Taiwan Health Care and Vaccinations
Healthcare facilities are good and doctors are well-trained, although English isn’t always widely spoken, so it may be wise to enrol the services of someone who can translate for you. Imported medicines are expensive, but locally produced and manufactured medicines are plentiful. Dental treatment is adequate too, should emergency treatment be necessary on your travels.
Health insurance is highly recommended – you’ll be expected to pay upfront for treatment at hospitals and public health clinics then claim back on your insurance afterwards. The good news is that medical costs are reasonable. Private clinics are more costly, particularly in Taipei. In all cases, make sure you hang on to receipts for medicine and treatment to help with any claim, and ideally get hold of a signed medical form detailing your diagnosis – in English if at all possible, although this isn’t always essential.
Find well stocked pharmacies in all Taiwanese towns, many of them selling a similar range of products to Western chemists. Staff are generally very helpful towards visitors – if there’s a language barrier, don’t be shy about using sign language to ask for a particular product, even if it seems embarrassing!
Food and Drink
All water should be regarded as being potentially contaminated. Water used for drinking, brushing teeth or making ice should have first been boiled or otherwise sterilised. Bottled water is widely available and usually well priced – a great number of hotels provide water for guests as a matter of course. Milk is unpasteurised and should be boiled. Powdered or tinned milk is available and is advised. Avoid dairy products which are likely to have been made from unboiled milk. Only eat well-cooked meat and fish, preferably served hot. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit peeled.
Taiwan being the developed nation that it is, the vast majority of visitors will find that by taking sensible precautions, health concerns remain comfortingly low. As with most Asian destinations, things like dehydration and sunstroke are the cause of the most common ailments, so be sure to drink plenty of bottled water and take sun protection seriously.
Where more serious illnesses are concerned, vaccination is sometimes required for Japanese B encephalitis and there have been sporadic dengue fever outbreaks in recent years, most commonly in the south. Taiwan is not malarial. Likewise, there have been no cases of SARS since the 2003 outbreak, although the practice of locals wearing facemasks when suffering from a cold or virus is still commonplace. Avian influenza (bird flu) is still a slight issue, although its extremely low levels mean it is highly unlikely to affect travellers. The risk only really applies to those who spend significant time around poultry farms or bird markets. The H1N1 virus, otherwise known as swine flu, reached Taiwan in 2009, although its impact was comparatively low when compared with the worst affected Western nations.
If walking in secluded rural areas, keep an eye out for poisonous snakes – attacks are rare but can be serious.