Last Updated on June 7, 2023 by Christine Kaaloa
13 Things to Know Before Traveling to Taipei
Culture shock can vary in range, from extremely unpleasant to mind-blowing awesome. Each traveler has their own gauge of likes and dislikes in experiencing ‘cultural difference’. But overall, experiencing Taipei culture shock is what adds to the adventurous fun of traveling Taipei.
13 Things to Know Before Traveling to Taipei
1. Taiwanese and their dogs
You’ll find that a lot of dogs are dressed up in little street clothes. Sometimes they’re even pushed around in baby carriages. You could say that dogs are pretty much part of the Taiwanese family.
2. Taiwanese Restrooms
In Taipei, you’ll find two types of bathrooms — highly modern luxury toilets or ‘old school’ squat toilets. The good thing about the Taiwanese squat toilets is that they have this bar, which you can hold onto when you’re leaning back. If you don’t have good knees– which I know some of you have mentioned it in my other video-– this might be a lifesaver for you. Toilet paper. A lot of times they have toilet paper right next to it. That means you don’t have to remember to pick up the toilet paper on your way in.
3. Taiwanese and waiting in long lines for food
The thing that I’ve learned is the Taiwanese will wait in line for good food. So whenever you see a line wrapped around the corner at a restaurant or a food hawker. It generally tends to mean that the food is worth waiting for. And that is a local Michellin rating.
4. Public Charging Stations
You’ll find public charging stations in the metro. This is a charging station area for people who need to charge their phones or laptops. You bring your own charger, and they will provide plug outlets for you to plug in.
5. CCTV Safety in Taiwan
Taipei for the most part happens to be a pretty safe city is what I heard. Public places like the metro are pretty well surveillenced by CCTV. Thus, very little crime occurs in these spots. This doesn’t mean scams don’t arise. For a while, secret pen and car dashboard video recorders were popular due to the fact, scammers would do odd things like throw themselves in front of a car and then sue the owner for negligence. In order to protect themselves, Taiwanese would record their actions to cover themselves from such thieves.
6. Free Public WiFi
The beauty of Taiwan is that there’s a lot of free Wi-Fi in public places like metros, museums. The only catch is that you have to go to one of the tourist information offices (located at some metro stations) and kind of get your phone set up so you can receive a password. You’ll need to take your passport with you… and still, it might not work. What I’ve noticed is that sometimes, you either need to know the language or already have a Taiwanese SIM plan… which defeats the purpose of it being free wifi.
Should you get a Taiwanese SIM?
I wouldn’t waste my time getting one. After 5 days of my Taiwanese SIM not working (even though I had a Taiwanese local negotiate it for me), I finally got a signal. But I had only three days left on the SIM. However, I did get mine at a local shop vs from the airport.
7. Escalator Etiquette
Like many places in Asia when you’re taking the escalator then the right hand side is where you just want to stay stationary. The left hand side is supposedly where you want to pass. Except for when someone clogs up…clogs that lane up.
8. Taiwan is home of bubble tea
You might have heard of Bubble Tea before. It’s not Chinese or Japanese.. the drink originated from Taiwan, where it is sold at many shops. Bubble tea is a drink or tea served with tapioca balls or glutoneous rice balls and a huge straw. The idea came from a Taiwanese desire to chew something with a drink, thus, they are also creators of jelly drinks too.
9. Taipei might be cheap and fashionable, but don’t expect things you buy to last long
My backpack broke just as I left for Taipei and so I was always on the search for a shop which sold travel backpacks… or backpacks.. or just a bag that could carry all my computer and camera equipment. I didn’t realize it would be a monumental task. My Taiwanese girlfriend told me– you might find a cheap replacement but don’t expect it to last long. Taiwan is not known for its quality and things are sold cheaply because most Taiwanese know it will not last or be out of fashion within a year.
This seemed like words of truth– the fashionable backpack replacement I bought inTaipei didn’t even last a month!
10. Do not eat or drink on public transportation
One thing westerners may be throw aback with is that there is no eating on public transportation in Taiwan. You will see signs up in buses and on the MRT. In fact, just before you cross the MRT turnstile to find your train, look down and you’ll see a yellow line reminding you no eating or drinking beyond that point.
11. Do not sit in MRT seats reserved for Pregnant Ladies, Handicapped and Seniors.
There are seats reserved on the MRT for pregnant ladies, handicapped people and seniors. The Taiwanese this seriously and avoid sitting in them even if the train is crowded. Occasionally you might see a Taiwanese person break this rule, but the society knows they are breaking it and you’d need to live with the eyes of social pressure on you.
12. 7 Elevens are abundant in Taipei
If you’ve ever been to Thailand and thought 7 Elevens were ubiquitous, Taipei is no different. 7 Eleven is the reigning convenience store among Family Mart and OK. Read more about the amazing 7 Eleven of Taiwan.
13. That stinky smell around night markets is Stinky tofu
Occasionally while strolling around Taipei food stalls and night markets, you’ll come across a putrid wafting smell that you might mistake as garbage. The smell is generally coming from a food hawker or vendor smelling stinky tofu, a tofu which has been aged and pickled.