Are you coming back to Taiwan in 2021 after visiting your home country or getting the jab overseas?
Read on to see what you’re likely to experience when you touch down.
Whether you’re returning to Taiwan or it’s your first time coming here, you’ll likely wonder what will expect you when you arrive at Taoyuan International Airport in 2021. Having just come back from a long-overdue business & personal trip in August of 2021, I thought I’d use my time in quarantine to give you a personal account of what I have experienced. Taiwan has made a name for itself around the globe for its thorough COVID response measures, and despite a short resurgence in May, Taiwan bounced back quickly, with no more than a few local cases per day thanks to many of these measures. Though traveling in COVID times comes with its challenges, the good news is, once you’re out of quarantine, you’re ready to enjoy all the perks of life in Taiwan! I’m sitting here in my hotel room, feeling super motivated by my post-quarantine bucket list, which starts with hiking, picnics in Da-An park with friends, and eating some 蔥油餅!
I’ve compiled my notes about my experiences, from leaving Taiwan, to boarding my flight back, and also getting into and out of quarantine as well. Hopefully they’re helpful to you!
Before You Leave Taiwan
If you have friends in Taiwan or already have your home here, get yourself or a friend to prep a bag with some quarantine essentials to be dropped off to you at your quarantine hotel, once you arrive back in Taiwan. My own plates, cups, cutlery, dishtowels, photos, my yoga mat, my own pillowcases, and my own towels really helped to make my hotel room feel more like a temporary home.
Before your Flight Back to Taiwan
- Recognize that there are potential quarantine subsidies, but only for citizens and permanent residents. If you’re new to Taiwan, you’ll need to pay for your quarantine all by yourself.
- Book a quarantine hotel before traveling. An important tip: having windows that open, or even better, having a balcony, will make all the difference! Here’s info on hotels in Taipei City, New Taipei City, Taiwan Overall, and Governmental quarantine facilities.
- Make sure you inform your hotel of your expected arrival time: I found asking for the hotel’s Line chat app info beforehand to be the best way to communicate this.
- Take your PCR test 24-72 hours before your flight. Ask the doctor or facility how long they will need to give you results to plan your time accurately. Some facilities will be able to provide next day service, but others may need 72 hours, so this is a crucial time frame.
- Fill in the quarantine entry form along with your online check-in 24-48 hours before your flight, or do it as you check-in at the check-in counter. It’ll take around 5 minutes if you have your quarantine hotel information handy. Here’s what it looks like:
After Your Plane Lands at Taoyuan International Airport
- Follow everyone to the queue for registration.
- If you don’t have a Taiwanese SIM card, let the attendants on-site know, and they’ll guide you toward a set of tables of different providers to choose from. Some short-term options include 15-day or 30-day cards for 700 and 980 NTD, respectively. If you are planning on staying long-term, you will be able to shop for those contracts, as well. Note: You will need a Taiwanese SIM card to comply with the local quarantine regulations. This also means you’ll have to re-do your quarantine entry form with the new phone number; you will be provided a QR code to guide you through this.
- With your Taiwanese SIM card set up, you’ll receive a text message from the government with the link to your complete declaration certificate. If all the information you input before your flight is in order, you will not have to do anything and can continue. It’s best to take a screenshot of the three pages it shows so that you can show it to the agents more easily. It’ll also tell you exactly what day you are allowed to leave the quarantine hotel, so that you don’t have to do the math yourself.
- When reach the front of the line, you will be directed to a table with an agent that will review the declaration form you received in the earlier step, along with your passport and ARC. After a quick review you should get a piece of paper you’ll have to use in a short while, so hold on to it!
- You’ll follow a regular process after that – automatic temperature checks, and then on to immigration. If you have signed up for e-gate for fast processing, go through the automatic gates. Otherwise, head to the usual counter to have an agent review your passport for entry. Finally, you’ll head over to collect your luggage, and pass customs as usual.
- You think you’ve finally made it out, but not so fast! You’ll be directed into one of the multiple lanes they’ve created, in what used to be the reception area for friends & family. You’ll be asked to show that paper you’ve been handed, before receiving a plastic cup for a COVID antigen test via a spit sample coming up in the next step, so keep it handy! You’ll also receive a PCR home-test for days 10-12 of your quarantine. All adults will need to take one.
