Taiwan travel guide
Situated off the coast of mainland China, the mountainous island of Taiwan teems with people in massive urban developments, but at the same time hides some picture-perfect, breathtaking vistas and natural attractions. Jet into the airport at the capital, Taipei, and the island below greets you with majestic peaks, rolling hills and plains, basins and inlets, tropical beaches and green forests.
At the foot of the mountains cluster the crowded industrial cities and towns. Modern, high-rise buildings play backdrop to numerous traditional folk festivals, and ancient temples sit alongside glass-fronted boutiques in the bustling streets. Old and new live in harmony in Taiwan, and visitors will be enthralled as much by the bustling metropolis of Taipei as with the array of natural attractions throughout this relatively small island.
In the six national parks there are thousands of species of wildlife, 20 percent of which are rare or endangered, including the Mikado pheasant, the Hsuehshan grass lizard and the Formosan rock monkey. Unique experiences include taking a ride on the Alishan train, one of only three mountain railways in the world, and hiking up northeast Asia's highest mountain, Jade Mountain, and taking in the spectacular sunsets above a sea of clouds. With its volcanic origins, tropical climate and Polynesian flavour, Taiwan has deservedly been dubbed the 'Hawaii of Asia'.
Taiwan has long had an uneasy relationship with its larger neighbour, China. In 1684 the island became the refuge for the remnants of the deposed Ming Dynasty and when Mao's Communists forces took control of China in 1949 the nationalist leaders, and over one million supporters, fled to Taiwan. Economically, the island quickly became an Asian success story but its independence from China was never recognised by many governments - primarily due to the Republic's greater political and military firepower.
Taiwan's currency is the New Taiwan Dollar (TWD). Foreign currencies can be exchanged at government-designated banks and hotels. Receipts are given when currency is exchanged, and must be presented in order to exchange unused dollars before departure. Major credit cards are accepted and ATMs are plentiful. Banks are open Monday to Friday.
Language : Mandarin is the official language of Taiwan, but Taiwanese is often spoken and English is generally understood.
Electricity : Electrical current is 110 volts, 60Hz. Two-pin flat blade plugs are standard.
Entry Requirements :
US citizens do not require a visa for stays of up to 90 days, provided they hold a passport valid for the period of intended stay. Visas cannot be extended or converted.
Passports must be valid for six months from date of arrival. Visas are not required for stays of up to 90 days for holders of British passports endorsed 'British Citizen'. Those with temporary or emergency passports endorsed 'British Citizen' can obtain a visa on arrival, for stays of up to 30 days. Holders of British passports with other endorsements should confirm official requirements.
Canadian nationals do not require a visa for stays of up to 90 days, provided they hold a passport valid six months from their date of arrival.
Australian nationals may stay in Taiwan for up to 90 days without a visa, provided they hold a passport valid six months from their date of arrival.
South African nationals require a visa for travel to Taiwan and a passport valid for six months after intended travel.
Irish nationals may stay in Taiwan for up to 90 days without a visa and require a passport valid for at least six months from entry.
New Zealand nationals require a passport valid for at least six months from entry. No visa is required for a stay of up to 90 days.
Passport/Visa Note :
All travellers entering Taiwan require confirmed return air tickets or proof of onward travel. It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
Travel Health :
Taiwan health regulations require that travellers arriving from infected areas carry vaccination certificates for yellow fever. Travellers are advised to have up-to-date jabs for hepatitis A and typhoid, and it is advisable for most long-term travellers to be inoculated against Japanese encephalitis. Due to recent outbreaks of dengue fever, insect repellents and other measures to prevent mosquito bites are recommended for those travelling to the southern part of the island. Visitors should only drink bottled water and should be wary of potential food poisoning. Taiwan's medical facilities are first-class, but health insurance is recommended for travellers.
Tipping is not customary, although if offered it will be accepted. Baggage handlers at hotels and the airport will be pleased with some loose change. Hotels and restaurants will usually add a 10% service charge to the bill.
