Overview of Taiwan
The two largest cities in Taiwan, Taipei and Kaohsiung are home to many foreign people. As a result, renting an apartment is very common. It is completely possible to go through the entire rental process without knowing any Mandarin, but of course it helps. It is also possible to search for shared accommodation as there are many expats about.
Expect to sign a one year contract and also pay a security deposit if renting an apartment. Most landlords will require a guarantor. There are also agencies that can help with the rental process but expect to pay a fee of a month’s rent.
Many Taiwanese Universities offer dormitories and some of them even let you to choose if you want to share a room with a local or an international student. Living in a dormitory is a nice option to make new friends and get to know the local culture, so we recommend you to give it a try.
■ Transportation system
Public transportation in Taiwan is extensive and well-equipped. Most people use a combination of buses, trains and the underground transportation. Of course, there are taxis available too. To travel from one city to another you can use a High Speed Railway or airplanes for further destinations, or the Local Trains for closer destinations.
While in Taipei, you can choose to shop in department stores, malls, underground transit malls, night markets and shopping districts.
Night markets are famous for cheap prices and the most famous one the Shilin Night Market – their food court has about 539 stalls!! It opens at 16:00, when students are going back home, and closes after midnight. You can buy clothes for US$5 and cosmetics for good price as well.
Taipei 101 has a famous shopping mall, but there are only brands shops there, and prices are not that affordable for the average student.
Taiwan is a famous destination for food. You can eat for cheap anywhere, anytime. Being an island makes sea food the greatest staple food there, but they also have some meat dishes. Some of the classic recipes include: beef noodle soup, minced pork on rice, oil rice, oyster pancakes, oyster vermicelli, Milkfish, Pan-fried bun, Gua-bao (Taiwan styled hamburger), Pineapple cake, Beef rolls, stinky tofu, pepper cakes, dumplings... The list is endless. Everything costs about US$5. For drinks, regular tea or bubble tea, and the national dessert could be shaved ice.
Taiwan culture is a mix of Confucian Han Chinese, Japanese, European, American and Taiwanese aborigine’s cultures. Major religions are Buddhism, Taoism, and Chinese folk religion.
Taiwan is ranked 32th among 169 nation in freedom of press. Taiwanese popular culture includes karaoke, called KTV there, Taiwanese movies and music (Taiwanese hip hop and pop scenes are especially strong).