Cautionary to Take in Taipei – The Skeptic’s Guide

While Taipei is a relatively safe place to be for travelling and living, there is no place on earth that is free from scams and cheating. Below is a list of things to consider twice before encountering if possible based on media reports often popping up in the local media.

Happy-ending massages

Many reports in Taiwan’s media talk about sex scandals being broken up and caught on tape at various local massage places. Clients are often lured either in back rooms where they proceed to receive services such as hand jobs locally referred to as “half services” or 半套 in Chinese only to find cops bust in when they are but naked on the bed. Sometimes these massage parlors do not advertise directly but instead do through different apps and location services through WeChat and Line that promise a good time. Crooks or cops who are trying to blackmail people or bust people on prostitution, which is legal in all of Taiwan, run these apps and pose as hot girls looking to give services for sex at around US$100 or hand jobs for about half the price.

Fake Phone Calls

Also often reported by Taiwan’s media are scam phone calls from women to random numbers pretending to be the friends of whomever is on the opposite end of the line. These phone calls will start with “Hey it’s me, what are you up to?” and will often turn into longer conversations where the girl persuades the guy that they have met but he has since forgotten. From this, they will either keep chatting, which in turn will rake up a hefty phone bill, or will meet at some random place in which the guy will be told to first buy certain things before meeting. It’s hard to say who is behind this and for what purpose, but many scams have been busted in Taipei.

Don’t rely on credit cards

Taiwan is not a credit card friendly place outside of making hotel reservations online and going to higher-end or western restaurants. Almost every small shop ranging from food vendors to hardware shops only take cash, which many locals say is because they are too reliant on having cash in hand and cannot wait until the end of the month when they would typically receive funds from their banks. Taiwanese always have cash on hand and I cannot stress enough how many times I have wanted to avoid going to an ATM for convenience sake only to find the shop owner looking at me like I am crazy for wanting to use a credit card or my debit card. There is also an indirect and unspoken feeling that those paying with cards do not have money or are facing some type of financial issue. To avoid all awkwardness, always have cash on hand.

Bring Your Own Fork

Not a chopsticks kind of person? Then you better prepare your own set of silverware. In fact, at one of the many stationary stores in Taipei or even at 7/11 you can get silverware sets for around US$1. Some of them include forks while most are still chopsticks sets so it is advised to prepare your own and keep them in a backpack when travelling in order to avoid eating with your fingers. Otherwise, expect to find a myriad of plastic spoons and wooden chopsticks in every restaurant along with a bunch of people staring at you as you try and figure out how to use them.

Mobile Phones are a Must

It is pretty a standard now for most people in mature economies to have mobile phones but some people still travel without them and think they will be able to get by with payphones. In Taiwan this is very difficult as only some areas such as gas stations still have public phones remaining, so if you are worried about making calls while on the go make sure to bring your own phone while on the go. Also, getting a SIM card can be difficult without 2 forms of identification or a local to help you so make sure to go prepared to a phone store with a passport and drivers license to ensure you will get one.

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