Safety Information :
Most visits to Taiwan are trouble-free. The country has only a low incidence of petty crime, and is considered safe. The only threats are natural ones, because the island is prone to typhoons and tropical storms, usually between May and November, as well as earthquakes and tremors. These are seldom severe.
Local Customs :
The concept of 'saving face' is very important in Taiwanese culture, and tourists should try to avoid embarrassing locals. Self-control is another key aspect to Taiwanese culture, and losing your temper or creating a public spectacle is highly frowned upon. Relationships in Taiwan are built around mutual benefit, and the exchange of small gifts is common. Taiwanese customs include a number of superstitions, including prohibitions of writing a person's name in red, pointing at cemeteries or graves, whistling at night, or giving a gift of shoes, umbrellas, clocks or knives. Remove your shoes before entering a person's home. Physical contact with strangers is considered impolite.
Doing business in Taiwan is a pleasure for those who value high work ethics and technologically-savvy business partners. Taiwan has traded heavily with the West for many years and business formalities have melded over time. However it is important to observe and respect the cultural heritage to which many firmly cling. Confucian values tend to dictate business etiquette and common practice in Taiwan. The majority of businesses in Taiwan are medium-sized and family-owned, meaning that the paternal head of the family is always consulted - this can result in business decisions taking longer than expected.
Two important aspects of business culture in Taiwan are face and 'Gianni' (relationships). Face relates to dignity - that of a person or a company - and informs all social and business interactions. It is important to keep, or save, face at all times. Never correct a colleague and if someone makes a mistake don't expect them to correct themselves. Relationships are an integral part of most business cultures and Taiwan is no exception. Gift-giving and taking business deals slowly are central aspects to building and maintaining good business relationships in Taiwan. When giving gifts, its general practice to give a simple gift to all members involved in a meeting, and a better gift for the most important member of the party. When receiving a gift, it is polite not to open it in front of your hosts.
Always accept invitations to events outside of normal business hours, as this is when relationships are built. Don't make direct or prolonged eye-contact with someone who is in a very senior position. However, be sure to always direct the conversation to the most senior person in the meeting. Punctuality is expected in all meetings. Shaking hands, for men and women is common nowadays, but a bow goes a long way as a sign of respect. Business hours are from 9am to 5.30pm from Monday to Friday. Business cards are exchanged often and should be printed in both English and Taiwanese. Work clothes tend to be formal and conservative. Men wear dark suits; women wear modest dresses and skirts rather than pants. Taiwanese is the language of business and hiring a translator is often a necessity.
Taiwan's international access dialling code is +886. Local network operators provide mobile telephone services in various regions using either GSM 900 or 1800 networks. Internet cafes can be found in Taiwan's cities and towns, and most hotels in Taipei have internet access in their guestrooms.
Duty Free :
Travellers aged over 20 may enter Taiwan without paying customs duty on 200 cigarettes or 25 cigars or 454g tobacco, 1 bottle of alcohol (maximum 1 litre), and a reasonable amount of perfume. Travellers are also permitted to bring personal goods valued up to NT$20,000 duty free (or NT$10,000 for those under 20 years). Guns, narcotics, fresh meat and fruit are prohibited.
Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport
Location: The airport is situated about 25 miles (40km) southwest of Taipei city centre.
Time: Local time is GMT +8.
Contacts: Tel: +886 (0)3 398 3728.
Transfer between terminals: The Skytrain provides free transport between Terminal 1 and Terminal 2, and a shuttle bus also connects the two terminals. There are regular buses to Taipei's other international airport, Songshan.
Getting to the city: Several bus companies provide services to Taipei and other destinations around Taiwan. The journey to Taipei takes about 55 minutes and one-way fares are around TWD 125. Tickets can be bought at counters in the arrivals section and the bus platforms are located outside the terminals. Buses depart the airport roughly every 20 minutes. Taxis are available 24 hours a day, but are more expensive. Taxis are metered. There is a shuttle bus to the high speed rail service which connects travellers to various stations in the city. Note that there is a Visitor's Desk in the Arrivals hall with English speaking assistance; if you have missed your transport connection, they will make telephone calls for you.
