17 Things You Need to Know Before Visiting Taiwan

Planning a trip to Taiwan? Before you go, here are 17 things you need to know. Taiwan is a traveler’s dream, with its efficient transport systems, convenient convenience stores, and delicious restaurants. However, it’s always a good idea to be prepared. From booking accommodation early to making restaurant reservations, from using contactless smartcards for transportation to downloading helpful apps, this article provides valuable tips from a Taipei resident of seven years. It also covers important information about etiquette, safety, and resources for specific traveler groups. So, get ready to make the most of your trip to Taiwan!

Book accommodation early

When planning your trip to Taiwan, one of the first things you should do is book your accommodation. Taiwan offers a sweeping range of lodging options, from luxurious hotels to budget-friendly hostels and B&Bs. While you have the choice to live like a multimillionaire or a monk, it’s at the midrange hostels and B&Bs that you’ll get the best deals.

It’s important to note that rooms in Taiwan sell like hot dumplings during peak seasons such as summer, Lunar New Year, and national holidays. To secure the best accommodations, it’s highly recommended to book at least two months ahead. This is especially important if you plan to visit popular destinations like Kenting, Jiufen, and Alishan, which are favored by local vacationers and glampers. Early reservation is the key to ensure availability and avoid disappointment.

For adventurous travelers who plan to hike Taiwan’s highest mountains, it’s important to obtain the necessary permits. The process of obtaining permits can take weeks, so it’s crucial to plan ahead. Additionally, if you want to stay in the cabins provided in national parks like Alishan, you’ll need to apply for those as well. The process may require some effort, but the reward of experiencing Taiwan’s breathtaking high mountains is well worth it.

17 Things You Need to Know Before Visiting Taiwan

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Make restaurant reservations

Eating is an important part of any trip, and Taiwan offers an endless array of restaurants that are sure to satisfy your taste buds. However, it’s important to note that reservations are strongly advised for weekend dining. While a few days in advance will do for most restaurants, it’s best to reserve a month or two in advance for Michelin-starred tables such as RAW and Le Palais. You can make reservations by phone, through Facebook, or some places even allow reservations through Google.

It’s worth mentioning that dinner service in Taiwan usually begins at 5:30pm and winds down in less than three hours. This means that restaurant options can become limited after 8pm. However, Taiwan is famous for its street food-filled night markets, which are always a great option for late-night dining.

Tap and go with EasyCard or iPass

When it comes to getting around in Taiwan, the EasyCard is your best friend. EasyCard is Taiwan’s contactless smartcard that can be used on the metro, local buses, trains (except high-speed rail), convenience stores, and supermarkets. It’s also essential for using Youbike, Taiwan’s electronic bike-sharing service. The EasyCard itself costs NT$100, and you can easily top it up at any metro station or convenience store. If you have any unused amount on your card, you can also get a refund. Just make sure not to lose your card!

If you’re visiting Kaohsiung, you’ll encounter iPass, which is Kaohsiung’s version of EasyCard. The important thing to note is that both cards are interchangeable, so you can use your EasyCard in Kaohsiung and vice versa.

17 Things You Need to Know Before Visiting Taiwan

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Download those transportation apps

To navigate Taiwan’s transportation systems with ease, it’s highly recommended to download the government’s bilingual transportation apps. These apps provide valuable information about routes, fares, arrival and departure times, and even specific guidelines, such as whether you can bring your cello on board.

For purchasing digital train tickets, you can use the T Express app for high-speed rail and the 台鐵e訂通 app for railway. However, if you prefer to buy tickets at the station counters, these apps are still helpful for providing information.

Taiwan’s metro systems are known for being straightforward and easy to navigate. However, apps like Taipei’s 台北捷運Go can help you make better decisions about whether to get a day pass or opt for other modes of transportation. Additionally, Taiwan’s bus apps provide similar information to Google Maps, but with more accurate arrival times.

Convenience stores are little shops of wonder

In Taiwan, convenience stores are a traveler’s best friend. These stores truly live up to their name, offering a wide range of services and products. Not only can you purchase snacks and drinks, but you can also buy prepaid phone cards, print and photocopy documents, and even send and pick up local packages. Many convenience stores also have ATMs for easy access to cash.

