What to buy
Taiwan designs and produces a lot of desktops, laptops, and pc peripherals. travelers might be interested in visiting the large information technology market at taiwan for the best prices. desktop computers and components tend to be the same price in taiwan as in other areas of the world, though peripherals such as cables and adapters tend to be noticeably cheaper. if you're buying domestic, it's best to go to tourist hangouts to buy your stuff as you might be saddled with chinese documentation otherwise. also, notebooks are typically only available with a chinese bopomofo and english keyboard.
éè. a type of bracket fungus that is often used as a chinese herb. it supposedly has many health benefits with an apparent absence of side effects, earning it a high reputation in east asian countries and making it rather expensive. taiwanese lingzhi is particularly famous for being of the highest quality.
'Iron eggs éµè irresistible delicacy
Note: In order to protect the environment, a government policy rules that plastic bags cannot be given freely at stores in Taiwan, but have to be bought at a flat rate of NT$1 - bakeries being an exception as the items need to be hygienically wrapped. Re-useable canvas and nylon bags are sold at most supermarkets.
The currency of Taiwan is the New Taiwan Dollar NTD, but also referred to as TWD æ°èºå¹£ or just èºå¹£, with one unit known locally as NT, yuan å or more formally å when written in Chinese or colloquially in Mandarin as the kuai å¡. One unit is known colloquially as the kho͘ ç® in the Taiwanese dialect. All $ prices in this guide are in New Taiwan Dollars.
As of March 2011, the exchange rate for US$1 is around $29, or €/$41. Easy rules of thumb are that $100 roughly equals US$3/€2.5; $1000 roughly equals US$30/€25. Coins come in denominations of $0.50, $1, $5, $10, $20 and $50. The $0.50 coin is rare because of its small value and has very little practical use. Banknotes come in denominations of $100, $200, $500, $1000 and $2000. Perhaps due to counterfeiting problems, the $200 and $2000 banknotes are rarely seen.
Taiwanese currency is fully convertible and there are no restrictions on taking currency into or out of the island. Currency exchange is possible internationally, although you will get a much better rate if you wait until you arrive at the airport to exchange currency at the 24 hour window. Most banks in Taipei and Kaohsiung will also exchange money or offer cash advances on credit or debit cards. Should you bring American currency, please be sure to bring newer bills as the banks and exchange-centers such as in department stores will only accept the newer bills bills from 1996 and 2003 are not accepted at most places, due to a high proportion of forgeries bearing these years. Bills which are torn or damaged will probably not be changed, and old-style small-bust bills are not accepted. Taiwan National Bank will take older bank notes and bank notes that are wrinkled or torn for exchange. Department stores will not exchange bills older than 1997. Don't forget to show your passport!
If you've forgotten to bring any money at all, but have your credit or debit card handy, there's no need to fret. Taiwan's banking system is light-years ahead of most other countries, with the ability to use any of the abundant 24-hour ATMs to withdraw cash from anywhere in the world using the Plus or Cirrus systems. Certain banks' ATMs will even tell you your available balance in your own currency or in NT$. There is a per transaction limit of $20,000 for ATM cash withdrawals HSBC Global Access customers may withdraw $30,000 from HSBC ATMs. Visa debit cards are not accepted in many places, but can be used at ATMs in Chinatrust banks but not those in 7-11s.
Most hotels and department stores accept credit cards, generally Visa and Master Card as well as JCB. Diners Club or American Express cards are seldom accepted. Most restaurants and small stores do not accept cards, and cash is the main form of payment. Because street crime is rare, it is common for people in Taiwan to carry large amounts of cash with them.
As in many Asian countries, night markets are a staple of Taiwanese entertainment, shopping and eating. Night markets are open-air markets, usually on a street or alleyway, with vendors selling all sorts of wares on every side. Many bargains can be had, and wherever prices are not displayed, haggling is expected. In the larger cities you will have a night market every night and in the same place. In smaller cities, they are only open certain nights of the week, and may move to different streets depending on the day of the week.
Every city has at least one night market; larger cities like Taipei may have a dozen or more. Night markets are crowded, so remember to watch out for your wallet! Shops selling the same items tend to congregate in the same part of the city. If you want to buy something, ask someone to take you to one shop and there will probably be shops selling similar things nearby.
For those who do not like the concept of haggling and fake goods, there are many shopping centres in Taipei where prices are usually fixed and goods are genuine. Otherwise, shopping streets in larger cities like Kaohsiung and Taichung can also easily get you what you want. And of course, there is the trendy Ximending è¥¿éçº in Taipei, where you can pretty much find anything associated with the youths, also at fixed prices.
Bargaining is OK and expected in night markets and small stores. Computer chain shops and department stores normally have fixed prices, but at least in department stores you may get a "registered member discount" if you're shopping a lot. Anyway it's always worth a try!
When bargaining at small stores, please note that the agreed prices are normally cash prices. If you like to use a credit card, the seller normally wants to add anything up to 8% to the price as a "card fee" etc. The fee consists actually of the credit company's commission and also the local sales tax/VAT. Even if you pay cash, you normally don't get an official receipt, as then the seller would have to report & pay their taxes in full. If you ask for a receipt or "fa piao" ç¼ç¥¨, you will get it but you may need to pay 3-5% more.
Taiwan is fairly expensive by Asian standards, though still significantly cheaper than Japan. For a budget traveller on a bare bones budget, NT$1000 will get you by for a day, but you'll probably want to double that for comfort. A meal at a street stall may cost NT$50 or less, a meal at a Western fast food restaurant will run you about NT$150 and at the fanciest restaurants, you can expect a bill in excess NT$1000. On the high end of the spectrum, hotel rooms at a swanky hotel might cost NT$5000 or more.
Tipping is generally not practised in Taiwan, with the possible exception of bellhops in high end hotels. Full service restaurants typically impose a service charge and that is usually considered to be sufficient. Tipping is also not expected in taxis and drivers would usually return your change to the last dollar.