Last updated: 19 November 2015

Taiwan is one of those countries that doesn’t seem to get much love from Western tourists.

I’ll admit the only reason I ended up there was because my girlfriend had visited three years ago and couldn’t stop raving about the place. Now I understand why.

Wonderful food, buzzing cities, pristine beaches and natural parks and some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met made visiting Taiwan a highly rewarding experience.

Readers of this site are likely to love it for another reason, too — it’s a geek’s paradise. I replaced my lost earphones and bought a new laptop while I was there, and enjoyed the fastest Internet speeds I’ve seen in three years on the road. That wasn’t limited to the Wi-fi, either — mobile data (3G, not even LTE) was also extremely fast, at least for downloads.

Getting a local SIM card during your stay shouldn’t be difficult or expensive, although I had to jump through some hoops due to my particular situation. Here’s what you need to know.



COMPANIES

  • We recommend Chunghwa for most travellers

There are at least three major cell companies in Taiwan, Chunghwa, Taiwan Mobile and FarEastone, with stores and service throughout the country.

I’ve used Chunghwa on two trips to Taiwan, picking up SIMs in both the airport and Taipei city. I was more than happy with the plan and costs I ended up with, but there are definitely differences between operators. Do check the other options, especially if you’re in the country for a particularly short or long time.

HOW

There are several mobile stores in the arrival hall of Taipei’s Taoyuan airport. You can find them near the escalators down to street level, on the right hand side as you exit. Purchasing there is straightforward, and unlike when you buy elsewhere, you only need one form of identification (your passport).

You’ll be initially offered various unlimited plans, but just ask to see the other options if necessary. Sign the form, hand over the money and you’re done.

If you don’t buy at the airport, there are mobile stores everywhere in Taipei. Even the convenience stores can sell you both a SIM and credit if needed. On my first trip to the country, I walked into a small store with Chunghwa branding near my hostel, and asked to buy a card.

All went well until I handed over my identification. Taiwan regulations require two forms of ID, in this case a passport and a driver’s license. Unfortunately I happened to be travelling with a New Zealand passport and an Australian license, which wasn’t well received despite the matching details.

The clerk suggested I may be able to go to a larger Chunghwa store 10 minutes away to resolve the problem. Instead, I opted to drag my girlfriend back to the store with me and use her passport and license to buy the card.

This particular problem is unlikely to affect almost anybody else. For the tiny fraction of travellers in a similar situation, though, you’ve been warned! Once that issue was dealt with, the rest of the process was seamless, albeit with a large amount of photocopying and signing of agreements in Chinese.

COSTS

The prices were actually lower than expected — my micro SIM cost 300 NTD (a little under $10 USD), but included an equivalent amount of credit. 1GB of data valid for two months used up 180 NTD, leaving me with more enough credit for the number of calls and texts I expected to make.

There were several other plans available, including unlimited data for a month plus some call and text credit for 1000 NTD. The option I chose seemed the best value for travelers with light to moderate use.

TOPPING UP

Once that data or call/SMS credit is used up, a quick trip to a convenience store will get you going again. You may need your passport, phone number or the registration number on the agreement you signed, so have any or all of them handy.

 

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COVERAGE AND DATA SPEEDS

3G coverage was consistent throughout the country, only dropping out now and then during a train ride through the mountains along the east coast. Download speeds were fast (5-12Mbps), but upload seemed surprisingly slow (around 0.5Mbps wherever and whenever I tested it).

This means web browsing and downloads will almost never be a problem, but Skype calls will be a little choppy, especially on video.

Chunghwa 3G speeds in Taipei

Chunghwa 3G speeds in Taipei

Check out our guides to buying SIM cards in many other countries here.
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31 Responses

  1. dan

    thanks for this 🙂
    seems so easy! after buying the sim, do you just pop it in your phone and you’re ready to go? or do you need to register to get on the network ?

    Reply
  2. Dave Dean

    I don’t think it came pre-activated — after getting everything signed and paid for, the guy behind the counter at the Chungwa store tapped away for a few seconds before handing the phone back to me. The end result was the same, I guess. — a working phone before I left the store — but it may be worth double-checking before you walk out, just in case.

    Reply
  3. Rebecca Marken

    Just wondering, I am headed there on a school trip for 4 days and need to be contactable, is it worth getting a sim card there or should I just get a travel sim beforehand?

    Reply
    • Dave Dean

      If you only need to be contactable by phone/SMS in an emergency, I’d just enable roaming with your existing provider — but don’t forget to turn off data roaming!

      If you’re looking to use your phone while you’re there, especially for data, it’ll be cheaper to get a local SIM even if it’s only for four days. Whether you want to go through the hassle is up to you (not that it was much hassle). I’m not really a fan of travel SIM cards unless you’re going to a whole bunch of different countries in a short space of time, as their costs tend to be unreasonably high.

