The Truth About SIM Cards in Taiwan

The Truth About SIM Cards in Taiwan

The topic of SIM cards in Taiwan is a relatively straightforward one, but I still thought it was important to create a page about it. Many travelers have emailed me with questions—why not post all the answers on one central hub?

Which is not to say I’ll only be writing about SIM cards. I’ll also provide other tips about staying connected in Taiwan, including the availability and quality of WiFi in Taiwan. Moreover, I’ll provide some insight on the deployment of Taiwan’s emerging 5G technology.

Whether you plan to buy a Taiwanese SIM, or simply prefer to use your cellphone in Taiwan with a plan from your home country, you’ll find the facts you need here.

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Why You Need a Taiwan SIM Card

Setting aside for a moment the particulars of SIM cards in Taiwan, let’s talk about why you’re almost certainly going to need one. A big reason is the ability to do live translations, whether you’re in a smaller city and town and need to communicate with someone who doesn’t speak English, or you’re at a local restaurant in Taipei and quickly want to translate Chinese text.

There are other reasons, too. While WiFi is prevalent in Taiwan (maybe more than anywhere else in the world) people traveling in Taiwan often find themselves far away from train stations and places of business—and, therefore, from WiFi routers. Whether you need to navigate to one destinations, or plot your course for the next, being constantly connected is essential.

FAQs About Taiwan SIM Cards

Should I order my Taiwan SIM card in advance?

For most countries around the world, I think it’s a good idea to order a SIM on the internet, so it’s ready for you to pick up upon arrival. However, I would not recommend that you order Taiwan SIM card online—here’s why. Whether you use Klook, KKday or another provide, Taiwanese cellphone companies actually require more paperwork for SIM card ordered in advance than those you pick up on the way into the city!

Do I need to buy my SIM card at Taoyuan Airport?

On the other hand, one cardinal rule of SIM cards in Taiwan I wouldn’t recommend straying far from it this: Buy your SIM card at Taoyuan Airport (or whichever airport you land at) before continuing on your merry way. The reason for this is that SIM card counters at the airport offer exclusive, unlimited plans not available to customers in the city, where rates are much higher.

Are Taiwan’s mobile companies different?

Unless you need to transfer huge files or watch extremely HD video on your mobile device (or via another device, using its hotspot), there’s not a lot of difference between Taiwan mobile carriers. Indeed, while many of the SIM counters at Taoyuan Airport have the names of various mobile companies, such as T-Star and Chunghwa Telecom, there’s no guarantee your SIM will bear it.

How can I extend or refill my SIM card?

SIM cards in Taiwan, at least those sold at Taoyuan Airport, are all data-unlimited, but are not all valid for the same duration—you can buy cards for as little as 5 days, or as long as a year. Rather than worrying about a refill, purchase the SIM card that corresponds to the longest amount of time you think you might spend in Taiwan, including if you plan to leave and come back like I have many times.

Will my home cell service work in Taiwan?

Roaming in Taiwan is complicated, although I’m not sure whether this is officially because of the shaky diplomatic ground on which the country sits. Regardless, my US SIM card (I always keep one) does not even work in Taiwan, and neither does the Thai SIM card I just tried putting into my phone. Buying a Taiwanese prepaid SIM card is simple a safer a more surefire bet.

Taiwan’s 5G Mobile Future

Taiwan News recently published an article on 5G cell service in Taiwan—namely, that Taiwan’s nascent 5G plans would be among the cheapest unlimited ones in the world. (It was only deeper in the article, of course, that it became clear these were for monthly subscribers with residency in Taiwan, not for tourists who arrive at Taoyuan Airport and buy SIMs there.)

It’s likely, of course, in the not-so-distant future, that all SIM cards in Taiwan (for tourists and locals) will feature 5G speed and 5G capabilities (though I myself am not currently aware of what those will be). For now, however, don’t fret. Taiwan’s 4G (and even 3G) networks are perfectly fast, at least for the sorts of browsing you will need to do when away from WiFi connections.

Other Taiwan Travel Advice

The topic of Taiwan SIMs is important, but it only scratches the surface of the Taiwan travel tips I offer. Among the ones I cover on my main Taiwan trip advice page are language issues, Taiwanese food, staying safe—and, of course, Covid-19, which basically destroyed the Taiwan travel dreams of anyone hoping to visit the island after the first few months of 2020.

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The Bottom Line

I hope you’ve found my insights about SIM cards in Taiwan enlightening—and I trust you’ve gotten answers to the questions that led you here in the first place. Although the majority of travelers would do best purchasing unlimited data SIM cards for the duration of their stay in Taiwan upon arrival at Taoyuan Airport, there are some situations where this is not the best move. Regardless of how you end up staying connected in Taiwan, it’s to your advantage to figure it out quickly. That way, you can get back to planning the exciting aspects of your Taiwan trip!


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