14 things I wish I knew before going to Taiwan

Priyam Lahon 23 November 2020 568 views 6 min. read

Taiwan - it may not be such a hot destination like Japan or Korea, but that is so very wrong. People who have travelled to Taiwan know how underrated it is. Largely undiscovered by many, but loved by its neighbouring nations, Taiwan is not just a manufacturing nation - it is a beautiful blend of cultures, lush nature, and friendly Taiwan people. And of course, who can forget its dumplings and bubble teas! If you have been planning to travel to Taiwan, there are a few things to take note of, if you are not sure of where to start.

1. Visa application

red passport

Taiwan is relatively easy to enter from 134 nations. If you can fly in direct, then, you will most likely be able to land at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport - this is the only airport with international flights, despite having two more major airports in Taiwan. Citizens and passport holders from Malaysia and Singapore are allowed to stay free in Taiwan for 30-days. As for the citizens from the UK, USA, Australia, and Canada, they can stay up to 90 days freely in Taiwan without a visa. However, if the stay is more than 90 days, and potentially work, then, a Taiwan visa is a must before travelling. For the passport holders of the nations Macau and Hong Kong, they will have to apply for an Exit and Entry Permit (a 30-day entry is given along with the permit) - it can be done either in advance or at the airport after landing.

2. Climate and weather of Taiwan

mountain

Normally, the climate of Taiwan is neither too hot nor too cold, though, in the summers, it can change a lot. In the months of summer (June to August), however, the weather at Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, can be quite hot and humid, and on occasion, the temperature can rise as much as to 33°C to 35°C. From July to October, the whole nation is subject to typhoons, so, it’s best to avoid travelling to that nation during that time as the island gets the first impact. The best time to travel to Taiwan would be from September to November as the weather, then, is cool and pleasant with less to no rains at all. The winters are also a pleasant time to travel to the south of Taiwan, such as Kaohsiung, Tainan, and Chiayi. The spring season can also be a great time to travel to Taiwan.

3. Environment in Taiwan

taiwan

Usually, the coasts and the countryside of Taiwan are free from pollution - the air is clean and dust-free from pollutants. The quality of the Taiwan air only changes as one move inward into the nation - the quality of air in the west of Taiwan is low compared to the coasts and the country due to lack of atmospheric diffusion, and as for the northern and southern of Taiwan, they are the most polluted; this is mostly due to the thermal power generators, factory operation, and vehicles. To protect yourself, one can and should use a medical mask and decrease the time spent outdoors, lest you inhale the polluted air, and can cause you asthma or headaches.

4. Taiwan currency

coins

Taiwan is a cash-driven nation, and thus, it uses ‘kwai’ or New Taiwan Dollar.  Card payments, even though, are slowly accepted at shopping centres, hotels, and restaurants, cash is the go-to method in case of doubt. As for ATMs, they can be found everywhere in Taiwan, though, take note that not all support international transactions - look for the logo CIRRUS or VISA PLUS in the machine; they are the ones that support international transactions. That said, you also have the option of buying an ‘Easy Card’ - their purchase deposit is only $100NT ($10 US Dollars). This card is a simple ‘touch-and-go’ card that is accepted everywhere in Taiwan - what it does is eliminate your hassles of finding the correct change.

5. Transportation In Taiwan

taiwan transportation

Getting in and around Taiwan is not hard - their public transport is easy and cheap, after all, cabs start at around $50NT ($2 US Dollars). The MRT map of the subway is always on time; plus, it is clean and spacious. That said, one can also drive a scooter, instead of cabs. They are efficient, fast and you will be able to enjoy the surroundings a lot more than in cabs. However, take note, to drive a scooter, you will have to rent one outside the train stations in Taiwan, and for that, the authorities will ask for an ‘Alien Resident Certificate’, also known as ARC or Taiwanese driver’s license, passport and fee. Fret not, the hotel where you will be staying; they can help you to rent a scooter.

6. Overview of Taiwan attractions

mountain road

Even though Taiwan is not a hot favourite amongst tourists, but that doesn’t mean that Taiwan is any less of a nation. In fact, some of the most beautiful places on earth are to be found in Taiwan.