- Following the funnel (you can’t get lost, just follow the guides), you’ll head out of the airport. Follow the signs and attendants over to the booths. This is where you’ll spit into the cup provided to you previously. It might feel a bit awkward, but each booth is separate, and comes with instructions and disinfection spray, so you’re shielded from others.
- Once you hand the cup over to an agent and follow the signs back to the luggage trolley, you’ll get a bright sticker certifying that you’ve completed all requirements – now its time to work on getting a ride to your hotel!
- If you are going to Taipei/New Taipei/Taoyuan, you can queue for the taxis right outside the building, about 50m from where you just took your spit sample. If you are going somewhere else on the island, you’ll have to head back to the building reception area. Don’t worry, there are signs everywhere, just look out for them & you’ll find it.
- In either case, you’ll be handed a form to fill out with your hotel address to get a driver ready for you. Before getting into the car, you and your luggage will be covered completely with disinfectant spray – including your shoe soles. Only two people are allowed per car and the rates will vary by destination. They all have a fixed price though; I had to pay 1000 NTD in cash once my driver dropped me off at my hotel in Taipei.
- Message your hotel as near it, in order to let them know you’re arriving.
- As you leave the taxi, keep your mask on and enjoy the scenery and fresh air as you go through the hotel door: that’s the last time you’ll experience it for a long while!
At the Quarantine Hotel
- The hotel front desk staff will need your passport photo and the health declaration screenshot you received after arriving in Taiwan. You can send it to them in the car in order to make checking in faster.
- After arriving at the hotel, the driver and hotel staff will process you according to their protocol, including signing all documents and paying your bill with either cash or credit card.
- If you don’t have a thermometer, make sure to ask the hotel staff to supply you with one. You’ll have to send them your temperature and symptoms every morning and evening. The Line chat app is once again the best way to do this.
- Make your way to your new temporary home and settle in!
- Once you’ve closed the doors, you won’t be allowed to leave the room or open the door, no one will be allowed to enter, and only trash is allowed to leave your room.
- The police will also call you on your first day, informing you that you’ll always need to keep your phone charged and on you. This way, they can verify that you haven’t broken your quarantine. After the first day, I just had to send my kind case officer a message every evening about my health status.
- Most hotels will provide you with a food option for three meals a day. If you decide to opt-out & get your own, you may have cheaper hotel rates, so make sure to ask! You can always order meals or groceries from any food delivery service such as UberEATS or Food Panda.
- Around 10 days after you arrive, your officer will send you a reminder to take the rapid test they gave you at the airport, and send them your results.
- Lastly, on day 12, a bus with an on-board PCR testing lab will come by the hotel to perform one last test – your fourth and final test. Note that this procedure may change depending on your location, but the test is mandatory in either case. The hotel staff will notify you of the time and procedure the day before. For me, they told me to take my mask, NHI (National Health Insurance) card, and 500NTD in cash along with my room keycard to the hotel lobby as soon as I received the message that the bus had arrived. You cannot take the stairs, and will only be allowed to leave your room to take the test in the official bus. Upon finishing the test you’ll be returning directly to your room, where you’ll wait 10-15 minutes for your results. If all is in order, you’ve officially started the last stretch of your quarantine!
- After you leave quarantine, you can begin looking into applying for quarantine subsidies for citizens and permanent residents.
Getting Used to Quarantine
I’ve heard from many that being in a quarantine hotel really contributes to jetlag; that was certainly the case for me, until I got into a routine. Luckily, having my boyfriend bring me some photos and food made me feel a bit more at home. He wasn’t allowed to pass beyond the hotel lobby, but I did get to see him on the sidewalk from my window (yay!).
It’s important to note that some hotels limit the times at which you can receive deliveries, but no matter what time I received them, I was overjoyed to receive the food and gifts. That, paired with lots of sleep, calls with family and friends, catching up on work, and staying hydrated is helping me make the most of this time. I’m also lucky that my company is supporting me during my quarantine with daily calls, and they’ve allowed me to work fully remote during this time.
The rest of the world has lived through months of quarantine, and while 15 days seem like a long time stuck in your own universe, it is one of the ways Taiwan has been able to keep the COVID case incidences so low, and maintain life with a semblance of normality for the better part of the last 1.5 years.
Lara Sophie Rudolph arrived in Taiwan in 2018. Before obtaining her current position as a global project manager at Nuna and Joie, Lara graduated with an MBA from National Taiwan University.