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Taiwan is located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. It is one of the most populous islands in the world, with over 23 million residents.
The island also enjoys some beautiful sites, with steep hills, coastlines, forests and other natural landscapes.
Taiwan is the centre of the Chinese pop culture, well-known for its large entertainment industry and excellent food. The country ranks highly in terms of health care, education, economic freedom and human rights movement.
The island is divided into 5 major regions:
Some of the most important cities in Taiwan:
Taiwan is one of the most progressive countries in Asia. Adult, private consensual same-sex sexual activity is legal. Discrimination against sexual orientation in education was banned in 2003. In 2007, the Legislative Yuan passed a law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation at work. Legislation to permit same-sex marriages was proposed in 2003 but faced opposition and was not progressed.
Regular LGBT Pride parades are held. In 2009, over 25,000 people took part in the Pride parades making it the largest LGBT event held in Asia at that time. By 2011, this figure had risen to almost 50,000 people.
Taiwan has a thriving gay scene, with Taipei being the headquarter. In recent years, the range and quality of gay venues have increased significantly, and new gay businesses have been launched all across the island.
While other major cities like Kaohsiung and Taichung offer a few places for the LGBT community, Taipei remains the star of the show, having many bars, dance clubs, saunas, massage spas & hot springs, along with other gay-popular venues.
Taipei has also become a major destination for gay clubbers and partygoers from around the world, hosting regular world-class dance parties and circuit festivals – the largest of its kind in Asia.
Taiwan’s main airport is the Taoyuan International Airport (TPE), formerly ‘Chiang Kai-Shek’. Located 40km to the southwest of Taipei, the airport serves all major Asian cities and North America. The airport has direct buses to Taipei, Taichung and other major cities.
The Songshan Airport (TSA) in downtown Taipei offers mostly domestic flights only, plus limited charter flights to mainland China and Tokyo’s Haneda airport.
The Kaohsiung (KHH) domestic & international airports operates flights to other Asian cities including Hong Kong, Toyko Narita, Singapore and Bangkok, and charter flights to mainland China.
Taichung Airport (RMQ) offers domestic flights and international flights to Hong Kong and Vietnam, and charters to mainland China.
Taiwan’s domestic airlines have frequent flights that connect to other major cities. However, it may not be possible to fly from one domestic airport to another. If you want to visit Taiwan’s smaller islands, the plane still is the best option (and in some cases, the only option). Fares are reasonable, and local planes are very good.
Taiwan has excellent high-speed trains that have become a more popular and cost-efficient option. Train stations are often located in most city centres and serve as a convenient hub for most types of transportation.
Intercity buses (‘keyun’ 客運), are generally comfortable, clean and on time. The Taiwan tourist shuttle which connects with major train stations offers direct services to many tourist sites, but foreigners may find it difficult to locate the bus stations. While bus transportation is extensive. the route maps are almost all in Chinese. In Taiwan, you need to hail the bus as you see it coming, and it is important to make sure the bus you get on is going the right direction.
Taxis are plentiful. To hail one, place your hand in front of you parallel to the ground. Trips are metered and drivers are forbidden from accepting tips – although rounding up the fare to the next dollar is normal. Few drivers speak English.
An international driving license is required for driving in Taiwan and can be used up to 30 days. In larger cities like Taipei and Kaohsiung, however, you might be better off using public transportation due to the traffic jam and limited parking spaces.
Taiwan has a tropical climate. The north part of the island has a rainy season that lasts from January to March, along with a further rainy period during May. It is hot and humid from June through to September with temperatures rising to above 30ºC.
Weather-wise, the best time to visit is between October and December – although even during this time, the odd typhoon could spoil your fun.
Tourists holding most developed nations passports are able to enter Taiwan for 30 days without a visa. Tourists from India, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia who have previously been granted a US, UK, Japanese or Schengen visa can apply online for visa-free entry to Taiwan. Click here for more visa information.
Most Taiwanese speak either Taiwanese or Mandarin Chinese. Japanese is also widely understood. Some younger guys in Taipei may speak some basic conversational English.
The currency of Taiwan is the New Taiwan Dollar (NTD or TWD).
Tipping is not widely practised. Restaurants will apply a mandatory service charge and no additional tip is expected. Taxi drivers will expect you to round up the fare to the next dollar.
Shops and malls are generally open between 10am and 10pm, seven days a week. Night markets generally open around 6pm and close after midnight. Most Museums are closed on Mondays.
Banks are open from 9am to 3:30pm during the week and 9am to noon on Saturdays. Cash dispensers are widely available, and virtually all shops and hotels accept credit and debit cards.
Electricity in Taiwan in 110 volts/60 hz. Plugs have two flat blades. US and Japanese-style plugs should work. All other plugs will required an adapter/transformer.
Taiwan has excellent health care facilities that are as good, if not better, than those found in western Europe or the USA. While the cost of treatment and medicines is less expensive than in the west, a good travel insurance policy is still essential.
Medicines for minor ailments are available at drug stores without prescription.