Here’s Why Taiwan’s Convenience Stores are Popular

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Taiwan has over 11000 convenience stores.

Why are there so many? Keep reading to find out.

As you read through this massive guide on Taiwan convenience store culture, you’ll learn what makes them convenient, and the different franchises they have.

Intro. to Taiwan’s Convenience Stores

Taiwan’s convenience stores are everywhere, especially in the cities.

Sometimes, they’re the only means for countryside folk to be able to do stuff like mail packages without having to go to a nearby town.

Usually, these shops remain open every hour of every day, which makes them more accessible to people who work “abnormal” hours.

They also offer plenty of services, which I’ll cover later in this piece.

What Convenience Store Chains Are in Taiwan? #

Taiwan has several main convenience store chains. However, you’ll mostly find two of them throughout the country.

Each store offers different benefits over the other. Keep reading to learn what they are.

7-Eleven

pepsi themed 711, taipei, taiwan
A Pepsi-themed 7-Eleven in Taipei City, Taiwan

The American convenience store chain, 7-Eleven has over 1500 stores in Taiwan. They and Family Mart are the two most common chains that you’ll find throughout the island nation.

7-Eleven shops in Taiwan are significantly different than those in other countries. For instance, most Taiwanese chains don’t have gas stations like many 7-Elevens in the States.

Instead, they’re actually convenient.

Many Taiwanese will say “Seven” to refer to 711. This is a piece of slang you can use in Taiwan.

Ibon kiosk

ibon kiosk, 7-eleven, taiwan

One feature of 7-Eleven in Taiwan that differentiates it from other convenience stores is its ibon machines. They look like ATMs, but give you significantly more features like:

There are a couple things that you’ll need to keep in mind when using ibon. First, if you want to print documents, you’ll need to ask the staff to turn on the printer. Second, whenever you print or scan documents, the ibon will print a receipt. Once you’re ready to pay, take this receipt to the clerk.

7-Eleven ATMs

Speaking of ATMs, every convenience store in Taiwan will have them. The country actually has one ATM per 826 residents. Making the nation one of the most ATM-dense countries out there. Unlike Japan’s Seven Bank ATMs, Taiwan’s 7-Eleven automated teller machines don’t give the best value for currency exchange.

Regardless, they’re still convenient if you don’t want to visit a Bank of Taiwan ATM.

icash Smart Card

icash is an integrated circuit (IC) card that functions exactly like Taiwan’s EasyCard, except only 7-Eleven uses it.

You can buy regular cards, or you can buy customized cards shaped like cute mascots.

I don’t recommend getting this card unless you intend on living in Taiwan. Because the true value comes from accumulating points to use on Taiwan’s OPEN POINTS system. Moreover, the only convenience stores you can use icash with are 7-Eleven and Hi-Life.

Conversely, you can still use this card with most public transportation throughout Taiwan. So, if you want to buy an icash card for a cute character, then you won’t suffer when trying to use it to get around.

Family Mart

themed family mart, taipei, taiwan

Japan-based Family Mart has over 3770 convenience stores throughout Taiwan. Most of them offer similar services and food. However, once in a while, you may find something unique about the shop you visit.

They do have kiosks that function identically to 7-Eleven’s ibon machines. So, there’s not much to say about these.

I recommend trying Family Mart’s soft-serve ice cream. It’s by far some of the best ice creams that I’ve had in Taiwan.

However, it appears that it’s hard to find Family Marts with soft serve machines outside of Taipei City.

Depending on when you try their ice cream, you can find interesting flavors like cactus, oolong tea, and more.

ice cream at family mart, gongguan, taipei, taiwan
Family Mart ice cream—you should try it

Laundry Services

In 2019, Family Mart opened its first shop in Taiwan that has a laundry service.

It operates like a normal laundromat at the back of the store.  They use all-in-one washers and dryers, as opposed to separate appliances.

If you have the FamilyMart mobile app, you can receive SMS notifications about your laundry, which means you don’t have to wait in the store.

However, this additional functionality comes at a cost. To use their service, you’ll need to pay NT$190 ($6.69) per 30 minutes for washing alone and NT$220 ($7.74) for washing and drying for 60 minutes.

By the way, these are self-service machines. So, no one will touch your laundry.

Hi-Life

Taiwan-based Hi-Life has over 700 stores—updated in 2000, so there are likely thousands more—throughout the country.

You won’t find as many of these shops as other convenience stores; yet, they still provide a fair number of services.

Ok MART

ok mart in taipei taiwan

Originally, Taiwan’s OK MART cooperated with Circle K in the US. After not renewing the brand authorization, OK MART separated. It’s not under the Lai Lai Super Merchant Circle K’s trademark.

OK MART has over 900 branches throughout Taiwan. However, they don’t have anything that makes them special compared to 7-Eleven and Family mart. But, they’re still convenience stores that offer warm food, drinks, package delivery and pickup, and baked goods.

Simple Mart

simple mart, banqiao, new taipei, taiwan

Taiwan’s Simple Mart has over 600 stores throughout the country. It’s not technically a convenience store. Because you can’t do stuff like access ATMs, pick up and mail packages, buy hot food, and access kiosks like ibon.

But, you’ll usually find Simple Marts throughout Taiwan’s alley labyrinths. They’re convenient for picking up snacks and drinks that are much more affordable than other convenience stores.

