Traveling To Taiwan? Here's What You Need To Know
Taiwan is rarely the first destination that comes to mind when planning a trip to Asia. Nonetheless, Taiwan is a breathtaking island with gorgeous landscapes ranging from lush forests to rocky coastlines, unique hotels and other landmarks, and a thriving art and culinary scene featuring some of the best eateries you'll discover anywhere in the world.
Asia is on numerous bucket lists, primarily due to the region's unique culture, award-winning food, and stunning scenic views. Many tourists opt for popular destinations like metropolitan cityscapes in Tokyo or Dubai. Others choose to catch the surf in Bali, Indonesia. Alternatively, Taiwan is a destination that continues to pick up interest among world travelers.
Taiwan travel is exciting and culturally enriching. While traveling to Taiwan can feel overwhelming for those unfamiliar with the country, we have the knowledge, experience, and expertise to help navigate Taichung hotels, attractions and more.
From staying safe while on the move, to hotels in Taiwan and local eateries, SOF Hotel in Taichung has the answers with our Taiwan traveling guide.
Depending on public transportation in any foreign country can be intimidating. When you have a difficult time fitting taxis and car rentals into the budget, this can make a bad situation turn worse. The good news is, navigating the Taiwan MRT (metro system) isn't very challenging with the right tips.
The MRT in Taiwan is incredibly clean and functional - it's renowned as one of the most efficient transportation systems worldwide! Traffic congestion is common in busier areas like Taichung and Taipei. Therefore, visitors should find out the local schedule before visiting the wonderful country.
On the MRT trains, Taiwan does impart some (relatively) unspoken rules that visitors should follow:
● Before boarding a train, passengers must wait behind yellow lines, allowing train passengers to depart before boarding.
● Avoid sitting in dark blue chairs. The transportation system designated these spaces for disabled individuals and those who cannot sit for long periods. Visitors to Taiwan can petition for unique stickers at the MRT desk if they need to utilize these seats but don't suffer from an apparent condition.
● MRT passengers are typically quiet when riding the train. Most Taiwanese passengers use the system to travel to or from work. Staying quiet helps the workers relax and focus on their day (or wind down from it).
Those venturing beyond their Taipei or Taichung hotels should consider securing an EasyCard. While this was once a system solely used for public transportation, today, Youbikes, supermarkets, convenience stores, and numerous other providers accept EasyCard as a prepaid payment method.
Purchasing an EasyCard and maintaining its balance will make Taiwan travel more accessible and pleasant, whether visitors travel to and from their Taichung hotels or spend a night out in the street markets.
Moreover, public transit is the ideal method of Taiwan travel for newcomers. Signage throughout the city areas can be confusing, unlike anything drivers have seen before. Signs in big cities like Taipei or Taichung may vary from Chinese to English.
Taiwan utilizes various Romanization systems throughout the region. Unfortunately, this makes it a confusing experience for non-Chinese-speaking visitors. Although the government continues to make efforts to make one system the Taiwan standard, this will take time. It is entirely possible for maps to show a completely different English translation for street names than what appears on the signage itself.
Cities are Walkable, but Some Locales are Spread Out
Travelers can walk to most tourist attractions in Taiwan, especially when staying in convenient locations like most Taipei or Taichung hotels. Depending on the duration of your trip, walking as a main form of transportation may or may not be the best use of your time.
Some tourist locations are spread out, and public transport is the most time-efficient option. Anyone that is not staying in Taiwan for a long duration will want to use public transit to make use of their time in an effort to see and experience everything they can.
Eating in Taiwan
Taiwan is a country renowned for its unique food culture. Travelers can walk into virtually any local restaurant, night market, or other eatery and find an innovative, exciting, and simply delectable dining experience. Many dishes are beginner friendly as well.
Visitors should feel more concerned with how they order, sit, and eat than what or where they order. Every ordering experience at an eatery in Taiwan is unique to that restaurant. The best idea for those unfamiliar with local eatery customs should pay attention to other patrons and follow their lead. After all, they'll know the etiquette better than any Taiwan traveling guide written by a visitor.
Cities like Taichung have no shortage of celebrated restaurants, but street food markets remain a popular favorite among locals. You can find treats like the famous Taiwanese crispy chicken cutlet in these establishments. For those that don't eat meat or feel up to the challenge, Taiwan street food additionally includes unique specialties like the stinky tofu dish. Here are a few tips for dining etiquette:
● Calling a server or other staff member over when eating in restaurants or hotels in Taiwan is impolite behavior.
● When a server leaves the check on the table following the meal, many eateries require customers to take the bill to the front themselves.
● Walking or eating while walking or browsing at a market is not only acceptable, it's encouraged. Visitors must ensure they toss any garbage into a bin or hold onto it before reaching a transit station.
● Some Taiwanese restaurants require patrons to take their own plates to a dirty dish receptacle or station.
For the most part, food in Taiwan is affordable and inexpensive. Although you can find fine dining experiences in the country where the food, ambiance, and experience are expensive, most visitors can eat healthily and take in unique Taiwanese cuisine without breaking the bank.
