I'm Going To / Just Got To Taiwan & Need a Phone or SIM Card


#1

The question of how to get a SIM card (with or without data) or a phone in Taiwan often comes up often, so here is a quick guide. We’ll do our best to update this as changes happen. Taiwan has a very ubiquitous, fast and cheap cellular phone network where truly unlimited 3G data is still the norm, coverage in the middle of the jungle isn’t unexpected, and the prices are still very inexpensive.

Staying Short Term (a few days to months)

If you are only staying for a few days, international roaming might be OK. However, if you want to have a local number so that people can call you without having to dial internationally, or if you want a data plan that won’t cost a small fortune in roaming fees, your best bet is a local pre-paid SIM card. You will need to have a phone that is “unlocked”, meaning one that is allowed to use any SIM card, regardless of the carrier. Unlimited data SIMs are available in Taiwan for smartphone-toting travelers.

You can get a pre-paid SIM card from the Taoyuan International Airport at the desks upstairs in the departure and ticketing area. I never really understood the logic of this, other than there being more space there for desks versus the arrival area. Anyway, getting your card at the airport is highly recommended as the staff there will be more likely to speak English and have done a lot of pre-paid card transactions. You can load these cards with 300NT (~$10 USD), which should be good for about a week if you don’t talk too much, or more if you’d like. You can also buy reloads at any 7-11 or Family Mart convenience store.

ChungHwa Telecom and Taiwan Mobile are the #1 and #2 biggest networks in Taiwan and so for simplicity, we’ll just discuss these two providers. The providers in Taiwan have a number of names, English & Chinese, and also another name for their retail outlets.

ChungHwa Telecom
Chinese Name: 中華電信 (Zhōnghuá diànxìn)
Retail Outlet Name: Senao

This is the biggest network in Taiwan. They offer either a pre-paid voice+text SIM OR a pre-paid unlimited data-only SIM, for iPads and other 3G devices. They do not at the time of this writing offer a combined voice and unlimited data pre-paid SIM. You will need two forms of government ID for this. A passport and driver’s license from your home is good. When you get the card, you can ask the sales person to convert the language of the account for the SIM to English. This way, text messages you get for fill ups and instructions on what numbers to dial for help or reloads will also be in English.

Their customer service offices are labeled ChungHwa Telecom for the main offices and Senao for the satellite retailers. If you get the SIM card outside of the airport, your best bet is to go into a ChungHwa Telecom office because there will more than likely be staff there who have done the pre-paid cards before for visitors.

With the pre-paid voice+text SIM card, you can if you wish use it for data as well. The data fees are per KB and are exorbitant. You can go through an entire 500NT load in a matter of minutes if you are not careful. However, this is useful for emergencies or when you absolutely need the data. To do this, set the APN to emome and leave username and password blank. Be sure to turn off the cellular data in your phone settings when you are done.

The SIM will expire after a certain date, usually around a year or if you empty it and do not use it again for about 6 months.

Taiwan Mobile
Chinese Name: 台灣大哥大 (Táiwān dàgē dà)
Retail Outlet Name: MyFone

This is the second biggest network in Taiwan and is the only major carrier that offers a combined voice and unlimited data pre-paid SIM. All of their outlets are labeled MyFone.

They offer a regular pre-paid voice SIM and also offer a truly unlimited-data + voice pre-paid SIM. You can tether to this SIM liberally. The price for the data is 350NT for every 5 days of unlimited data.

UPDATE: There is also a 1500NT for a month of unlimited data option. It’s available in the options menu stated below, but it’s probably best to set this up at the MyFone location when you get the SIM to make things easier.

[quote=“Taiwan Luthiers”]
On the Taiwan Mobile you would normally dial 535 to buy a data plan, they have a 30 day plan for 1500 nt (you dial 3 in the Chinese menu to find out about various packages they offer).[/quote]

A common load is 500NT with 350NT going towards the first 5 days of data and 150NT left over for voice and text. The service rep will help you set up the card. You may also ask to set the language for the account to English. For reference, the APN is twm and leave username and password blank. You can renew this every 5 days indefinitely. The SIM will expire after a certain date, usually around a year or if you empty it and do not use it again for about 6 months.

Medium Term (many months to less than years)

The biggest determining factor with your options here are whether you have an ARC (or other Taiwan residency) or not.

Without an ARC
If you do not have an ARC, follow the Short Term guide above, or try to get a local close friend to do the following for you.

With an ARC
This amount of stay is not long enough to get most phones subsidized here, but you can still get reasonable plan-based deals that run about 1100-1400NT per month for data + voice. One good option for smartphone users who don’t use too many voice minutes (e.g.: Skype, WhatsApp) is to simply get a data plan at ~800NT/month with minimal or no voice minutes and just pay the voice and text overage. This can work out to less than 1000NT per month for data + voice if you lean on the data plan for communications more than the voice plan. To get a plan like this, you can go to either Chung Hwa Telecom or Taiwan Mobile (MyFone) and simply ask to sign a month-to-month plan. You will need your ARC, Passport and to give them a deposit that will cover roughly three months of the plan. You will then receive a monthly bill which you can then pay at 7-11 or Highlife, or automatically with a local credit card.