Taiwan’s Convenience Stores Also Have Themes #

Hello kitty themed 711, taipei, taiwan
Hello Kitty-themed 7-Eleven

As you’re wandering through Taiwan, you’ll find various themed convenience stores that give visitors excellent photographic displays.

In almost every case, it’s 7-Eleven that has themed stores.

Throughout my time in Taiwan, I’ve found 7-Elevens with the following themes:

  • Hello Kitty: the store was decorated with Hello Kitty stuff
  • Coca Cola: it looked like a ’60s American Diner
  • 7-Eleven X: an almost staffless 7-Eleven that has self-checkouts, a gated entrance, and other cool stuff
  • Mickey Mouse: pictures and displays of Mickey Mouse spread throughout the shop
  • Snoopy: you guessed it, Peanuts and Snoopy dolls, statues, images, and more

Usually, these themed stores don’t offer anything special. However, they provide a unique experience.

What Can You Do at Taiwan’s Convenience Stores? #

Convenience stores throughout Taiwan enable Taiwanese to finish most of their errands in one spot. Rather than having to venture throughout the city and waste their precious time off of work.

Throughout this section, you’ll find most of the “convenient” things you can do in Taiwanese convenience stores.

1. Purchase a SIM Card

You can buy SIM cards at certain convenience stores starting at NT$300. However, I recommend ordering these cards online and picking them up at the airport. It’ll save you more money.

If you’re a traveler and decide to buy a SIM card at a convenience store, you must bring your passport with you.

If you happen to run out of minutes or data, you can always come back and refill your SIM card at 7-Elevens and Family Marts.

I have never done it at an OK Mart or Hi-Life, nor can I find information about whether they provide these services.

Because I care about you, I also don’t recommend refilling at convenience stores. If you have a Chunghwa SIM card, you can find pre-paid refill cards for way cheaper in South East Asian markets.

2. Pay Bills

If you’re not paying for bills VIA the post office or bank transfer, you can pay for your utilities, car and income tax, health insurance, and phone bills at Taiwan convenience stores.

You’ll just need to hand your bill to the clerk and pay what you owe.

If you’re paying for health insurance, you can download the health insurance app, generate a QR code, and show the code to the clerk.

This will reduce the amount of paper you’ll waste.

3. Laundry

At the moment, you can only do laundry at one Family Mart store in Taiwan. But if this proves as a ludicrous venture, more stores may implement this service.

4. Mail Packages

Instead of shipping a package to your home, you can have someone deliver them to a nearby convenience store for safekeeping.

All that you’ll have to do is show the clerk your shipping information once the tracking says you’ve received your package.

Or, you can mail packages. You can print shipping labels with their kiosks, and then take them to the attendant.

5. Top off Smart Cards

Taiwan has various smart cards like iPass, EasyCard, icash, and more.

If you’re a traveler, you’ll need a convenient spot to refill these cards other than having to wait to visit a metro station.

Hand your smart card to a convenience store clerk and tell (or show them) how much you want to add to your balance.

6. Work

seating in a taiwan convenience store
Seats at a 7-Eleven

7-Elevens and Family Marts will offer free WiFi if you’re signed up for their store membership, which is free.

However, you may need an Alien Resident Certificate (ARC) to apply for their membership.

Otherwise, you can connect to a mobile hotspot and use the open seating at these stores as a place to get some work done. As opposed to paying a lot of money for coffee at a cafe.

7. Play With Their Kiosks

As I mentioned with ibon earlier, these types of kiosks allow you to send faxes, scan documents, make photocopies, and print whatever. You can also use these to print shipping labels, check your smart card balance, and pay for certain bills.

8. Recycle

If you have batteries or old electronics that you want to recycle, you can take them to Family Mart or 7-Eleven and receive in-store credit—that you have to use while in the store.

The credit isn’t much, however, if you have enough batteries, maybe you can buy an NT$8 ($0.28) yogurt drink.

You can also recycle glass bottles and CDs as well. I’ve never done this, so I can’t provide much background.

9. Buy Tickets

Using the ibon or similar machines, you can buy the following tickets from convenience stores:

  • Bus
  • Taiwan High-Speed Rail (THSR) and Taiwan Railway
  • Plane
  • Movie
  • Concert
  • Local events

10. Other Things You Can Do

Otherwise, you can buy smart cards, access free restrooms, get your hands on warm food, hot and cold caffeinated drinks, take a nap, and relax.

FAQ: Taiwan Convenience Store Culture

In this section, I’ll cover some commonly asked questions about Taiwanese convenience stores.

How Many Convenience Stores Are There in Taiwan?

Taiwan has over 11000 convenience stores throughout the country. These include 7-Eleven, Family Mart, OK MART, and Hi-Life stores.

Why Are There So Many 7-Elevens in Taiwan?

7-Eleven offers more features than competing convenience stores, which makes them more profitable. These stores almost always have foot traffic, even if there are other nearby convenience stores.

Moreover, 7-Eleven’s franchising barrier of entry isn’t too vast, which means more people can start a store.

Taiwan Convenience Store Culture Isn’t Complex

With a massive number of stores throughout the country that are only a block or two apart sometimes, they give Taiwanese, tourists, and foreign locals access to a myriad of services.

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