16 Things to Expect When Traveling Around Taiwan

There are some noticeable differences between Taiwan and China. (Image: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain)
There are some noticeable differences between Taiwan and China. (Image: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain)

Being a tourist from Mainland China, there are so many things in Taiwan that Chinese people would find hard to accept. This article may even be seen as one-sided or just a subjective opinion. However, here are 16 things to expect if you go to Taiwan.

1. No one crosses against red lights

In Taiwan (especially Taipei), pedestrians stand on the sidewalk, not on the street. Some tourists from mainland China, although not going against the red light, still want to stand on the street, even if it’s to get just a few inches ahead of everyone else.

2. Some attractions are free

Taiwan’s many attractions are free, such as Taroko, Alishan, Sun Moon Lake, and Kenting, and that is incredible for tourists from the mainland. Some attractions have conditions attached to their free entry, such as only after 5pm.

You may need to purchase tickets for some other attractions, but the tickets are also vouchers, which can be redeemed if you make purchases in some areas of the attraction. Only some man-made tourist attractions that need to meet maintenance costs require tickets. For example, Taipei 101 costs NT $500 (about 105 yuan) and Tainan Confucius Temple costs NT $25 (about 5 yuan).

3. Houses are generally very old

As homes and land are privately owned, the owner decides how to maintain their property. Advertising banners or writing on the walls are allowed, as long as the content does not violate the law.

4. MRT (subway), train, or high speed rail have no security check

The MRT, train station, and high-speed rail station have no security checks. You are not required to have ID to buy a ticket, and some train stations don’t require a ticket to get on the train. But, you do need to buy a ticket after you get off the train, there are no free rides!

5. No food or drinks allowed on rapid transit (MRT)

People who violate this rule will be fined NT $7,500. The MRT is an enclosed environment so odors from food or drink will affect others, and make the train dirty. However, one can take medicine if circumstances warrant it.

6. No honking car horns

Whether it is due to a traffic jam or if pedestrians are in the way, in Taiwan almost no one honks their horn. Drivers will not honk to hurry up pedestrians as they notice the cars, and quickly move out of the way and apologize; the drivers will then smile at the pedestrians.

In fact, people don’t resent it when they are blocked by other vehicles. They display patience and tolerance, and thus, they are willing to do more for others.

7. No right turn at red lights

This is perhaps the biggest difference between the traffic laws of China and Taiwan: vehicles cannot turn right at a red light; you must wait until it is green to move forward.

8. Stay to the right

Whether it is in shopping malls or on escalators, everyone keeps to the right. No one is blocked and there are no bottlenecks at the entrance.

9. Landlord is neutral, not a derogatory term

In Taiwan you will often see signs saying: “This piece of land belongs to the landlord.” People from China suddenly realize that “landlord” is a neutral term. Landlords are neither oppressive nor exploitative.

10. Move for ambulance

When people hear a siren, they will look for the ambulance to get out of its way. If a driver is blocking an ambulance’s way, he would get in trouble. People will find out who he is and then tell the person off. So drivers do their best to look out for the ambulance when they hear its siren.

11. No military cars on the street

My Taiwanese friends told me if you see a car on the street with a military license plate, something serious is going on.

12. Police are nice

Policemen in Taiwan are very friendly and they look like shy college students. But if you break the law, they will not let you get off so easily.

13. In Taiwan you are more likely to find what you lost

Tourists often share their lost and found stories online. One young lady lost her purse while riding a bike around Sun Moon Lake. She called the police, and found that someone had handed it in to the police station. The young girl found everything intact, and the police even treated her to dinner.

14. Everyone says thank you

If you buy something, no matter from whom or where, he/she will say “thank you” at the end of the transaction. And you, too, as a customer, should also say “thank you” back. Thus, you’ll hears endless “thank you’s” in Taiwan.

15. Commenting on officials

Every night when you turn on the TV for news, often you hear all kinds of criticism and questioning of officials, who is doing a good job or a bad job, etc.

16. Numerous volunteers

You will often see many volunteer instructors at tourist attractions, or at traffic intersections during peak hour directing traffic. Services from volunteers make a society more harmonious.

Research by Monica Song and Kathy McWilliams

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