I taught English in Taiwan for two months and travelled throughout the country during my stay. Taiwan is a relatively easy country to travel in—friendly locals, laidback atmosphere and using the public transportation system is a piece of cake. However, being in a new country can take time to adjust, so below is a list of 7 things that will help you travel in Taiwan:
Phone plans in Taiwan are amazingly cheap and worth the money whether you’re there for a layover or a month. You can purchase an unlimited data plan from Tayouan International Airport for NT $1000 (approx. CAD $40)—it will last you for 30 days, and if you plan to stay longer, you can purchase another one. The data plan is essential for obvious reasons—to stay connected to friends and family, find your way around or book train tickets in advance.
Where would I be without this app? A lot more lost I tell you. Google Maps is fundamental to my travels—of course you can be old school; look at signs, read a map, ask people for directions, follow the sun (yes, I once travelled with a lady who found her way by the direction of the sun), but travel is easier when you’re using Google Maps (p.s. I’m not endorsed by Google). Google maps will go into detail about how to get somewhere, the best transportation mode to use and the GPS will always pinpoint your exact location. The most helpful tip on Google Maps was when it told me which exit to leave through from the subway station. Subway stations in Taiwan can have multiple exits leading to many different streets. It was also helpful with finding the closest coffee shop and grocery store to my school. Download the app and use your unlimited data to spend more time exploring and less time being lost.
Google Maps, Instagram, Twitter, the camera app all come at the cost of a drained battery. A portable charger is necessary to ensure your phone lasts through the entire day. I was always at ease using my phone, knowing that I had back up battery power once my phone came close to dying.
This card is your golden ticket. You can use it everywhere (besides department stores/restaurants). Use it to pay for your groceries, ferry pass, bus fare, High Speed Rail (HSR) ticket and the list goes on. It costs NT $200 (approx. CAD $8) and you can purchase it from any Family Mart or 7 Eleven. Load it with money and tap it when making a purchase. When using it for transportation, make sure to tap off once you leave (like how you use the Presto card if you live in Toronto). I made sure to load this card whenever I was travelling to another part of Taiwan for the weekend.
Toilet paper and soap
If you’re outside of the major cities, like Taipei or Taichung, you will encounter something that will put you in utter shock—no toilet paper in the washrooms. I had to hold it in until I went to a 7 Eleven to purchase tissues and wet wipes. Taiwan seems to have a BYOTP (bring your own toilet paper) policy that needs to be taken seriously. You don’t want to end up using your sock, or worse, nothing at all. You will also encounter a lot of squat toilets so prepare your hamstrings… and aim. The lack of soap afterwards when washing your hands is another cause for concern. While purchasing toilet paper, make sure to grab a hold of hand sanitizer or a mini soap bottle.
If you’re planning to hike in Taiwan, bug spray is essential. The only area with exposed skin were my ankles and they were ravaged with mosquito bites. I always went home with huge, itchy bumps that usually turned into dark, pigmented scars because I couldn’t help scratching them. This was in March, so I’m assuming one would need bug spray year-round. I felt uncomfortable wearing sandals when I returned to Canada as it was still summer and my ankles didn’t look their best. Do yourself a favour and use bug spray.
Credit and debit card
This one may seem like a no-brainer, but hear me out. I know many people convert their money before arriving in a country, or convert money at the airport. This is a good idea, except you never know how much you will need. I have a credit card that has no conversion fee when used abroad, which I used in department stores, instead of cash. I easily took out money using my debit card from 7 Eleven ATMs, which had a NT $100 fee (approx. CAD $5). At times I went to the teller at Mega Bank and they charged no fees (just make sure to bring your passport!). Just an FYI Taiwan Cooperative Bank didn’t carry Canadian currency. This was also helpful when I flew over to Japan afterwards with no cash and just my credit/debit card. I also made sure to carry multiple cards, in case my bank blocked one. So if you ever feel cash-strapped in Taiwan, there isn’t much to worry about as long as you have a debit or credit card.
This is it! Living in Taiwan for two months, I was using these items every single day. Do you have anything else to add to this list? Let me know in the comments below!