Mobile phones
Getting around

Part 1: Introduction

Map of route in Taiwan
24-25.3: Munich -> Beijing -> Taipei
26.3: Taipei -> Hualian
27.3: Hualian -> Taroko gorge -> Hualian
28.3: Hualien -> Ruisui -> Hualien
29.3: Hualian -> Qingshui cliffs -> Kaohsiung
30.3: Kaohsiung -> Tainan
31.3: Tainan
1.4: Tainan -> Guanziling
2.4: Guanziling -> Alishan
3.4: Alishan
4.4: Alishan -> Lugang
5.4: Lugang -> Taipei
6.4: Taipei -> Beijing
7.4: Beijing -> Munich

Overview and overall impression
My first visit to Taiwan was in 2005, when I made a three day stop in Taipei on my way from Bangkok to South Korea. Since then Taipei has developed considerably, improving a lot its looks and cleanliness. Taipei is now a clean and elegant Asian metropolis, comparable to Tokyo in some districts.
There is plenty to see in Taiwan. In fact the two weeks we spent there barely allowed us to scratch the surface. There are lots of trekking opportunities and the terrain is very varied due to all those mountains. Taiwan may be a small island, but there are mountains which are almost 4000m high. Several cities on the west coast are very interesting, with a wealth of historic places and temples to visit. Kaohsiung is interesting as well due to its modern architecture, pleasant neighbourhoods and beautiful Chinese temples. The local food in Taiwan is interesting and delicious.

The cost of spending a holiday in Taiwan is comparable to the average cost  level in a developed country. Hotels are not cheap, but also not extremely expensive. Eating out is inexpensive however.

The food in Taiwan is special. Every mall has an own food court and there are many night markets with food stalls in every city. Among the local delicacies we discovered in this trip are pineapple cakes and mochi sweets to make some examples.
The tea, especially the oolong tea, is special in Taiwan. There is a huge selection of different tea types sold in convenient 1/2 litre bottles. Very special, very delicious taste.
It's possible to have a very inexpensive lunch or dinner in the convenience stores (7-eleven or similar). These sell pre-cooked food packages which just have to be heated up in a microwave oven or noodle soups to which you just have to add hot water. These stores have seating areas, where customers can have their meal.
Because of the abundance of street food and food courts we rarely went to a real restaurant. The one we tried in Kaohsiung had excellent food for very moderate prices.

We stayed in hotels, spending between 65 and 110 Euro per night (mostly around 80-90). This was for comfortable rooms in mid-range hotels (we looked for the cheapest rooms with a minimum standard). Overall hotels are not cheap in Taiwan, with price levels comparable to Western Europe.

Money  / Exchange rate (March-April 2013)
1 Euro = 38.5 TWD
1 Euro = 1.30 USD
For current exchange rates check the Universal Currency Converter.

ATMs are everywhere, so that you can easily get cash with a Cirrus/Maestro ATM card. 

Mobile phones and prepaid cards
We bought prepaid cards from Taiwan Mobile upon arrival at the airport in Taipei. These were quite pricey (1145 TWD for 30 days of unlimited Internet + 345 TWD of calls, voice-only SIM card for 345 TWD). The coverage was good. Later we discovered that cheap SIM cards are available in the 24/7 convenience stores, so perhaps we should have bought the SIM cards there. No idea however if these cheaper SIM cards are perhaps from networks with poorer coverage.

Internet access
Most of the time we used the Internet access of the hotels (WLAN). When not in the hotel, we had connectivity with the smartphone.

This was not as good as we had hoped, as initially it was a bit fresh in Taipei, then skies were often overcast and we got quite a lot of rain on the east coast. Probably we visited Taiwan in the wrong season. The temperature was moderate, and most of the time not too hot.

Health / Vaccinations
We didn't get any new vaccinations for Taiwan and I suspect that none are needed, given that Taiwan is a developed country.

VISA / Entry requirements
We got into Taiwan without having to obtain a visa in advance. This probably holds for all nationals of developed countries.

We felt very safe while in Taiwan. Taiwanese are overall very polite and a bit "Japanese" for what concerns properness and observation of the laws.

Recommended things
  • What's amazing about Taiwan are all those beautiful Chinese temples, present in most cities.
  • Personally I liked a lot Alishan, with its cool landscapes and tea plantations.
  • Oolong tea, pineapple cakes, mochi sweets and other local delicacies.
  • Kaohsiung proved to be a pleasant surprise, well worth a visit.
  • Also Taipei has become much nicer since the last time I visited it.
  • The landscape around Guanziling is beautiful.

Things to avoid
  • Trying to get by car into Taipei on a Friday afternoon is not a very good idea, due to the heavy traffic.

Getting around
We used the train to get from Taipei to Hualian (fast comfortable train) and then flew from Hualian to Kaohsiung. Then we continued the trip with a rented car from Kaohsiung to Taipei. Driving in Taiwan is quite easy, it's just a matter of getting used to the traffic conditions. Driving in the cities and the mountains was uncomplicated.

Copyright 2013 Alfred Molon