17+ Taiwan Travel Tips from a 5-Year Expat

Throughout this guide, I’ll cover various Taiwan travel tips to help you save money, navigate the country, and win the locals’ love.

As someone who has lived in Taiwan for several years, I’ve gained a lot of knowledge, which I decided to condense into this post.

Throughout this piece, I’ll cover tips like:

Let’s prepare you for your journey to Taiwan.


Answering Commonly-Asked Questions Upfront

Do You Tip?No
Should I Use Cash or Card?Cash
Is Taiwan Safe?Yes
Can You Eat While Walking?Yes
Is the Tap Water Drinkable?Technically yes, but not recommended
Can I Get Away With Only English?Yes
Do I Need to Sign an Arrival Card?Yup
Travel RestrictionsNone
How to Say “Thank You”謝謝 (Xiè xiè)
Do I Need to Wear a Mask?No

Whether to Exchange Money Before Visiting

If you’re on an ultra-strict time crunch, I recommend exchanging enough money to give you NT$3,000. This ensures you have play money, can pay for public transportation, and can pay for food.

I don’t recommend exchanging money in your home country before visiting Taiwan. Because the more cash you carry on-hand, the more money you’ll lose if something happens to your wallet.

If you need cash, the best way to get it is by withdrawing it with an ATM. Taiwan literally has them everywhere. Most of them have ATM fees, though. However, the Bank of Taiwan doesn’t — it’s what I always use — and it usually has the best exchange rates.


Do You Need to Dress a Certain Way?

No.

The Taiwanese don’t care whether you wear shorts, show your belly and / or shoulders, yoga pants, cosplay, or whatever. Just don’t walk around in your birthday suit (naked). And don’t wear a micro bikini at the beach.

I haven’t heard anything about micro bikinis, but I’ve never seen any women wear it. Thus, you may not want to stand out too much.

I talk more about what Taiwanese typically wear in a separate guide.


Tourism Lottery

The Taiwan Tourism Lottery program offers prizes to foreign independent travelers who visit Taiwan. To be eligible, travelers must stay in Taiwan for 3 – 90 days and not be part of a tour group.

Travelers can register for the lottery online or upon arrival in Taiwan. This page does a better job at explaining how to participate. I just wanted to introduce you to this program because you could get free money.

And here are the prizes you could win:

  • iPass: Preloaded with NT$1,000 – 3,000
  • EasyCard: Preloaded with NT$1,500 – 3,000
  • iCash 2.0: Preloaded with NT$5,000
  • Accommodation vouchers: 5 vouchers with NT$1,000 each that’s applicable at some hotels and B&Bs

Other Helpful Guides


Travel Requirements

Enter Taiwan as a citizen of a country who’s a part of Taiwan’s visa exemption program, and all you’ll need are:

  • Passport: That’s valid for up to 6 months.
  • Return flight ticket: A ticket showing you’ll leave Taiwan within 90 days.
    • The number of days will vary based on the number of days allotted through visa-exempt entry for your country, or the number of days on your visa.
  • Proof of accommodation: A confirmed booking at a hotel, vacation rental, or wherever else.
    • They usually just want an address — sometimes a phone number.
  • Visa: If you’re not from a country that participates in Taiwan’s visa-free scheme.

Dos & Don’ts (Mixed with Tips)

I’ll cover dos and don’ts when visiting (or living in) Taiwan.


Do’s


1. Travel Around Taiwan by Train

Taking the train will cost more than taking buses, but it will save you the most time. Taiwan has the Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) and High-Speed Rail (HSR) trains. The latter is the most expensive transportation in Taiwan, but it reaches destinations the quickest.

The former’s quicker than taking a bus — in many cases — but sometimes costs more. Weigh your options before choosing between a TRA train and a bus. Trains don’t encounter traffic, but stop at many stops.

Let’s compare a journey from Taichung to Taipei.

A Kuo-Kuang regular-price bus costs NT$300 and takes around 3 hours to travel. The TRA costs around the same and takes 2 hours to travel.

Consider reserving an HSR ticket 5 days early. You’ll get 10%, 20%, or 35% off your ticket. And some hotel reservations will include up to a 20% discount.


2. Remember the Prices of Menu Items at Small Restaurants

While it’s rare, you may encounter mom-and-pop restaurants that charge you more because you’re a foreigner.

