Foreign Students in Taipei: Metro, Mobile and Money

3 Basic Things You Should Know to Survive Here

| | Taiwan Local Tips


Hey, you’re finally going to live in a totally different country out of your comfort zone. We know how much excitement and uncertainties it would pose in front of you all at once. The most frightening thing of studying abroad is probably feeling disconnected from the rest of the world, which means getting lost in a strange city, finding no access to the internet or not having enough money in a foreign country.

Thus, we provide some information for you to make sure everything’s perfectly okay and super easy-peasy to deal with when you arrive in Taiwan: public transit, mobile plans and money exchange.

Grab a coffee and savor the suggestions from us.

1. Metro system in Taipei

||| “How does Taipei Metro work? Is it dirty or pricy or what?”

The public transportation in Taipei is called “Taipei metro” aka MRT. There are 5 lines in total and each of them can be easily distinguished by their colors. We call the lines by their colors or their ultimate destinations. For example, you can say red line as well as Tamsui Line.

It’s almost impossible to get lost in metro stations (okay, except in Taipei Main Station, I admit) as the design of Taipei metro is really user-friendly.

Taipei metro is super clean and comfortable. You wouldn't see any rubbish chilling on the ground in MRT because eating and drinking are not allowed inside the station and train. It’s also very convenient. The train comes really fast during the rush hours, usually varies from 1.5 minutes to 15 minute in the late night. Besides, there are toilets in EVERY station. If it’s inside the station, simply ask the staff to let you in to use the toilet.

The only drawback is that Taipei metro only operates from 6am to midnight. Sorry for the party dudes.

||| “How can I get into the station?”

You can either get in MRT by EasyCard or single ticket.

For students in some colleges (NTU, NCCU, NTNU and so on), your student ID card is already combined with the function of EasyCard. You just have to activate your EasyCard function by adding value in any MRT station, 7-11 or FamilyMart (chains of convenient stores). Pay 100 NTD to activate for the first time and top it up with more money.

As for the students in Chinese language centers) as well as others who don't have the combined function, you can buy a brand new EasyCard at the information desk in MRT or in convenient stores— go ask the staff at the encounter and pay above 100 NTD to buy and refill the card.

Btw, EasyCard is a magic-ish tool to live in Taipei. You can use it to:

Pay for all public transit around Taiwan
Rent an U-bike in Taipei
Pay in convenient stores and some other places instead of cash
Rent books as a library card
Prove your age to a night club security
Prove your identity to get student special or discount

A lot of hidden functions. For your discovery.

Single tickets are what you need when you don't have EasyCard with you. You can get one from a kiosk in every MRT station. Just walk to the machine area, check your destination on the map of metro line, pick the price in the machine and throw in coins. Then you’ll have your token and changes crackling down. Swipe the token at the entrance sensor to get into the station and slot it into the machine to exit.

Prices for metro tickets are charged reasonably based on your traveling distance, usually ranging from 20 to 65 ntd. It would be cheaper to use EasyCard for a 20% discount every time.

If you plan to explore Taipei by visiting a lot of MRT stations within one day, you can also consider tickets of One-Day Pass & 24 Hours Pass. For more information, check out the official MRT web.

2. Mobile carriers

||| “How do I choose my mobile plan?”

Chances are you will get a flyer from mobile providers at the airport. It’s better to buy it there instead of shops in the city because the staff at the airport may explain more clearly in English.

But, if you were missed out somehow or just want to know beforehand, there you go:

@Step1. Decide whether you need ‘call function’
Most of my foreign friends DON’T need call function provided by mobile carriers during their studying in Taiwan. They buy a prepaid card and refill it with only mobile data to text or make phone calls via the internet. Plus, as an exchange student, you will have the access to free wifi on campus and in the dorm (students in language centers may not be included). You can even sign up an account for free wifi in Taipei once you get a phone number coming with the prepaid card.

NOTE: You have to be over 20 YEARS OLD to get a SIM card! My 19-year-old French friend was rejected when he tried to buy one last year. Solution: He asked his friend to buy for him. Ha.

@Step 2. Decide which plan and provider you prefer
If you choose to buy a prepaid card and refill data regularly, then you have to decide how much data you need.
Main mobile companies in Taiwan are Chunghwa Telecom (CHT), Taiwan Mobile (myfone) and Far Eas Tone (FET). This is how much it costs for a prepaid card plus the refill plans with only data from different providers:

communication plan
(Aug 21, 2017)

Here are other refill packages for more mobile data:

communication plan
(Aug 21, 2017)

You can recharge your prepaid card online, in convenient stores or mobile shops after running out of data.

As for which company should you choose? The coverage may differ, but most of the Taiwanese still don't know which carrier is the best. For me, I’ll recommend you myfone or FET.

@Step 3. Buy and ask
As I mentioned, you can purchase them at the airport or in the city. Remember to bring your passport and a second identification.(e.g. student ID card or driver license)
Ask the staff for more details about your prepaid card. There may be something that you need to pay attention when using it.

3. Money Exchange

||| “Where to exchange my money into NTD?””

You can exchange money at the airport or any bank with your passport and resident certificate. Banks in the airport run for 24 hours, while banks in the city are open from 9am to 3:30pm on weekdays and close on weekends.

Note that most of the banks only accept USD, EUR, HKD and JPY. If you want to exchange other currencies, you have to go to the Head Office of Taiwan Bank around Taipei main station: No.120, Sec.1, Zhong-Qing South Rd., Taipei.

You can google “banks near _______” on Google Map to see the nearest one for you.

map

Take NTU for example, here are the banks around Gongguan:*There is a bank located on campus: Hua Nan Bank NTU Branch, next to the Lu Ming Hall.

That’s all we have for you guys within a coffee time. Now you know how to run around via metro, how to get the internet and how to exchange money to feed yourself in Taiwan. You’ve already figured out how to live in a whole new Asian environment. Enjoy studying in Taiwan!

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Contributor: On Knee Chen
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