Taiwan’s economy is still largely based on cash transactions, especially when compared to places like Australia and South Korea, so visitors should always carry a decent amount of paper currency. The good news is that almost every business can provide change if you pay for a small item with a NT$1,000 note, so there’s no need to hoard coins or NT$100 notes. Because Taiwan is a safer-than-average society, people don’t think twice about carrying around substantial amounts of cash.
Outside of banks and major post offices, money-changing options are limited. Unlike in some other Asian countries, open-all-hours money-changing kiosks don’t exist in Taiwan. Some department stores are able to change US dollars, euros, Japanese yen and Chinese RMB. When buying NT dollars, you’ll likely get a better rate of exchange in Taiwan than in your home country, so consider waiting until you’ve arrived and then changing money at the airport. The banks in Taoyuan and Kaohsiung airports keep very long hours for the convenience of international travellers. The rates they offer are as good as those posted in city-centre banks.
Make sure you’ve enough cash to see you through weekends, as banks are open Monday to Friday only (and closed on national holidays; there’s a list of 2018’s public holidays here). If you’re going beyond the major cities, do change plenty of money beforehand. Even in heavily-touristed areas like Sun Moon Lake and Greater Alishan changing money can be problematic.
Most Taiwanese citizens have credit cards but seldom use them except in department stores. As far as tourists are concerned, credit cards are useful in major hotels and upscale restaurants and for buying train tickets. Credit cards tend not to be accepted in homestays, and almost never by taxi drivers.
Most of Taiwan’s automatic teller machines (ATMs) give the option of Chinese or English instructions. Cards issued by foreign banks are often – but not always – accepted, so don’t depend on being able to make withdrawals from your account at home. Nor should you bring too much physical money into Taiwan. The limits are US$20,000 in gold or US$10,000 in cash (or the equivalent in travellers’ cheques or other foreign currencies), or NT$60,000 in Taiwanese money. For Chinese currency, no more than RMB20,000 is permitted.
What can you do if, at the end of your trip, you find yourself with leftover NT dollars? Changing it back into British pounds or US dollars at the airport just before departure is straightforward. (While there, sort out any VAT refunds you’re due.) Alternatively, place your coins in one of the charity boxes you’ll notice by the cash register in a convenience store. If you’d like to leave behind a permanent reminder of your visit, you could sponsor an engraved panel inside a temple!