This is a brief introduction to Taiwan for Indians who have just arrived here or are planning to come here. For regular updates and information regarding life and other matters in this beautiful island nation join Indian in Taiwan Facebook Page.
Taiwan is a small island located east of China. Known officially as Republic of China (ROC), Taiwan is not a part of Mainland China (known as People’s Republic of China). Mainland China does claim Taiwan to be its province, but this matter is still not settled and at the moment for all official purposes, both remain separate countries. Taipei is the Taiwan’s capital and the most important city. Most Indians are centred in and around Taipei. The city also has the most number of Indian restaurants in the country.
Visas and Alien Resident Cards
Indians require visa to enter Taiwan. Visas can be obtained at Taiwanese consulates in India, either in New Delhi or in Chennai. Note that this visa is not valid in mainland China. Click here to learn how to apply for visitor visa to Taiwan.
There are mainly two kinds of visas issued, visitor and resident. At times a visitor visa issued from the Taiwan consulate in India has to be extended and later converted to a Resident visa. Once you receive a Resident visa, you can also apply for an Alien Resident Card (ARC), which then becomes your main document permitting stay in Taiwan.
Do you need to learn Chinese?
The official language here is Chinese. Unlike India, which inherited English as a second and official language after the British Raj, Taiwanese people use Chinese for most purposes. That said, in most cities you can manage with English, and perhaps some sign language.
Of course, most major companies and universities have English speakers, so if you are here to work or study, don’t worry much about running into problems at office. Taipei is used to foreigners who can’t speak a word of Chinese and people are more than willing to help if you have any difficulty – Taiwanese people are one of the most helpful I have seen anywhere.
If you are interested in learning Chinese, this is an excellent opportunity. There are a number of Chinese language schools here or you can find private tutors for customised learning. Chinese is becoming an increasingly popular language and every year a lot of foreigners come to Taiwan to study the language.
What will you eat in Taiwan?
Unless you have your own kitchen, you will have to do with Taiwanese food. In my opinion, Taiwanese food is tasty and healthy, but many Indians would disagree with me. If you want to eat Indian food at a restaurant, you will need to shell out quite a few bucks, as most Indian restaurants here are expensive. If you have your own space for cooking, there are Indian shops that can get you the right ingredients. Click here to read more about Indian food stores in Taiwan.
Banks and Money
The currency of Taiwan is New Taiwan Dollar. If you are here to work, the company that hired you will take care of most of your paper work. Else, if you need to open a bank account, there is a short procedure. Click here to learn how to open a bank account in Taiwan on a visitor visa.
If you plan to bring money from India to Taiwan, consider the various options of carrying it. The best option, in my opinion, is to open a bank account here and have money wired from India. But this may not be feasible for everyone, so the other options are cash, travel cards or travellers cheques.
If you plan to bring cash make sure you convert Indian rupees to US Dollars or a similar global currency before leaving India. Not many people know this, but Indian currency is nearly impossible to exchange outside India. Once you reach Taiwan, you can exchange US Dollars to New Taiwan Dollars at the airport or a local bank.
If you are carrying Travellers Cheques, you need to approach a bank to get them converted to cash. Click here to learn more about converting Travellers Cheques in Taiwan.
Weather –Typhoons and Earthquakes
Winters are cold and summers are hot. It rains often in Taipei and there are Typhoons in summer. Typhoons are nothing but the cyclones that we see in India – heavy rain and strong wind. Some of these are extremely heavy and, although rare, can even force government to declare public holiday.
One important point to remember is that Taiwan lies in a seismic zone and earthquakes are quite common. But most are low in strength, usually marking a reading of 4-6 on the rector scale.
If you are in Taipei, public transport is very convenient. Buses and the metro service takes you to almost every nook and corner of the city. Taxis can be flagged from roadside or called by phone. At the moment only Taipei and another city, Kaohsiung, has metro service. If you are in any other city, buses are your best bet for local commuting.
For longer distances, there are regular trains, high speed trains and long-distance coaches. All three of these are very comfortable and convenient and the only thing that varies between them is schedule and ticket price.
Life for Indians in Taiwan
Taiwanese people are friendly and courteous. Most would help you out if you have trouble communicating, or get lost wandering around. Many of the Indians who come to Taiwan are engineers at local technology companies or researchers at universities. Because of this, there is a common impression that Indians are smart, and this should work in your favour.
However, frequent media reports about women’s safety issues in India have also given rise to the belief that India is not a safe place to travel to. So there is a chance that you might be asked some embarrassing or difficult questions at times.
There is a Facebook group, Indians in Taiwan, which also serves as an unofficial Indian association in Taiwan. The group frequently holds events, where you can meet other Indians and local people who are fascinated by India. Apart from this, there are local Indian groups as well, for example, for people from Kerala there is a Facebook group called Taiwan Malayalis.