So, you are going to Taiwan, great! But before you get on the plane, let’s get prepared. If you spend a little time and energy now, your trip will be much more pleasant.
What do I need to do before I visit Taiwan?
- Check that your passport is not about to expire
- Install Skype on your phone and add some credit
- Install these must-have apps on your phone
- Buy reading material
- Get some noise cancelling headphones
- Get an eye mask and earplugs
- Carry a pen and be ready to fill out the visa waiver form
- Check with your doctor for vaccination advice
Some of that might seem pretty obvious, but please allow me to elaborate. I have spent a lot of time travelling and preparation now will make your trip get off to a flying start.
This is what you need to prepare
Be sure to check your passport and visa requirements. Most people can visit Taiwan without a visa for 90 days. Your passport must also be valid for the entire period of your visit.
Check your requirements here > Taiwanese government site
Install Skype on your phone and add some credit
The cost of making international phone calls can be astronomical, so I strongly recommend that you find a cheap way to make calls. I have been using Skype for the past two years and have found it excellent. I have had several really long calls to the UK and the costs are very low. You will need to locate a good WiFi connection to use Skype, but thankfully Taiwan is blessed with many sources of WiFi.
The price you pay depends on the country you’re calling to, not the country you’re calling from.
Skype will direct you to a page that suggests a subscription, but I prefer just to add credit.
Add Skype credit
Install these must-have apps on your phone
Taiwanese people speak Mandarin so don’t expect to see everything translated to English. You will need translation methods. I have tried many different apps, and it seems that every day new ones are created so please take the time to check for yourself what are the latest and greatest. Here is what I use on a regular basis. I’m an iPhone user so cannot be sure of the android content.
For Menu Translation
This is my go-to app for reading menus. The free version has a limit on the number of translations per day. I upgraded and found it to be very worthwhile.
Waygo on the iOS App Store
Waygo app for android
For General Use
I use this one for general conversation, and it seems to work pretty well, you will need an internet connection. I seem to remember paying for it but now it is free, so it’s a no-brainer, just try it.
Say Hi on the iOS App Store
Say Hi app for android
For Trains, High-Speed Rail and MRT
For Weather Prediction
You are no doubt aware that Taiwan has a typhoon season that operates between June and October, well I have been using Windy for a few years now and find that it is very accurate. I don’t have the paid version, but I find it adequate.
Windy app on the iOS app store
Windy app for android
You probably already have this on your phone. If you don’t, install it. You can save downloaded map areas to your phone so that it will work without an internet connection. I would recommend that you do that for the areas you will be visiting.
Buy reading material
They say that knowledge is key and I would have to agree with them. here are some useful books for you to read both prior to your visit and to refer to during your stay.
Forbidden Nation: A History of Taiwan
Taiwan has an amazing past. This book tells that story in a really interesting and compelling way.
Buy on Amazon
The Islands of Taiwan: A Guide to Penghu, Kinmen, Lanyu, Matsu, Green Island, and Taiwan’s Other Outlying Islands
If you are planning to visit any of Taiwan’s many islands, then this book is a must. I have visited Matsu, Penghu and Xiao Liuqiu and have found it to be indispensable. Kindle version only.
Buy on Amazon
Useful Tip – Consider buying books in electronic format. Most of us travel with some form of tablet or device so it makes sense. Whilst you may think they are
noereplacement for the real thing, they are much easier to carry!
Get some noise cancelling headphones
Planes are noisy environments, that is a fact! Even when there is not a screaming baby in the row behind you, planes can be mentally tiring places to be. I worked as an engineer in the past and spent a lot of my life in the air. Without a doubt, the number one thing that I could not do without is a good pair of noise cancelling headphones. Not only do they cut out ambient noise they also offer a superb listening experience. The annoying guy sat next to you will not keep chatting to you after you put these on so that’s another big plus!
I have a pair of Bose QC 35 II, and I love them. You will find that songs from your youth sound different with these. Unbelievably good!
There are many other brands but after extensive research, here are my recommendations:
Click the links for the latest prices.
Get an eye mask and earplugs
If you are flying from Europe or America, then the chances are that you will have a long flight or multiple flights. It is essential for you to get some rest if you are to arrive in Taiwan refreshed and ready for the new experiences that await you. I used to scoff at people wearing eye masks until I tried one and now I won’t travel without one. You can often get earplugs included too.
Try to get the sort that is embossed so that they don’t actually rest on your eyes. They are more comfortable than the cheap ones.
Here is my recommendation with the latest price:
Carry a pen and be ready to fill out the visa waiver form
During your flight to Taiwan, you should be issued with a form to complete. This form is used at immigration to get the 90-day stamp in your passport. If the cabin crew do not give you one, then ask for it. This will save you time when you land.
You will be asked to provide the following (this is from memory):
- Your name & address
- Your profession
- Reason for visit
- The place you will be staying at in Taiwan
Check with your doctor for vaccination advice
Taiwan is a very safe place to visit, it doesn’t have any serious illnesses that you need to vaccinate for such as malaria or yellow fever. Even so, I would still check with your doctor to see if they have any recommendations.
Tips For Flying
Here are some tips that I have picked up over the years:
- If you have a long flight – more than two hours, then choose an aisle seat. Why? You will not have to disturb people if you want to get up to stretch your legs or visit the bathroom.
- If you have a short flight – less than two hours, then choose a window seat. You will be able to relax without people disturbing you. You can rest your head against the side of the plane and sleep. This is preferable to waking up to find you have dribbled over the passenger next to you.
- Drink plenty of water. Flying can take its toll on your body.
- Get a face mask (the kind you see Asians wearing). A mask can help to protect you if passengers nearby have cold or flu symptoms.
- Don’t forget to change your in-flight meal if you have special requirements. It’s fun to pick something different too!
- Get up and walk around. This will keep your circulation going and avoid D.V.T.
- Use seat guru to select the best seat – Seat Guru.
- Travel light. Don’t carry stuff that you will never use!
- Wear comfortable clothes.
Q: Does Taiwan have any strange laws?
A: Yes, it does. I’m not a lawyer, but I have heard the following:
- Vaping is illegal here.
- Adultery. Sex with a married person could mean that you spend one year in prison.
- No motorcycles are allowed on the freeway.
Things not to do in Taiwan
- Try not to lose your temper.
- Don’t stick your chopsticks in your rice. Instead, rest them on top of your bowl.
- Do not cross the road without looking both ways! There are scooters everywhere!