Note: The information presented here is an abbreviated version of our formal General Information for this tour. Its purpose is solely to give readers a sense of what might be involved if they take this tour. Although we do our best to make sure that what follows here is completely accurate, it should not be used as a replacement for the formal document which will be sent to all tour registrants, and whose contents supersedes any information contained here.
ENTERING TAIWAN: U.S. citizens should have a passport valid for at least the duration of their stay in Taiwan and with at least one blank page for an entry stamp. Tourist visas are not required for stays of fewer than 90 days.
COUNTRY INFORMATION: You can review the U.S. Department of State Country Specific Travel Information at http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country/taiwan.html, and the CIA World Factbook background notes on Taiwan at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/tw.html .
PACE OF TOUR: There is a reasonable amount of travelling, but the days are not unduly long or overly tiring. Please note that on this tour we are frequently moving on and only spend more than one night at one hotel – the one at Da Syue Shan. Nearly all the forest trails that we will walk on are fairly flat – most are in fact rather wide, un-surfaced old logging roads, and none are particularly steep. Due to the early morning bird activity in many of the areas, we will want to be out in the field early each day. This is particularly important in our quest to see both of Taiwan’s endemic pheasants. This might mean that on two or three days we will leave our hotel at about 4:30 am in order to be in a good area shortly after dawn. We anticipate that a more typical departure time will be about 5:00am. Chinese/Taiwanese breakfasts are not particularly appealing to most western palates, and on most days we will have picnic-style breakfasts of more western items in the field. These will normally consist of cereals and milk, yogurt, fresh fruit, bread and jam, juice, tea and coffee. These will usually be eaten close to the vehicle ‘out in the field’ but on a couple of occasions will be eaten in our hotel lobby.
HEALTH: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all travelers be up to date on routine vaccinations. These include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot.
They further recommend that most travelers have protection against Hepatitis A.
The most current information about travelers’ health recommendations can be found on the CDC’s Travel Health website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/taiwan.
Elevation: Taipei is at low altitude as are many of the birding sites that we will visit on this tour. However near the start of the tour we will venture into the high mountains that form the north-south oriented back bone of Taiwan. The highest accommodation that we will stay in is at Chingjing and is at 1720 meters (5640 feet). At least once, possibly twice, up the Wuling Pass on Hehuan Shan Mountain in the spectacular Taroko National Park. At 3275 metres (10,740 feet) the pass, the highest road pass in east Asia, will be the highest elevation that we will visit.
Motion Sickness: We’ll be three hours on a ferrycrossing between Lanyu Island and Taitung.
Smoking: Smoking is prohibited in the vehicles or when the group is gathered for meals, checklists, etc. If you are sharing a room with a nonsmoker, please do not smoke in the room. If you smoke in the field, do so well away and downwind from the group. If any location where the group is gathered has a stricter policy than the WINGS policy, that stricter policy will prevail.
Miscellaneous: Biting insects are not numerous but can occur locally. Mosquitoes can be locally common especially in the plains of Taiwan around Fuyuen, Taidong and on Lanyu Island. They do not carry malaria and insect repellent should provide adequate protection.
Tap water is not safe to drink but bottled water and soft drinks are readily available, and hot, boiled water (for coffee or tea) is available in some of our hotel rooms.
CLIMATE: At least in Taipei and the lowland coastal areas that we’ll visit it is likely to be warm, with temperatures ranging from 20-32°C (70-88°F) during the days and cooler, perhaps down to 18°C (64°F), at night. It will be slightly hotter and definitely more humid on Lanyu, an island that we visit for parts of two days and one night. In the mountains it will be noticeably cooler with temperatures possibly dropping almost as low as 8°C (46°F) at night. Several of our early mornings here might also be chilly. Rain is typically infrequent throughout the tour but is still a possibility – it rained at least once every day of the 2012 tour, and occasionally rained very hard. It is perhaps most likely in the hills at Da Syue Shan, near Cingjing or at Alishan but cannot be discounted anywhere.
ACCOMMODATION: Our hotel in Taipei is of a good international standard with private bathrooms, proper restaurants and other facilities that you would normally expect such as gift shops in the lobby, business centres and in-room facilities for making international phone calls etc. Our others hotels are standard with clean rooms, each with an en suite bathroom with a western toilet and shower.
Our Lanyu Island accommodation is perhaps the poorest that we use but all the rooms are clean and all have en suite facilities with a bath, shower and a western toilet. However the hotel is a bit shabby and run down. We’ll spend just one night here.
Internet Access: Taiwan has excellent internet coverage and there is free wifi-internet access in most of our hotels as well as in several restaurants and café’s on Lanyu Island. The hotels in Taipei, Taitung, Tainan and Douliou also have free-to-use computers with internet access in either their lobby or business centre.
FOOD: Everyday food in Taiwan is mostly very similar to that of mainland China and is what most westerners would regard as ‘Chinese food’. The cuisine is well-known and widely appreciated. Beer, soft drinks and green tea will be served with the food. Unlike in mainland China and Hong Kong, the Taiwanese rarely drink hard liquor, bai-jiu, with their food. Western brands of alcohol are not always easily obtainable (and where they are available, they are usually expensive), so you may wish to consider bringing your own supply.
The mainland Chinese and Taiwanese way of eating differs from that in the west in that a selection of different dishes are shared by those sitting at the table. Food is almost always plentiful. Few of the restaurants we will visit provide knives and forks. Instead chopsticks, often disposable wooden ones, are used. If you are not used to eating with chopsticks, we suggest you start practicing right away or bring your own cutlery.
WINGS tours are all-inclusive and no refunds can be issued for any tour meals participants choose to skip.
Drinks: Bottled water is always available, and fruit juice, soft drinks or a beer are normally provided at sit down lunches and dinner, as is coffee or tea. All other drinks or ‘personal’ drinking water for use in your room etc is the responsibility of the individual. Bottled water will be available in our tour vehicles.
Food Allergies/Requirements: We cannot guarantee that all food allergies can be accommodated at every destination. Participants with significant food allergies or special dietary requirements should bring appropriate foods with them for those times when their needs cannot be met. Announced meal times are always approximate depending on how the day unfolds. Participants who need to eat according to a fixed schedule should bring supplemental food. Please contact the WINGS office if you have any questions.
TRANSPORT: Transportation throughout most of the tour is by a small bus or larger coach. Some of the bus rides may last for up to seven hours, but we will, of course, make regular stops along the way to stretch and to bird watch. Participants should be willing and able to ride in any seat in tour vehicles.
We will fly from the mainland to Lanyu in a small, 20-seater plane – it is a 20-minute flight.
We’ll also have a three hour boat trip from Lanyu Island back to Taitung via a daily passenger ferry service to and from the island. They use a large, stable ship that can hold 250 passengers.
At Alishan we’ll have a short, ten-minute, drive in a small 4-wheel drive van owned and driven by the proprietor of the guest house that we will stay at. This vehicle is small but perfectly acceptable for a journey as short as the one we will go on.
Updated: 17 February 2016