRT (the seat is usually a different colour; on the MRT it's purple). Most Taiwanese would never think of sitting here unless they are disabled, elderly 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.

Shopping Bargaining is not common. Handing over cash with two hands, a smile and a thank you (xièxiè; 謝謝) will go down well.

LGBT Travellers

Foreign-born gay and lesbian travellers will find Taipei friendly and exciting. An open-minded city, Taipei hosts Asia's finest Gay Pride parade every October. It's common to see LGBT couples holding hands on the streets, though not common to see them kissing. The centre of gay nightlife is the bar and restaurant area around the Red House in Ximending.

Useful resources include Utopia (www.utopia-asia.com), Taiwan LGBT Hotline Association (hotline.org.tw/english) and Taiwan LGBT Pride (twpride.org).

While in Taipei you can get up-to-date information on gay nightlife options from Toto at three little birds hostel. A community of lesbians often meets at Love Boat; ask for Olivia.

Men's Saunas

The two enduring and most popular men's saunas are Rainbow Sauna and the much flashier ANIKi Club.

Insurance

  • 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 motorcycling and even hiking.
  • A locally acquired motorcycle licence is not valid under some policies.
  • Some policies pay doctors or hospitals directly rather than you having to pay on the spot and claim later. If you have to claim later, make sure you keep all documentation. You may be asked to call (reverse charges) a centre in your home country for an immediate assessment of your problem.
  • Check whether the policy covers ambulances or an emergency flight home.
  • Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online any time – even if you’re already on the road.

Checking insurance quotes…

Internet Access

  • Free wi-fi is widely accessible in hotels, hostels, homestays, cafes, restaurants, and in some shopping malls. Hotels and hostels generally also have their own computers that guests can use.
  • In our listings the wi-fi symbol indicates a venue with wi-fi available for guest use; the internet icon indicates an internet-connected computer is available.
  • The government's free wi-fi service, iTaiwan (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 registered you can also use hotspots offered by TPE-Free and New Taipei. 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 1.2 GB 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).

Money

Taiwan's currency is the New Taiwanese Dollar (NT$); you won't be able to use other currencies in Taipei.

ATMs

  • ATMs are widely available at banks, convenience stores, post offices and MRT stations, and almost always have the option of choosing English-language service.
  • Most ATMS are linked with Visa, MasterCard, JCB, Plus, Cirrus and American Express.
  • 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).

Tipping

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 and bars Note that the 10% to 15% service charge added to bills at many establishments is not a tip that is shared with the staff.

Credit Cards

  • 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; hostels generally do not.
  • Small stalls and night-market food joints never take credit cards.
  • Most midrange to top-end restaurants do, but always check before you decide to eat.

Opening hours

Some restaurants and cafes and many museums are closed on Mondays. Bars and some restaurants often close an hour or so later on Fridays and Saturdays.

Banks 9am–3.30pm Monday to Friday

Convenience stores 24 hours

Cafes noon-8pm (often closed Monday)

Department stores 11am–9.30pm

Government offices 8.30am–5.30pm Monday to Friday

Museums 9am–5pm Tuesday to Sunday

Night markets 6pm–midnight

Offices 9am–5pm Monday to Friday

Post offices 8am–5pm Monday to Friday; larger offices may open till 9pm and have limited hours on weekends

Restaurants 11.30am–2pm and 5–9pm

Shops 10am–9pm

Supermarkets to at least 8pm; sometimes 24 hours

Post

  • There are post offices all over the city. Two of the most useful locations are in Taipei Main Station (in the Breeze Centre at ground level) and inside the Gongguan MRT station. There is also a branch in the National Palace Museum next to the gift shop.
  • Post-office workers can generally understand a bit of English and are overall pretty helpful.
  • The 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.

Public Holidays

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

  • Smoking 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 a 5% value-added tax (VAT). Foreigners can claim back VAT paid on any item costing NT$3000 or more and bought from a Tax Refund Shopping (TRS) store (www.avi.com.tw).

Telephone

  • Taiwan's country code is 886.
  • Taipei's area code is 02.
  • Do not dial the area code when calling within that area code.
  • Taiwan's telephone carrier for domestic and international calls is Chunghwa Telecom (www.cht.com.tw/en).

Mobile Phones

Mobile operators The main ones are Chunghwa (www.cht.com.tw/en), Taiwan Mobile (english.taiwanmobile.com) and Far EasTone (www.fetnet.net).

Local SIM cards Should fit most overseas-bought mobiles. They come with prepaid plans. Purchase at airport arrival terminals and top-up at telecom outlets or convenience stores all over Taipei.

Toilets

  • Taipei is flush with clean, free public toilets. You'll find them in parks, transport stations (including MRT stations), shopping malls, public offices, museums, temples and rest areas.
  • While most public toilets are squat style, there are usually at least one or two stalls with Western-style sit-down toilets. Public toilets often also have toilet paper.
  • Western-style toilets are standard in apartments and hotels.
  • It is handy to remember the characters for men (男; nán) and women (女; ).
  • Many places ask you not to flush toilet paper but to put it in the waste-paper basket beside the toilet.

Tourist Information

Taiwan Tourism Bureau Runs information booths all over the city, provides maps and pamphlets, and is staffed by friendly English-speaking workers.

Travel with Children

Taipei holds lots of delights for children. Night markets, in particular, are a favourite with kids, offering endless fried stuff, sugary drinks, toys and games. There are parks with ducks and turtles, and for older inquiring minds there are great interactive games in many of the museums.

Fun with water

  • Bitan Bird-shaped boats can be pedalled for a happy hour on this serene lake.
  • Kids can cool off at the splashtastic water park inside the Museum of Drinking Water.

Playing with puppets

Flying high

  • The Ferris Wheel at Miramar Entertainment Park is slow, but it's pretty in neon in the night-time.
  • The view from the 91st floor of Taipei 101 will wow kids with its cloud-level vista.

Accessible Travel

  • While seats and parking for people with disabilities are respected, in general Taipei is not a very accessible environment. Street footpaths are uneven, kerbs are steep, and public transport, other than the MRT and HSR, is not equipped with wheelchair access. Taipei is slowly modernising facilities and many lifts and public toilets have wheelchair access.
  • Taiwan Access for All Association (twaccess4all.wordpress.com) provides advice and assistance for travellers with disabilities.
  • Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel