T a i w a n
Customs || Quility Accommodations || Bargain Hunting || Telecommunication Services || Useful Phone Numbers
Shaped roughly like a tobacco leaf, Taiwan is 394 kilometers (245 miles) long and 144 kilometers (89.5 miles) wide at its broadest point. The Central Mountain Range bisects Taiwan from north to south and about two-thirds of the island is covered with forested peaks. The rest of the island is made up of foothills, terraced flatlands, and coastal plains and basins. Taiwan includes the Penghu Archipelago--a group of 64 islands previously known as the Pescadores--and 21 other islands.
Many Americans and Europeans come to Taiwan for a summer vacation or a
year or two to study Mandarin. Taipei has a variety of language schools
which offer Chinese, from inexpensive classes taught by the hour to college
courses for credit.
Major credit cards are accepted and traveler's checks may be cashed at some tourist-oriented businesses and by room guests at most international tourist hotels. American Express travelers checks can be cashed at the American Express office, 214 Tunhua N. Rd., Taipei, tel: (02) 7151581.
14-day visa-free privileges are afforded to citizens of the United States,
Japan, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Austria, Holland,
Belgium, Luxemburg Australia, New Zealand, Spain,Sweden, and Portugal.
Foreign nationals may obtain a tourist visa if they bold foreign passports or travel documents valid for more than six months and wish to stay less than six months in the Republic of China for purposes of sightseeing, business, family visits, study or training, medical treatment, or other legitimate activities.
Visa requirements include one completed application form, incoming and outgoing travel tickets (or a letter of confirmation from a travel agency), three photos, documents verifying the purpose of the visit (except for transit or sightseeing), and a letter of guarantee (in some cases).
Tourist visas may be single- or multiple-entry, and allow stays in the ROC for two weeks to 60 days. Unless restricted to two weeks, tourist visa holders may apply for a maximum of two 60-day extensions, for a total of six months. I-lolders of a tourist visa are not permitted to assume employment in the ROC without authorization.
Domestic travel is also easy and convenient. Inexpensive air-conditioned limousine buses depart the airport at Taoyuan every 15 minutes for both Taipei's Sungshan Domestic Airport and the main railway station. Major hotels provide transportation to and from the airport for their guests.
Seven domestic airlines currently provide daily flights between Taipei and other major cities, as well as to nearby Green and Orchid islands and the Penghu Archipelago.
Taiwan has modern freeway and railway systems which make travel between
major cities easy and convenient. Reliable express buses connect Taipei
with all major cities and most major scenic spots, and reserved-seat,
air-conditioned express trains provide fast, comfortable service around
the island. Fares for buses and trains are quite reasonable.
Travel time from Taipei in the north to Kaohsiung in the south takes five to six hours by train, four hours by bus, and 40 to 50 minutes by air. Hualien, on the east coast, is 30 minutes by air from Taipei and three to four hours by train.
Taiwan has a number of international and domestic car rental companies. Credit cards or sizable deposits are required, as well as an international or Taiwan driver's license. Chauffeur-driven cars can also be rented, and international tourist hotels will generally make such arrangements for guests. The following Taipei companies offer rental cars:
Major cities have an abundance of taxis. Charges are NT$ 65 for the first 1.65 km and NT$ 5 for each additional 350 meters. An additional NT$5 is charged for every four minutes of waiting, and a 20% surcharge is added to fares between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., the price of radio cars, and carrying luggage in the boot adds NT$10. Most drivers do not speak English, so it is a good idea to have hotel personnel write both your destination and your hotel's name and address in Chinese, along with the projected cost of each one-way trip.
A written declaration is required when bringing dutiable articles into the ROC. Duty is charged on gold in excess of 62.5 grams in weight. No more than NT$40,000 in cash may be brought into the country by each passenger, and undeclared sums in excess of this amount will be confiscated. Incoming passengers who want to bring in more than NT$40,000 in cash should apply, prior to entry, for a permit from the Ministry of Finance.
The following articles are prohibited from entry; there are severe penalties for their importation, use, possession, or sale:
Outbound Passengers Except in the following cases, completion of the Outbound Passenger's Declaration form is optional. Outbound passengers must declare to Customs in writing when:
Passengers who do not make a declaration to Customs and are found, on their departure from the ROC, to be carrying gold, silver, New Taiwan Dollar notes, and/or foreign currencies in excess of the designated limits, shall have the excess amount confiscated and may be subject to punishment by law. The designated limits on gold and/or silver ornaments, and currency which a passenger is allowed to carry on his departure from the ROC are as follows:
Up to 62.5 grams (or two market taels) of gold ornaments or coins; up to 625 grams (or 20 market taels) of silver ornaments or coins; up to US$5,000 in notes or the equivalent in foreign currencies; up to NT$40,000 in notes and 20 coins (of the types in circulation) of New Taiwan dollar notes.
Articles that may not be taken out of the country include unauthorized reprints or copies of books, records, videotapes, and so on; genuine Chinese antiques, ancient coins, and paintings; and items prohibited from entry, such as firearms, drugs, counterfeit currency, and contraband.
For further information about Customs matters, contact the Inspectorate General of Customs, 13 Tacheng St., Taipei, tel: (02) 550-5500.
The government has approved of 77 hotels in Taiwan as "international tourist" and "tourist" hotels. International tourist hotels (four and five plum blossoms) have larger bedrooms and better facilities; tourist hotels (two and three plum blossoms) have smaller bedrooms and facilities, and lower prices. Inexpensive hostels and youth activity centers (unrated) provide bed and board; many have private and dormitory-style rooms, and in some the staff speak very basic, if any, English.
Taiwan's quality hotels generally provide elegant shopping arcades (credit cards accepted), magazine or book stands, hair salons, fitness centers, cocktail lounges or nightclubs, Western movies on guest-room TVs, complete business services (including business centers), and meeting and banquet facilities (for groups of two to 2,000). Hotel tour services are informative and helpful; they will assist guests in arranging everything from bus or airline tickets to round-the-island tours.
Many of Taiwan's finest restaurants--though by no means all--are located in international tourist hotels, which generally offer several types of regional Chinese cuisines as well as Western food, coffee shops or lounges. Quality hotel restaurants usually have excellent service, an elegant atmosphere, and cuisine prepared by experienced chefs.
Taiwan's department stores and hotel arcades generally have some clerks who speak English, major credit cards may be accepted, and product quality is guaranteed. Several of Taipei's department stores have been designated "government-approved shopping centers."
Boutiques, small stores, and night markets are usually less expensive than department stores. These generally accept cash only. Boutique clerks and vendors rarely speak foreign languages, but shoppers can use pen and paper to bargain. In the cities, the best selections and prices for souvenirs, gifts, and traditional handicrafts can be found in night markets.
Taiwan law forbids taking genuine antiques (over 100 years old) out of the country, but vendors and "antiques" dealers offer fine reproductions of porcelains, jade, and paintings.
In addition to its night markets, Taipei has several bargain shopping districts. Hsimenting, centered around Chunghua Rd., Sec. 1, has many boutiques with low-priced women's clothing, shoes, souvenirs, and electronics. A short drive away at the corner of Hsuchow and Chungshan S. roads is the Chinese Handicraft Mart, which offers good prices on an array of quality handicrafts. Deals on tailored suits, shirts, dresses, gifts, souvenirs, handicrafts, porcelain and painting reproductions, and English-language books can be found along Sections 1 and 2 of Chungshan N. Rd. The northern suburbs of Shihlin and Tienmu, along Chungshan N. Rd., Sections 5 and 6, have stores offering deals on bamboo and rattan furniture, pottery, and reproductions.
Dinghao, sprawling on Chunghsiao E. Rd., Sec. 4, between Fuhsing S. and Kuangfu S. roads, features international brand-name fashions and accessories (generally made in Taiwan under license), export garment shops, art galleries, and jewelry. Street vendors in the maze of alleys near Dinghao sell trinkets and costume jewelry. Established jewelry stores offer gold and other fine jewelry and can give certificates of guarantee. Vendors at the Weekend Jade Market, under the Chienkuo S. Rd. overpass at Jenai Rd., sell a variety of jade and curios.
Better bargains on specific types of products can be had with a little
bit of traveling. Porcelain makers in Peitou (north of Taipei) and Yingko
(to the southwest) allow factory tours and have good prices. In central
Taiwan, the town of Sanyi is renowned for its wood carvings; the town
of Chushan is known for its bamboo furniture, basket, and other decorative
items; and Chiayi is noted for its Oolung tea and bamboo handicrafts.
In southern Taiwan, the town of Kuanmiao, near Tainan, is Taiwan's rattan
center. Brass handicrafts are Kaohsiung's specialty; the city also has
boutiques, night markets, and department stores. Makung, in Penghu, is
famous for its coral souvenirs, seashells, and agate jewelry. Hualien,
on Taiwan's east coast, has bargains on souvenirs, jewelry, and handicrafts
made of marble or jade, as well as aborigine souvenirs.
Tel: (02) 344-3781 (24 hours)
Telegrams may also be sent from these CHT Branch Offices:
(1) CKS International Airport
Tel: (03) 383-2790 (8 a.m. to 6 p.m.)
(2) 23 Chungshan N. Rd., Sec. 2, Taipei
Tel: (02) 541-7434 (8 a.m. to 10 p.m.)
(3) 118 Chunghsiao W. Rd., Sec. 1, Taipei
Tel: (02) 344-3785 (8 a.m. to 10 p.m.)
(4) Sungshan Domestic Airport, Taipei
Tel: (02) 712-6112 (8 a.m. to 9 p.m.)