On your first visit, finding the best local spots to eat can be difficult. Nevertheless, you can ask your Taichung hotel (or unique hotels wherever you're staying) for their recommendations. Most providers should be able to help you out. Alternatively, some visitors wander the night markets or local neighborhoods when seeking a restaurant nearby.
Patronizing a Local Restaurant? You Can Bring in Your Own Drinks
Bringing an outside drink into a restaurant likely represents something most travelers haven't seen before. Areas like Japan and the United States consider this behavior rude, and this can be a difficult custom to get used to when traveling in Taiwan.
However, Taiwanese restaurants have a very logical reason for encouraging this behavior. Drinks like bubble tea are significantly popular in Taiwan. Patrons can purchase bubble tea at walk-up windows on the street no matter where they are in the country.
Restaurants are used to patrons bringing in their own outside drinks and don't mind the behavior. Nevertheless, if you don't bring in a drink, most restaurants provide drinks on their menus alongside their food offerings. Although visitors can buy drinks where they dine in most cases, bringing in a drink is typically more affordable than purchasing one in the eatery.
Pay on Order and Avoid Leaving a Tip
Most eateries in Taiwan require customers to pay when they order instead of at the end of a meal. Paying beforehand largely avoids the awkwardness of trying to attract a server's attention to bring the bill over.
Tipping is also not common practice in Taiwan. Patrons don't need to add additional costs to a meal's base price. Servers in the country make a living wage and don't rely on tips. Some locals may consider efforts to tip as rude behavior.
North American visitors may feel weird not tipping at first. Just think about the money you save. There's no need to calculate an additional 15% to 20% or more each time you visit an eatery.
Cash is King, but They'll Probably Still Take Your Visa
Some businesses accept MasterCard and American Express, but Visa is Taiwan's most widely accepted and preferred credit card. While most major retailers and hotels in Taiwan will accept any major credit card at a visitor's disposal, this may not be the case when trying to pay for goods and services locally.
On-hand cash and credit cards should represent something visitors must stay aware of when making a purchase. Travelers can face problems because they bring minimal cash and no Visa card. In fact, visitors should carry cash with them while traveling throughout the country. Some providers will only accept cash, including the famous night markets.
Cash is also the ideal payment method for small purchases like bubble tea. Travelers can exchange money when arriving in Taiwan, so pulling cash out before leaving on the trip to avoid ATM fees and higher percentage conversions is a prudent decision.
Take a Hiking Trip
Outdoor lovers and hiking enthusiasts can view Taiwan as a dream destination, offering cascading emerald hills that plunge steeply into the windswept seas. Dense bamboo forests can make visitors feel like they stepped into a fairytale story and alpine peaks reward those that conquer them when vista views are beyond comparison.
Vast trail networks crisscross the island, making spending time off the popular paths straightforward. While many of these hiking areas are free to access, a handful of more challenging hikes require a permit to traverse.
Hikers hoping to head into the mountains should secure their plans early, ensuring time to complete and submit the necessary paperwork without wasted time and undue disappointment during their stay.
Enjoy Excellent Public WiFi
The Taiwanese Government established a wifi program called iTaiwan that is available from almost anywhere in the country, putting Taiwan on another level concerning public internet access.
Travelers only need to create an account before gaining access to public wifi from almost anywhere in Taiwan. Tourist centers can help with the registration process and provide more information on the program.
Speak English in a Foreign Land
Many locals, especially younger people, speak English in Taiwan. Visitors don't need to worry about difficulties communicating while in the country. Restaurant menus and metro stations in prominent locales like Taipei and Taichung include English on signage so you can easily find the way to your hotel and order a delectable meal.
Furthermore, Taiwanese locals are amicable. In some cases, all you need to do is ask a local to help you find what you need. Most people will be more than happy to help you if you get lost or need assistance with something. Locals may come up to you while visiting Taiwan, asking where you're from and how you like their home.
Of course, there are areas in Taiwan with confusing Chinese signage for those who don't speak the language, as well as numerous people who don't speak English. Nonetheless, they'll do their best to help you find someone to assist you.
Start Planning Your Trip to Taiwan
The most critical thing any traveler should note when planning their trip is that Taiwan is much larger than it looks on a map. Many first-timers think that Taiwan offers "Taipei and little else" or that tourists can see the entire country in a few days. The truth is, seeing Taiwan usually takes a few weeks to take it all in.
A comprehensive trip to Taiwan that explores most destinations on the island will require two weeks in the country. But even with a week in Taiwan, tourists can cover a significant amount of ground, albeit nothing close to comprehensive.
Taiwan is a relatively inexpensive country to visit. Most travelers can expect to spend approximately USD 100 per person per day when experiencing the country.
While Taiwan might not initially reside on your radar, it is genuinely a country worth visiting. Every corner you travel, you can find something worthy of attention and exploration. Our team at SOF Hotel in Taichung assures you that you can have the time of your life immersing yourself in a melting pot of art, culture, architecture, people, and cuisine.