17 Taiwan Travel Tips From a Local

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Coming to Taiwan?

Wait a minute before you pack.

You’ll need to understand some of the nuances of this country to enjoy yourself and keep out of trouble during your stay.

Keep reading and I’ll cover a massive list of Taiwan travel tips that I’ve followed throughout my time in the island nation.

I have also pulled some of the tips from other foreigners who’ve been here for a while.

1. Don’t Litter Cigarette Butts

If you’re a smoker, this is by far the most important tip you’ll find on this list.

Don’t litter your cigarette butts. If you’re caught, or if someone reports you, the law will slap you with a NT$1200 ($39) fine per offense.

The police have a bounty on litterbugs, so people throughout the country are incentivized to record smokers who litter their butts and report them to the authorities to collect a bit of “free” money.

I recommend investing in a small ashtray or only smoking where there are ashtrays nearby.

If you intend on bringing e-cigarettes—don’t. Because even though the laws are in a grey zone, vape pens are banned in Taiwan.

2. Remember the Prices of Menu Items at Small Restaurants

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

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

If this happens to you and you happen to have somebody with you who speaks the local language, try to communicate 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.

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

Most countries have their issues with drivers, traffic laws, and lack of traffic law enforcement, so 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 due to practicing caution when walking.

Just be careful when walking.

Moreover, 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 be driving in Taiwan, the government has a helpful booklet for foreign drivers to help them navigate the roads.

4. Be Careful About Slander

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

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

Be careful about what you say to people in public.

5. 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 a mixed political views whether it’s supporting Taiwanese Independence, maintaining the status quo, or becoming a part of China.

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

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

6. Be Wary of Betel Nuts

Betel nuts (areca nut); otherwise, known as Taiwanese chewing gum, is a seed of a fruit that’s from the areca palm.

It’s a legal stimulant that you’ll find all over Taiwan among other countries.

You’ll either see small shops selling them wrapped in leaves or as red spit on the ground. 

People will generally chew and once they’re done, they’ll spit it in a random place on the road. It kinda looks like blood, so don’t be surprised if you see red juice on the ground.

If you decide you wanna try one of these, I recommend against it.

Though one nut is equal to six cups of coffee, studies suggest that betel nut chewers have a much significantly higher chance of getting oral cancer than those who don’t chew areca nuts.

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

7. 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 seem to have had a hard time finding kosher food.

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

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

8. Remember MRT and Bus Etiquette

When writing on public transportation in Taiwan, make sure you mind your manners.

For instance, each public transportation medium has specific colored seats that are designated for elderly people, pregnant people, or those with disabilities. It is best if you give up your seats to those who are in need.

taipei mrt seat: taiwan travel tips
Normal seats (light blue) and reserved seats (dark blue)

 Also, if you’re riding the Taipei Metro, ensure that you stand on the right side of the escalator. Because the left side of the escalator is meant for people who are moving.

9. 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 happen to have receipts that match the numbers, then you will win a prize between NTD$200 (around $7.10) through NTD$10 million (close to $360k).

To find out whether you’re a winner, you can either go to a website like TeaLit, or you can download a Taiwan receipt Lottery scanning app. Follow the link to TeaLit, they also explain more in-depth about how to read Taiwan’s receipts in how the Taiwanese receipt Lottery works. 

I recommend you go with the application.

Because all you do is scan the QR codes or the numbers of each receipt and when the time comes for the receipt Lottery, it’ll automatically tell you whether you want any of the prizes. Also, some of the receipt Lottery apps provide a barcode that you would just 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 happen to win a prize smaller than 1000, then you can go claim your prize at a convenience store. Or, if you have a bank account or a post office bank account, you can have your mobile application automatically transfer your winnings to your checking account.

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

10. 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 that you should keep in mind 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
This table shows various taboos recognized throughout Taiwan.

11. Avoid Visiting Taiwan During Typhoon Season

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

These are dangerous, so I recommend visiting the island nation any other time of the year.

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

I have accidentally drank filtered water and am still alive. However, each building will differ due to its water towers.

When I look at what comes from the tap, the water appears crystal clear. So, drink the water at your discretion.

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

Or, you may run into a situation where a building hasn’t cleaned its water towers, which could lead to an overgrowth of bacteria.

To combat accidentally drinking any bad water, I recommended boiling your water or using water purification devices.

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.

13. Always Wear Boots When Hiking

Taiwan’s home to six poisonous snakes, a couple including 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.

14. Be Smart About Currency Conversion

If you haven’t already, I recommend signing up for a good bank account for traveling.

What I mean, is 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.

Also, if you happen to have your country’s currency on hand and know any Taiwanese people who want your currency, consider trading your currency for New Taiwan Dollars to save you money and get the best currency conversion rates. However, before doing this, I recommend looking into Taiwan’s peer-to-peer currency conversion laws because these walls can change at any time. 

15. Buy an EasyCard Once You Enter Taiwan

Taiwan has various smart cards like iPass, icash, and the most notable EasyCard (yoyo card). If you don’t want to deal with carrying change everywhere, you can use this card to pay for these goods and services throughout the country:

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

If you want to know more about the EasyCard, read through the guide I’ve written around the topic once you’re done browsing these Taiwan travel tips.

16. 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 you can visit.

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

While crime’s rare, it can still happen.

So, 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.

17. Enjoy Yourself: You Deserve This Trip

Whether you’re coming to Taiwan on business or for pleasure, make sure you have a good time. Because part of what makes travel special is being able to explore new countries and cultures along with having a good time.

While Taiwan is smaller, it’s a beautiful country and has a lot to offer. Whether you want to hike, explore the 10th tallest building in the world, or ride a bike around Taiwan’s main island.

Trust Me, These Taiwan Travel Tips Work. Don’t Forget To Use Them

For the most part, these are all of the tips that I’ve gathered while being in Taiwan. They’ve helped me stay out of trouble, save me money, and overall make my stay here more enjoyable. The most important thing to do before visiting any country is to do as much research as possible.

While spontaneity is fun, it’ll better benefit you to prepare yourself rather than encounter unpleasant surprised.

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