Taiwan boasts a stable democracy, a prosperous economy, a gun-free society and a friendly population. Unsurprisingly, it’s also considered among the world’s safest travel destinations. But Taiwan is still part of the real world, and as the saying goes…Stuff happens.
In this article we’ll take an unflinching look at where Taiwan stands where travel safety is concerned.
Q1. Crime : “Can I walk the streets at night?”
Violent street crime is extremely rare in Taiwan. The most commonly reported crime is pickpocketing, but even this is fairly uncommon and easily prevented. Avoid carrying wallets and mobile phones in your back pocket. If you walk around a night market with an open backpack, you’re more likely to be approached by a helpful local reminding you to zip it shut than you are to actually have anything stolen. Solo female travelers generally consider Taiwan among the safest places in Asia, but (as with anywhere) common sense should be employed.
Q2. Scams : “Will locals try to cheat me?”
Though being overcharged for goods and services is a common complaint made by foreign travelers around the world, it’s nearly unheard of in Taiwan. Taiwanese people generally take integrity as a point of pride, and as a foreign visitor you’re way more likely to have a street vendor give you a slightly larger portion than they’d give a local than you are to be intentionally overcharged. Outside of small towns, taxi drivers go by the meter, and are usually pretty good about getting you to your destination as cheaply as possible (even when it’s obvious that you wouldn’t know the difference).
Q3. Food Safety : “Can I eat street food?”
Taiwan has pretty stringent laws pertaining to food safety, and night market chefs serving unhygienic food are generally put out of business by market forces before safety inspectors come into play. Street food in Taiwan is generally safe and delicious, and many a happy Taiwan vacation has been spent dining almost exclusively at night markets without a hint of foodborne illness (Your cholesterol level may rise, but that’s another issue). But dining al fresco is never fully without risk, so in the event you wind up with a case of traveler’s stomach, this foul-smelling (but 100% natural) Chinese medicine, available at any pharmacy in Taiwan, holds a sure-fire cure.
Q4. Water safety : “Can I drink tap water?”
Generally speaking, no. Taiwan’s water quality isn’t quite as good as it could be, so most people drink boiled, filtered or bottled water, readily available everywhere. Water fountains dispensing filtered water are found in every MRT station. Better hotels have filtered water, and even cheaper hotels include a few complimentary bottles of water in the room rate.
Q5. Traffic safety : “How safe are the roads?”
Let’s just say that Taiwan gets points for being much improved over the last couple of decades, but that there’s still room for improvement. Traffic accidents happen in Taiwan for the same reason they happen everywhere else (distracted driving is a big issue), but because Taiwan is so densely populated accidents here tend to be uglier. Motor scooters are known to zoom in between traffic lanes, making jaywalking – a bad idea anywhere – an especially bad idea here. That said Taiwan is pretty friendly towards cyclists, so as long as you ride mindfully and obey the rules of the road, cyclists will have a great time.
Q6. Gay Travel : “Is Taiwan LGBTQ friendly?”
The answer to this one is a resounding yes! Taipei has a large and vibrant gay scene and hosts one of the largest annual Pride parades in the world, and Taiwan recently became the first country in Asia to recognize the right of same-sex marriage. Holding hands in public is not an issue in Taiwan. (Having sex in public is another matter, being both frowned down upon and illegal no matter what the sexual orientation of the participants happen to be).
Q7. Political strife : “Will I get caught up in a riot?”
Taiwan is a peaceful country with a robust participatory democracy, one which has grown increasingly participatory in recent years. Political rallies and demonstrations on a wide variety of issues from Indigenous rights and environmental issues to public airing of grievances with a political party or support for said political party are not uncommon. Should you find yourself in the vicinity of such a demonstration as a foreigner, demonstrator’s may attempt to ask you to show your support by waving or posting a photo of the event on social media. You may even get a free t-shirt out of it. (Most likely, you will be ignored – don’t take it personally.) You shouldn’t be in any danger.
Q8. Natural Disaster : “What about Mother Nature?”
In addition to having East Asia’s most magnificent gorge and highest mountain peak, Taiwan is also blessed with some of the planet’s finest hot springs. But such beauty is the hallmark of seismic activity, and Taiwan (like neighboring Japan and far-off California, two other spots with great mountains and hot springs) is an earthquake prone island. Though a daily occurrence, most earthquakes in Taiwan go unnoticed outside of the sensors designed to track tremors. Major quakes do happen, and as a result of this all of Taiwan’s modern structures (including highways, railways and most buildings) are built to withstand even the largest earthquakes. (Visit Taipei 101 to see a firsthand example of quake resistant architecture). Typhoons are more predictable, and during typhoon season (which usually lasts from July until November) you’ll want to pay attention to the weather forecast before venturing into the mountains or taking a trip down the east coast. (We’ve heard of a few die-hard surfing enthusiasts who head to the east coast specifically to catch typhoon-generated waves. MyTaiwanTour neither condones nor recommends this.)
In conclusion Taiwan is an extremely safe travel destination. Most Taiwanese people are keenly aware of the power that individual interaction has in countering Taiwan’s unfortunate diplomatic isolation, and will generally go out of their way to make sure individual visitors have a positive experience. Taiwan is about as safe a travel destination as a visitor could hope for, ranking up there with Japan, Korea, Iceland and other traditionally hassle free vacation spots.