Taiwan convenience stores are popular because they give the Taiwanese a means to perform most errands in one spot. This guide will cover convenience store chains, what you can do at them, and more.
I’ve lived in Taiwan for over 3 years and have probably spent an accrued 20 hours inside convenience stores. I compiled my experience, intel. I’ve gathered from the locals, and other information into this post.
To help you understand Taiwanese convenience store culture, I’ll cover these points:
- Why they’re popular
- Convenience store chains in Taiwan
- Themed convenience stores
- What you can do inside them
Keep reading, and you’ll learn why people can’t shut up about these stores.
Why Are Convenience Stores in Taiwan Popular?
Convenience stores are popular in Taiwan because most of them provide services for Taiwanese that include:
- Pay bills
- Buy every-day essentials
- Deliver and pick up packages
- Hot foods (e.g., tofu)
- Buy tickets: like train tickets
- Sit and eat food
Taiwan has over 11,000 convenience stores spread throughout the island nation [1: source is in Chinese).
And for countryside areas that don’t have stores, they have ‘convenience vans.’ Or mobile convenience stores . For instance, the EV-powered FamiMobi.
Here’s a video showcasing 7-Eleven’s convenience store van:
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.
These shops remain open 24/7. That makes them more accessible to people who work graveyard shifts.
They also offer plenty of services, which I’ll cover later in this piece.
What Convenience Store Chains Are in Taiwan? #
You’ll find these convenience store chains throughout Taiwan:
- Family Mart
- Simple Mart
- Shopee stores
The following sections will cover details about each chain. They’ll also provide services each store offers.
Keep in mind that Simple Mart and Shopee storefronts TECHNICALLY aren’t convenience stores. But they offer convenience in many ways.
The American convenience store chain 7-Eleven has over 5,900 stores in Taiwan . 7-Eleven shops in Taiwan differ from 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.
And they operate under President Chain Store Corporation (Uni-President). I’ll cover more details on this in the next section.
A couple of cool features you’ll find in these shops (other than typical amenities) include the ibon and 7-Eleven ATMs. They also have the Open Point.
They and Family Mart are the two most common chains you’ll find throughout the island nation.
Many Taiwanese will say “Seven” to refer to 7-Eleven. Even when speaking Mandarin.
Otherwise, you’ll see spellings that include:
- 7-Eleven Lifestyle Center (large 7-Elevens)
Let’s move on to their perks.
Open Point is a rewards program that allows you to collect points from qualifying purchases at certain stores. You can exchange these points for free drinks, discounted products, and more.
Earlier I mentioned Uni-President. They’re a conglomerate that operates various stores in Taiwan like Starbucks, Mister Donut, and other companies. They’ll soon own Carrefour (Taiwan) .
You can use the reward program’s icash 2.0 card to buy stuff and collect points. I have a complete guide on it.
It’s a convenient means to enter public transportation and buy stuff at 7-Eleven.
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:
- English and Chinese language support
- Buy train tickets and entry for other current events
- Print pictures and documents from external storage devices
- Scan documents
There are a couple of things that you’ll need to keep in mind when using ibon:
You’ll need to ask the staff to turn on the printer if you want to print documents.
You can either try to ask them in English. Or say the following phrase in Mandarin:
“我要影印:” Wǒ yào yǐng yìn (I want a photocopy).
Say this phrase while presenting your digital storage thing. They will likely not understand you if you don’t know how to speak Mandarin. But they’ll likely understand through context.
Or you can go to the counter and show them the Chinese text I typed.
They’ll likely respond with “OK.” From there, you follow the prompts on the iibon and print (or scan) your documents.
Someone made an ibon guide following the prompts in case they appear in Chinese.
Whenever you print or scan documents, the ibon will print a receipt. Once you’re ready to pay, take this receipt to the clerk.
Most ibon features are in Chinese except for document printing and buying prepaid SIM cards.
Every 7-Eleven has an ATM to give you the means to withdraw cash. Depending on your bank, they will charge a NT$150 ATM fee.
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. I mention this bank in specific because they offer the best exchange rates.
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 purchase customized cards shaped like cute mascots.
I don’t recommend getting this card unless you intend on living in Taiwan. Because the actual value comes from accumulating points to use on Taiwan’s Open Point system.
The only convenience stores you can use icash with are 7-Eleven and Hi-Life.
