Gone are the days of huge smog filled cities and factories in Taiwan as much of the industry has moved to China. There is much on offer to travellers in the form actively used ancient temples, tiny rice farming villages and fantastic unspoilt mountain ranges shrouded in a carpet of clouds. Modern and traditional Taiwan coexist side by side, meaning that travellers have quite a good choice of things to do in Taiwan, on one day you could be trekking through foothills or visiting Buddhist monuments and on the next day you could be shopping or sampling the nightlife in one of the country’s bustling towns.
- Currency: New Taiwan Dollar (NT$) = 100 cents
- Time Zone: GMT + 8
- Language: Mandarin
- Telephone Services: Country code +886, International Access code 002
- Emergency Numbers: 110 Police
The climate in Taiwan is generally sub tropical, the temperatures in the north are more moderate and this region experiences a defined winter. The southern region does not have a winter season as such and is warm and sunny all year round, there is however a onsoon season from June to October.
Things to see and do
Taiwan’s capital is a city called Taipei, this city is home to about 6 million inhabitants and is easily the busiest city on the island. Although there are definite problems with pollution and traffic congestion, Taipei has the biggest selection of shops, bars and nightlife on the island. The city centre also offers a selection of tourist attractions from the National Museum of History to Fu Hsing Dramatic Arts Academy, here visitor have the opportunity to take a tour of this remarkable institution and watch tradition Chinese opera, acrobatics and theatre. The city also houses what is reputably the finest example of temple architecture in the country in the form of the Lungshan or “Dragon Mountain” temple. This temple was founded in 1740 and was built as a tribute to Kuan Yin, the goddess of mercy.
No Asian country would complete without its temple town, in Taiwan the town of Tainan fills the niche nicely. There are over 200 temples in and around the town, many still in active use. Highlights include the Taoist East Mountain temple where worshippers come to exercise ghosts or to communicate with their ancestors and the Mito temple which is famous for its statue of the 100 armed goddess of mercy Kuan Yin. Visitors looking witness actual Buddhist practices should head for Luerhmen. This suburb contains three large temples which are in current use. At each of them you have the opportunity to have your name engraved on a temple artefact in exchange for a donation to maintenance costs. Once you have seen the temples the Woozland water park is close by and offers an excellent way to unwind after a hard day’s temple touring.
A short ferry hop from the south-east coast of Taiwan takes you to the beautiful volcanic island of Lanyu. This tiny island has a tropical climate and is inhabited by Yami aborigines. The Yami speak their own dialect which is totally dissimilar to Chinese, whilst modern culture has influenced the Yami people there is still a lot of aborigine culture present. For example the Yami build their homes underground to avoid typhoons. There is enough of a Chinese influence for you to find restaurants and taxis so inexperienced travellers shouldn’t feel too out of their depth when exploring this pretty little island.
The rail system in Taiwan is provided by the Taiwan Railway Administration. The service is quite good especially on major tourist routes such as Tapei – Kaohsiung or Tapei to Sun Moon Lake. Most cars are air conditioned and some trains have a restaurant carriage. Fares are quite cheap and children under three travel free with under 13s paying only half fares. Tickets can be purchased from train stations or from most hotels.
The inter-city bus system in Taiwan is run by a collection of private companies with no real central resource. Fares are cheap but buses are often crowded, the best bet is to ask your hotel for details of bus services or find a tourist information point locally.
Travel within cities is generally accomplished by using local buses but Taipei has a partly finished monorail system which serves the city centre and some of the suburbs.
There are over 450 tourist hotels in Taiwan ranging from small budget hotels right up to luxury “5 lotus blossom” hotels with extensive facilities such as pools, gyms and tennis courts. Most hotels belong to the Internatinoal Tourist Hotel Association of Taipei who can be contacted at the address given in our “Useful addresses” section.
There is limited hostel accommodation in Taiwan mostly centred around major cities or tourist hotspots. Both dormitory and non-dormitory rooms are offered at most locations. Many hostels will give discounts to members of the International Youth Hostel Federation.
Healthcare in Taiwan is more than adequate and most western medications are available. Staff are well trained and competent and very close to the standards of the US or Western Europe. Healthcare is quite expensive especially for medicines which are not locally produced so comprehensive travel insurance is highly recommended.
A vaccination against typhoid is advised before departing for Taiwan. The appropriate vaccination can be supplied by your GP and should cost no more than �40. There are no other vaccinations required although you should consult your GP for up to the minute medical advice before you travel.
Tap water is not considered safe to drink and should be boiled or otherwise sterilised before use. Bottled water is recommended. Milk are usually pasteurised, long-life, or filtered to make them safe for human consumption. Meat should be well cooked and served hot, both fruit and vegetables should be washed and peeled before use. Normal precautions should be observed when purchasing food from street vendors.
The Taiwan Railway Administration operates the rail network in Taiwan