5 Things You Should Know Before You Visit Taipei

Taipei is an ultra-modern city, but it also has deep rich cultural roots and it is becoming more and more a gateway to East Asia and Southeast Asia. Here are five things you should know before you visit Taipei, Taiwan.

Bring Cash
The currency in Taiwan is the NTD or new Taiwan dollar. Make sure you carry a bit of this around with you especially if you are going out for meals. This is because many of the very famous restaurants don’t accept credit cards.

Tipping is Unnecessary
Tipping is not customary here in Taiwan, so don’t worry about tipping in restaurants or taxis. If the taxi fare is 95 NTD and you give the taxi driver 100 NTD and tell them to keep the change, that’s okay but don’t feel you have to tip the taxi drivers or restaurant staff as well. Now, if you are staying in a four or five-star hotel, then sometimes the staff that works in the hotel will expect the tip especially the porter that carries your bag.

English is not Widely Spoken
What you will find when you visit Taiwan is that people do not speak as much English here especially compared to Southeast Asia. But no worries, if you come to a restaurant in Taipei like Din Tai Fung in Dongmin everybody on staff can speak English and virtually all of their restaurants have English-speaking staff. That is not the case with all restaurants so you will find a little more of a language barrier. However, many restaurants in commercial districts will have at least one person on at all times that could speak English.

If you go to a traditional morning market in Taipei, then it will be a bit more of a language barrier for you. Food stalls and little restaurants that are around the night markets probably will have a bit of English language skills and sometimes Japanese and Korean as well. Most of the signage is in English in Taipei City especially and all the transportation services have English and will all have English speakers on hand at any time as well. Also, no worries when you are visiting tourist attractions like Taipei 101, the number one tourist spot in Taipei. Most of the staff speak English and many museums and tourist attractions also have English-speaking staffs.

Claim your VAT Refund
Claim the 5% VAT tax when you leave Taiwan. All foreigners can get back up to 5% VAT but you must spend 3000 NT dollars on the same day which is about $90. Do that at a big department store or retail outlet that that sells big-ticket items and they will be happy to issue you that receipt. You can take that to the airport on departure and cash out and get your money back either on your credit card or cash. Don’t ask night market stalls or outdoor clothing stores to give you a receipt they won’t do it.

World Class Public Transportation
Taipei has one of the best metro systems in the world; it is super efficient and very convenient. If you think you will be in Taipei more than a couple of days, you should get one of the easy cards because not only is it convenient to get around on the MRT and bus system but you can also use it to use the U-Bike system which is a fantastic way for getting around the city.

I hope you have an amazing time in Taipei Taiwan. The people are extremely friendly and helpful, so don’t be afraid to get lost you are in a safe place.

Hawaii’s Big Island Travel Guide

Hawaii’s Big Island lies in the North Pacific Ocean and it is the youngest and largest of the Hawaiian Islands. There are a range of climate zones in this still growing land mass. Some friends of mine who run and Edmonton Roofing company said that their recent trip to the Big Island was the highlight of their Hawaiian adventure. Nature’s elements collide spectacularly on this volcano rich island. Enjoy the ocean breezes and the warm blue water, delve into a lush green jungle and see the red hot lava flow. Their special connection to nature and Hawaiians unique Polynesian culture is ever present.

It is also the domain of Pele – the mythical goddess of passion, volcanoes, and fire. Remember, nobody is in a hurry here, so take your time to see the island’s natural wonders or drive around the big island. The west side of the Big Island is resort rich and offers water sports, history, and beaches. Here are some must see attractions on Hawaii’s Big Island.

Kaloko-honokohau National Historical Park
Here the Pacific Green turtles crawl ashore and you can dive into the sheltered Kahaluu Bay to greet the Honu underwater. It is a beach park that is part of Kailua Kona which is the main resort hub on the island. This is a relaxing place to try some paddle boarding and enjoy the sunshine. Treat your children to one of Hawaii’s specialty shave ice or taste of their exclusive brew when you are ready for a break.

Mauna Kea Beach
Relax for a few days on this beach which has the highest point of the Mauna Kea Volcano in its backdrop.

Captain Cook Village
Captain Cook was a famous English explorer that was killed in 1779. The jetty built in Captain Cook’s honor is now used for people watching and sunbathing.

Pu’uhonua o Honaunau
This place was used for refuge in ancient times. Here you can walk around the burial temple of Hawaiian Chiefs, play board games, or see primitive canoe huts.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Explore this historic national park and spend some time in Hawaii’s interior. Visitors from around the world come here to see the steaming craters of the Kilauea volcano. This volcano had been erupting for more than 30 years now and you can see as the lava pours into the ocean by joining a cruise.

Pololu Valley
Hawaii is one of the wettest cities in the United States but you will be entertained by the many indoor attractions here when the heavens open. Overlooking the sprawling forest reserves of the Big Island is the Pololu valley on the island’s northern tip. This is the birthplace of the king who unified the Hawaiian Islands – Kamehameha the first.

KAPA’AU and Javier
You can browse the galleries and boutique shops in the rustic and historic towns of Javier and KAPA’AU.