To its credit, Taipei Free is off to a good start, having just been launched several months ago. It serves as a perfect complement to Wifly, a paid wireless Internet service that is widespread and easily accessible.
Taipei appears to be a few steps ahead when it comes to being a wired city. I’ve been surprised at the lack of similar services in other major cities I’ve visited in recent years, such as San Francisco and Paris. Still, it would be nice to see a service like Taipei Free Public Wi-Fi go the extra mile for visitors from afar.
PUBLIC WI-FI IN TAIPEI
Here’s a guide to the major public Wi-Fi options available in Taipei.
Taipei Free Public Wi-Fi
If you’re on the go and looking for a free Wi-Fi connection, Taipei Free is your best bet short of finding a coffee shop that provides wireless Internet. Look for “TPE-Free” on your smartphone, iPod touch or computer when at an MRT station or any municipal government building, which includes public libraries and hospitals. MRT stations also have signs designating the space as offering the service — look for a blue logo with a white antenna reading “Taipei.”
Beware that not all MRT stations offer the service at the moment, and the connection can be troublesome at some locales. Also keep in mind that the service is meant to be used at the station and not on the train — you’re likely to lose the signal while in transit. Another annoyance is that you have to log in at each individual station. If you use an iPhone, you’ll get sick of seeing the log-in screen pop up if your device is set to automatically join your favorite networks.
I had problems connecting to the service at Xinhai (辛亥), Liuzhangli (六張犁) and Da-an (大安) stations even though there was a signal. The service is not yet officially available at certain stations, including Zhongxiao Xinsheng (忠孝新生), Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall (國父紀念館), Yongchun (永春), Houshanpi (後山埤), Kunyang (昆陽), Nangang (南港), Songshan Airport (松山機場) and Dazhi (大直). There’s a searchable list of hotspots at www.tpe-free.taipei.gov.tw/en/hotspot.php.
Registering for the service is simple if you have a mobile phone with a local number, and the Taipei Free Web site can be viewed in Chinese, English and Japanese. You can apply wherever there’s a hotspot — a log-in screen automatically pops up on your smartphone or computer once you select “TPE-Free” as your Wi-Fi connection. You’ll need your mobile phone handy, as the service sends you a code via SMS text message to complete the online application.
If you don’t have a mobile number, you can apply in person for an account at any Taipei City Travel Service Center (旅遊服務中心). You’ll need to bring a passport and provide an e-mail address. Some central and easily reachable locations are Taipei Main Station, first floor, East Exit (台北車站1樓大廳東側, tel: (02) 2312-3256), Songshan Airport, Terminal 2 (松山機場第2航廈到站大廳, tel: (02) 2546-4741) and Ximen MRT Station, Exit 5 (西門捷運站5號出口, tel: (02) 2375-3096).
And a final note about services: Despite the fact that the signs at MRT stations advertising Taipei Free list a 24-hour service number (0800-090-179), you can’t call it using a mobile phone, which is absolutely ridiculous given the dearth of public pay phones. You can, however, connect to the service by calling the Taipei City Government hotline, 1999, which has operators that speak both Mandarin and English.