Dolphin & Whale Biology/Conservation
in Tropical Asia
Health And Wellness In Taiwan and Hong Kong
Public Washrooms - You are as likely to find Japanese style toilets (you squat over it rather than sit on a seat so is often more hygienic - see website) as you are to see western style toilets and often both in the same washrooms. You are often required to provide your own tissue paper (you can purchase tissue paper at local convenience stores). In general, used tissue paper is not flushed down the toilets. Rather, there is often a small trashcan for you to dispose of the used toilet paper beside the toilets. As a result, a bit of a culture shock may be experienced by some of you and public hygiene can be different from what you are accustomed to in Canada.
It is not recommended that you drink tap water straight from the faucets of most places in Taiwan and Hong Kong, although it is safe for brushing your teeth and rinsing and spitting out. There is plenty of bottled water (but again, reasonable caution is needed in the purchasing of products). Many buildings in Taiwan will have filtered systems for potable water. Reasonable caution must also be taken in eating raw vegetables and fruits (as in salads; unless you have washed the vegetables yourself with filtered water). In your main HK accommodations, the water can be consumed after boiling.
Although smoking is being discouraged in Taiwan and HK, smoking is still a widespread habit and for those who are sensitive to cigarette smoke, non-smoking hotel rooms, small restaurants and even on the regular (should be non-smoking) trains, people will smoke covertly so some smoke may be detected. You can complain to the hotel managers, train attendants, restaurant owners or to the smokers themselves. In general, the smoker will put out the cigarette especially if they are smoking illegally.
Caution must also be exercised when crossing streets as drivers of cars are not as pedestrian-conscious as in Canada and often smaller vehicles give right of way to large ones (sometimes, even if the smaller one is going straight and the larger one is making a left turn), especially in rural areas. Make no assumptions that a vehicle will stop for you to cross a street. The driving orientation of vehicles is the same as in Canada in Taiwan(i.e., the driver's side is on the left side of the vehicle and cars drive on the right hand side of the road). However, in HK, it is the opposite...so look BOTH ways to be safe.
For the most part, Taiwan and HK are very developed and relatively disease free. However, it is highly recommended that you at least get shots for hepatitis A and B if you have never had them (Twinrix is is a common brand of hepatitis vaccine) and any common vaccines that require periodic boosters (e.g., tetanus, diphtheria, etc.). Typhoid, malaria and dengue fever are present, but they tend to be rare but check your local tropical medicine clinic for advice on the risks, benefits and costs of the vaccines. Although there is no vaccine, conjunctivitis is a common problem in Taiwan. To avoid it, don't use the hot or cold towels that are provided on trains and in restaurants.
Aim to get your vaccinations 4-6 weeks before you depart - the sooner the better to allow the drugs to take effect!! And some require multiple shots like hepatitis (two shots before and one after your trip).
For other recommended vaccinations and disease warnings, check the Canadian governments websites. Also consult your local Travel Clinic for advice - you can find a local travel clinic at the following website (let them know you will be visiting TAIWAN (also known as the REPUBLIC OF CHINA)...NOT Thailand).
For more information also see:
Center for Disease Control website for east Asia