Top events in Taiwan

March
29

Less a festival than a time of remembrance, 29 March has been marked as Youth Day in Taiwan every year since 1954. It commemorates the 72 young...

April
05

Tying in with the anniversary of Chiang Kai-Shek’s death in 1975, the day has evolved into an opportunity for people to reflect on –...

April
08

Intended as a way of showing respect and piety to the Lord Buddha, this annual event witnesses a symbolic temple ritual based on herbs and...

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Taiwan beach

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Taiwan Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

36,188 sq km (13,972 sq miles).

Population

23.3 million (2013).

Population density

643.9 per sq km.

Capital

Taipei.

Government

Republic since 1912.

Head of state

President Ma Ying-jeou since 2008.

Head of government

Prime Minister Jiang Yi-huah since 2013.

Electricity

110 volts AC, 60Hz. American-style plugs with two flat pins (and sometimes a third grounding pin) are used.

Sitting pretty as one of Asia’s best-kept travel secrets, the spicy, scenic island of Taiwan makes a habit of smashing visitor preconceptions. Outsiders tend to see it as somewhere notable only for its technological prowess, an image consistently reinforced by the global prominence of ‘Made in Taiwan’ stickers. The fuller picture, however, is a destination that serves up awe-inspiring panoramas, a rainbow of different cultures and a startlingly rich history.

Alongside night markets, cycle trails and hot springs, there are gleaming skyscrapers, hulking mountains and sparkling lakes. When you factor in the manageable size of the island, which tops out at less than half the size of Scotland, the appeal becomes even more significant.

Taiwan is one of the few places on earth where ancient religious and cultural practices still thrive in an overwhelmingly modernist landscape. This juxtaposition is expressed most clearly in Taipei, where futuristic marvels like Taipei 101 – still the second-largest building in the world – share the city with thronged, incense-fogged temples. The sharp contrast between old and new is apparent elsewhere too, with the corridor of factories and cities on the west coast offset by the indigenous communities that still form an integral part of day-to-day life.

The mix of different influences that makes up modern Taiwan is also neatly showcased by the island’s cuisine – a lip-smacking blend of Chinese, Japanese and aboriginal fare. Like many aspects of life here though, its full context only becomes really apparent when you look at the island’s history. Japan ruled for five decades, following which – in 1949 – supporters and soldiers of the Chinese Nationalist Party fled here after being defeated by the forces of Chairman Mao in the Chinese Civil War. To this day, Taiwan remains a product of this period – a maverick state still viewed with uneasiness by Beijing.

But history buff or no history buff, there’s much to enjoy here for the casual traveller. In general terms it’s a safe, hospitable destination, free of much of the overwhelming scale that can make China itself daunting for some tourists. That’s not to say Taiwan lacks the potential for independent adventure, of course – far from it – but in many ways it’s a more straightforward travel prospect than the mainland.

In former times, Taiwan was known as Formosa, a word derived from the Portuguese for “beautiful island”, and it’s a sobriquet that still seems apt. Away from the sleek towers and pulsing neon of the cities, it’s the valleys, lakes and gorges of the countryside that tend to leave the greatest impression. The fact that comparatively few leisure tourists make it to Taiwan in the first place is more to do with a lack of awareness than a lack of things to do – hikers, cyclists, divers, surfers, pilgrims, gourmands and luxury-lovers will all find a little slice of heaven here. True, a location bang on the Tropic of Cancer means the weather can be changeable, but even when the brollies are up, this is an absorbing place to visit.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 26 February 2015

The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.


Advance fee frauds

Individuals and companies in the UK (and elsewhere) often receive letters, faxes and e-mails, offering them large sums of money provided they send various ‘advance fees’ to Taiwanese bank accounts. Fraudsters obtain contact details from telephone or commercial directories, so recipients are not being specifically targeted.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) investigates advance fee frauds in the UK. Do not reply to these types of communication. The NCA website contains more information on this type of fraud.

Local travel

There is a risk of road blockages and landslides following typhoons, especially in central and southern Taiwan. You should check the Central Weather Bureau website and the Directorate General of Highways website before travelling.

Road travel

To drive in Taiwan you need an International Driving Permit (IDP). Once in Taiwan, you will need to take your passport, IDP and a passport photograph to the nearest Vehicle Registration Department and apply for a driver’s licence visa, which will then be secured in your IDP.

The alcohol limit for drivers in Taiwan is lower than in the UK. The current legal limit is 0.15 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath or 0.03% blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Driving while over the limit can result in heavy fines and imprisonment. Passengers may also be fined.

Be alert crossing roads, even on protected crossings.

Political situation

Avoid large-scale political gatherings.

Consular assistance

The UK does not have diplomatic relations with Taiwan. The British Assistance and Services Section of the British Trade and Cultural Office (BTCO) in Taipei can provide certain limited consular assistance. In cases of genuine emergency, the BTCO may be able to issue you with an emergency travel document.

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