Taipei is generally a very noisy, busy and dirty city. The streets are very compact and Taipei has a high population density, be very careful when crossing the streets the drivers occasionally ignore the red lights and scooters are everywhere. Also some roads have little or no pavements/sidewalks.
Money changers/money exchange outlets are not abound in Taipei. Transactions are limited to intl. airport, dept. stores, banks (weekdays only) and hotels. Don't expect money changers in every street corner. If you splurged all your NT$ on your night market shopping spree, tough luck!
Motorbikes and scooters are a popular form of transportation with young Taiwanese. You will find them parked along the sidewalk in most roads. Do be careful when crossing the road especially at non traffic light controlled junctions. Motorbikes and scooters may emerge from a small lane nearby without you knowing.
Unfortunately getting food, or rather clean food can be hard. There are many street vendors and “charming” side street restaurants with cheap prices and tasty morsels, but there could be deadly consequences. I discovered in my research that Taiwan is a hot bed of Hepatitis A and B, typhoid, dysentery and host to many other delightful illnesses. All of these diseases (except Hepatitis B) can easily be passed from an infected person through contaminated food, especially when food is handled in an unsanitary way. Taiwan does this is spades! So, no street vendor foods and if the restaurant looked unclean I wouldn’t go in (I’d do the same in the states). No fruits. No cold vegetables, only steamed or thoroughly cooked. No cold meats and for that matter no cold meals or food that had been standing in the open air for a long period (like buffet style).
Yes, it is actually called stinky tofu, or so that is how it is written on the few English menus I saw. You might be wondering what kind of smell stinky tofu emits. Well I will tell you. As I was walking along I smelt dog s@%t. There are lots of dogs around in Taipei, some stray, others being sold at the night market . I saw a few dogs that were shaved and looked quite diseased. Not sure what that was all about. Anyway, I looked around on the ground but I didn’t see any crap so I kept walking. The smell got stronger, so I stopped and checked the bottom of my shoes, thinking I must have stepped in a big pile of steaming poop, but they were clean. I walked a little farther and I swear to god I thought I was going to throw up. The smell of dog s@%t was now over powering. I was practically gagging. At this point I was informed that it was the delightful smell of tofu. At first I didn’t believe it. There is plenty of tofu in Japan and I have smelt it a plethora of times. In fact, I have eaten tofu and it didn’t smell like that. But sure enough we passed a food stand and the smell dissipated. Now, the only thing worse than the smell of stinky tofu is the realization that people actually eat stinky tofu. Yuck!
Be careful about what you drink in Taiwan. Tap is a big no no! As well, avoid ice and fountain drinks (like coca-cola at a restaurant, they just mix the syrup with tap water). Don’t even use tap water to wash your toothbrushes. I threw out my toothbrush every night after I used it (luckily the hotel provided us with free toothbrushes everyday). There were even warnings against drinking bottled water, but I found some that was made in Japan. Most milk and dairy is un-pasteurized, so also be careful about that.
They are everywhere. People ride them everywhere from back alley to the walkway in ximending. I am also pretty amaze to see that people carrying ladders, gas tanks and even their dogs while riding. Watch out for the motorcycle coming from behind!
There are loads of scooters in Taipei, and so when you are crossing the road, you need to be extra careful - you'll need to look out for the cars and the scooters - as they have a tendency to zip right past only inches away from you on roads or pavements.
When you're about to cross a street and the walk signal just turns green, make sure there's no thru traffic coming from your left. People here normally catch the very last moment of yellow lights and some even run red, and they may not clear the intersection in time.
So, bear in mind that you'd better wait an extra one or two seconds after the "little green man" starts to walk(i.e., green signal) and look left (at least peripherally) before you can walk more safely.
When you're about to cross the street and the walk signal just turns green, make sure if there's any thru traffic coming from your left. People here normally catch the very last moment of yellow lights, and some even run red lights. They may not be able to clear the intersection in time.
So, bear in mind that you'd better wait an extra one or two seconds after the "little green man" starts to walk (i.e., green signal), and look left( at least peripherally) then you'll walk more safely.