Car rental: Car rental service counters are located in the Arrivals lobby of both terminals.
Airport Taxis: Taxis from the airport to downtown Taipei are available all day and night, but fares vary substantially depending on traffic, distance and route. Taxis are metered.
Facilities: There are banks in the airport with bureaux de change and ATMs, as well as a post office. There is an internet room, wifi and plenty of public telephones. Information desks are situated in each terminal, and a tourist services desk is located in the arrivals area of Terminal 1. Both terminals are well supplied with Asian and Western food outlets, including bars and restaurants. There is ample duty-free shopping and several boutiques stocking a wide range of goods. A business lounge offers VIP service. There are good facilities for the disabled.
Parking: Plentiful parking is available. It is free for the first half hour, thereafter rates start at TWD 30 for 60 minutes and TWD 20 per half hour thereafter. The daily rate is TWD 490.
Departure tax: NT$300 which is usually added to the ticket price.
Kaohsiung Siaogang Airport
Location: The airport is located five miles (7km) from the city centre of Kaohsiung
Time: GMT +8
Transfer between terminals: The two terminals are connected by a corridor.
Getting to the city: The KRCT Metro provides easy access to Kaohsiung. Intercity bus services offer routes from the airport to Kenting. The bus to Kenting departs every 20-30 minutes between 6am and 1am, and costs TWD 309 for the two to three hour journey. The bus to Chiayi was suspended in 2014, so travellers will need to take the airport metro line to Kaohsiung Railway Station in order to transfer to bus or train routes to Chiayi.
Car rental: Car rental companies represented at the airport include Heyuen Car-rent, Carplus Auto and Chailease Auto Rental.
Airport Taxis: Taxis are available at the curbside outside the terminals. Taxis run on meters, with surcharges added for things like use of the trunk.
Facilities: Airport facilities include dining and shopping options, insurance, currency exchange, telecommunication services, a post office, a nursery and a VIP lounge.
Parking: Parking is available in front of both terminal buildings. Motorcycle parking is also available. Parking for the first 30 minutes is free, thereafter it costs TWD 30 for the first hour and TWD 15 for every 30 minutes after that. The daily rate is TWD 240 and is reset at midnight.
Taiwan is sub-tropical but the climate varies from hot and humid in the south tempering to cooler in the north and inland mountainous region. All over the country sudden rain showers frequently occur, making rainwear an essential part of a visitor's luggage. The driest time of year is autumn (September and October), which is followed by a short generally damp and chilly winter with snow on the island's mountain peaks. Summer temperatures can reach 90ºF (35ºC) at the coast. Summer is also typhoon season.
Taiwan Tourist Office: +886 2 594 3261 (Taipei) or
British Trade and Cultural Office, Taiwan: +886 2 8758 2088.
Canadian Trade Office, Taipei: +886 2 2544 3000.
Australian Commerce and Industry Office, Taipei: +886 2 8725 4100.
Liaison Office of South Africa, Taipei: +886 2 2715 3251/4.
Ireland Institute for Trade and Investment in Taiwan, Taipei: +886 2 2725 1691.
New Zealand Commerce and Industry Office, Taipei: +886 2 2757 9514.
Embassy of the Republic of China (Taiwan), Washington DC, United
States: +1 202 895 1800.
Foreign Embassies in Taiwan
Taipei Representative Office, London, United Kingdom: +44 (0)20 7881 2650.
Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 231 5080.
Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, Barton, ACT, Australia: +61 (0)2 6120 1022.
Taipei Liaison Office, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 430 6071/2/3.
Taipei Representative Office, Dublin, Ireland: +353 (0)1 678 5413.
Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, Auckland, New Zealand: +64 (0)9 303 3903.
Emergencies: 110 (Police); 119 (Ambulance)
Taiwan Emergency Numbers
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