There is one thing every traveler needs to know about the country they are traveling to: how to handle the issue of money. Unfortunately, this is often one of the more complicated aspects of travel. Even if you know the exchange rate between two countries, actually knowing when people are trying to overcharge you and what’s considered a good deal is a completely different story.
Money Conversion and How to Get It
The US to Taiwan money conversion rate is currently about 30 New Taiwan Dollars (NT$) to 1 US Dollar (US$). For example, “Daiso, The NT$39 Store” is a store famous for pricing everything at NT$39 (and highly recommended to visit). It is basically the equivalent of a US Dollar Store.
You can get money from ATMs in 7-11 or Family Mart, or almost any other convenience store. These ATMs usually will charge you a tax for withdrawing money, so it’s good to contact your bank before leaving and asking them which banks or ATMs you can use to get cash.
Taiwanese Food Prices
For food pricing, food in Taiwan vs American food is a bit different. Whereas in the US a good meal is usually between $10 and $15, in Taiwan one can easily purchase a large bowl of beef tendon soup (牛肉湯麵, niu2 rou4 tang1 mian4) for between NT$30 and NT$90 (around US$1-3).
Specialty food, like McDonald’s or exotic restaurants can cost a bit more than this. To eat cheaply in Taiwan, it’s best to go to places serving Taiwanese food, or to night market stalls. Look for places with long lines of local people. These will have cheap prices, and often the best food!
Electronics, clothing, and many other products can also be purchased in Taiwan for much less than in the United States (tip for students: textbooks are particularly cheap!). Some clothing sold at night markets is as expensive as it would be in the US, but is expected to be haggled down to a cheaper price.
Many of these stalls don’t have marked prices–you have to ask the vendor for the price, and they’ll often give you a price adjusted for their perception of you. Unfortunately, travelers are often given more expensive prices.
- Be prepared to walk away from what you’re trying to buy! Sometimes the way to get a vendor to knock a price down is to show you’re okay with not buying the product. (Also know that if you change your mind later and come back, they may raise the price a little.)
- Be honest, but persistent–tell them why you want a price lessened. Is it your last day in the country? Running out of money? Saw it at a different stall for a cheaper price? Is there a flaw in the quality of the item? Give them a good reason to be sympathetic or lower the price; just asking them to make it lower won’t do much.
- Often if you’re buying more than one thing, the vendor will be more likely to give you a discount on one item, even if not all.
- Be fair! These people are trying to earn a livelihood from their sales; even if it’s not quite as low as you wanted, sometimes it’s best to just thank the vendor for lowering the price at all and pay up.
- Haggling should not be attempted in well-established shops, or stores with busy registers.