Travelling to Taiwan is not something a lot of travel bugs would feature in their blogs, Facebook posts, and Youtube videos compared to visiting Thailand or China. If you have worked or are working as an ESL teacher in China, it is hard to imagine that you have not decided to go out there and enjoy the beauty it has to offer.
The same goes for Thailand. It is a land surrounded by pristine beaches and beautiful scenery that it is hard to not explore it.
But what about Taiwan? What about this beautiful country that boasts of the modern and the traditional living coexisting in one place. Why do we hear less about this?
Maybe because people have thought that Taiwan would be a boring backpacking feat. However, it is not the case. Although the pollution had been very bad for Taiwan before, it is now very different. It is a little different with Thailand or China, but it’s a destination you should not miss.
Here are the list of things you ought to know when backpacking in Taiwan:
1. Currency and Cost of Living
One (1) US dollar is equal to approximately 30 New Taiwan dollars (TWD) as of writing. The cost of living in Taiwan is higher than most Southeast Asian country, but you can find a lot of cheaps items around their market.
Taiwanese speak Mandarin. Although, you have to take note that they speak many languages in Taiwan like for example Hokkien, what is commonly spoken is Mandarin Chinese.
3. Emergency Numbers
As a traveller, it is important to know the country’s emergency numbers. For ambulance, dial the number 119. For police help and assistance, dial 110. For English speaking directory assistance, dial 106.
4. Telephone Service
Taiwan’s country code is +886 and its International Access Code is 002. SIM cards are available in shops and in the airport. Getting a data plan is easy. Just prepare two valid identification cards like a passport and a national ID.
Taiwan has a subtropical climate. The northern part experiences winter and the south is generally sunny but experiences monsoon season from June to October. Plan your backpacking adventure according to their climate and weather. With the weather apps sprouting nowadays, it will help you determine if it is the good time to visit Taiwan on a certain day.
There are approximately 450 hotels in Taiwan. It ranges from the budget hotels most backpackers would want to be in up to the luxury hotels. That means you have a wide array of choices where you would like to stay for the night.
7. Health care
It is highly suggested that you have your health care covered by your travel insurance. Taiwan’s standard in providing health services is western-based. That means the level of care and attention the medical staff can give you is at par with United States or Europe. However, healthcare is a bit pricey.
8. Transportation System
Taiwan has its railway system and it called Taipei Metro or MRT. You can ride the MRT if you are heading for some of their major tourist routes. Nevertheless, you can also take a cab and the bus. Passengers 3 years old and below are free of fare charge, and students 13 years old below only pay half the price.
9. Culture, customs and etiquette
The eldest person in the room should be greeted first. The most common from of greeting foreigners is by giving a handshake, but as a form of respect, they would commonly bow their heads down. Do not be surprised if the first question they will ask you is “Have you eaten?” That is normal.
10. Things to see
Watch traditional Chinese opera, acrobatics and theatre. Visit temples because your Southeast Asian trip wouldn’t be complete without visiting one. Do not forget to visit the tiny volcanic island of Lanyu and the Sun Moon Lake. There are a lot to see around Taiwan, but one should never miss walking down the streets of Shilin Night Market.
There are a lot of things to learn about Taiwan. As a backpacker, it is nice to know what to expect. Maybe unlike other countries, what is different with Taiwan is the fact that people do not expect anything from it. But the moment they visit this beautiful state, it will definitely take their breath away. Backpacking in Thailand is an adventure that shouldn’t be missed.