Climate

Split by the Tropic of Cancer, the island enjoys tropical climate in the southern and western plains and subtropical climate in the northern and mountainous regions. Winters, from December through February, are short, mild and wet, with average lows from 12° to 16°C (54° to 61°F.) and occasional snowfall on the higher mountains. Temperatures do not vary vary dramatically from night to day.

Most buildings do not have heating system, and the air is wet, so it can feel chilly in the morning or at night in December and January, especially in the windy open spaces. Wind breaking coats, gloves, warm shoes and hats are recommended, especially for outside activities in Sun Moon Lake and the aboriginal mountain villages.

Population and People

There are approximately 420,000 Aboriginal people living on the island. The rest of the 23 million population are mostly came over from the Chinese coastal province of Fukien over the last 400 years. The largest city is Taipei with more than 2.7 million people. Other large cities are Kaohsiung with 1,435,000 residents, Taichung with 860,000 and Tainan with 708,000.

Language

The main population of Taiwan speaks mandarin Chinese and this is also a common language of most of the different indigenous tribes. Most island residents also speak Taiwanese, the local dialect of Chinese. Announcements on the Taipei subway are in four languages Mandarin Chinese, Taiwanese, Hakka and English. The people of Taiwan typically apply great effort to communicate in English and Summit organizers will arrange for interpreters and printed English material.

Geography and Land

Located in the Pacific about 160 kilometers (100 miles) from the southeastern coast of the China, Taiwan is midway between Korea and Japan to the north and Hong Kong and the Philippines to the south. The island, shaped like a tobacco leaf or a sweet potato, is 394 kilometers (245 miles) long and 144 kilometers (89.5 miles) wide at its broadest point. The Central Mountain Range runs like a spine down the center of the island from north to south. About two-thirds of the island is lush forested mountains. The rest of the island is foothills, terraced flatlands, and coastal plains and basins. Ongoing activity births soothing hot springs and hosts an exotic array of tropical flora and fauna. With an annual rainfall of more than 1500 mm the island ranks as one of the most agriculturally productive places in all of Asia. Taiwan also includes Penghu – a group of 64 islands previously known as the Pescadores – and 21 other islands.

Visas

Tourist visas for the Taiwan, or letters of recommendation which can be exchanged for visas, can be obtained from Taiwan embassies, consulates, or designated representative offices in foreign countries. Letters or recommendation can be exchanged for visas upon arrival at Taoyuan International Airport in Taoyuan or at Hsiaokang International Airport in Kaohsiung, the only points of entry to Taiwan at which such letters may be exchanged. 14-day visa-free privileges are afforded to citizens of the United States, Japan, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Austria, Holland, Belgium, Luxemburg Australia, New Zealand, Spain,Sweden, and Portugal. Foreign nationals may obtain a tourist visa if they bold foreign passports or travel documents valid for more than six months and wish to stay less than six months in the Taiwan for purposes of sightseeing, business, family visits, study or training, medical treatment, or other legitimate activities.

Visa requirements include one completed application form, incoming and outgoing travel tickets (or a letter of confirmation from a travel agency), three photos, documents verifying the purpose of the visit (except for transit or sightseeing), and a letter of guarantee (in some cases). Tourist visas may be single- or multiple-entry, and allow stays on Taiwan for two weeks to 60 days. Unless restricted to two weeks, tourist visa holders may apply for a maximum of two 60-day extensions, for a total of six months. I-lolders of a tourist visa are not permitted to assume employment on Taiwan without authorization. Complete information regarding Taiwan visas can be obtained from the Department of Consular Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Transportation

Located at the crossroads of some of Asia's busiest air routes, Taiwan is served by airlines from Asia, Europe, South Africa, and North America. The island has two international airports, at Kaohsiung in the south and at Taoyuan in the north. Taoyuan International Airport at Taoyuan is 40 kilometers (24.8 miles) southwest of Taipei. Each outbound passenger must pay an airport departure tax of NT$300.

Domestic travel is also easy and convenient. Inexpensive air-conditioned limousine buses depart the airport at Taoyuan every 15 minutes for both Taipei's Sungshan Domestic Airport and the main railway station. Major hotels provide transportation to and from the airport for their guests. Seven domestic airlines currently provide daily flights between Taipei and other major cities, as well as to nearby Green and Orchid islands and the Penghu Archipelago. Taiwan has modern freeway and railway systems which make travel between major cities easy and convenient. Reliable express buses connect Taipei with all major cities and most major scenic spots, and reserved-seat, air-conditioned express trains provide fast, comfortable service around the island. Fares for buses and trains are quite reasonable.

Taxis

Major cities have an abundance of taxis. Charges are NT$ 70 for the first 1.25 km and NT$ 5 for each additional 250 meters, or an additional NT$5 is charged for every 1.4 minutes of waiting, and a 20% surcharge is added to fares between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. The price of radio cars, and carrying luggage in the boot adds NT$10. Most drivers do not speak English, so it is a good idea to have hotel personnel write both your destination and your hotel's name and address in Chinese, along with the projected cost of each one-way trip.

Time Zone

Time is 8 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

Voltage, Electricity and Water

The supplied electric power is 110 volts, 60 cycles, AC. Outlets accept flat blade plugs common in north America. Drinking water served in hotels and restaurants is distilled or boiled. Bottled water is widely available.

Currency and Money

Currency is the New Taiwan Dollar (NTD). The current exchange rates are about 1 USD @ 33 NTD and 1 EUR @ 40 NTD. Major foreign currencies can be exchanged at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport and designated banks and hotels. Paper money is currently available in NT$100, 200, 500, 1,000 and 2,000 bills. Coins have NT$1, 5, 10, and 50 denominations. Receipts are given when currency is exchanged, and must be presented in order to exchange unused NT Dollars before departure. Traveler's checks in major currencies may be cashed at some tourist-oriented businesses and for room guests at most international tourist hotels.

Credit Cards

Hotels, department stores, airlines, large stores and restaurants accept major credit cards, including VISA, American Express, Diner's Club and Master Card. Most ATM will also allow withdrawing against enabled credit cards. Traveler's checks may be cashed at some tourist-oriented businesses and at most international hotels.

Business Hours

  • Banks: Monday - Friday 9:00 to 15:30
  • Commercial Firms: Monday - Friday 9:00 to 17:00
  • Government Offices: Monday - Friday 8:30 to 12:30 and 13:30 to 17:30
  • Department Stores: Sunday - Saturday 10:00/11:00 to 21:00
  • Most other stores are open from Sunday to Saturday: 9:00/10:00 to 22:00

Public Telephone Services

Public telephones are either coin-operated or card-operated. All local and domestic long-distance calls are timed. The basic charge for a local call is NT$1. Telephone cards can be purchased in most convenience stores. International Direct Dial (IDD) calls can be made by dialing the international access code 002 + country code + area code (without the preceding "0") + local number. Just dial the 8-digit numbers for calls inside Taipei (area code "02"); dial the area code (for example "03" for Hsinchu) plus the number if you dial to places outside Taipei. International reverse-charge and credit-card calls can be made through dedicated telephones located at international airports and major hotels. For English-speaking directory assistance in Taipei, please call 106. Copy and telefax facilities are available in most convenience stores, major post offices and tourist hotels.

Mobile phone network supports GSM 900/1800 band phones. A mobile phone from north America that does not support operation in these bands will not work on Taiwan.

Tipping

Tipping is optional. However, tips are usually given for restaurant services and to hotel porters. A 10% service charge and a 5% value-added Tax are already added to room rates and meals.