The answer is almost certainly ‘no’ if you come from North America or Europe, and you’ve no plans to work or study.
According to the website of the Bureau of Consular Affairs, part of Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, citizens of Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, the UK and the USA are among those who can enter Taiwan without a visa. For all of the listed nations, except for Malaysia and Singapore, the maximum stay for visa-free entry is 90 days. For Malaysians and Singaporeans, it’s 30 days.
Another 37 nations qualify for visa-free entry of 30 or 90 days, and this privilege is expected to be extended to holders of Indian and Philippines passports very soon. In all cases, visitors must be able to show a confirmed air or ferry ticket out of Taiwan, and their passport must be valid for at least six months from the date of arrival in Taiwan. There is no fee for visa-free entry.
Visa-free entry is possible at almost every airport and harbor in the country. However, if you plan to arrive by private yacht at, say, Tainan’s Anping Harbour, you should contact the Taiwan representative office in your home country before setting out to determine if you should obtain a visa in advance.
However, permission to enter the country does not mean you’ll have unrestricted access to every part of it. To protect fragile ecosystems, the authorities limit the number of people who can enter certain locations within the mountains. If one of your aims is climbing Mount Jade (at 3,952 m / 12,966 ft) or even Snow Mountain (the island’s second-highest peak), you should apply for a hiking permit well in advance. While Life of Taiwan does not organize trekking expeditions, if one of our clients wishes to add a high-altitude hike to his/her Taiwan experience, we’ll gladly call on our expert partners to make the necessary arrangements.
Some out-of-date printed guides and web-pages mention restrictions which limit access to remote indigenous communities, such as Wutai. Almost all of these have been abolished or replaced with a simple registration requirement at the checkpoint. For this reason, do always carry your passport in the highlands.
There are also a few museums which insist or suggest that visitors book in advance. One is the National Palace Museum Southern Branch in Chiayi County. Between Tuesday and Friday (the museum, like many others in Taiwan, is closed every Monday) visitors can roll up without a booking and get a ticket easily. At weekends and on national holidays, however, online registration is strongly advised to avoid what could be a long wait.
Chi Mei Museum, which used to require every visitor to make a reservation at least one day ahead, currently allows foreign visitors to roll up unannounced and buy a ticket for immediate entry. This special concession will stay in place until the end of 2017, when it’ll be reviewed and hopefully renewed.
Taiwan is one of the world’s friendliest destinations and, apart from a different language being spoken, an easy place to visit. Do bear in mind our advice regarding money and credit cards, and don’t be surprised if you gain a bit of weight during your tour!