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Taiwan Travel Information

The Basics

Time

GMT +8

Electricity

Electrical current is 110 volts AC, 60Hz. Two-pin flat blade plugs and one with a third grounding pin is used.

Language

Mandarin is the official language of Taiwan, but Taiwanese is often spoken and English is generally understood.

Travel Health

Taiwan health regulations require that travellers arriving from infected areas carry vaccination certificates for yellow fever. Travellers are advised to have up-to-date jabs for hepatitis A and typhoid, and it is advisable for most long-term travellers to be inoculated against Japanese encephalitis. Due to recent outbreaks of dengue fever, insect repellents and other measures to prevent mosquito bites are recommended for those travelling to the southern part of the island. Visitors should only drink bottled water and should be wary of potential food poisoning. Taiwan's medical facilities are first-class, but health insurance is recommended for travellers.

Tipping

Tipping is not customary, although if offered it will be accepted. Baggage handlers at hotels and the airport will be pleased with some loose change. Hotels and restaurants will usually add a 10% service charge to the bill.

Safety Information

Most visits to Taiwan are trouble-free. The country has only a low incidence of petty crime, and is considered safe. The only threats are natural ones, because the island is prone to typhoons and tropical storms, usually between May and November, as well as earthquakes and tremors. These are seldom severe.

Local Customs

The concept of 'saving face' is very important in Taiwanese culture, and tourists should try to avoid embarrassing locals. Self-control is another key aspect to Taiwanese culture, and losing your temper or creating a public spectacle is highly frowned upon. Relationships in Taiwan are built around mutual benefit, and the exchange of small gifts is common. Taiwanese customs include a number of superstitions, including prohibitions of writing a person's name in red, pointing at cemeteries or graves, whistling at night, or giving a gift of shoes, umbrellas, clocks or knives. Remove your shoes before entering a person's home. Physical contact with strangers is considered impolite.

Business

Doing business in Taiwan is a pleasure for those who value high work ethics and technologically-savvy business partners. Taiwan has traded heavily with the West for many years and business formalities have melded over time. However it is important to observe and respect the cultural heritage to which many firmly cling. Confucian values tend to dictate business etiquette and common practice in Taiwan. The majority of businesses in Taiwan are medium-sized and family-owned, meaning that the paternal head of the family is always consulted - this can result in business decisions taking longer than expected.

Two important aspects of business culture in Taiwan are face and 'Gianni' (relationships). Face relates to dignity - that of a person or a company - and informs all social and business interactions. It is important to keep, or save, face at all times. Never correct a colleague and if someone makes a mistake don't expect them to correct themselves. Relationships are an integral part of most business cultures and Taiwan is no exception. Gift-giving and taking business deals slowly are central aspects to building and maintaining good business relationships in Taiwan. When giving gifts, its general practice to give a simple gift to all members involved in a meeting, and a better gift for the most important member of the party. When receiving a gift, it is polite not to open it in front of your hosts.

Always accept invitations to events outside of normal business hours, as this is when relationships are built. Don't make direct or prolonged eye-contact with someone who is in a very senior position. However, be sure to always direct the conversation to the most senior person in the meeting. Punctuality is expected in all meetings. Shaking hands, for men and women is common nowadays, but a bow goes a long way as a sign of respect. Business hours are from 9am to 5.30pm from Monday to Friday. Business cards are exchanged often and should be printed in both English and Taiwanese. Work clothes tend to be formal and conservative. Men wear dark suits; women wear modest dresses and skirts rather than pants. Taiwanese is the language of business and hiring a translator is often a necessity.

Communications

Taiwan's international access dialling code is +886 and the outgoing code is 002 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 00244 for the UK). City/area codes are in use, e.g. 2 for Taipei. Local network operators provide mobile telephone services in various regions using either GSM 900 or 1800 networks. Internet cafes can be found in Taiwan's cities and towns, and most hotels in Taipei have internet access in their guestrooms.

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.

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