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Buying a SIM Card in Taiwan

In Get Connected by Dave Dean52 Comments

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.

 

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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.

Buying a SIM card in Taiwan is quite straightforward, and will give you fast download speeds almost anywhere in the country. Here's what you need to know.
About the Author

Dave Dean

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Founder and editor of Too Many Adapters, Dave has been a wanderer for nearly 20 years and a geek for even longer. When he's not playing with the latest tech toy or working out how to keep his phone charged for just a few more minutes, he can probably be found sitting in a broken down bus in some obscure corner of the planet.

Comments

  1. 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 ?

  2. Author

    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.

  3. does The SIM card provide you 3G as well?
    Thanks for all the information 😀

    1. Author

      Hi Anna — yup, as mentioned above, I got 3G coverage pretty much everywhere I went in Taiwan.

  4. 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?

    1. Author

      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.

  5. 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!

  6. 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!

    1. Author

      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.

  7. 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?

    1. Author

      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.

  8. 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?

  9. 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.

  10. 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 .

    1. Author

      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.

  11. 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.

    1. Author

      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.

  12. 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

    1. Author

      I don’t know, sorry – it’s sadly been a long time since I was under 20. 🙂

  13. 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?

  14. 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! 🙂

  15. 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.

    1. Author

      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.

  16. 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,

    1. Author

      Hi Andre,

      Yep, as mentioned in one of the other comments, it seems the first store opens at 5:30am, with another at 6am. This link has the details.

  17. 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?

    1. Author

      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.

  18. Hi Dave from Montreal 🙂 !

    My daughter Virginia (23) will be studying in Taipei (exchange student between universities) at the National Taiwan University (NTU) for one session equal to about 5 months. Certainly less than 6 months.

    She left home with an unlocked Samsung S5 Neo only. No computer (for the moment anyway. The thing is she left Quebec last November to explore with her back bag Asia and didn’t want to have to travel with heavy luggage).

    NTU provides internet accès at an unknown price for the moment. And I will have to compare considering Virginia’s tight budget.

    One thing for sure, it would be very convenient for her to have constant data on her phone considering how convenient it is to be able to explore an unknown country with the support of technology (google map, etc.) beside free wifi in a coffee shop. And apparently, in Taiwan, the cost is not the same than here in Quebec where it costs a fortune to have data on your cell.

    Also I am not familiar with the concept of 3 g, of 4 g. versus the Samsung S5 Neo. iF relevant. Sorry for my ignorance.

    I thank you in advance for any recommendation you could provide us with.

    With all my appreciation for your generosity,

    Best,

    Mich, Virginia’s Mother

    1. Author

      Hi Mich,

      You’re right, data access in Taiwan is very cheap compared to Canada. Even better, you can buy packages that last up to six months (or until the data allowance is used up).

      Your daughter’s phone is unlikely to support the 4G (LTE) frequencies used in Taiwan, but it doesn’t really matter — 3G download speeds are reasonably fast there. It all really depends on how much data she thinks she’ll use. The Chunghwa page I linked to with packages has many different options. If she thinks she’ll use around 1GB per month, maybe the 1000 NTD (~$42 CAD) plan that gives 8GB over six months could be good. If she’ll use more data, pick a different plan that lasts for a shorter time, then just top it up whenever she needs to. It’s not particularly expensive, unless she chooses an unlimited data plan.

      Hope that’s useful!

  19. Hi Dave,

    Me and my friends 3 of us will be in TPE in April for 13 days. If we buy the 10 days unlimited and if it finished the value on the SIM card, can we just top up and continue to use for another 3 days?

  20. Thanks for all the great info In the section about Taiwan the link to the other plans offered by Chungwha (spelling?) doesn’t work

    several other plans available,

  21. The link to 7-11’s page on Taiwan sim cards is http://www.7-11.com.tw/ibonmobile/english1_1.html
    We just bought one today in Henchun and the process took about 15 mins. Need two pieces of current ID (e.g. driver’s licence and I believe the other has to be your passport. There’s an machine (IBon) in the store which resembles an ATM and all the information’s entered on that, Your photo’s taken and you sign. There are also paper copies of everything. Sim should be active in two hours from purchase. Sim card is only good for 6 months – can’t recharge it after that. Clerk suggested not purchasing a top-up card at the same time as the sim- it may be that purchasing and activation are contemporaneous.

  22. Further to my earlier post a sim purchased at 7-11 won’t work in my Canadian-purchased Moto G 2nd generation phone. 7-11s carrier is Far East Tone. Probably a different frequencies. Tried the sim in an IPhone 5 and it worked, but wouldn’t in the Moto G.

  23. Hi Dave, I plan go to Taiwan at May 3-6, I only need little data for what Apps. I will go again to Taiwan at August 19-28. I need longer simcard validity. Which operator suitable for me? Thanks

    1. Author

      The information I have is available in this post and the links to the cell company websites. I haven’t used operators other than Chunghwa, so can’t advise whether another one might better suit your requirements. Assuming you’re flying in to Taipei, you can compare prices between vendors at the airport kiosks.

  24. i will be arriving in taipei at about 6am would the shop me open?

  25. Hello, I had my iphone that is under ATT plan in the US unlocked. I went to Chungwa store and bought a prepared SIM card. Unfortunately the upper left corner of my phone shows “Invalid SIM” when the card was inserted. So I cannot use that phone. Any suggestion? I tried two other stores and FarEast but nobody can solve the problem.

  26. I just landed today at the airport. One store selling SIM cards before the immigration check was closed. This was around 5:45-6:00am. Opening time was listed much later, like 8:00am something. After immigration I saw 2 more stores but they were only handing out WiFi routers to folks who had booked them earlier. Asked the lady at one of the stores about the SIM and she said no SIM.

  27. Thanks Dave!

    My wife and I are heading to Taiwan in a couple of days. Our daughter lives there and has purchased SIM cards before, but your blog was very helpful to us as well.
    Just an additional tip to Verizon plan users: All Verizon’s current devices are unlocked, so you don’t have to do that bit anymore.
    Of course, don’t take my word for it (after all, I’m a stranger in the comments section), you should always call and check.
    For as much of a pain in the neck as Verizon can be in many respects, this is a nice convenience for their customers.

  28. Hi Dave!

    This is very helpful. I will be in Taiwan this September but have a bit of a problem. My surname in my passport doesn’t match the surname in all of my other IDs (one letter discrepancy only tho). Will this be a problem for me in buying a Taiwan sim card? Thanks for your help in advance.

    1. Author

      I can’t imagine it’ll be a problem if you buy at the airport, or from a vending machine. You might have problems like I did if you buy elsewhere — but even then, it’s probably quite unlikely if there’s only one letter difference.

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