SIM Card for Your Mobile Phone
read TripAdvisor or Hardwarezone. A helpful poster at the Hardwarezone forum also provided photos of the telecom booths and their respective rates here. Both Terminals 1 and 2 at the Taoyuan Airport have the booths, which offer different packages for voice/sms plans or 3G data service that also allows you to call from the prepaid value on your card (for iPhones etc). I had landed at Terminal 2 so once I exited the Arrival Hall after collecting my luggage, I turned left and walked straight down. The three telecom booths are located side by side, so there is no way you'll miss them. For travellers arriving at Terminal 1, you turn to your right.
I bought my SIM card from Far EasTone at 350NT for 5 days. Reception was pretty good and it worked well for the calls I made in Taiwan. The 5 day 3G plan from Far EasTone, on the other hand, costs 650NT with unlimited data and an internet speed that is apparently much better than Singapore's. The SIM card will be activated on the spot or within 24 hours. Top ups or extensions of plan can be done at any 7-11 or the respective telecom outlets. You have to ensure that there is enough value in your card before you extend or you can top up first before extending. Each SIM card has a validity period of 6 months so topping it up will give you another 6 months.
I'm not sure about the opening hours for the telecom booths but apparently Chunghwa has the following timings:
Terminal 1 Departure - 08:00 - 18:00
Terminal 1 Arrival - 11:00 - 21:00
Terminal 2 Departure - 07:00 - 17:00
Terminal 2 Arrival - 12:00 - 21:00
*If you're a Singaporean, do remember:
- to bring your NRIC in order to purchase the SIM card. This is a rule that had been implemented wef October 2010 so all attempts to reason with the telecom salespeople will apparently be fruitless.
- you must be 21 and above or you are not allowed to apply for the SIM card. I'm not sure for other nationalities so do remember to double-check before you leave.
Youth Travel Card
To enjoy discounts and special gifts from selected stores and restaurants, apply for the Youth Travel Card before you leave the airport. It's free so all you have to do is fill out the form and you'll be able to get the card and a booklet chock full of places you can visit for discounts and goodies like a discount on Taipei 101 tickets and Rose Pie as well as a Xiao Longbao handphone strap from Ding Tai Fung! You can also grab the necessary maps and information at the Youth Travel Card booth. It should be located outside the Arrival Hall after you've collected your luggage so don't forget to apply for the card! Details about the card here. This special card is only available to travellers aged 15 to 30 years old.
|The Youth Travel card|
|Rose Pie! That I bought for a discount.|
|The xiao longbao handphone strap I got free |
from Ding Tai Fung
Travelling by bus and train is extremely convenient in Taiwan. Like Singapore, the EasyCard is used to tap your way on City buses and MRT trains. It is easily purchased at MRT stations for 500NT with 100NT being the deposit and 400NT being the remaining amount you can use to travel. This card allows you to enjoy automatic 20% discount on published rates. If you transfer to a bus or MRT within an hour, then you can enjoy a 50% discount on the fare. Handling fee is 20NT if you return it within 3 months and all unused balance will be returned as well. Top ups can be done at any MRT station. You can also use this card to travel on the bus from certain stations like Ruifang to places like Jiufen/Jinguashi/Keelung or vice versa. To plan your trips efficiently, check out the MRT route map here.
|EasyCard with a pretty design|
If you predict yourself to be taking a lot of public transport, then you might want to consider buying the Taipei Pass instead. With this card, you can take unlimited number of rides on the MRT and buses. It's available in 1-day, 2-day, 3-day and 5-day passes which can be purchased at the information desks of MRT stations and the customer service centre at the Taipei Main Station.
|The charges for the different passes|
TRA & HSR
For longer distance travels, people usually take the TRA or HSR. TRA (Taiwan Railway Administration), run by the government, consists of 4 main lines that loops around the main island of Taiwan and 3 smaller branch lines. You can purchase your TRA online 2 weeks in advance or check the train schedule at this website. Pay via credit card and you can collect it on the day of departure, at least 30 minutes before the train is due to leave. Be sure to get there on time as the train is very punctual and waits for no one! Pay via cash and you have to collect your tickets from the counter the next day, since the day you book online is counted as the first day. For detailed instructions on how to book and pay for your tickets online, check out this excellent guide!
|Train tracks at the Ruifang Station|
|The HSR counter at Taipei Railway Station|
Shopping in Taiwan
Taiwan is a very environment friendly country. As such, they charge for their plastic bags. So don't forget to bring your reusable shopping bags! Since chances are you'll be doing all sorts of shopping, having a huge bag to transport all the loot will be very useful.
Type of Clothes to Bring to Taiwan
Taiwan enjoys 4 seasons throughout the year so before you set off on your long awaited trip, don't forget to check the weather so you can bring the appropriate clothes! My trip was from October 30 to 5 November, which was supposed to be wintertime but it wasn't too cold for me. It gets a tad windy at night though so bringing a windbreaker is a very good idea. A sweater doesn't do much to keep the wind out. Locals will usually dress up in various winter wear but I was quite comfortable walking around in a T-shirt, jeans and sandals with the occasional windbreaker. A fashionable side note: Taiwanese rarely walk around with sandals. Their shoes, being heavily influenced by Japan, are very cute and pretty. I felt a little under-dressed sometimes!
