What You Need To Know
Kaohsiung is Taiwan’s second largest city and its largest port. Although the ranking has declined steadily over the last few years, Kaohsiung is still the world’s sixth largest cargo-container seaport. The city has high concentrations of heavy industry, including steel production, shipbuilding, and other exports that have led to Kaohsiung’s relatively high levels of air pollution (though the situation has improved substantially in recent years). Unlike Taipei, Kaohsiung is a planned city with wide streets and slightly less traffic congestion than the capital. In recent years the city has made great strides in transforming itself from a primarily industrial city into a modern Asian metropolis, and several areas of the city, such as along the banks of the Love River, have benefited from major beautification projects under the tenure of former mayor Frank Hsieh. The city is often known as Taiwan’s “Harbor Capital” because of its close connection and heavy reliance on the ocean and maritime transportation.
Kaohsiung began in the 17th century as a small fishing village named “Takao”, derived from the local aboriginal name meaning “bamboo forest”. The name was changed to “高雄” (meaning: “high hero”) by the Japanese in 1921, also pronounced “Takao” in Japanese, as they found the original name of 打狗 (“beating the dog”) to be vulgar. The modern name of “Kaohsiung” is the pronunciation of “高雄” in Mandarin.
Population: 2.779 million (2016)
Area: ,140 mi²
Taiwan’s currency is the new Taiwan dollar, commonly referred to as TWD. There are five denominations of banknotes although the most commonly used are TWD 100, 500, and 1,000 value notes, while coins come in denominations of TWD50, 10, 5, and 1.
There are currency restrictions for visitors entering Taiwan. Visitors may bring in up to TWD40,000, but will need a permit from the Ministry of Finance for the import of anything higher than TWD8,000, as well as a permit to export anything more than TWD40,000. Regards foreign currency, you can bring in as much as you like, but can only export a maximum of USD$5,000 in banknotes.
The climate is tropical in Kaohsiung City. When compared with winter, the summers have much more rainfall. This location is classified as Aw by Köppen and Geiger. The average annual temperature in Kaohsiung City is 24.2 °C. About 1738 mm of precipitation falls annually.
The driest month is December. There is 10 mm of precipitation in December. In August, the precipitation reaches its peak, with an average of 436 mm. With an average of 28.0 °C, July is the warmest month. At 19.1 °C on average, January is the coldest month of the year.
The majority population of Kaohsiung can communicate in both Taiwanese Hokkien and Standard Chinese, some elders whom grew up during the Japanese colonization of Taiwan can communicate in Japanese, while most of the younger population has basic English skills.
Kaohsiung’s crime rate is much lower than probably any city of comparable size in the West, so tourists need not be too worried. Theft tends to be the most common form of criminal activity encountered by foreigners, and expensive bikes and scooters are frequent targets.
As a major seaport, organized crime has also become an increasing problem in the city, and a fair number of businesses are nothing more than a front for local gangs. That said, the gangs do not resort to random violence or theft.
In general, Kaohsiung offers a very safe environment as long as you mind your own business and don’t get involved with local rivalries. Violent crime is very rare, and visitors should not encounter any problems – though, like any major city, it is always wise to err on the side of caution.
There have been cases of Dengue fever reported in the Kaohsiung area (around a hundred locally contracted cases in the first half of 2015). Take precautions against mosquitos.
The long-delayed Kaohsiung MRT opened in 2008, with two lines. The Red Line runs from north to south, offering a handy route from both the THSR Zuoying station and the airport into the downtown core, while Orange Line runs across the city from the Port of Kaohsiung in the west to eastern suburb of Daliao. The Metro Line is very clean and offers a convenient way to quickly move within the city. However as the metro is rather young the network is yet not very dense and often you have to walk few minutes to the next station. Operation of the MRT stops at about 11:30 p.m. for the orange line and as late as 12:30 for the red line.
Scooters are the primary means of transportation within Kaohsiung. With a dedicated two-wheel vehicle lane on most major roads, and with frequent and varied scooter shops around town, renting or purchasing a scooter is very easy. Scooters come in several engine sizes from below 50cc to more than 250cc. Most common in recent years are the 4-stroke 100 and 125cc models, which are also suitable to explore the surroundings of the city. The larger scooters, 150cc and more, often include a greater subset of amenities for a second passenger, including a backrest, wider seat, full windshield and footholds and can rival a motorcycle overall size, weight and fuel consumption. Often, they come with larger wheels as well. All passengers on a scooter must wear helmets by law.
The city government has established Taxi English Service to allow travelers to search for English-speaking taxi drivers in chosen areas. Taxis can be an easy way to get to somewhere unfamiliar, and are fairly common in the city. If you have the business card of a location, or the Chinese characters written down, they can easily get you there far faster than most other means. You may ask for the price in advance but as with anywhere in Taiwan the meter is almost always used. Few taxi drivers speak English, and the majority ignore any and all rules of the road.
Bikes are also common in Kaohsiung, and the large number of locally produced bikes means purchasing a new bike will often be cheaper relative to its counterpart in other countries.