Long Term (several years or more)

This amount of time is typically long enough to get a phone subsidized to go along with signing a plan. If you are looking to get a phone anyway, you should at least consider this option.

Without an ARC
If you do not have an ARC, follow the Short Term guide above, or try to get a local close friend to do the following for you.

With an ARC
If you are staying over 2 years, you can get a phone for a significant discount when signing a contract for a two year phone plan. To do this, simply go to a Chung Hwa Telecom (or Senao) or Taiwan Mobile (MyFone) office with an ARC and your passport, find a phone and plan that you like and setup the contract. You will need to pay about 14 months of the plan upfront. You will simply receive a bill for 0NT + overages each month until the 14th month at which point the bill will be for the contract amount + overages. Feel free to ask on the forum about different phones that are currently available when you are buying. The contract phones these days will likely be a smartphone of some type, and the forum is full of smartphone enthusiasts to answer your questions.

In the next sticky, I will put a post on how to calculate the best phone plan for you. The plan menus are often written to lure people to the “FREE” option for the phone when really those plans end up being sub-optimal. The calculations are simple and can be done while at the shop, so look for this post soon.


#2

[quote=“mabagal”]With an ARC
This amount of stay is not long enough to get most phones subsidized here, but you can still get reasonable plan-based deals that run about 1100-1400NT per month for data + voice. One good option for smartphone users who don’t use too many voice minutes (e.g.: Skype, WhatsApp) is to simply get a data plan at ~800NT/month with minimal or no voice minutes and just pay the voice and text overage. This can work out to less than 1000NT per month for data + voice if you lean on the data plan for communications more than the voice plan. To get a plan like this, you can go to either Zhonghua Telecom or Taiwan Mobile (MyFone) and simply ask to sign a month-to-month plan. You will need your ARC, Passport and to give them a deposit that will cover roughly three months of the plan. You will then receive a monthly bill which you can then pay at 7-11 or Highlife, or automatically with a local credit card.[/quote]

I’m considering taking this option since I might be here for less than a year. Would I have to buy the phone through the carrier or can I provide my own unlocked phone?


#3

Hi, you can bring your own (unlocked) phone for that option. The plan mentioned is SIM-only.


#4

Hi. Thanks for that. All this information helped a lot.


#5

Taiwan Mobile network sucks. Yesterday around 8pm couldn’t make a phone call more than 5 minutes.


#6

[quote=“mabagal”]
Zhonghua Telecom
Chinese Name: 中華電信 (Zhōnghuá diànxìn)
Retail Outlet Name: Senao

This is the biggest network in Taiwan. They offer either a pre-paid voice+text SIM OR a pre-paid unlimited data-only SIM, for iPads and other 3G devices. They do not at the time of this writing offer a combined voice and unlimited data pre-paid SIM.[/quote]

I think it may be possible to get a pre-paid voice+text SIM from CHT (Zhonghua Telecom) and then activate a 7-day unlimited data package for 450 NTD (you have to dial 539). When the package expires you get a text message and you can call 928 (or 539) to extend the package again. I did it in October 2011 - January 2012, it worked well.
If it still works, you could get unlimited data on CHT prepaid SIM for about 2000 NTD amonth. Not cheap but I was told that CHT had the best coverage outside big cities in Taiwan. Is that true ?

EDIT: now confirmed. November 26, 2012 - I got a new pre-paid voice+text SIM card from Chunghwa in Taoyuan airport and activated 7-day unlimited data package for NT450.


#7

Hi all

Are there any new updates with regards to cost to this guide? I just came back to TW yesterday and will probably stay for a month.

I have an unlocked iphone and will need a prepaid sim card with affordable data packages, can anyone please recommend a good carrier?


#8

GREAT thread that’s still relevant.

Managed to get a Zhonghua SIM card (voice/text only) for an unlocked HTC Inspire and it works perfectly for calling/receiving local numbers. Coverage is pretty good even in the subway stations - something AT&T can barely do back in San Francisco. It’s easy enough to drop in to a service center, pick a number, and go up to the counter to explain what you need, though since I barely speak any Mandarin it was a bit awkward; pulled out my old SIM card to show what I wanted.

Word of warning: minutes burn extremely quick. Gave to the phone to my dad so he could contact all his old buddies and found that 500NT became ~150NT in less than an hour. And god forbid you get a text from people back home (5NT EACH!). Still, convenient if you don’t really plan to talk TOO much.


#9

im with taiwanmobile

per month my options are

800 NTD for unlimited internet only
1000 NTD for internet and 200NTD worth of calls (dont last long)

or

300 NTD for calls only.

I was silly and did 300NTD for a bit then i found out about the wonders of Skype :slight_smile:

roughly £1 a month and i can phone any landline in the world. I think i have about 1 or 2 hours talktime. You can upgrade it a bit more to get more talktime if you like.

