Safety in Taiwan


Taiwan is a very safe country and violent crime against foreigners is a rare occurrence. Expats in Taiwan, particularly in metropolitan areas like Taipei, should exercise basic precautions as in any large city, such as being aware of personal belongings in crowded markets. It is safe to walk around or catch public transport at night, especially if you do not do so alone or in very isolated areas.

The police are genuinely helpful and people are kind – if you are foreigner in distress on the street, within seconds someone will come to your aid. Guns are outlawed and genuinely rare, although some gangsters do have them. When crime takes place, it is almost always between people who know each other and have a score to settle – as a foreigner, you are very unlikely to get caught up in anything dangerous.
 

Gang-related crime in Taiwan

Traffic polic in Taiwan
Sex trafficking and prostitution is common, sadly: if you are male, you’d be advised to stay away from brothels. Many are kidnapped and coerced sex workers, not women working voluntarily. As with every country, gangs control the gambling racket – getting involved is a sure ticket to trouble.

There are some districts where businesses function as fronts for prostitution and which are controlled by criminals; expats should avoid these areas and attend nightclubs, barbershops and massage parlours which advertise themselves prominently and have store windows which passersby can easily peer into.

This sounds scary, but for the average expat, it’s generally fine. Gang activity stays within gangs: they want nothing to do with the average expat or even locals who aren’t involved in their business. Gangsters are more concerned with territory and making money than killing.
 

Pickpocketing in Taiwan


Crowded public areas such as markets and public transport hubs are often targeted by pickpockets and occasionally even bag snatchers. In these areas, expats should be careful not to carry valuable items in open bags and should wear fanny packs or bags in the front of them. Bag snatching from motorcycles also happens occasionally. The usual rules of travel apply - keep photocopies of passports and other important documents in a safe place, and if possible carry the photocopies themselves in place of the original documents.
 

Scams in Taiwan


The main kind of crime in Taiwan that expats should be aware of is scams. Credit card fraud is common, as is telephone fraud, where the scam artist will call the victim and claim to be from a government department, bank or other official office and request personal information such as bank details. ATM fraud is also a risk – when using ATMs, be aware of your surroundings and do not accept help from strangers.

Watch out for people claiming to be service technicians from companies you didn’t call – especially “cable” or “telephone” repairmen who show up unannounced. This is rare, but if it happens, they are quite likely working for a robbery ring and casing your home. Do not let them in. The upside is that if they show up more than once and you are home, they’ll decide your going-and-coming patterns are too unpredictable and stay away.

Watch out for unexpected phone calls from people claiming to know you who then ask for money. The upside is that if you don’t speak Chinese, chances are they don’t speak English, and they’ll hang up once they realised they’ve reached a foreigner.

Store-based money scams (like the infamous “gem export” scams of India and Nepal) are rare if not non-existent.
 

Drugs in Taiwan


Taiwan is no longer a major drug transit point thanks to aggressive law enforcement. Drugs are available but penalties for possession, use or trafficking are severe, and Taiwanese officials will detain and prosecute foreign nationals if caught. Drug use and possession carries stiff penalties and almost guaranteed deportation: just don’t.
 

Road safety in Taiwan


Taiwan traffic lightTaiwan's metropolitan areas often see major traffic jams, which is why many people opt for the scooters which are visible in abundance on Taiwanese roads. Although scooters allow you to weave in and out of traffic and get from point A to point B faster than other means, this sort of erratic driving does make for chaotic traffic, especially at peak hours, and bicycle and scooter accidents are common. Added to the confusion are ongoing repairs and extensions of the MRT underground system, as well as highway overpasses, have resulted in congestion at peak hours. All passengers in all vehicles are required to wear seatbelts.

The highways in western and northern Taiwan are usually in good condition, however those in eastern Taiwan are sometimes in disrepair. Road closures due to flooding are not uncommon in typhoon season.
 

Terrorism/political activism in Taiwan


Taiwan is a stable and prosperous democracy. Public participation is alive and well, so political demonstrations are common and accepted. Although they sometimes turn confrontational between opposing groups they are unlikely to be violent. The threat of international terrorism is basically non-existent.
 

Food and water safety in Taiwan


Because of the frequent earthquakes, water pipes are often cracked, and so tap water can be contaminated. The quality of tap water in Taiwan varies, but in most cities is safe to drink after boiling and filtering. Expats moving to Taiwan should consider installing a good quality water filtration system or sticking to bottled water, as it might be unwise to drink even boiled tap water in Taiwan for an extended period of time. Drinking-water fountains in public spaces are already fitted with filter systems and so are safe to use.
 

Natural disasters in Taiwan


Earthquakes are common in Taiwan and quakes measuring over 6.0 on the Richter scale cause damage at least once a year.

July to November is typhoon season. Typhoons have caused mudslides, road closures and collapsed buildings in the past, sometimes resulting in fatalities. Expats should be careful of travelling in the mountainous regions of central and southern Taiwan during this period.
 

Emergency response in Taiwan


Police, fire and ambulance response times are generally good, and most departments will have someone on staff who can speak English. The Foreign Affairs Office is responsible for dealing with crimes against foreigners and can be reached directly.
 

Emergency numbers:

  • Fraud hotline: 165
  • Police: 110
  • Ambulance and fire: 119
  • Domestic violence or sexual assault: 113
  • 24-hour general emergency information: 0800 024 111
  • Foreign Affairs Office Taipei: (2) 2556 6007

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