Taiwan's Postal Services are extremely reliable and efficient. You won't believe with what a minimum of English data a letter or postcard can arrive at its destination. It is very unlikely that the same would happen to a letter with a Chinese address abroad. Mail is delivered twice a day to private addresses in most areas and express mail is even delivered on Sundays. Be sure however to write your return address in legible English or
even better learn how to write it in Chinese as soon as possible. The Postal Services have an excellent website up with interesting facts for foreigners. Check out the EMS (Express Mail Service) tracking and tracing system and the links to a number of foreign countries.
The nearest post office is located on He-nan Road, about a 10 minute walk through the East Gate. This post office opens Monday through Friday 8:00 to 17:00. You can buy stamps at the window counters No. 8, 9 or 10. The employee will weigh your letter and tell you the amount you have to pay. Put an Airmail sticker on the envelope if you didn't use regular airmail stationery, otherwise your letter might end up in the surface mail. Any printed material – and greeting cards fall under this category – can be mailed at a cheaper rate, as long as they do not contain separate letters or photos. Postal employees are entitled to open your envelope to verify no letters are included. Therefore, don't seal your envelope, but tuck in the envelope flap and write Printed Matter on it if you’re sending a card in an envelope. Chinese people never lick the back of their stamps and local envelopes don’t have a glue strip, most likely because of the high humidity, though some claim there are hygienic reasons for this practice. Instead you can always find a jar of glue on a desk somewhere in every post office.
Postal boxes are conveniently placed throughout Taiwan. Red boxes are for airmail (left-hand slot) and express delivery (right-hand), Green boxes are for local mail; the right-hand slot is for mail within the city, the left-hand slot for outside the city.
If you need to send a package, you have three options. The least expensive but slowest method is via surface mail, which takes about two months to e.g. US or Europe. A quicker and still economical alternative is using a combination air/surface routing, which takes about three weeks to the same destinations. The fastest option is the airmail method, wherein your package will arrive within 7 to 10 days, depending on the destination. Packages should not exceed 20 kg. You will have to fill out a number of forms, for customs clearance mainly, and all of them are in Chinese and French only. So, take a Chinese friend with you the first time or brush up your French. The GPO on Min-quan Road sells very sturdy cartons in different sizes. The biggest costs NT$ 70.
The Post Office offers a host of other services, but not every branch necessarily has all the listed services:
- Mailbox rentals: passport and Alien Resident Certificate necessary or use a Chinese friend's name (annual fee: NT$ 300; 6 months: NT$ 150. Refundable deposit NT$ 400)
- Fax: international transmittal: NT$ 200 for the first page, NT$ 145 for subsequent pages. Local fax NT$ 15. Inter-city NT$ 25
- Postal account with ATM access
- Interest-bearing savings account
If you want to send a fax to your home country, contact the Chinese Language Center office reception desk. 7-Eleven convenience stores and the Post Office also offer a fax service.
Inform the reception desk if you are going to receive a fax from abroad and ask the sender to clearly mark on top of the fax who it is meant for, preferably writing ATTN (your English + Chinese name), (your native country).
If you ask people in your home country to call you, make sure to point out that the country code for Taiwan is 886 and that they have to omit the 0 in the area prefix (04 for Taichung becomes 4); this is what one of the FCUChinese Language Center reception desk telephone number looks like for someone who dials from abroad: (international access code) 886-4-2451 7250 -5871. The same applies for cell phones; for example, 0919-405940 would be dialed 886-919-405940 from an international destination.
Public Pay Phones: The current rate is NT$1 for one minute of a local call. Phones accept NT $1, NT $5, NT $10 coins. Telephone cards start at NT$ 100 and permit 100 call units for island-wide use. Available at train stations, bus terminals, kiosks and all convenience stores.
Use International Direct Dial (IDD) phones, to save surcharges. Using international toll-free numbers (080) when available also saves money.
The International Telecommunications Administration (ITA) has the following reduced rate hours for those who want to save some money when calling overseas:
- Weekdays from 00:00 to 06:00
- Saturday 12:00 to Monday 06:00
- All day on national holidays
If you’re planning a long-term stay, it might be smart to opt for buying a cell phone instead of a regular fixed phone in your room or studio. There are quite a few service providers around, so you may want to check with a Chinese friend which company offers a better deal. Such a friend could also check the contract that you need to sign in detail and possibly help you negotiate. New phones nearly always need a deposit of around NT$ 1,200. In and around the Beacon shopping mall you may be able to find second hand da-ge-da's (‘big brother’ being the euphemism for cell phone these days), unless of course you have brought your own mobile phone with you and just want to buy a new SIM card for local use.