This is an overview of all the travel tips you should consider when visiting Taipei, Taiwan. Keep reading to learn more.
I’ve lived around Taipei for more than 5 years and have learned a lot over the years. This guide serves as a way to pass all my knowledge onto you.
Taiwan doesn’t have any travel restrictions at the moment.
Ensure you have the proper visa is one is required. If you’re from a country that has visa-free entry with Taiwan, ensure your passport is valid for at least 6 months after traveling.
Practical Tips to Follow When Visiting Taipei City, Taiwan
The following sections will cover tips I’ve learned while visiting Taipei. However, these tips also expand to the rest of Taiwan.
I want to talk about a couple of quick things before proceeding. Taiwanese don’t care whether you have tattoos, unlike in Japan. Don’t worry about covering them. They also don’t care much about what you wear. Ensure you cover your butt, boobs, and belly (the “law”).
Let’s dive in.
1. Keep Your Head on a Swivel
No matter where you’re walking in Taipei, practice awareness. For instance, if walking outside a covered sidewalk, watch for air conditioner fans mounted alongside apartment buildings.
One recently fell off a building and killed someone in New Taipei City while the victim waited for the bus. A brick also dropped off a building and almost hit me on the head while walking around Ximending.
In this scenario, walk under covered areas if possible.
And when walking on any sidewalk, keep an eye out for motorbikes. Many Taiwanese drive on sidewalks to park their motorbikes or use it as an illegal “street.” Also, when walking through night markets and Ximending, many drive through the pedestrian areas on motorbikes.
This is the most important tip that can save your life.
The next one isn’t so critical, but a great consideration if you’re from the United States.
2. Don’t Bother Tipping
Tips aren’t required or encouraged in all of Taiwan. Many restaurants will enforce a 10–15% service charge on orders to take a bit more money. But no one will spit in your food if you don’t tip.
Taiwanese people won’t feel offended if you attempt to tip them. This cultural difference is significant because, for instance, many will consider tipping rude in Japan.
If the people you’re trying to tip don’t speak English, you’re better not to tip them. Unless you want to risk a mistranslation in Google Translate when you’re trying to tell them you’re tipping them.
Speaking of the local language—
3. Learn Basic Mandarin (Maybe)
Based on my experience, knowing some Mandarin and not being fluent has proven less helpful than just speaking English or using Google Translate. When speaking SOME Mandarin, Taiwanese people will interpret as me knowing how to speak Mandarin.
Then they’ll speak full sentences. And it makes sense for them to reply in Mandarin if you speak Mandarin.
I recommend learning the following phrases:
- I don’t understand Mandarin: 我聽不懂 (Wǒ tīng bù dǒng )
- Tell folks you don’t understand them.
- Thank you: 謝謝 (Xièxiè)
- Thank people.
- Can I have invoice: 我可以要發票嗎 (Wǒ kěyǐ yào fāpiào ma)
- In case chain stores don’t give you receipts immediately.
- Membership: 會員 (Huìyuán)
- Many clerks will ask whether you have one.
- Don’t have: 沒有 (Méiyǒu)
- Tell clerks you don’t have a membership.
I otherwise recommend using a translation app, gestures, and guessing to navigate the country. When at restaurants, you’ll point at items on the menus to order what you want.
If you’re at McDonald’s or similar fast food restaurants, you’ll see self-ordering kiosks that are available in English. This simplifies buying fast food as a foreigner.
What if you receive a gift? Let’s explore the next tip.
4. Give & Receive Gifts With Both Hands
Give and receive gifts and food with both hands, which indicates respect. I also recommend doing the same when handing cashiers banknotes (not change). However, many cashiers will give you plates to place your cash and change in.
Don’t worry much about this tip when dealing with cashiers, but always use it when meeting with business colleagues, hosts, and elders.
5. Get an EasyCard
An EasyCard is an integrated circuit (IC) card that allows folks in Taiwan and Okinawa, Japan, to make cashless purchases and pay for public transportation. The card costs NT$100 for a deposit. Then you’d refill it with whatever amount you want to add.
Order an EasyCard online and pick it up when arriving in Taiwan, or get it from MRT stations or convenience stores. Tell the staff at MRT station customer service areas in English that you want an EasyCard, and they’ll likely understand.
Convenience stores will have EasyCards beside the cash registers. However, they’re usually locked, and you must tell the staff you want a specific card. Also, don’t confuse them with icash 2.0 and iPASS cards. Because convenience stores sell these as well.
Both cards will also work for public transportation and cashless purchases, but don’t have as widespread support as EasyCards.
Here’s another thing you should buy.
