let’s go to Taiwan
things to consider as you plan your trip
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
VISAS: US citizens do not need a visa for visits under 90 days. If you are staying longer than 90 days, or are studying or working, you will need to get visas.
CUSTOMS: Most restrictions on what you can bring in are pretty typical (you can bring in up to about $650 in goods, up to $10,000 cash, 200 cigarettes, 1L bottle of liquor, no fruits, live animals, etc). And of course no drugs (this includes marijuana) – drug trafficking can be punishable by death.
PLANNING YOUR TRIP
There are many things to consider when you decide when to visit Taiwan. First of all there’s the question of weather. Summers are hot. With intense levels of humidity that make it difficult to breathe. The kind where you step outside and immediately get a layer of sticky sweat on your skin. But don’t worry, it washes off in the daily afternoon downpours. During mid to late summer (into September) you can also count on at least one or two typhoons to sweep by. Generally, it will rain for a few hours every day, so don’t leave without an umbrella, and plan all outdoor activities for early morning.
Fall and spring are more mild. Still warm, but not offensively so. Still rainy, but maybe not every day. The driest months are November through January. It’s also a lot cooler these months and into early spring (March), with average temperatures in the 60s.
In terms of plane tickets, it’s best to avoid summers and late January / early February (wherever Lunar New Year lands). Summers in Taipei are particularly grueling because there is a surge of expats (and their crazy teenage children) because of summer break. Oh and sweaty college student backpackers, also because of summer break. Plane tickets (economy class) during high season (from key hubs like LA, SF and NY) generally go from $700-800 on the really low end to upwards of $1500+ on the high end depending on when you book. Compare this to off-season (say, March or late September), where you can easily find tickets under $600.
The best time of year for mild weather and decent plane ticket prices would be April or October, plus or minus a month.
GOOD TO KNOW
To someone new to Taiwan, EasyCards might just seem like re-loadable transportation cards. And while that is the primary function, it is so much more. For example, you can use your card for any form of public transportation: bikes, buses, subways, taxis, trains, HSR, in the country. You can also use it at any convenience store (7-Eleven, FamilyMart, etc), and on top of that, a lot of other chain stores (including bakeries, eateries, department stores, grocery stores). It’s like a tappable debit card (a lot of locals actually connect it to their bank accounts so it reloads automatically).
The tap technology is pretty sophisticated, you don’t need to take it out of your wallet or bag (which helps facilitate the endless flow of people during rush hour). Note that for the MRT, you have to scan when you enter and leave the station, since the amount deducted depends on how far you travel.
EasyCards are sold at all MRT stations (in Taipei and Kaohsiung) and at convenience stores. They cost 100NT, plus however much you want to load in. When you’re leaving, you can also return the card for any of the balance you have left, so you don’t have to worry about extra money going to waste. You can refill in the kiosks at MRT stations or at convenience stores in cash or card. There are also scanners where you can check your balance (of course, whenever you use the card on the bus, MRT, it displays your balance).