As I wrote yesterday, dealing with the government in Taiwan can be a little absurd. Today’s example is their motor vehicle regulations.
First of all, unless you have a Resident Visa (ARC), you can not register a vehicle in Taiwan. Nobody can explain why. The funny part is, if you register a vehicle under your name, with your ARC, and then stop having an ARC or leave Taiwan, that vehicle becomes a sort of…ghost. There’s no one to tax – no one to require insurance from – no one to penalize for not having an emission check. I’ve been riding a motorcycle for years that hasn’t been registered for half a decade. No papers. No insurance. I’ve been pulled over on it, twice, doing things that should have gotten me a ticket, and they let me off with no more than a warning. It’s just too much paperwork for them, to make it worth their time.
So, Taiwan’s policy regarding registering vehicles actually creates unregistered vehicles being driven around by people who, because of the police laziness, are never penalized for it. That’s something that every foreigner in Taiwan is aware of. Half of the expats drive scooters that are not registered to them, and there’s rarely anything that can be done about it. The real fun is when we get into the licensing.
In most countries, having your home nation’s driver’s license is enough to be seen as a legal driver. International Driver’s Licenses (IDL) are, in actuality, permits – not licenses. They simply translate the native license information into a half-dozen languages, so it can be understood anywhere. But, it wouldn’t be Taiwan if they didn’t make it way more complicated than that.
An IDL can be valid for up to ten years – far longer than your license will be – and they run you around $50US, including shipping (unless you get it shipped overseas super-fast – I got mine in three days and it cost me $80US). I recommend using http://www.ididl.com/ because they’re quality, accommodating, crazy fast (same-day service), and respond quickly to emails. But, an IDL is only the start of the fun, here in Taiwan.
Your IDL is only good for the first month of your visa in Taiwan. After that, you need to go to the Taiwanese DMV to get yourself into their system. The fun part is, it’s retroactively valid from the day you enter Taiwan; the 30-day policy is so people who get a Landing Stamp (without any visa) can drive without hassling with the DMV. Here’s the kicker: if you get pulled over on Day 45 of your trip, you will be seen as driving without a license, despite having your native license and IDL. But you can then just go to the DMV and have them issue you a Taiwanese license – nothing more than a piece of paper glued into your IDL booklet – and it’s retroactive, so you get out of the ticket. This is the Land of Loopholes.
The bitch is this: they only license you according to the way your home nation (or, state) licenses them. So, usually, you only have a license for 60 days, but since you don’t need it for the first 30 days, it’s really only for 30 days. And since it’s hard to prosecute people who are visiting Taiwan, most people don’t even bother with their pain-in-the-ass regulations. Most people don’t even have an IDL, nor ride a scooter in their name, and just take their chances…because there’s so little accountability. Most of the tickets written to expats are forgotten about, by the ticked and the police. They have to write it because, like I mentioned in my previous blog, they always go by-the-book; but the book is written in a way where they are countless loopholes. You just have to find one and exploit it. Not having a scooter in your name – not having a license – results in zero accountability.
Now, if Taiwan changed their regulations, allowing for visitors to register vehicles, and allowing for them to get real licenses by taking the driver’s test, then they’d have a really easy time holding foreigners to their laws. Instead, it’s as if expats in Taiwan operate under a totally separate set of rules than Taiwanese, and that’s really fucked up. But it’s endemic. Just wait until I tell you about getting a bank account here…
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