I’ve only had this happen to me once. I think it was an NTD$5 ($0.17) increase.

If this happens to you, and you have someone with you who speaks the local language, ask them to bring up the difference in the menu price versus what the restaurant charged you. 


3. Always Look Both Ways Before Crossing a Street (Seriously)

Taiwan has thousands of deaths and injuries per year due to traffic accidents [1].

Part of what makes these statistics is due to reckless drivers and sidewalks filled with parked motorbikes.

Most countries have issues with drivers, traffic laws, and lack of law enforcement, though. I’m not going to say Taiwan is the worst.

Ensure you’re aware of your surroundings when strolling the streets or driving.

From my experience, and that of other travelers and expats, most haven’t suffered from traffic-related accidents. That’s because of exercising caution.

Be careful when walking.

Have your phone ready to take pictures of license plates if drivers don’t give you the right-of-way or nearly hit you.

If you happen to drive in Taiwan, the government has a helpful booklet for foreign drivers to help them navigate the roads.


4. Be Wary of Betel Nuts

Betel nuts — areca nut or Taiwanese chewing gum —  is a seed of a fruit from the areca palm. It’s a legal stimulant all over Taiwan, among other countries.

A fun video that introduces betel nuts.

Small shops sell them wrapped in leaves or as red spit on the ground. People will generally chew; once done, they’ll spit it randomly on the road. It looks like blood. Don’t worry, Taiwan’s streets aren’t covered in blood.

If you want to try one of these, I recommend against it.

1 nut equals six cups of coffee; studies suggest that betel nut chewers have a much higher chance of getting oral cancer than those who don’t chew [2, 3].

While one nut probably won’t cause cancer, you may find yourself addicted to these, leading to future ailments.


5. Remember MRT & Bus Etiquette

When riding on public transportation in Taiwan, ensure you mind your manners.

Each public transportation medium has specific colored seats designated for elderly people, pregnant people, or those with disabilities.

It’s best if you give up your seats to those who are in need.

A close-up of a Taipei MRT subway train seat, with a blue design and a silver hand grip above.
Normal seats (light blue) and reserved seats (dark blue)

If you’re riding the Taipei Metro, ensure that you stand on the right side of the escalator at the metro stations. The left side of the escalator is meant for people who are moving.


6. Keep Every Receipt: They Can Win You Money

Around the 24th or 25th of every odd-numbered mine, the Taiwan government will have a receipt Lottery.

During this lottery, they will draw sets of numbers. If you have receipts matching the numbers, you will win a prize between NTD$200 (around $7.10) and NTD$10 million (close to $360k).

To determine whether you’re a winner, visit Taiwan’s Ministry of Finance website (MoF).

Or download a Taiwan receipt Lottery scanning app. 

Follow the link to the MoF. They explain more in-depth how to read Taiwan’s receipts and how the Taiwanese receipt Lottery works.

But I recommend you download an application.

Because all you do is scan each receipt’s QR codes or the numbers. When the time comes for the receipt Lottery, it’ll automatically tell you whether you won any of the prizes.

tw receipt lottery FI
In this case, I lost…

Some receipt Lottery apps provide a barcode that you would present to the cashier.

This makes it so you don’t have to carry a bunch of paper receipts. Instead, the app will just store your receipts on the cloud. 

Foreigners can claim the receipt of lottery winnings.

If you win a prize smaller than NTD$1,000, claim your prize at a convenience store.

Or, if you have a bank account or a post office bank account, have your mobile application automatically transfer your winnings to your checking account.

If you win one of the larger prizes, you must take your receipt to the bank and cash out your price there.


7. Learn About Taiwan’s Cultural Taboos

Taiwan has various cultural taboos that you should study before visiting.

Whether it’s to avoid offending someone with a particular gift or making yourself look like an ass when visiting a temple.

Some Taiwan taboos to know include:

TabooWhat it means
Never gift in 4sThe number four sounds similar to the word “death” in Mandarin Chinese; so, it’s bad luck to gift someone four of anything
Avoid picking up abandoned red envelopesOtherwise, you’re setting yourself up for a marriage with a ghost
Knock on hotel room doors before enteringTo be courteous to spirits
Don’t use your finger to point at the moonYou’ll offend the moon Goddess Chang’e
Don’t leave chopsticks upright in your bowlIt makes your dish look like an incense, brazier
Avoid gifting clocksIt tells someone their time’s running out
Also, avoid gifting scissorsIt signifies the severance of a relationship
Various taboos recognized throughout Taiwan.

