Being that awesome girlfriend that I am, I brought my phone to Taiwan so that I could call my boyfriend back in the States. This is what you might call “loving”, but it’s also known as being a “SUCKAAAAAA in love”. Whatever, how else he is going to know exactly what I did every minute of the day?

Many countries in Asia sell pre-paid SIM cards that gives you a local number so that you can make domestic calls (in case you’re drunk and need to call the hotel for direction back) or international calls (in case you’re drunk and and want to drunk dial INTERNATIONALLY BABY!!!). Either way, it’s useful to have. Just be sure to bring your cellphone.

In Taiwan and Hong Kong, you can pop into your nearest 7eleven and pick up one of these SIM cards. 7 Elevens are on every block so I wouldn’t worry about finding one. In other parts of Asia, like China, you may want to go directly to a cell phone dealer.

Tips on getting your cell phone hooked up:

1. Cellphone (Before you leave): You can use your own cellphone as long as it can be used internationally. These are known as Tri-band or Quad-band phones. If you’re unsure, call your cell phone service provider and ask while you’re still in the US. Either way, you need to talk to them in order to “unlock” your phone. Your phone must be unlocked so that it will accept another SIM card. When I called T-mobile, they emailed me my unlock code and a set of instructions to do it myself. Very painless.

2. Address: Taiwan has a strict policy on how to get one of these since they had problems with criminals using fake IDs buying pre-paid cards. Now, you must present 2 forms of IDs: Passport and Alien Resident Certificate (ARC), Working Visa, or other authorized documents. Point being, you must present a local address. My cousin helped sign me up for one. They will make copies of your IDs and fax it somewhere. Two hours later, voila! you’re hooked up!  Hong Kong is more lenient and they don’t require a local address.

4. Uh oh. No more credit!: Credit can be bought in different price increments. After I used up the $99 NTD credit, I went back to 7eleven and picked up a credit voucher to recharge my credit for $300 NTD. Once I got my voucher, I called them (dial 722 for Open Cards) and followed the automated instructions. It did get tricky since my Mandarin is as perfect as a 8 year olds and I ended up having to talk to the operator in Mandarin. (“Excuse me, what’s recharge credit in Mandarin?) If you only speak English, you may want to seek help. The automated service doesn’t translate into English.

5. Example of Rates: Based on Open Card/Far East Tone in NTD

  • Voice Rate: $ 0.71/ per 6 seconds
  • Domestic SMS Rate/ each: $2
  • International SMS Rate/ each $5

Voicemails are NT $0.36 per 6 sec incremental.

Lastly, I usually called my bf in the States and had him call me back. Incoming calls aren’t counted towards your credit.

Overall, I thought it was great to have a cell phone so that I can call local numbers easily if I got lost or even send a quick text message to friends. It still may be cheaper to use calling cards, but the convenience is priceless.

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