7. Southern Taiwan

mountain alishan

One of the most beautiful places in Taiwan, Alishan is a mountain range that you will find in the southern province of Taiwan. Covered with dense and lush cypress trees, the best time to travel to Taiwan is during the summers, for Alishan is home to the renowned historical city, Tainan, where its fortress and delicacies are just as renowned as the city itself, and has been dubbed as one of the most beautiful places to visit in Taiwan by the masses. Then, there’s Kaohsiung, also known as the sunny port city, to the masses, where one can find the biggest night market formed by Hoklo, Hakka, and the aboriginals, considered to be one of the unique places to go in Taiwan. Also, drop by Kenting - Taiwan’s southernmost point - is one of the best places to go in Taiwan during the summer holidays.

8. Central Taiwan

taiwan

Considered to be the second busiest city next to Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, itself, and one of the beautiful places to visit in Taiwan, Taichung, can be perfect for a week-long excursion to the mountain ranges. There’s also Cingjing Farm and Sun Moon Lake, considered to be some of the best places to go in Taiwan for nature lovers.

9. Northern Taiwan

cityscape taipei

In the north of Taiwan, sits the capital of Taiwan, Taipei, and where, one can also find the Yangmingshan National Park. Other renowned places to visit in Taiwan can include Yehliu or mountain towns Pingxi and Jiufen. There’s also Yilan - this spot is less explored, but it has its own charm such as secret beaches, hot springs, and even cold springs.

10. Offshore Islands

taipei city

Did you know that the offshore islands are home to some of the most beautiful places in Taiwan? Orchid Island and Green Island - here, one can find the clearest and bluest seawater full of vivid marine life to observe. There are also white sand beaches to enjoy at the breathtakingly beautiful Penghu, and which has been praised by the US Discovery Channel as some of the most beautiful places in Taiwan. As such, the best time to travel to Taiwan is during the summers to enjoy the beauty, that are the offshore islands. Now, that all of the essentials are out of the way, let’s focus on something more - there’s a whole lot of interesting facts about Taiwan that you should know beforehand, before going to Taiwan.

11. Internet/Wi-Fi

google

Taiwan is Wi-Fi friendly, but the problem is that most of their sites are in Chinese (they can be hard to navigate!) and they only offer registration to existing customers. However, thankfully, they also have free and readily available options such as free Wi-Fi in all public areas, commercial and residential areas, included. That said, if you plan to visit Taiwan for more than one month or more, it’s best to purchase a local SIM card - it costs only $300NT ($10 US Dollar), and you can add as little as $4 US Dollar for 1GB of data to secure your own network.

12. Food in Taiwan

desert

One of the interesting facts about Taiwan is that food is something that you don’t have to worry about a bit here - that’s because in this nation, food is everywhere, and you know what, you will even find the locals eating out everywhere - a lot. The prices of food in Taiwan are low, so, you are going to see a lot of decent food offerings at the restaurants and the food stalls, and other such eateries. Depending on your personal preferences, you can either opt for spoons or chopsticks.

13. Drinks in Taiwan

tea

As for drinks, avoid drinking tap water in Taiwan - it contains trace chemicals, and it may be salty. However, you can use the water to wash and brush your teeth. You will find filtered drinking water in all public places, but if you are in doubt, then, it’s best to opt for purchased bottled water.

14. Local Customs

taiwan street

If you are not a local, so, of course, Taiwan will be an unfamiliar nation to you - and as such, there’s always bound to be customs and etiquette different from what we are accustomed to. Take note of the following few tips: - You will use a squat toilet at some point in your time, so, it’s best to bring your own soap or tissue paper - the Taiwanese consider it impolite to ask for soap or tissue paper from others when you can bring your own. - Another interesting fact about Taiwan is that the Taiwanese are very organized, and this even includes waiting for the MRT. - If you have an appointment with Taiwanese friends, it’s best to arrive before the mentioned time - that’s because the Taiwanese tend to inform others if one is late for 3 minutes. - If it’s your first time in Taiwan, and you see people wearing face masks everywhere, don’t worry - it’s because they are polite and don’t want to infect others with their illness.

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