Travel guide to Taiwan

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Taiwan is also called 'Ilha Formosa' - which means the Beautiful Island. This is a perfect description of this big island just off the shores of eastern China. But Taiwan is much more than this. Here you can find big cities with millions of citizens - all noisy efficiency and fast working machines - and all revealing that the island has kept up with technological development whilst still retaining its older, distinctive character.

Facts

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Local name
The Chinese Republic
Capital
Taipei
Size
36,000 km2
Principal Languages
Taiwanese and Mandarin-Chinese (the latter being the official language, but it is not spoken by the majority)
Principal Religion
Buddhism (also Taoism, Christianity, and Islam are relatively widespread religions in Taiwan).
Inhabitants
21,7 million
Government
Democratic Republic (since 1949)
Geography
Mountains cover two thirds of the country, and many of these mountains are extremely high and covered in snow all year round. But Taiwan also has beautiful lakes in the eastern part of the country, and a rugged, moonlike landscape in the north close to Taipei. The south-western part of the country is very fertile, and the area is used mainly for agriculture.

Travel preparation

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Best time to visit

It is very warm in Taiwan during the months of July and August - especially in the southern part of the country. It is at this time of the year that the Chinese people (as the Taiwanese often call themselves) do their summer travelling which means that prices go up. You should also be aware of the Chinese New Year which draws an enormous number of people (check the Holiday-paragraph for further details). The months of October and November - when the temperature is moderate and the prices are low - are usually a good time in which to visit Taiwan.

Literature

Lonely Planet Taiwan Culture Shock! Taiwan

Local conditions

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Currency

New Taiwan Dollar (NT$), also called yuan or kuai

Net cafes

There are good Internet facilities in Taiwan - mostly concentrated in cities like Taipai, Taichung, and Tainan. If you have problems finding an Internet café in Taipai, try the following address: No. 7, Lane 60, Sec. 3 Hsin-Shen S. Road.

In case of emergency

In Taiwan you dial 110 for police and 119 for accidents that has to do with fire. In order to call English speaking police personnel dial: +886 (2) 511-9564. In case of an accident you can contact English-speaking personnel on: +886 (2) 717-3737.

Tipping

It is not normal procedure to tip in Taiwan. However, it is usually expected that you tip piccolos and baggage carriers.

Timezone

When the time is 12:00 noon in the UK it is 08:00 p.m. in Taiwan. There is no time distinction between summer and winter in Taiwan.

Weight and Measures

In most of Taiwan the metric system is used. However in rural areas and at the different vegetable markets in the cities the old Taiwanese system of catty and tael is used. A catty is 0.6 kg and the same as 16 taels.

Photography

Taiwan has often been called the photographer's paradise, which indicates that there are good opportunities for expanding your collection of holiday pictures. When taking pictures of the locals, it is best if you ask first. Most locals will readily agree.

Drinking water

The government recommends that you do not drink the tap water, but it is not downright dangerous to do so. It is possible to buy bottled water in most places.

Electricity

In Taiwan, like in the US, the 110V system is used. In the more populated areas, it is also possible to come across the European 220V system. The air-conditioning uses 220V in Taiwan

Behaviour

Show ordinary decency and respect for the local culture, especially in temples and monasteries

Business Hours

The banks are open between 09:00 a.m. and 03:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, and between 09:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. Saturday. The stores have their businesses hours somewhere between 09:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. (the bigger warehouses usually start business at 11:00 a.m.). Many small shops and restaurants are open for business even after 10:00 p.m. Most offices and public buildings are closed due to the Chinese siesta that takes place between 12:00 p.m. and 01:30 p.m

Food and drink

If you can cook, grill or peel it, it is usually edible. This is a good rule of thumb to go by if you want to avoid stomach trouble. Another tip is to eat at restaurants that are full of local people. This is almost always a sign that the place uses decent primary produce so the quality of the food is high. Taiwanese delicacies are quite similar to those of Chinese cuisine - but fish is a partcular Taiwanese speciality. You should, however, take care with the different kinds of shellfish.

Disabled travellers

The biggest problem for the disabled is the extreme traffic. In the cities there are a number of pedestrian crossings in the form of either subways or small bridges. Taiwan has done a lot concerning parking for the disabled, and many museums now have facilities to help their disabled visitors.

Holidays

Taiwan has an large number of different holidays. Here are the days when the banks and stores are closed:- 1st January (sometimes also 2nd January), Chinese New Year: 3 days in February or March, 29th March, 5th April, the Dragon Boat Festival: Sometime in June, 23rd September, 27th September, 10th October, 25th October, 31st October, 12th November, 25th December.

Accommodation / Hotel

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Camping

There are camping sites all over the country.

Hotels

There are approximately 400 tourist hotels in the entire country - all rated by between one and five stars. Apart from Japan, Taiwan is the most expensive country in Asia.

Hostels

There are quite a few hostels and youth hostels scattered over the island of Taiwan, and it is not necessary to book a room in advance.

Local transport

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Planes

It is not really necessary to travel by plane if you don't want to leave the island due to the fact that the distances in Taiwan are rather short. If you plan to travel by plane anyway, it is best to know that the local travel agencies often are a lot cheaper than buying your ticket directly from the airlines. Warning: It is strictly forbidden to use cell-phones whilst aboard the planes. Any violations of this regulation are punished with a considerable fine, and maybe even imprisonment!

Bus

Transportation by bus is efficient and very comfortable, but the traffic in the cities may cause serious delays. One should note that it is important to hold on to the ticket, as it is demanded that it be shown to the bus driver when the bus reaches its destination. If you are not able to produce a ticket at this point, chances are that you will have to pay for the ride again!

Trains

The railway system is not up to European standards, but you will find good dining facilities on the trains - and free tea is served during the journey!

Taxi

Long distance taxi drivers have a somewhat bad reputation and usually they are quite eager to get customers. It is a good idea to agree on a fixed price with the driver before you set out.

Car rental

It is possible to rent a car in the bigger cities

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