      Reply
  4. Anatol

    I just arrived in Taiwan two days ago at Taoyuan International airport. The process to get a sim card was very simple and you can get online and even a phone number before you get through immigration. I got some Taiwan dollars from an ATM near an arrival duty free shop (it only accepted one account of one of my cards, so I do suggest to bring a bit of cash in NT$, otherwise you may be stuck for a while if none of your cards or accounts work on that particular ATM). I then got a 7 day sim from Chunghwa (500NTD), there are I think 6 sim providers in the hall right BEFORE going through immigration. Maybe regulations changed, I only had to show my passport and no second ID, but don’t rely on this. They put the card in, activated and tested it and I was ready to go. Bus to the city and start exploring!

    Reply
  5. Kevin R

    Hello Dave – One question. I arrived in Taipei exactly one month ago. I purchased a SIM card inside the airport that was valid for one month, with unlimited data, for 800 NTD. I was only intending to stay in Taipei for one month, but I ended up being offered a job here, which I took. My question is, once this current SIM card expires tomorrow, do I need to get a NEW card, or is there a way to just extend the life of this one by paying another 800 NTD? Thanks!

    Reply
    • Dave Dean

      You don’t say which company you bought the card from, but I’d very surprised if you couldn’t extend it. It’s probably as simple as just buying more credit from a 7-11 or other convenience store and topping up your phone — it’ll likely try to automatically renew if there’s enough credit — but if you want to be sure, track down a retail store for the company that sold you the SIM and double-check the process.

      Reply
  6. Darwin

    Hi Dave,

    Thanks so much fot this! I’ll be arriving in Taipei this February for a 6 days vacation. I’m really an internet person! What can you recommend for me and where can I find them in the airport?

    Reply
    • Dave Dean

      Luckily all of the main companies have booths at Taoyuan airport, so you’ll be able to compare prices at a glance. After you’ve cleared immigration and collected your bags, walk out into the arrivals hall and turn right. Follow the signs for the buses — just before you get to the end of the arrival hall and escalators to take you down to where the buses leave from, you’ll see several booths on your right.

      You can get an unlimited 7 day data plan with Chunghwa for 450 NTD (around $13.50 USD). Check what the other companies are offering as well, but that’s not a bad deal. If you don’t need that much data, 1GB costs 180 NTD, and 2.2GB costs 300 NTD, valid for two months.

      Reply
  7. Michaela

    Hello,

    I am having layover in Taipei, it is only for one whole day but I would still like to use data there. How much would cost 1 day unlimited data package? I found information thats 100, but its there any additional cost for the sim card by itself or its just those 100 for all together?

    Reply
    • Dave Dean

      You’ll need to ask, but I suspect you’ll be charged 300 NTD for the SIM, with 300 NTD credit on it. You’ll then use 100 NTD of that credit for your one day of data.

      As I say, though, ask at the kiosk in the airport to be sure — if you do need to pay 300 NTD, also check with the other SIM providers (they’re all in the same place in the terminal), in case a company other than Chunghwa has something more appropriate for you.

      Reply
  8. Zab Scoon

    Hi Dave,

    Another great guide to buying a SIM while travelling. We arrived on the 1st February at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (TPE) from Bangkok. We were able to find the Chunghwa store. Once you reach the arrivals hall you go left towards the walkway which leads down to the Bus Station and High-speed Rail Station. Once there there are signs to Departures through a wide passage. The Chunghwa store is on the right hand-side just past the pink bank atm.

    The staff are very friendly and setup the SIM for you in a matter of minutes. Prices are again spot on and I would like to recommend people follow your recommendation. It is much more expensive if you purchases a ‘Tourist’ package. I paid NT$300 for the SIM and used NT$180 for 1GB of data which left the remaining credit for calls. We are in Taiwan for just over two weeks and a 15 Day package is NT$1000, so even if I topped up and added another 1GB it is still less than half the price of the ‘Tourist’ package.

    Reply
  9. janice

    Hi Dave,

    My flight touch down at TaoYuan Airport at 10pm.
    So , may I know whether I can still buy the SIM card from the airport ?
    What’s the telco opening hour?

    Thanks .

    Reply
    • Dave Dean

      Unfortunately it looks like you’ll be out of luck — the last telco kiosk to close does so at 10pm, as per this page. Fortunately it’s not hard to buy a SIM elsewhere in Taipei the next day, although it may take a bit longer.

      Reply
    • Ivy

      Dave, similar question but…. How early those mobile stores open? I arrive at TPE around 6 pm and need to head to another airport in Taipei. I would love to purchase a SIM card prior to leave TPE.