6. Carry a Reusable Water Bottle
Carrying a reusable water bottle and refilling them in libraries or Metro stations (for free) is an excellent way to save money spent on water bottles from shops or convenience stores. Bottled water often costs NT$20–30 per bottle, which can add up over time.
I also recommend this route if you’re paranoid about the sun beating against your water bottle and causing chemicals from the plastics to leach into your drink.
Let’s move on to the next tip.
7. Practice MRT Etiquette
Follow these tips when riding the Taipei MRT to avoid being a jerk:
- Stand on the right side of the escalator; use the left side for passing only.
- Don’t eat, drink, or chew anything on the MRT: It’s a fineable offense.
- You can’t eat, drink, or chew anything after passing the electronic gates in Metro stations.
- Don’t talk loudly: Keep your volume low when riding inside MRT train carts.
- Surrender seats to the elderly or pregnant women: Unless you have a disability.
Here is some additional etiquette to follow outside the MRT.
8. Mind Some Superstitions
When eating outside your hotel, DO NOT leave chopsticks in bowls upright. These look like incense; the shop owner or restaurant could interpret this as bad luck. Also, don’t tap on your bowl because people will see it as you begging for money.
And don’t tap your chopsticks together. I suppose it’s considered rude.
9. Avoid Mentioning China/Taiwan Politics
Most Taiwanese agree that Taiwan is separate from China and is its own country. However, you may encounter folks who don’t share this point of view. Taiwanese don’t seem super sensitive about the issue.
But you may run into folks who are. Hence, avoid the topic during discussions if possible. No matter your opinion on the matter.
Taiwanese people are often more sensitive about Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) versus Kuomintang (KMT) or local politics. I’d also avoid bringing these topics up unless you’re genuinely curious.
10. What to Know About Eating Out
Chain restaurants will charge the most prices, while mom-and-pop shops and night markets charge the least. However, these shops don’t have receipts—useful for the receipt lottery. And most of the time, they won’t have English-speaking staff.
If you’re vegetarian or vegan, use the HappyCow app to help you find restaurants that’ll accommodate your diet. Or search for restaurants with the Buddhist swastika. They always have vegetarian food.
Many buffets will also have English names that say something like “Vegetarian Buffet.”
Kosher food is much more difficult to find. And I don’t have any experience searching for this. Taipei does have a fair number of halal restaurants, though.
And if you have food allergies, I recommend having a translator on-hand who could ask restaurants whether they have “X” allergy in their food. As most restaurants don’t pay attention to food allergens.
Some restaurants will require you to pay before you get your food, and others after. If the staff doesn’t speak English, they’ll likely pull out a giant calculator and type your total.
Taiwanese also don’t have tourist prices in almost all circumstances. I’ve experienced one restaurant charging me more money for no reason. And I just never ate there again.
Let’s talk about how you’ll pay for these restaurant visits.
11. Use Cash
Taiwanese use cash for most transactions, except for public transportation. Use an EasyCard with public transport. Few places don’t accept cash. And many places won’t accept bank or credit cards.
Withdraw as much New Taiwan Dollars (NT$) from ATMs as possible.
Bank of Taiwan offers some of the country’s best exchange rates and doesn’t have ATM fees. I recommend withdrawing from their machines if possible. However, there’s a NT$20,000 withdrawal limit per day.
If you’ll need more cash than that, bring as much of your local currency as legally possible and exchange it with bank tellers. As that’s how you’ll get the best exchange rate possible.
12. Don’t Bother Trying to Bargain
Many people will tell you to try to barter with Taiwanese to lower prices. I don’t recommend this if you’re a tourist. Not only do you have a potential language barrier, but you likely don’t know the local prices or how Taiwanese think.
13. Use Common Sense
Don’t keep your wallet or phone hanging out of your back pockets. Pickpocketing is rare but could still happen in crowded areas (e.g., Ximending). Also, avoid public displays of affection (PDA) like making out or butt grabbing in public.
Taiwanese aren’t that conservative and don’t mind PDA, like hugging, light kisses, and hand-holding—the same goes for LGBT+ folks. They don’t care, for the most part.
Beware of scammers. If something seems too good to be true, avoid it.
Practice caution when crossing zebra crossings. Many vehicles won’t stop for you.
Don’t blast music or audio from your phone when walking anywhere. No one wants to hear it.
Don’t get blackout drunk and start fights with the locals. This makes all foreigners look bad.
And don’t be aggressive. If someone stares at you or points at you, don’t meet them with aggression. Just ignore them.
Otherwise, be a pleasant person. Don’t be a tourist who expects the world. You’re in their country.
What to Do in Taipei
Beitou Hot Spring Resort