Before we flew to Taiwan, I bought two essentials online — two sets of SIM cards and EasyCards.
The SIM cards were a convenient way to stay in touch with our girls back home 24/7 even when we’re outside the hotel and Wifi may not be available. The specs:
- Carrier: Far EasTone Telecom
- Internet speed: 4G
- Data limit: Unlimited
- Signal coverage: Entire Taiwan (including Kinmen, Matsu, Penghu islands)
EasyCard (uses, topping up and refund)
I bought the EasyCards so we would’t have to buy train tickets every time we wanted to go somewhere. Who wants to count bills and coins each and every time, right? With an EasyCard, just pass the card through the sensor at the fare gate (a.k.a. turnstile) of the MRT upon entering and after exiting.
The EasyCards came with no value and we just topped them up at the Taoyuan International Airport. TWD500 for each EasyCard.
Although we used the EasyCards for train rides, they can also be used on buses, taxis, some convenience stores, supermarkets and department stores, and even to enter the zoo! The exact fare or purchase price is deducted so you don’t have to carry a lot of cash. Just keep topping up to make sure it won’t get declined.
Topping up is… Well, it can be done almost everywhere — at the airport, train and bus stations, at convenience stores… If, at the end of your trip, the EasyCard still has unused value, you may get a refund (a handling fee of TWD20 will be deducted) at any Taipei MRT Station.
So, after clearing Immigration, we looked for the Klook stall at the airport and picked up our SIM cards and EasyCards. We proceeded to the train station and located the machines to top up the EasyCards. Fortunately for us, there was an employee beside the machines to assist tourists. We just handed her the bills, she topped up the cards and we were ready to take the train to the hotel.
About Taipei Main Station
Taipei Main Station is a hub. A huge hub. If you’re not in a hurry, you can walk around Taipei Main Station, have a snack or a meal (there are plenty of food shops and there is even a food court) or start shopping. Yes, shopping. There are four malls connected to the station. Station Front Metro Mall, Taipei City Mall, Taipei New World Mall and Zhongshan Metro Mall.
(We were tempted, truth be told. But we wanted to dump our bags first. It is much easier and more comfortable to explore without pulling and pushing trolley bags. So our priority was checking in at the hotel.)
To get to your destination from the Taipei Main Station, you have five options.
- Take the Taipei MRT.
- Take the Taiwan HSR (high-speed trains).
- Take the TRA trains (regular trains).
- Cross Civic Boulevard (using the underground tunnels) to the Taipei Bus Station and take a bus.
- Go up the ground level and take a taxi from there.
We didn’t have to do any of that, switch lines or take a bus or a taxi, I mean, because our hotel was just across the Taipei Main Station. All we had to do was locate the correct exit, walk a few meters and we were there. I chose the hotel for that very reason but that’s another story.
But why the train? Why not taxis or Grab? There’s no Grab in Taiwan. Between taxis and the train, the latter is faster and more economical. As a rule of thumb, if there are four of us traveling, taxis are generally the more economical way to get from point to point. Taxi fare is fixed regardless of the number of passengers.
But since there were just Speedy and myself on the Taiwan trip, the train was ideal. Besides, the last time I was in Taiwan, I found the train system impressive. Well, confusing and intimidating too. But after experiencing the more complex train system in Japan, I was sure that we could figure out the Taiwan trains without too much hassle. And we did, actually.
The MRT lines are color-coded on the map and inside the stations. We carried the map everywhere we went. We simply checked the color of the line we needed to take to get to every destination then followed the color-coded arrows inside the train station to find the correct platform.
It’s not hard at all. It took us our first afternoon in Taiwan and three train rides to get the hang of it. The next day, we didn’t look like lost tourists anymore.