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

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

Postby mabagal » 11 Oct 2011, 21:29

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.

Zhonghua 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.

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. 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 Zhonghua 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 Zhonghua 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.

Taiwan Luthiers wrote: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).


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 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.

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 Zhonghua 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.

This post was recommended by 8 Forumosans: eileenlynch (29 Jan 2013, 15:28), FarFlungScot (31 Aug 2012, 19:58), ironlady (12 Oct 2011, 00:05), Johnnz (20 Nov 2012, 01:23), Taiwan_Student (19 Oct 2011, 10:47), ThreadKiller (11 Oct 2011, 21:32), tsukinodeynatsu (03 Nov 2011, 23:34), yuli (12 Oct 2011, 22:50)
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mabagal
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Re: I'm Going To / Just Got to Taiwan & Need a Phone or SIM Card

Postby SeoulMan » 27 Jan 2012, 23:53

mabagal wrote: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.


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

Postby mabagal » 28 Jan 2012, 03:15

Hi, you can bring your own (unlocked) phone for that option. The plan mentioned is SIM-only.
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Re: I'm Going To / Just Got to Taiwan & Need a Phone or SIM Card

Postby SeoulMan » 02 Feb 2012, 23:17

Hi. Thanks for that. All this information helped a lot.
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Re: I'm Going To / Just Got to Taiwan & Need a Phone or SIM Card

Postby Bobarctor » 18 Oct 2012, 20:52

Taiwan Mobile network sucks. Yesterday around 8pm couldn't make a phone call more than 5 minutes.
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Re: I'm Going To / Just Got to Taiwan & Need a Phone or SIM Card

Postby Johnnz » 20 Nov 2012, 01:15

mabagal wrote: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.


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 Zhonghua in Taoyuan airport and activated 7-day unlimited data package for NT450.
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Re: I'm Going To / Just Got to Taiwan & Need a Phone or SIM Card

Postby harties » 11 Dec 2012, 11:01

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

Postby syn_zero » 18 Feb 2013, 15:35

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

Postby FarFlungScot » 19 Feb 2013, 19:42

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 :)

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 :D)
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Re: I'm Going To / Just Got to Taiwan & Need a Phone or SIM Card

Postby Apbear » 26 Jun 2013, 00:45

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.
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