You have made up your mind. You are ready to make the move. You are headed to Taiwan for travel, work or study.
But what exactly do you need to do in order to make that happen? What needs to be done to ensure the smoothest transition?
10 Steps for Moving to Taiwan
Before you rush to your computer and start searching for the cheapest flights, you need to get some other things, like paperwork in order.
The most important part of this trip is going to be your passport. Whether you are planning on teaching English in Taiwan, learning Chinese or exploring the island from Taipei 101 to the beaches of Kenting, you will need a passport. If you don’t have one, get one. If you do have one, make sure that it doesn’t expire within 6 months of your departure. Nothing good comes from trying to enter the country with a soon-to-expire passport, and it’s much easier to renew it in your home country anyway.
You will also want to make sure your passport has a few blank pages in it. Running out of pages while in the middle of obtaining a residence visa, or even while traveling around Asia, can be an expensive mistake. I also recommend making a few copies of your passport. Keep one copy in your checked luggage, one copy in your carry-on luggage and one copy on you.
Once you have sorted out your passport situation, you will want to decide how you will handle the visa situation. The Bureau of Consular Affairs has a very thorough breakdown of the various visas that the Taiwanese government offer, available here. I could go into more detail, but it’s best to get the info straight from the horse’s mouth.
One thing that I think is important to point out though, is that if you plan to move to Taiwan, you may want to opt for a visitor’s visa. You can change a visitors visa to a residence visa inside Taiwan. The last time I arrived at Taiwan and entered visa-exempt, I had to leave Taiwan for Hong Kong on a visa run. I was told that since I did not have a visa, I had nothing that could be changed into a residence visa. If I would have had a visitor’s visa, I could have had that changed into a residence visa.
>> Definitely double check before you go. This changes all too often. As of 2015, people have been having no problem with getting a landing visa changed while in Taiwan, but these things change like the wind.
To make a long story short, if you plan on heading to Taiwan for travel and fun, you may not have any need for a visitor’s visa. But, if you are looking to move to Taiwan for a year or more, applying for a visitor’s visa will probably be worth the time and money.
Find Your Flight
Now that you have your passport and visa sorted, you can get to the actual travel planning. I remember my excitement while searching for a flight on the Internet at 3 am. I remember the excitement of finding the best deal available. I remember entering my credit card number and personal information right before finalizing the order. I also remember the fairly long layover I had in Los Angeles.
It’s always important to keep and eye on your budget, especially if you are relocating internationally, but I suggest seeking value more than solely focusing on the bottom line. Stepping out of Taipei Taoyuan International Airport with nothing more than a suitcase and good intentions can be as shocking as it is exciting. Add fatigue and irritability to that shock, and your move to Taiwan could be starting off on the wrong foot.
Of course you need to mind your budget, but the cheapest flight may not always be the flight offering you the best value.
Another important detail to be aware of when purchasing your flight ticket is the idea of having an onward destination. For those of you with international travel experience, this should not be the first time you have encountered this. If it’s your first time flying into another country, it’s something to be aware of. While not all customs officials will ask you for proof of how you will leave Taiwan once your visa expires, some occasionally do.
There are a couple of ways to handle this. If money is not a concern, you can always get an open-ended round trip ticket. This is a nice safe way to check out Taiwan and have a way back to your home country if things don’t work out. I was on a rather tight budget when I made my initial move to Taiwan, so I instead bought a one-way ticket from Philadelphia to Taipei (with the aforementioned layover in Los Angeles). I then purchased the cheapest one-way outgoing flight from Taipei that I could find. In my case, it was a ticket from Taipei to Hong Kong.
It served a few purposes. It was proof for my onward destination that I may be asked to show. It was also built in damage control in case I needed to make a visa run. That is, extend my stay in Taiwan by getting another visitor’s visa in a Taiwanese embassy outside of the country. I ended up just trashing my ticket to Hong Kong, which is apparently frowned upon by the airlines, but it ended up being of no use to me, and it was non-refundable. Regardless of the route you decide to take, making sure you have all your bases covered will make your move or visit go as smoothly as possible.