But you can buy a 2-in-1 EasyCard and icash 2.0 at 7-Eleven stores. Then you can technically use icash anywhere.
You can still use the icash with most public transportation throughout Taiwan.
Japan-based Family Mart has over 3770 convenience stores throughout Taiwan . Most of them offer similar services and food.
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 some of the best ice creams I’ve had in Taiwan. Many locals I’ve spoken to about this ice cream feel the same.
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 exciting flavors like cactus, oolong tea, and more.
In 2019, Family Mart opened its first shop in Taiwan with 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. No having to wait around the store and stare at your laundry.
This additional functionality comes at a cost. 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.
These are self-service machines. So, no one will touch your laundry.
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. Like the ability to pay for bills, hot food, mailing and receiving packages, ATMs, and fresh drinks.
Initially, 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.
Taiwan’s Simple Mart has over 600 stores .
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.
Shopee stores also aren’t technically convenience stores. But they give you a means to send and receive packages from Shopee.tw.
It sounds like a post office, but you can also buy snacks. So it’s a bit convenient if you need an immediate means to grab a Super Supau (Taiwanese Gatorade) to survive the blistering heat.
Taiwan’s Convenience Stores Also Have Themes
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: adorned 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
* You can only enter 7-Eleven X if you have an Open Point membership.
These themed stores don’t offer anything special. However, they provide a unique experience.
What Can You Do at Taiwan’s Convenience Stores? #
Some of the many things you can do at Taiwanese convenience stores include:
- Getting a prepaid SIM card
- Paying bills
- Sending and receiving packages
- Topping up and checking IC card balances
- Buy tickets
The following sections will dive deeper into things you can do at these stores.
1. Purchase a SIM Card
You can buy SIM cards at certain convenience stores starting at NT$300 ($10). Family Mart and 7-Eleven allow you to refill prepaid card balances when they’re low.
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’ll need two forms of identification. Acceptable ID for foreigners include:
- Alien resident certificate (ARC)
- Driver’s license
- Health insurance card
They don’t accept work permits as a form of ID.
If you want to get a prepaid 4G LTE card at 7-Eleven, you can do so at an ibon by pressing the ‘English’ button. Then press ‘Prepaid card.’
After reading through a bunch of different pages, you’ll print the application, then bring it to the staff.
I have refilled prepaid cards 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 prepaid refill cards for way cheaper in South East Asian markets.
You can get unlimited data for NT$499 ($16) per month. But you’ll notice throttled data speeds once you meet a threshold. The cap will vary by card.
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.
At the moment, you can only do laundry at one Family Mart store in Taiwan.
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
You can add value to and check the balance of integrated circuit (IC) cards such as:
- icash 2.0
You’ll find this amenity useful when wanting to take a bus or YouBike and not knowing your smart card’s balance.
In Taipei and New Taipei, you could visit the one of million MRT stations. But most other cities don’t have that luxury.
To top-up your smart card’s balance, hand it to a convenience store clerk and tell (or show them) how much you want to add to your balance. I usually just hand them the card and the cash I want to add.
Most of the time they can’t speak English, so they just add the money I presented.
7-Elevens and Family Marts will offer free Wi-Fi if you’re signed up for their store membership, which is free.
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.
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:
- Taiwan High-Speed Rail (THSR) and Taiwan Railway
- Local events
I haven’t seen any discounts when buying tickets through kiosks. But it prevents you from having to wait in line at the event or train station to buy tickets.
10. Other Things You Can Do
Things I didn’t include above that you can do at convenience stores include:
- Access to free restrooms
- Take naps: don’t know if it’s allowed, but I see people do it
- Buy and eat warm food
- Hot and cold coffee or tea
- Buy integrated circuit (IC) cards
- Read a book: some convenience stores sell books
7-Eleven has made moves into adding coworking spaces to some of their stores . You can rent these for NT$180 ($2.67) an hour to access Wi-Fi outlets, and a desk.
I wouldn’t want to work at one of these because these tiny booths would make me claustrophobic. But everyone has varying preferences.
$2.67 an hour isn’t bad if you need a means to escape, but don’t want to pay a monthly coworking space fee.
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 11,270 convenience stores. 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.
How Do I Get My Package From 7-Eleven in Taiwan?
Show the clerk the message you received stating that your package arrived in Taiwan. Also write down or tell the staff your Taiwan phone number.
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.
Explore my other guides about Taiwanese culture.