The pay-as-you-go deals in taiwan are expensive compared to UK…but so are a lot of things (dont get me started haha :smiley:)


#10

Can anyone please update for Summer 2013 the various prepaid options for voice+ text and data+voice+text plans? How is the 4G coverage in Taiwan? Thanks.


#11

Chunghua wants an ARC indeed. I went around to TWM and FET offices to find ones (in Kaohsiung, with my very limited Chinese) that would do without ARC.

TWM had a 6month min, monthly prepay unlimited internet for 800NT/ month and FET had the same. + ~ 350NT @7NT/MIN talk at both. FET would do as short as 1 month, TWM wanted 6 month.

Note TWM has 1 year min, monthly pay 5GB plan for 500NT. +can pay the extra talk minutes additional.

TWM is unlimited data & 2nd biggest network so I chose them. Just need contact phone number and address and 2 ID’s; passport, visa, DL, etc… and cash! No online payment, come to office monthly to pay cash (credit at some offices), and can recharge talk minutes at convenience stores.


#12

Are you sure ? In November-December 2012 at the Taoyuan Airport and in a Taipei shop they only asked me to show them 2 different forms of ID (my passport and DL, no ARC needed) to get a pre-paid voice+text SIM card, and then you can activate the unlimited data option.


#13

Any updates on prepaid voice+text+data plans with a nano-Sim (iPhone 5) that doesn’t require 6 month or 1 yr? We’ll be here for almost 2 months. Thanks.


#14

I have a question about using Chinese smartphones, phones issued by China Mobile specifically, in Taiwan.

So basically, my friend works at a hotel and gave me a phone that had been in the lost and found(if things aren’t claimed after a month they’re tossed or claimed by the employees). It is a Nokia T7 and has the China Mobile logo and text printed on it, as well as a China Mobile SIM card inside. When I turn on the phone it says the SIM card is not activated, so I’m assuming the owner had the phoned turned off after discovering they had lost it.

My question is would I be able to use this phone in Taiwan if I were to purchase a SIM card from Zhonghua Telecom or Taiwan Mobile?


#15

[quote=“Kyrie”]I have a question about using Chinese smartphones, phones issued by China Mobile specifically, in Taiwan.

So basically, my friend works at a hotel and gave me a phone that had been in the lost and found(if things aren’t claimed after a month they’re tossed or claimed by the employees). It is a Nokia T7 and has the China Mobile logo and text printed on it, as well as a China Mobile SIM card inside. When I turn on the phone it says the SIM card is not activated, so I’m assuming the owner had the phoned turned off after discovering they had lost it.

My question is would I be able to use this phone in Taiwan if I were to purchase a SIM card from Zhonghua Telecom or Taiwan Mobile?[/quote]
It will depend on if the phone is unlocked or not.


#16

The only 4G coverave is WiMax. Currently, there are no 4G LTE coverage.
For prepaid using Taiwan mobile, you can get a prepaid sim and load with $300 of talk time, this would include text as well. I think txt is NT$5 per msg. NT$5 per minute.
For internet, you can buy 1GB for NT$180.


#17

In the explanatory post in the beginning I am missing the prepaid option from Taiwan Mobile with 1GB valid for 1 month.
The SIM card (also nano cards for iPhone 5+ available) costs 500NT, with that you get 320NT for voice calls and 1GB traffic for one month. If you run out earlier, you can just top up 1GB again for 180NT (e.g. at a myfone store). If you have traffic left and top up before 30 days, the left-over traffic gets transferred to the next month (didn’t try that yet, since I just arrived a week ago).
I think this is the most interesting product for people needing data. I think it might even be more interesting than most post-paid contracts.
I read in another posting here that you can also get 2GB for 300NT.

Here’s the link for the prepaid option: english.taiwanmobile.com/english … dCard.html
Here’s the link for myfone stores where you can buy the SIM card: english.taiwanmobile.com/english … tions.html


#18

[quote=“zoebby”]In the explanatory post in the beginning I am missing the prepaid option from Taiwan Mobile with 1GB valid for 1 month.
The SIM card (also nano cards for iPhone 5+ available) costs 500NT, with that you get 320NT for voice calls and 1GB traffic for one month. If you run out earlier, you can just top up 1GB again for 180NT (e.g. at a myfone store). If you have traffic left and top up before 30 days, the left-over traffic gets transferred to the next month (didn’t try that yet, since I just arrived a week ago).
I think this is the most interesting product for people needing data. I think it might even be more interesting than most post-paid contracts.
I read in another posting here that you can also get 2GB for 300NT.

Here’s the link for the prepaid option: english.taiwanmobile.com/english … dCard.html
Here’s the link for myfone stores where you can buy the SIM card: english.taiwanmobile.com/english … tions.html[/quote]
TWM also launched a 3GB prepaid product with 90 days validity for $450. For occasional Internet users, this is great. $150 per GB and you only need to recharge every 3 months. Perfect!


#19

7/11 has SIM cards for $399:

  • 7 days/$420/unlimited data or 7 days/$300/voice
  • 30 days/$800/unlimited data or 30 days/$500/voice

#20

If you go into one of those philipino shops you can get a $500nt unlimited data card fro Taiwan mobile.