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Taiwan is one of those countries that doesn’t seem to get much love from Western tourists.
I’ll admit the only reason I first went there was because my girlfriend had visited a few years earlier, 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 some of the best Internet speeds I’ve found while traveling.
That wasn’t limited to the Wi-fi, either. Mobile data was also fast, at least for downloads.
Even better, getting a local SIM card to take advantage of those speeds during your time in Taiwan isn’t difficult or expensive. Here’s what you need to know.
There are at least three major cell companies in Taiwan, Chunghwa, Taiwan Mobile and FarEastone. They all have 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.
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. If you’re heading for the buses into the city, you’ll likely walk straight past them.
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. It took less than five minutes start to finish.
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.
When buying outside the airport, you may find you need two forms of photo ID. In my case I used a passport and a driver’s license, so just be sure to have appropriate identification with you before heading out to make your purchase.
The rest of the process was seamless, albeit with a large amount of photocopying and signing of agreements in Chinese. It took about ten minutes all up.
You’ll pay 300 NTD (~$10 USD) for the SIM card, but that includes an equivalent amount of pre-loaded credit that you can put towards whatever call/text/data package you need.
In my case, 1GB of data valid for two months used up 180 NTD. That left me 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 is good for travelers with light to moderate phone needs, but if you don’t need calls or texts, you may as well use up all of the credit and go for the 300 NTD / 2.2GB data pack instead.
Once that data or call/SMS credit is used up, a quick trip to a convenience store will get you going again. There’s at least one on pretty much every city block.
You may need your passport, phone number, or the registration number of the agreement you signed, so have any or all of them handy.
Coverage and Data Speeds
Coverage was consistent throughout the country, only dropping out now and then during a train ride through the mountains along the east coast.
HSPA+ download speeds were fast (5-12Mbps), but upload seemed surprisingly slow (around 0.5Mbps wherever and whenever I tested it). If your phone and data package support LTE service, however, you’ll get much faster speeds in both directions.
Check out our guides to buying SIM cards in many other countries here.