Taiwan is often times left out when visitors map out their epic Asia trip but more people are realizing that this little island is actually an excellent travel destination.
Taiwan has a bit of everything and it’s efficient transportation system, low cost of travel, security and kindness of locals are just a few reasons why it’s becoming a popular destination.
You can find a great amount of resources online for traveling in Taiwan but there are a few things to know before you go that will help make your trip go a lot smoother.
We spent two months traveling around Taiwan and as a Taiwanese-American with lots of family there, I can give you some insider Taiwan travel tips.
Taiwan Travel Tips
Important Things to Know Before You Go
- What to bring – Read our post on packing for Taiwan for any time of the year
- Taiwan does not take USD, Canadian dollars, euros or any type of foreign money so make sure you exchange it. Banks open at 9 AM and you need your passport to exchange money. Some hotels can also exchange money. Exchange rate is currently 1 USD to 32 New Taiwan Dollar or NT.
- Taiwan uses the same voltage as United States, 110V. If you’re coming from Europe or somewhere not 110V, get an adapter.
- Tipping is not part of the culture in Taiwan. In fact when I tried to tip my hairdresser when I got a hair cut, she got offended.
- It is incredibly safe in Taiwan. It is even safe for a woman to walk the streets at midnight because of the many night markets and 24 hour restaurants. But as always, use your common sense.
- If you are lost, don’t know which bus to take, or need a ride, call 0800-024-111. It is a toll free 24 hour tourist hotline in Chinese, Japanese and English and they can help you with whatever you need help with. In case of emergency, call 119
- Write down some of the important travel words in Mandarin (traditional) like bathroom, how much, I’m lost, etc. Many city locals speak a degree of English and will help you to the best of their ability but it’s good to have the words written down or bring a Mandarin phrasebook.When Yeison was by himself, they didn’t hesitate to speak English to him.
- To rent a car, you have to have an international driving permit for the first 30 days you are in the country. You can get one at the American Automobile Association or the Motor Vehicles Offices in Taipei (check requirements). Longer than 30 days you must apply for an extension.
- If you take the public bus in Taiwan, you must have exact change if you don’t have a happy card. Tell the driver where you are going and he will tell you how much it is. Write your destination down because most drivers don’t speak a lick of English.
- To rent a YouBike, you must have a happy card and register it at the kiosk. Great way to get around Taipei!
- Taxis are pretty cheap in Taiwan but like bus drivers, make sure you write down where you are going (or learn to say it in Mandarin). Make sure they use the meter and buckle your seat belt – they drive a bit crazy!
- The MRT is super easy to use as well as their train system. If you don’t have a happy card, you must use the machines to purchase a token each time you use the MRT and train.
Staying in Touch
- If you want a prepaid sim card for your phone, you can go to any phone company office and buy one. All you need is an unlocked phone, your passport and pay in cash. We got a 30 day sim card loaded with 100 TWD for calls and unlimited data for 900 TWD (~$30) from Chunghwa Telecom. Read our full guide to getting a sim card in Taiwan.
- Wi-Fi in Taiwan is easy to find, in fact the island is like one giant hot spot. There are 4,400 free iTaiwan hot spots for foreigners and all they need is a local number to register.
Food and Drink
- Food is very cheap in Taiwan… if you eat local. If you don’t like Taiwanese food, be prepared to pay for it because it costs more to eat Western food like pizza, sandwiches or pasta. Eat local and you can spend less than 300 TWD ($9.50) a day per person for all three meals and dessert. Eat something different and you’re looking at paying at least 200 TWD ($6.50) per person per meal.
- Taiwan has some of the best food in the world so I highly recommend trying some local dishes.
- If you want to eat something more Western for a cheaper price, look for a brunch or breakfast place in Taiwan. They usually have omelets, hamburgers, sandwiches, hash browns and toast for local prices (50 – 100 TWD).
- Only eating on a budget? Avoid the mall and look for places that sell lunch boxes which are really cheap, usually less than 60 TWD (~$2). You get rice, a meat, vegetables and soup.
- If you are allergic to shellfish/shrimp/seafood, write it down and show your waiter. Yeison is deathly allergic to shrimp which is commonly used in well, almost all their dishes so I made sure to ask every single time we went out to eat if it had shrimp.