Money! It seems that we are all obsessed with it. We love spending it more than we do making it. When you travel to a new country, getting your hands on a new, unfamiliar currency is always fun!
What is the currency of Taiwan? The short answer is the New Taiwan Dollar. The code is TWD, and its symbol is NT$
That short answer might be all that you were looking for, but I doubt that you will stop there, will you? Why do they choose the name “Dollar”, and what happened to the old Taiwanese dollar? This article aims to introduce you fully to the currency. I will show you what it looks like, where you can get it and the story behind the characters immortalized on the bills and coins as well as the images and pictures.
Show Me the Money
Let us start this tale by showing you the bills and coins that are currently in circulation. There are a few that you will likely never get to handle, not because they are too expensive for you, it’s because they are rare.
There are a total of five different banknotes. I think they are one of the more attractive currencies with vibrant colors and well-designed graphics.
2,000 dollars – Rare, I have never seen one!
1,000 dollars – Very common, it the highest denomination bill that you will probably handle.
500 dollars – Not so frequent as the 1,000 or 100 bills.
200 dollars – Rare, I doubt you will get one.
100 dollars – You will get your hands on a lot of these if you visit Taiwan.
50 dollars – In everyday use, The largest denomination coin. Brass colored.
20 dollars – Rare because the government don’t want to promote its use.
10 dollars – In everyday use. Silver color.
5 dollars – In everyday use. Silver color.
1 dollar – In daily use. Copper colored.
1/2 dollar – Rare due to the low value. I have never seen one. Apparently, these cost more to manufacture than they are worth.
There are no cents.
How to Pay For Things?
Stores and Restaurants
Cash is definitely king here in Taiwan. It seems that most restaurants and smaller family-run stores prefer it. Don’t be surprised if they don’t want to take plastic. The larger stores accept credit cards without a problem but always be prepared for them to ask for cash.
Tip– You can often negotiate a lower price in some stores if you are using cash. In fact, I have been quoted two prices in some camera/ electronics stores. One for cash and another if I use a debit or credit card.
You can pay by cash or card at stations. You can also buy high-speed rail tickets in convenience stores (ask the clerk for help as the kiosk is in Chinese).
MRT, Trams and Buses
You can buy tickets at MRT stations, but it’s more convenient to use a Cash Card such as an EasyCard or an iPass. You can purchase and top them up with cash at convenience stores. Then it’s just a matter of swiping your card to travel.
You can pay by cash or credit card but always negotiate the price first with the driver.
You can get an Uber in cities too!
Where Can I Get Some NT$?
Getting hold of cash here is very easy. You can change currency in banks or simply use ATM’s.
Using ATM Machines
These are very similar to the ATM’s elsewhere. Don’t worry, they all have English. But do check that your kind of card will be accepted. They have stickers on the machine.
There is a limit of 20,000 NT$ per day, but your bank may have a restriction that lowers that amount.
Tip– I once spent hours going around banks trying to take out 20,000 NT$ on my UK bank card. They had set a limit of around 15,000 NT$, but I didn’t realise. There will likely be no explanation on the screen, it will just be refused. If this happens then try a lower amount.
They will have an ATM machine inside or outside as well as the possibility to do a currency exchange.
Tip – Some banks are more willing to do this than others. Currencies other than US Dollars may be refused.
The large international airports have currency exchange services.
Almost all Convenience stores have ATM machines.
There are Western Union branches in the large cities that will allow you to send an receive money.
It’s Time For a Story!
At the start of the article, I promised that I would tell you more about the history and relevance of the characters and images used on the banknotes and coins.
New NT$? What Happened to the Old One?
The new Taiwan dollar was introduced back in 1949 to replace the old Taiwan dollar. This is quite a sad story, for the old Taiwan dollar was only three years old when it was killed off! This was due to hyperinflation. The old Taiwan dollar had notes ranging from 1 dollar all the way up to 1,000,000 dollars. The new dollar replaced the old one at a rate of 40,000 to 1. So, in theory, if you bought a newspaper and used a 1,000,000 dollar banknote, you could have been given thousands of 1 dollar banknotes as change! I doubt that ever happened but it’s crazy to think about it! Prior to the old dollar, was the Taiwanese Yen. Yen, That’s Japanese, isn’t it? Yes, it is. Taiwan was under Japanese rule between 1895 and 1945.
Who are the People and What are the Images?
Present on 1, 5, 10 and 200 NT$.
He was a very famous politician and military leader. He led the Republic of China between 1928 and 1975. This leadership started in mainland China, but he was exiled to Taiwan in 1949. He was big friends with Sun Yat-sen.
Present on 10, 50 and 100 NT$
The founding father and first provisional president of the Republic of China. He was a doctor, writer, philosopher and revolutionary figure. He is referred to as the “Father of the Nation,” and a forerunner of democracy in Taiwan.
Present on 20 NT$
He was the son of the chief of the Seediq tribe of Taiwanese aborigines. He became famous for leading the revolt of Wushe against the Japanese in 1930. He ended up shooting himself as he thought it preferable to being captured alive.
Present on 100 NT$
This is situated in the Yangmingshan National Park, just north of Taipei. It was built in 1966 by thousands of military veterans in just 13 months. It was a venue for the National Assembly until it was suspended in 2005. It was also off-limits to the general public until this date.
Formosan sika deer
Present on 500 NT$
These deer are a subspecies of the sika deer that are unique to the island of Taiwan. As a result of hunting, urbanization and other factors, the last wild sika deer was killed in 1969. Thankfully they breed easily in captivity and were re-released into the wild at Kenting National Park. They are now over 1,000 strong.
Present on 1000 NT$
The Mikado pheasant is a game bird that is unique to the mountainous areas of Taiwan. Some people consider it to be the unofficial national bird of Taiwan. They tend to be found in Yushan National Park.
Present on 2000 NT$
Formosat–1 was a Taiwanese satellite launched by in 1999 at Cape Canaveral, USA. It saw five years of service before being decommissioned in 2004. Its purpose was to observe the ionosphere and the oceans.
Formosan landlocked salmon
Present on the 2000 NT$
The Formosan landlocked salmon is a subspecies of the West Pacific Cherry Salmon. Its status is critically endangered and is worryingly close to extinction. The main threat to this unique fish is pollution.
How much money will I need each day?
I will estimate the rough cost per day based on three scenarios. Budget, intermediate and splurge. This amount is for the basics, accommodation and food. Extra travel will be on top.
you can stay in Taiwan quite cheaply if you stay in hostels and eat simple food with the locals.
Hostel bed 400 NT$.
food 100 NT$ per meal.
This is being generous with the food allowance. It’s possible to get a simple rice or noodle dish for 50 NT$.
Now we have moved up to a hotel room and better food options.
Hotel room 1,500 NT$
Breakfast 150 NT$
Lunch 150 NT$
Dinner 400 NT$
Total 2,200 NT$
The sky is the limit! I’m just going to say that for 5,000 NT$ a day you can really get something nice!
Exchange Rate Calculator
Can you use US currency in Taiwan? Yes, you can use US dollars in some shops and hotels. I wouldn’t recommend it though as the exchange rate will not be in your favour.
What is the currency in Taipei? It’s the same as everywhere else in Taiwan, the New Taiwan Dollar.