I’ve been in Taiwan for just under a week and a half now. Prior to leaving for this trip, I took a look into some of my options for mobile Internet access in Taipei and one of the intriguing options was the Taipei Free Public Wi-Fi service.
You Get What You Pay For
Unfortunately, based on my personal experience these last few days, the Taipei Free Public Wi-Fi isn’t at all what it should be. The access points aren’t quite as densely deployed as I had hoped and, even when I do see one of the access points and I think I’m connected to it, I can’t seem to get anything to work. I was able to get to the login screen eventually and it looked like a successful login, but nothing loaded. And subsequent attempts wouldn’t even get me that far.
I would have loved to provide you with a speed test. However, when I did try to test the speed of the connection, I usually ended up seeing this instead.
Now, your personal experience may vary and it’s quite possible that this free service will improve in the future. For my part, it was nothing more than an exercise in frustration (as some of my Taipei friends warned me). I almost would have preferred if it didn’t exist at all, because it’s like dangling a carrot in front of an Internet-starved techie, leaving the web constantly out of reach.
The Convenience Store Is Convenient
Thankfully, there were a few Wi-Fi access points I was able to use here and there. I also purchased a prepaid 3G SIM from 7-Mobile, which is operated by 7-Eleven off the FarEasTone network. It cost me 399 NT for the SIM with five days of unlimited 3G plus 50 NT of airtime credit.
I added an additional 3 days of unlimited 3G for 250 NT, bringing my total to 649 NT (about $23 Canadian) for eight days of unlimited mobile Internet. That’s not too bad. I also had complimentary Internet at both the Monarch Skyline Hotel in Taoyuan and the RF Hotel in Taipei where I was staying.
You’ve Got Options
If you are planning a trip to Taipei any time soon and, like me, you were hoping to get some free Wi-Fi via the City of Taipei, you should really explore some other options. A prepaid SIM is convenient if you already have a compatible unlocked phone. You can also sign up for a CHT Wi-Fi (HiNet) service or rent a mobile hotspot if you plan on using more than one device. If you’re lucky enough to subscribe to a compatible T-Mobile USA plan, you can get free 2G service here too.
How do you typically stay connected when traveling out of country? Do you rely on the free hotspots set up by coffee shops and restaurants? Do you grab a prepaid SIM for your phone? Do you (gasp!) go without Internet for those few days or simply wait until you return to your hotel?