8. Always Wear Boots When Hiking

Taiwan’s home to at least 6 poisonous snakes. A couple include the common cobra and bamboo pit viper.

Because of this, paired with Taiwan’s humid climate and tall foliage, you may find yourself encountering one of these slithering predators.

I recommend wearing boots, among practicing other safety precautions, to prevent snakes from biting you.


9. Be Smart About Currency Conversion

If you haven’t already, sign up for a good bank account for traveling. I mean by searching for a bank that waives or reimburses out-of-network fees.

That way, you aren’t paying an arm and a leg whenever you want to convert currency.

I also recommended withdrawing your money from the Bank of Taiwan. They offer the best currency exchange rates and don’t charge any fees for converting currencies.

If you have your country’s currency on hand and know any Taiwanese people who want your currency, consider trading your currency for New Taiwan Dollars. This saves you money and gets the best currency conversion rates.

Before doing this, I recommend looking into Taiwan’s peer-to-peer currency conversion laws because these walls can change anytime.


10. Buy an EasyCard Once You Enter Taiwan

Taiwan has smart cards like iPass, iCash 2.0, and the most notable EasyCard (yoyo card).

A photo of a Taipei EasyCard shaped like a Sony PlayStation DualShock controller, with green and yellow color scheme, and the EasyCard logo and information displayed on the front.

If you don’t want to deal with carrying change everywhere, use any of these cards to pay for these goods and services throughout the country:

  • Convenience stores, supermarkets, hypermarkets, and some drink store purchases
  • Parking
  • Public transportation like buses and metros
  • Train tickets
  • Tourist destinations — i.e., Taipei Zoo
  • A lot more

If you want to know more about EasyCard, read through my guide. Once you’re done browsing these Taiwan travel tips.


11. Take off Your Shoes Inside a House

Take off your shoes before entering someone’s home. Unless otherwise stated. This includes when searching for apartment’s you’re considering renting.

Don’t know where to put your shoes?

Place them alongside the other shoes outside the host’s home. Many hosts will offer slippers or sandals for guests. Whether they do so will vary by household.


6 Don’ts


1. Don’t Litter Cigarette Butts

If you’re a smoker, this is the most important tip.

Don’t litter your cigarette butts.

If the fuzz catches you or someone reports you, the law will slap you with a NT$1,200 ($39) fine per offense [4].

The police have a bounty on litterbugs. People nationwide have incentives to record smokers who litter their butts with their phones.

They’ll report them to the authorities to collect a bit of ‘free’ money.

Invest in a small ashtray. Or only smoking where there are ashtrays nearby.

Intend to bring e-cigarettes?

Don’t.

Because even though the laws are in a gray zone, vape pens are banned in Taiwan.


2. Don’t Slander

Taiwan has freedom of speech. However, public humiliation and defamation are against the law [5].

If you were to slander someone and hurt their reputation, you’d open yourself to lawsuits from the affected party.

Be careful about what you say to people in public.

This works to your advantage, too. If someone gets in your face for no reason, remain calm and record their insults. Use this as evidence later.


3. Avoid Mentioning Politics When Possible

If you’re coming to Taiwan, you likely already know that the political situation surrounding the country is sensitive.

When talking to the locals, you’ll notice that they have mixed political views, whether they support Taiwanese independence, maintain the status quo, or become part of China.

While Taiwan is an independent nation, ‘Taiwan Independence’ has various definitions. For instance, removing the nation’s official name, ‘Republic of China,’ and transforming it into the ‘Republic of Taiwan’ [6].

I recommend not bringing up politics when talking to Taiwanese people.

For the most part, people seem relaxed when talking about the subject. You may encounter people who are passionate about it and start an argument.


4. Avoid Visiting Taiwan During Typhoon Season

Taiwan has frequent natural disasters like earthquakes and typhoons. Earthquakes happen year-round, and typhoons happen between July and September.

To avoid typhoons, I recommend visiting the island nation any other time of the year.


5. Don’t Drink the Tap Water, Though It’s Technically Drinkable

Specifically, in Taipei, the Taipei Water Department states that tap water is safe to drink.