You’ll often find yourself immersed in the delightful aromas of freshly cooked food when entering a convenience store. Many stores have small kiosks where you can enjoy a decent-tasting rice or pasta dish. It’s worth noting that not all kiosks have complete English translations, so don’t hesitate to ask a staff member for assistance if needed.

Another great feature of Taiwanese convenience stores is that many of them have public toilets. This can be a lifesaver during your travels when you need to use a restroom but can’t find one nearby.

17 Things You Need to Know Before Visiting Taiwan

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Pack enough prescription meds for your trip

If you rely on specific prescription medications such as antidepressants, blood pressure medication, or contraceptive pills, it’s crucial to pack enough of these medications for your entire trip. Make sure to carry them in their original packaging and bring any necessary documentation, such as a doctor’s note or prescription.

For over-the-counter medications like flu and cold medicine, you can easily find them at Watson’s or Cosmed, popular pharmacy chains in Taiwan. Additionally, sanitary products are readily available at supermarkets and drugstores. You may even find some cafes and restaurants that provide sanitary products for free in the women’s toilets.

Be considerate on public transport

When using public transport in Taiwan, it’s important to be considerate of others. Both the metro and buses have priority seating areas that are distinguished by a different color from the other seats. These priority seats are intended for elderly individuals, pregnant women, and those with physical challenges. Most Taiwanese who do not fall into these categories would never think of sitting in these seats. However, it’s worth noting that in recent years, there have been debates about whether age and appearance are accurate reflections of need. Some argue that it’s fine for anyone to use the seats until someone needier comes along. As a visitor, it’s helpful to be aware of these dynamics and make considerate decisions.

Additionally, Taiwanese metro commuters take the ‘no eating and drinking’ rule very seriously. Chewing gum and sips of water are generally frowned upon. It’s also worth noting that the carriages are usually quiet, so don’t expect to overhear someone’s life story during your commute.

17 Things You Need to Know Before Visiting Taiwan

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Tipping is not customary (but it is appreciated)

In Taiwan, tipping is not a common practice, but it is appreciated when given. At restaurants, regardless of whether a 10% to 15% service charge is already included in the bill, you are not expected to leave an additional tip. Taxi drivers also do not expect tips; however, if you round up to the next dollar, it’s common to hear a brighter “xie xie” (thank you) from the driver. When staying at better hotels, it’s courteous to give the porter a tip of around NT$100. If you’re happy with a massage or a tour guide, adding 10% to the bill is a kind gesture that is appreciated.

Wear whatever you like, but dress respectfully at temples

Taiwan is known for its diversity and acceptance when it comes to fashion and personal style. While middle-aged Taiwanese tend to dress conservatively, young urbanites in cities like Taipei and Kaohsiung are more open-minded and fashion-forward. However, it’s worth noting that clothes that show more skin, such as crop tops or halternecks, are less commonly worn in Taiwan compared to cities like London or New York. You may receive some stares if you choose to wear revealing clothing.

When visiting a temple in Taiwan, it’s important to dress respectfully. Wearing clothes that cover the thighs, shoulders, and midriff is considered a sign of respect. This is especially important in more traditional and religious settings. Keep in mind that respectful attire shows appreciation and understanding of local customs and traditions.

Taiwan is fantastic for toilets

One surprising aspect of traveling in Taiwan is the high standard of public toilets. Free and usually spotlessly clean facilities can be found everywhere, from bustling city centers to remote scenic areas. While most public toilets in Taiwan are of the squat style, there are usually at least one or two stalls with sit-down facilities available. Additionally, many public toilets provide toilet paper for your convenience.

It’s worth noting that some restaurants may ask you not to flush used toilet paper but to dispose of it in the wastebasket beside the toilet. This is to prevent potential plumbing issues as the pipes in some older buildings may not be able to handle flushing toilet paper. While this may seem unusual to some visitors, it’s a common practice in Taiwan and helps ensure the proper functioning of the sewage system.

In conclusion, by following these tips and recommendations, you’ll be well-prepared to have a fantastic trip to Taiwan. From booking your accommodation early to navigating transportation and embracing local customs, Taiwan offers a welcoming and enjoyable experience for all travelers. So pack your bags, get ready to explore Taiwan’s diverse landscapes and vibrant cities, and make memories that will last a lifetime. Safe travels!