Oh and don't forget the umbrella. It tends to drizzle and pour from time to time. But fear not if you forget, coz they sell umbrellas of all designs and colours everywhere in Taiwan!
Taiwan also has earthquakes throughout the year but most are tremors and barely felt. You can check the Taiwanese weather, typhoon and earthquake forecasts from Central Weather Bureau. To help you check the weather in a few easy steps, Taipei Dreams has come up with How to Get 7-day Weather Forecasts from CWB and How to Get Typhoon/Earthquakes/Other Weather Forecasts from CWB. Be sure to check the weather so you can be appropriately packed for the weather. But then again, you probably can buy clothes in Taiwan to make up for what you lack! XD
Booking of Hotels in Taiwan
I had tried looking for Hope Hotel on various booking sites but couldn't find it. Instead, I got a list of more expensive hotels that are more well-known in Taiwan. What I did next was to go directly to the hotel's website and emailed them. I got a great discount for the double room that comes with a sofa so I ended up paying much less than I expected! Such a good deal right? I really love this hotel. The same went for the Windsor B&B room that I stayed in during the Jiufen trip. So the next time you want to stay at budget hotels that are not listed on booking sites, try emailing the hotels directly for your reservation. =)
Oh and apparently Taiwan hotels do allow you to store your heavy luggage on their premises while you travel somewhere else! For example, I wanted to go Jiufen for a couple of days and then return to Hope Hotel to stay for my last day. The front desk allowed me to leave my luggage with them while I was away! Of course, you must take the necessary precautions like not leaving valuables such as laptops, cameras and travel documents in your luggage. And this applies for return stays, I think but you can always check with the hotel beforehand. The hotel also allowed me to leave my luggage with them when I arrived earlier than the official check-in time on my first day.
Travelling from Taoyuan Airport to your Hotel
There are a number of ways to make your way to Taipei, you can take a cab or a bus. For budget purposes however, I took the Kuokuang bus to Taipei Main Station (which is the last stop on its route) and made my way to Hope Hotel from there. The fare was 125NT and the entire journey took about an hour or so. Bus frequency is every 10 to 15 minutes or so. If you're staying in Ximending, you can take the Free Go bus which will take you directly to your hotel. Read here for more tips from Taiwan Travel Guides. To find out more about the other bus services and their routes, click here. For my Kuokuang bus trip, they stored my luggage in the bus luggage compartment and gave me a sticker with a number that corresponds with the one that was pasted onto my luggage. You have to return this sticker to the driver when you collect your luggage.
|The interior of the|
Kuokuang bus I took
UPDATE: There is a new bus service called CitiAir that can take you from Taoyuan Airport to Taipei Main Station at half the price of Kuokuang. Unfortunately, it doesn't ply the route from the Taipei Main Station to the airport though. =/
Bus details can be found here: http://www.taoyuan-airport.com/english/Buses/
Travelling & Other Etiquette
In Singapore, we're often encouraged to keep to our left while going up the escalator but in Taiwan, we have to keep to our right so do remember that. =) Also, passengers are expected to queue while waiting for trains. There are even queue strips on the floor to guide people so they won't get in the way of passengers alighting from the trains. And the best thing is: people automatically queue up in Taiwan! They also don't take special seats that have been reserved for the disabled and pregnant. Very civic-minded, right? =D
|The crowd is almost or as bad as the ones in Singapore |
but you can be sure that everyone queues up!
Even some of their toilets have display panels to show if there are available cubicles in the toilet! How cool is that! And there are signboards to encourage commuters not to make phone calls on the train but to sms instead. Very considerate, right? No more loud-mouthed commuters who announce their entire life story to the rest of the train! XD
|The nifty toilet display that tells you if |
you're going to have a long wait!
|I wish Singapore has such signboards around|
too. But then again, local commuters will
just ignore it. =.=;
Oh and before I forget, people in Taiwan dispose of their soiled toilet paper in the trash cans next to the toilet bowl. I read somewhere that this is due to the narrower pipes that are typically used in Taiwanese architecture. Either that, or the toilet paper they use are made of material that are harder to dissolve in water and will clog up the entire system. =x
And I must say, this...peculiar practice does tend to stink up the toilets. I remember the very first time I used the toilet after collecting my luggage at the Taoyuan Airport and the toilet was...quite "fragrant". >.<
And the smell gets worse when you're in a place where there is relatively poor air ventilation. =x But nevertheless, don't let it spoil your trip. Just do your business quickly and get on the road for more Taiwanese fun! XD
Alright, hope the above tips are of use to you guys. Enjoy your holiday to Taiwan! =D If you have any additional tips you want to contribute, do feel free to add your comments below.
PS: I just found this out, guys! Apparently you can enjoy free wifi in the city of Taipei if you register your number at this website. But I think it's more for people who retain their phone numbers instead of buying a new sim card.