Throughout Taiwan, they also use rigorous filtering methods like what’s used in the United States.

I have accidentally drank tap water and am still alive.

When I look at the water coming from the tap, it appears crystal clear. Drink at your discretion.

While you can technically drink tap water, there may be scenarios where earthquakes have rattled water pipes that can cause them to crack, leading to substances leaking into the pipes.

You may run into a situation where a building still needs to clean its water towers. This could lead to an overgrowth of bacteria.

I recommended boiling your water or using water purification devices to combat accidentally drinking bad water. You can fill your bottle at filling stations, which you’ll often find in hotels, bus stations, metro stations, train stations, or shopping centers.

They have the best-tasting water and are frequently quality-checked.


6. It’s a Safe Country, but Don’t Let Your Guard Down

All of Taiwan, even its capital city, Taipei, has low crime rates, which makes it one of the safest cities to visit [7].

Even though you can safely walk alone at night without worry, I recommend practicing caution.

While crime’s rare, it can still happen. Carry a dummy wallet and phone. Remain aware of your surroundings.

Safeguard your belongings to guard yourself against pickpockets, and carry around legal self-defense items.


Other Tips

I’ll cover additional tips to help you thrive in Taiwan throughout the following sections.


1. You Can Only Find Kosher Food at Convenience Stores

While I do not follow a Kosher diet, from what I’ve seen throughout forums and websites, people have had a hard time finding kosher food.

It’s rare to see a kosher restaurant in Taiwan.

Even in Taipei.

I’ve heard of people being able to find kosher-friendly snacks at convenience stores.


2. Should I Choose a SIM Card or Portable Wi-Fi?

Many areas in Taiwan offer free public Wi-Fi, but many of them are unreliable. If you need internet to ensure you have contact with your family, friends, or colleagues, buy data or portable Wi-Fi.

Only get portable Wi-Fi if you want to access sensitive websites (e.g., banking site) on multiple devices, like a laptop. Otherwise, there’s no other scenario I’d recommend using it with.

Prepaid SIM cards cost as low as $6.00 for 7 days. If you’re staying for a month or longer, recharge your prepaid card for NT$499 per 30 days. But that price is for data.

If you’re adding minutes, visit whatever telecom store you’re using and ask them to add minutes.


3. Bring Your Own Epinephrine Auto-Injector

Taiwan customs allows you to have a 2-month supply of “injectable” medication IF you have a prescription. Refer to their website for the most current rules.

I recommend bringing your own pens because you can only get them in Taiwan if you have a prescription. And then you’d need to pay NT$4,500 per pen (with and without insurance). Moreover, Taiwanese establishments do not have these pens around in case of emergencies.


4. Carry a Chef Card if You Have Food Allergies

I don’t know if most Taiwanese just don’t have food allergies or what, but almost all restaurants will not tell you whether their food contains allergens. Create a chef card in Traditional (not Simplified) Chinese to show to chefs.

Here’s a template.


City-Specific Tips

Most tips that I’ve provided will apply to every city. However, here are specific tips that’ll help you in Taiwan’s major cities:


Taipei travel tips:

  • Shilin Night Market is the biggest, but Ningxia is great for foodies, and Raohe is known for its temple atmosphere.
  • The metro system is incredibly efficient and easy to use. Get an EasyCard to make it easier.
  • The Maokong Gondola tends to close when it’s windy. Plan accordingly.
  • Don’t visit Taipei 101 on a cloudy day, because then you won’t have such a good view.
  • Maokong Mountain has some of the best tea houses in Taipei.

Kaohsiung tips:

  • Take a ferry to this Cijin island for seafood, an old street, beaches, and Tianhou Temple.
  • Visit Dream Mall to escape the heat.

Taoyuan tips

  • Taoyuan is home to Taiwan’s main international airport. The MRT provides easy access to Taipei city center.
  • GLORIA OUTLETS is a massive shopping complex offering discounts on designer brands.
  • Visit the temporary resting place of Chiang Kai-shek and enjoy the surrounding gardens and lakes.
  • Stroll Daxi Old Street for traditional architecture, food, and souvenirs.

Other Questions People May Ask…

What Is Considered Rude in Taiwan?

Putting your arm around someone’s shoulder, pointing at someone with your index finger, and winking are some body language that are considered rude in Taiwan.


Sources