The next logical step is figuring out where you will hang your hat when you first arrive. A lot of this depends on your plans, and if you have a job or study program established before you arrive. If you do, then there is a good chance that they will help with your accommodation. If you don’t, then there are a few obvious options available: hostel, hotel, apartment, or an acquaintance.
Up until a couple of years ago, hostel availability in Taiwan was incredibly limited. Now there is a rather healthy selection by comparison. Using hostels is a very good way to see different parts of Taiwan on the cheap. It is also a great place to meet other travelers or job seekers. The best part is that you aren’t planting roots which opens up more work or study possibilities. You can search for and read about the different hostels that are available here.
The upgraded version of using a hostel is booking a hotel room, but they can be costly, and you can end up socially isolating yourself. However, the older I get, the more likely the chance I decide on this avenue as opposed to a hostel, mostly because I just like the extra privacy and nicer accommodations after a long flight. I’ve personally been using Agoda.com over the last few years both in Taiwan and when I travel to nearby countries as well.
I strongly advise against jumping into an apartment, whether it’s a place you rent by yourself, or a place you enter as a roommate, unless you already know where you will study or work. Though Taiwan is small, the commute times from one part of a city to another part can be quite lengthy.
And of course all of this is moot if you have a friend or relative willing to put you up until you get settled. Once you know where you will stay, make sure to get the address, because you will need to write that on your disembarkation card which you have to present to Taiwanese immigration.
At this point you may think you are good to go, but you aren’t quite ready to move to Taiwan just yet. There is a little housekeeping you may want to do.
Firstly, you will want to contact your bank, and let them know you will be traveling overseas to Taiwan. There is ample ATM access here, but many banks have security measures in place, and if you try to use your ATM card outside of your home country, you could end up with a frozen bank account.
Something else you might consider is setting up a mail forwarder. I did not do this when I first traveled to Taiwan, and I wish that I had. Having the ability to manage your mail from home while in Taiwan without burdening a friend of family member is worth the small fee, in my opinion.
Now that you are finally ready to fly to and enter Taiwan, there are a few things you should know about immigration at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport. If it’s your first time flying into an Asian country, the initial imagery may be a little intimidating and overwhelming. The good news is that the airport has become more and more English language friendly, as far as signs and directories, over the last few years.
The immigration officials are fairly easy-going as well. If all of your documents are in order, they may not ask you anything. If they do ask you a few questions, I would avoid mentioning that you are seeking a job. You don’t want to complicate visa matters.
After you pass through immigration you will be directed to the baggage claim. It should go without being said, but do not attempt to traffic illegal drugs into Taiwan. Don’t even think about it. One thing you will notice when gather your luggage are the giant signs on the baggage carousel stating that drug trafficking is punishable by death.
I have even seen dogs sniffing for contraband the last couple of times I have entered the country. The Taiwanese government takes drug trafficking very seriously, regardless if you are a foreigner or a local. It’s not worth losing your life over. Don’t do it.
Once you have your luggage you will walk through customs. Most people have nothing to declare and walk through the final gate without any problem. On the other side of customs is Taiwan. You will be steered through a short pathway that leads into a lobby where people will be waiting for their friends and family.
It’s almost time to celebrate, but not quite yet. Depending on what part of the island you chose to spend your first night in, you need to get there from the airport.
You will most likely arrive via Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport. It’s a bit outside of the major Taiwanese cities. There are buses, but if you don’t speak or read Chinese, and you’ve been on the road for double-digit hours, you’ll most likely want to grab a taxi outside of the airport. Head to either somewhere in Taipei, or have the driver take you to the train station that is most convenient for you final destination.
One last word of advice about your trip. If you choose to use a taxi, try and take an official yellow taxi. They are metered and legitimate. There are other cars-for-hire that linger outside of the airport. They are usually people using their personal vehicles trying to make some money on the side. Most of them are honest people who aren’t looking for any trouble, but it’s safer to just use a metered company cab.
Welcome to Taiwan
And there you have it; a step-by-step process on how to leave your home and move to Taiwan. If you are truly considering making the journey, I hope this guide will make the process as smooth as possible.