Just in case anyone reading this is planning a trip to Hong Kong or Taipei in the near future, here’s everything I know about prepaid data SIMs there.
I’ve written about options in Hong Kong before—less than a year ago, in fact. But it’s worth reiterating that the most convenient of them by far is the Discover Hong Kong Tourist SIM. No activation codes required, just pop it in, reboot and enjoy. Access to PCCW hotspots is of dubious value, as you have to remember the password supplied with your SIM and enter it every time you’re within range of a hotspot (otherwise known as a PCCW phone booth). But the unlimited local calling can be very handy, at least for someone whose girlfriend has family in town.
As for “4G data”, I can only surmise that the North American variant of the Nexus 5 doesn’t support the necessary bands for that.
The best resource I’ve come across for Hong Kong data SIMs is this page on a site called Hong Kong Shuttle. Their recommendation is the Power Prepaid SIM from One2Free. I’m not sure I agree with that; you only get a 1GB data bucket, and when we used it last year our speeds didn’t seem any better than with PCCW.
Another benefit of the official tourist SIM is that they can currently be activated as late as March, 2016. I actually brought home another pair for our next trip through Hong Kong—it’s good to plan ahead!
The Discover Hong Kong Tourist SIM gives you 5GB of 3G/4G data with free local calls for 8 days, at a cost of $118 HKD—roughly equivalent to $18.21 CAD or $15.22 USD. There are other available options at $69 and $96 HKD.
Getting a data SIM for Taipei is even easier than in Hong Kong; just look for the long queues of mobile users in the Arrivals Hall at Taoyuan Aiport. Just out of frame on the left side of the photo above was an even longer lineup for Taiwan Mobile. Despite having the biggest crowds that particular carrier also had the most employees working the desk, so we went with them. The other options as seen in the photo are Far EasTone and Chunghwa Telecom.
The package we got from Taiwan Mobile was a 5-day unlimited data pass (with free local calls) for $300 NTD, the equivalent of about $11.27 CAD / $9.41 USD.
I found a good post on this TripAdvisor Forum with some useful details about getting SIMs at the airport; just don’t pay any attention to the prices, as the post is more than two years old. One thing you should be prepared for: all local carriers require a photocopy of your passport to provide service. You don’t have to bring one, they’ll do it for you. Hence the long lineups…
A random sample of speed tests… If I remember correctly the top three are from Taipei and the bottom three from Hong Kong. The results are acceptable if not spectacular—nowhere near the download speeds I got in Australia last summer, but better sustained upload speeds than I’ve ever experienced with WIND Mobile here in Canada.
And speaking of Canada, here’s one final thought: Wouldn’t it be great if visitors to this country could procure local SIMs at the airport like they can in Taipei?