Electricity

Electrical current is 110 volts, 60Hz. Two-pin, flat blade plugs are standard.

Language

Mandarin is the official language but many people speak Taiwanese (also called Hokkien). There are a growing number of English speakers.

Money

Taiwan's currency is the New Taiwan Dollar (TWD). Travellers will receive the best rates when exchanging money at banks, though not all banks will change money and many will only change US dollars. Anyone arriving with other currencies should use Mega Bank and the Bank of Taiwan at the airport. Rates are not as competitive at hotels and shopping malls. Major credit cards are accepted and ATMs are plentiful except in villages.

Tipping

Tipping isn't expected in Taiwan, though it is appreciated. Guests usually tip the porter at better hotels (100 TWD is considered courteous), and add 10 percent to their tour guide's fee if they're happy with the service.

Health

Taiwan's medical facilities can handle routine, emergency and outpatient treatment, with some centres also employing English-speaking staff. Travellers should have up-to-date vaccinations for hepatitis A, typhoid and Japanese encephalitis.

There has been an increase in cases of dengue fever, so travellers should pack insect repellent, especially if they're visiting the south of the island. Health insurance is recommended.

Safety

Most visits to Taiwan are trouble-free, with the only concerns being a low incidence of petty crime and natural hazards such as typhoons, tropical storms and earthquakes. The natural hazards are seldom severe.

Local customs

The concept of 'saving face' is very important on the island and tourists should try to avoid embarrassing locals. Self-control is another key point of etiquette, with the Taiwanese frowning on outbursts and other public spectacles. It's impolite to have shoes on when entering someone's home or to make physical contact with strangers.

Doing business

Doing business in Taiwan is a pleasure for those who value a high work ethic and technologically savvy business partners. The island has traded heavily with the West for many years and business formalities have melded over time. However, it's important to observe and respect the cultural heritage many cling to.

Confucian values tend to dictate business etiquette in Taiwan, so locals generally appreciate gratitude, respect, mutual understanding and studiousness. Also, bar a few multi-nationals, most businesses in Taiwan are medium-sized and family-owned. In this context, the family's paternal head is always consulted, meaning business decisions can take longer.

Two important aspects of business culture in Taiwan are face and 'Guanxi' (relationships). Face relates to the dignity of a person or a company, and it informs all social and business interactions. It's important to save face at all times. For this reason, foreigners should not correct colleagues or expect them to correct themselves.

Gift giving and conducting deals slowly are key to operating in Taiwan. Generally, business people give a simple gift to all members involved in a meeting, and a better gift to the most important person. It's impolite to open gifts in front of hosts.

Foreigners should always accept invitations to events outside of normal business hours, as this is when locals build relationships. Business people consider it disrespectful to make direct or prolonged eye contact with someone who is in a very senior position, but will always direct conversation to the most senior person in the meeting.

The Taiwanese expect punctuality for meetings. Shaking hands is common for men and women nowadays, though a bow goes a long way as a sign of respect. Business hours are from 9am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday. Business cards are exchanged often and should be printed in both English and Mandarin. Work clothes tend to be formal and conservative. Men wear dark suits, women wear modest dresses and skirts rather than pants. Mandarin is the language of business and hiring a translator is often necessary.

Duty free

Travellers aged over 20 may enter Taiwan without paying customs duty on 200 cigarettes or 25 cigars or 454g tobacco, 1 bottle of alcohol (maximum 1 litre), and a reasonable amount of perfume. Travellers are also permitted to bring personal goods valued up to NT$20,000 duty free (or NT$10,000 for those under 20 years). Guns, narcotics, fresh meat and fruit are prohibited.

Communications

Taiwan's international access code is +886. Travellers can purchase local SIMs for unlocked phones; wifi is widely accessible in hotels, hostels, homestays, cafes, restaurants and some shopping malls.

Passport & Visa

Former China nationals who have resided outside of China for more than four years, and obtained the nationality of the country they reside in may enter Chinese Taipei according to the visa requirements of their acquired nationality. They will need to show documentation supporting the change in nationality.

It is highly recommended that travellers' passports have at least six months' validity remaining after the intended date of departure from their travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Entry requirements

US citizens do not require a visa for stays of up to 90 days, provided they hold a passport valid for the period of intended stay. Visas cannot be extended or converted. Visitors not holding return/onward tickets could be refused entry.

Passports must be valid for six months from date of arrival. Visas are not required for stays of up to 90 days for holders of British passports with nationality of 'British Citizen'. Those with temporary or emergency passports endorsed 'British Citizen' can obtain a visa on arrival for stays of up to 30 days. Holders of British passports with other endorsements should confirm official requirements.

Canadian nationals do not require a visa for stays of up to 90 days, provided they hold a passport valid six months from their date of arrival.

Australian nationals may stay in Taiwan for up to 90 days without a visa, provided they hold a passport valid six months from their date of arrival.

South African nationals require a visa for travel to Taiwan and a passport valid for six months after intended travel. Passengers with an ROC (Taiwan) Business and Academic Travel Card issued by Chinese Taipei are exempt for a maximum stay of 30 days.

Irish nationals may stay in Taiwan for up to 90 days without a visa and require a passport valid for at least six months from entry.

New Zealand nationals require a passport valid for at least six months from entry. No visa is required for a stay of up to 90 days.

Useful contacts

Taiwan Tourist Office: +886 2 2349 1500 (Taipei) or eng.taiwan.net.tw

110 (Police), 119 (Ambulance and Fire)

Embassies / consulates in other countries

Embassy of the Republic of China (Taiwan), Washington DC, United States: +1 202 895 1800.

Taipei Representative Office, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7881 2650.

Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 231 5080.

Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, Barton, ACT, Australia: +61 2 6120 2000.

Taipei Liaison Office, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 430 6071/2/3.

Taipei Representative Office, Dublin, Ireland: +353 1 678 5413.

Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, Auckland, New Zealand: +64 4 473 6474.

Embassies / consulates in Taiwan

American Institute in Taiwan, Taipei: +886 2 2162 2000.

British Office Taipei (formerly British Trade and Cultural Office), Taiwan: +886 2 8758 2088.

Canadian Trade Office, Taipei: +886 2 8723 3000.

The Australian Office in Taipei: +886 2 8725 4100.

Liaison Office of South Africa, Taipei: +886 2 2715 2295.

Office closed in 2012.

New Zealand Commerce and Industry Office, Taipei: +886 2 272 05228. After hours emergency assistance for New Zealanders Phone: +886 934 404 594.