Connecting to the internet and using phones in Taiwan

Phones and internet in Taiwan
Updated 2023-06-03 20:33

Relocating to a foreign country like Taiwan can be an exciting yet challenging experience. However, with the ever-expanding reach of smartphones and the omnipresence of the Internet, the barriers to communication and assimilation have significantly diminished, making it easier to navigate life as an expat in Taiwan.

How to get a SIM card in Taiwan

There are kiosks at Taoyuan Airport that sell SIM cards and mobile wifi devices. Both of these can be ordered in advance either through the companies at the airport or online via sites such as KKDay. Keep in mind that the airport SIM card desks close at 8:00 pm. Since data plans are inexpensive, it's worth foregoing the mobile wifi in favor of the SIM, especially if you're staying for a long period of time.

If you're not in a rush, however, it's worth noting that it is cheaper to get a local SIM card at Taiwan Mobile, Far EasTone, or Chunghwa Telecom shops throughout Taiwan. All you need is your passport to purchase a SIM card and a data plan. All three companies offer more or less the same services and prices.

Pre-paid and contract mobile service in Taiwan

A basic 3G pay-as-you-go data plan with Taiwan Mobile is NT$180 for 1.2GB, which is valid for two months. To add calling to the plan, it costs NT$300.

Taiwan Mobile's 4G pre-paid package costs NT$300 for 1.2GB of data (valid for 60 days) and NT$500 for 2.2 GB.

For short-term visitors in Taiwan, they also offer a three-day unlimited data plan for NT$300.

Wifi is available in most places in Taiwan, but most of it requires a login to use. In some cases, the wifi service will require a local SIM card. Coffee shops and most bars have password-protected wifi for customers.

Chunghwa Telecom offers a pre-paid public wifi service for visitors, with a one-day card for NT$99, three days for NT$199, and seven days for NT$299. A one-month wifi card costs NT$399. However, the service provider offers discounts for anyone ordering the wifi service online.

Annual contracts are more expensive than the lowest-tier of the pay-as-you-go plan but offer more data and calling. Annual contracts also include subsidies to purchase a new phone in Taiwan (the total subsidy differs depending on the plan you choose).

Home Internet Service in Taiwan

Most apartment rentals in Taiwan include cable and internet services. For those that don't, all three telecom companies offer home broadband service, which often comes coupled with cable television in a package deal. In comparison to Western countries, cable and internet packages in Taiwan are relatively affordable, and packages have not yet been compartmentalized, requiring customers to choose between various bundles categorized by type of channel/genre, which tends to drive up the price. In Taiwan, though there are varied grades of cable available, one price gets you movie channels, news, sports, and virtually everything else.

Click for more information on Chunghwa Telecom HiNet, including prices.

Aside from phone and internet service, most Taiwanese do not communicate via phone calls or text messagesLINE is the most popular messaging and calling app available in Taiwan. Most companies, including taxi services and restaurants, will use LINE to contact customers. WhatsApp is also used, though not as frequently as LINE.

Getting a mobile phone in Taiwan

A few years back, getting a new cell phone from one of the local phone companies required both a local co-signor (to guarantee that your bill would be paid in the event that you left the country without paying first) and even a deposit for the same reason. Those days are mostly gone, with only some companies insisting on deposits sometimes.

Today, all you need is a local address for the purposes of signing up for the purchase of the phone and a monthly payment plan. This is so the phone company will have somewhere to send your monthly statement. However, as paper bills are no longer required, and e-bills are much more convenient, the address is not all that important. It's just a box that needs to be filled in for the purposes of completing the application form. Besides, two forms of ID are usually required to purchase a phone and phone plan, one of which must be an ARC or APRC.

If you are going to buy a new phone along with a data/calling plan, phone companies in Taiwan will offer discounts on the phone that increase with how much you spend on the phone itself and the data plan you want to sign up for. If you're going to buy a brand-new, latest-model iPhone, for example, and want to sign up for unlimited data (called “all you can eat” in Mandarin), your phone will be sold to you at a heavy discount. If, however, you simply want to pay as you go, with no data plan, then you will most likely have to pay the phone's full cost.

Contracts are generally one year and renew automatically unless you specifically make a request to end the contract after the one-year period of service expires. Most phone companies in Taiwan offer their own apps through which monthly bill payments can be set up automatically if you also have a local bank account. Generally, these apps are all in Chinese, so it requires either knowledge of the written language or a local friend to help you out.

If you wish to receive a paper copy of your statement each month, one can be mailed to you, and the bill can be paid either at the nearest branch of the phone company or at virtually any convenience store in Taiwan.

Phones can also be purchased from brands such as Apple (iPhone), Samsung, the local brand HTC, Oppo, and more, at their own stores, and then the phone can be taken to one of the local phone companies to apply for a local phone number and data plan. This option means that you pay the full price for the phone. Although, in reality, even when purchasing a phone from the local phone company and receiving a discount means that you simply pay for the phone long-term, the cost is hidden within the monthly bill, it may still work out to be slightly cheaper to do so rather than buy a phone direct from one of the manufacturers, and then signing up for a local number/data plan. Shop around both in terms of the phone and the data plan for the best possible deal.

Phone and Internet service quality in Taiwan

Whether connecting to the internet at home or via your phone, service throughout Taiwan's major cities of Taipei, Taichung, and Kaohsiung is generally very fast and consistent, with local companies offering speeds of at least 4G. If you are heading up into mountainous regions in the Central or Coastal ranges, however, service can dip in and out and, at times, cut out altogether. If you require constant connectivity and will be traveling in the mountains—for the purposes of hiking or camping, for example—the only way to ensure 100 percent connectivity at all times is to have a satellite phone on hand. Taiwan is covered by most major satellite phone providers. The same applies to phone service, which is consistent in major cities and counties, but can be spotty if one travels to more isolated mountain areas.

Data roaming outside Taiwan with a Taiwanese phone plan

If you have settled in Taiwan and have a local phone contract, it's likely that eventually, you will want to travel outside of Taiwan, either to take a holiday or for a trip back to your home country. Of course, if you wish, when you arrive at your destination, you can always get a local SIM card at the airport and use that for the duration of your stay. Another option, however, is to purchase a prepaid phone and data package for overseas territories that will grant you the ability to make local calls and have access to the internet via your phone without incurring heavy roaming charges.

Phone companies in Taiwan offer prepaid phone and data packages which are available for purchase via their own phone app, or in person at their retail locations. When using the app, knowledge of written Chinese is often required. Cost depends on the region one is traveling to and the duration of one's travels. Once the package is purchased, you will be able to get online and make calls via the local network in your destination without incurring roaming charges. The overall cost will likely be higher than simply purchasing a local pay-as-you-go SIM card, but it eliminates the headache of changing SIMs, purchasing more call time or data, etc.

Are public Wi-Fi networks safe in Taiwan?

As is the case in most places, it is not wise nor completely safe to utilize public Wi-Fi networks in order to do things such as online banking or any other similar sensitive activity. Such activity opens one up to the possibility of their passwords and personal information being stolen by others on the public network and can result in such troublesome misfortunes as credit card and/or identity theft. Even if the public Wi-Fi network is password protected, it is still better to be safe than sorry.

Mobile pocket Wi-Fi units

If you are traveling in Taiwan with family or a group of friends, another option when it comes to internet access via phone or computer is a mobile pocket Wi-Fi unit. These come with unlimited 4G internet access for up to five simultaneous users and are available for rent for just NT$100 per day. Counters renting these units can be found at Taoyuan International Airport, Taipei Songshan Airport, and at Kaohsiung Airport.

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.