Health Care in Taiwan
Keeping you safe
Health insurance information and Security Summary
Risk levels are low overall. Travelers who exercise common sense precautions and have their vaccinations on order should mostly have a trouble-free experience. Having said that, there are some points you should be aware off.
Health insurance is important for foreigners.. In Taiwan, patients are asked to pay for all medical services as required unless enrolled in the national health care system NHI. If you require health care services dial 119. Healthcare facilities are able to handle most medial cases.
If you carry prescription medicine you should bring documentation as some drugs may contain controlled substances like opiates.
Crime rates are generally low, and standard precautions should suffice. Violent crime is rare and pick pocketing and similar is uncommon. Indeed fraud is the crime most commonly affecting foreigners.
The risk from terrorism is low and public demonstrations, while common, are almost always peaceful.
For historical reasons Taiwan has strained relations with China, which claims the island as a renegade province. During periods of diplomatic tensions you should refrain from taking a stance on this emotive issue with locals. Note that many states do not recognize Taiwan as a state, and that consular assistance may be limited.
The typhoon season runs from May to November. Stay updated on adverse weather during this period.
Taiwan is a democratic republic. Executive power is vested in the president, who is directly elected and appoints the cabinet. Legislative power is vested in the “Legislative Yuan”, a unicameral body which is not quite a parliament. Formal power sharing between the executive and the Legislative Yuan is unclear, but the former is clearly the strongest. Legislative elections are based on a mix of proportional representation and single-constituencies (“first-past-the-post”).
The judiciary is independent.
Despite being a young democracy, Taiwan is a stable and robust one.
External relations critical
Taiwan or the Republic of China (ROC) is in a diplomatic limbo. It is a de facto independent state and an important economic power, but de jure it is unrecognized as Beijing lays claim to the island as a “renegade province”.
Neither state though is outspoken on the issue, in fact wording by the respective leaders of the “two Chinas” are extremely careful never to express themselves in clear cut and straightforward language. Both states have a “one China” policy. In diplomatic terms, the dispute is both very complex and very simple.
The risk of war between ROC and mainland China is small in the foreseeable future despite the occasional sabre rattling. The issue can be quite emotive with locals though. Note that the new US Trump administration may choose to change the US stance on the “one China” policy, which could precipitate a serious crisis.
Crime & kidnapping
Crime rates are low. Organized crime exists and is well entrenched in Taiwan’s business circles and even in political circles, where corruption is a real problem. However, organized crime should not present a threat to business travelers.
Standard security precaution should suffice for travelers and expats. Some business travelers may need to enter the more seedy parts of urban night-life as a part of doing business, and here risks, as always, do increase. Also, female travelers should not walk alone after dark and may prefer to use the “buddy system” by having a trusted colleague or friend with them.
Gypsy caps should be avoided. Pedestrians with bags, especially shoulder-bags, should walk away from the road and against traffic as a safeguard against motorcycle thieves who grab bags. Pick pocketing and residential crime does occur but poses little direct threat.
Travelers and expatriates of Chinese descend may face an increased risk from organized crime, including some risk of extortion and kidnapping. High profile executives may need additional precautions.
Health care and Health Insurance in Taiwan
Health insurance is important to ensure full cover of costs event if the health care system is very good and should be able to handle most medical cases that travelers or expatriates may face.
Travelers will need extensive medical and health insurance as patients pay for services as they are required in a pay-as-you-consume manner for non-nationals.
Expatriates and nationals
Health insurance: Nationals are insured under a mandatory government system (NHI, National Health Insurance), although they too have to pay at least a part of the cost, and carry an identity card which ensures payment to the provider as well as access to the patient’s medical records. The system offers a combination of good quality and low cost for the patients.
Expatriates are often enrolled in the National Health Insurance system, most often through their employer. Note again that some expenses are still out-of-pocket.
Overall the system is good as waiting periods are short and doctors and hospitals are accessible. Outpatient treatment may be somewhat lacking in quality due to very high demand.
If you need an ambulance, dial 119 for emergency services. Ambulances are unlikely to carry paramedics as in the West. Air ambulance services can be requested through International SOS.
Taiwan Adventist Hospital (Taipei): (02) 2771-8151
Veterans General Hospital (Taipei): (02) 2871-2121
Chang Gung Memorial Hospital (Kaohsiung): (07) 731-7123
National Taiwan University Hospital (Taipei): (02) 2312-3456
Emergency number: 119
Briefly on culture
To people at home within a given culture, there will be a set of norms and values which governs everyday life, often in an almost subconscious manner. Think of how people tend to interact back home: How are relations between age-groups, genders, colleagues, religious groups, employers and employees, citizens and state etc. usually defined? Then consider that these relationships and the norms and even rules which govern then are very familiar to you – indeed you will probably consider them almost natural. This is the effect of culture upon people living within a group.
But the world is a diverse place, and cultures are very different around the globe. To complicate matters further cultures are anything but static; indeed, by their very nature they are always in flux. A country will often be home to different cultures as well, although it may sometimes be possible to identify a preponderant culture within a country.
Cultural differences and travel security
When you travel to a country or an area with a significantly different culture from your own this may affect your safety. This effect may take several different shapes.
The most basic effect is that of simply being different, of sticking out, familiar to any tourist in the world: The local population has little trouble identifying you as a traveler, tourist or expat. This raises your profile and increases your vulnerability, especially to street crime and scams, which may be serious in high-risk countries. While probably difficult to avoid, this basic fact should always be borne in mind. You will be more exposed and have less instinctive understanding of your surroundings that would the case back home.
Examples of specifics: Locals laws and customs
There may be more specific effects as well. Local laws will reflect the local culture, and this can have a very direct effect, e.g. bans on specific products, behavior or rules affecting interaction between people. Classic examples include a ban on consumption of alcohol or drugs, limits on driving, bans on homosexuality or laws governing interaction between unmarried couples. Clearly local laws must be obeyed as they apply to all.
Health care and health insurance may also be affected. This is most often the case when it comes to how much practical support relatives are expected to supply at a hospital or clinic (e.g. food and basic care), or how much access family members can have to a hospitalized dependent.
But specific effects may also be subtle. As a foreigner, it is easy to break local customs unwarily, which may cause offense or resentment. This can be embarrassing of course; however, to transgress deeply held convictions e.g. of a political or religious nature may trigger hostility. Travelers and expats should always refrain from any political debates with locals, and should at least make themselves familiar with local customs and religious beliefs.
When it comes to religion specifically sensitivity may be high. If confronted with locals, it is best to express agreement with their stated convictions in a discussion. Most often it is not a problem to belong to a different major faith or denomination, but it may be. It is almost always a bad idea to confess to atheism if confronted by zealots.
Always remember that, even though you may disagree vehemently with elements of the local culture, you are the visitor. Do not try to convince locals of “the errors of their ways” and never, ever proselyte.