      Also., I am with T-Mobile, will I be able to call or receive calls from the states? What setting should I set for my phone when I am in Taiwan? Airplane mode? Thanks for your help.

      Reply
      • Dave Dean

        I guess you mean 6am, rather than 6pm? If so, it looks like you’ll be in luck — check the link I put in my reply above, and click around on the different phone store links. It seems the earliest one opens at 5:30am, with another at 6am.

        Unless you have a dual-SIM phone (unusual in the US), you can only have either your home T-Mobile SIM, or your Taiwanese one, in the phone at any one time. Either one can receive calls from the US, but only the T-Mobile one will have your US phone number attached. If you want to receive calls and texts with that SIM, you’ll need airplane mode turned off, and mobile data turned off. When you’re using your Taiwanese SIM, you’ll want mobile data turned back on.

        Bear in mind that your phone needs to be carrier unlocked to use a different SIM, and some T-Mobile plans (the “Simple Choice” ones), have free international data and text, and cheapish calls, included. You may want to chat to someone from T-Mobile to confirm your options before you travel.

  10. Bob

    Hi Dave,
    I will be visiting Taiwan for 9 days. 1st half on tour group then on my own. Not a heavy user but using google map to move about Taipei and maybe post a fews pictures etc. Which provider & plan suits me the best? Is it normal to hand over our phones to them to insert the sim. TQ.

    Reply
    • Dave Dean

      Hi Bob,
      The provider and plan mentioned above should suit you well – it’s inexpensive, has enough data for your needs for nine days, and can be purchased at the airport. You don’t need to hand over your phone if you don’t want to, but if you’re not familiar with swapping SIM cards, it’s easier to ask the vendor to do it.

      Reply
  11. Thathi

    Hi Dave,
    I’ve been reading that another thing they ask you to buy the sim card is to be 20 or 20+ years old! Do you know something ’bout that? I’m 19 so I’m worried thank you

    Reply
  12. Lamar

    Hi, Dave.

    I am traveling to TPE in November. I arrive in the morning. That afternoon, I depart to Macau and Hong Kong for a few days. If I purchase a Chunghwa SIM, will I be able to use it in HK and Macau? Is it worth it to use the card there? As I hope to stay connected while traveling, is there an recommended alternative, if not Chunghwa’s SIM and service?

    Reply
    • Dave Dean

      I’m unsure of the roaming restrictions and costs for Chunghwa’s prepaid service, sorry. You’ll need to check with the vendor.

      As for an alternative, an international SIM card might be appropriate for those few days – just check the costs first. We compared several of them here.

      Reply
  13. Angie C

    Hi Dave, glad you enjoyed Taiwan. Im Chinese and have been visited Taiwan many times over the last few years and truly enjoyed the place – the food / culture / mountains and the hospitality of the people. I even dream of living there one day. I was thinking of getting a prepaid mobile sim card when i am going there next month again (Nov 2016) l, and found your article while researching about this on the internet. It is very very helpful! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    Reply
  14. ShuWen Lu

    Hi Dave:
    I will visit Taiwan at the end of November 2016 and stayed there for several months. If I bring me cellphone with SIM card, both were purchased in the U.S.A., will I be able to purchase local SIM card at Taiwan, then replace my SIM card from U.S.A. with SIM card purchase at Taiwan. Will it work? Thanks for your help.

    Reply
    • Dave Dean

      It depends on whether your cellphone is locked to a US carrier or not. If you bought it at a discount, it almost certainly is. If you paid full price, especially if you didn’t buy it from a carrier, it may not be. If you’re in doubt, contact your carrier and asked. If it’s unlocked, or you can get it unlocked, you’ll be able to use it in Taiwan and make calls, send texts and get 2G and 3G data. You probably won’t get LTE speeds, however, as the frequencies are different.

      Reply
  15. Andre H

    Hi Dave Dean. Thanks for your comprehensive info on purchasing SIM cards in TWN. You mentioned that there are several mobile stores in the arrival hall of Taoyuan Int’l AP. I’m arriving at 0530am on Sunday, would you happen to know if any of these mobile stores is open so early in the AM? Thanks,

    Reply
  16. Pun

    I misse the ordinal flight in the morning so need to catch evening and will arrive Taoyuan 10.10pm. Would it be possible to book SIM card and pick up specially outside office hour? (Roughly closed by 8pm) and used to buy unlimited data sim of Taiwan Da Gege (big brother- name in Chinese ) with around 300NT for 5days. Any suggestion?

    Reply
    • Dave Dean

      You’ll need to call or email the company at the airport and ask them directly, I’m afraid. I have no way of answering this on their behalf.

      Reply

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