I often wondered what the shops and stores are like in Taiwan, so I figured you would have the same questions. I decided to do an article for those of you that are curious too!
What are Taiwanese stores like? Taiwanese stores are a complete mixture. They are a blend of east and west. You will find many famous brands form the west, but they are not exact copies, they are tailored and adapted to meet local tastes.
I want to introduce you to some of the more common Taiwanese stores and also discuss the differences in the western stores.
These are the all-rounders, the slightly more expensive than supermarkets but more common and convenient. They are everywhere throughout Taiwan. You will never need to look far to find one.
They open 24 hours a day.
This is a list of what you will likely be able to buy or do:
- Drinks – hot and cold
- Snacks – hot and cold
- Newspapers and other publications
- Ready meals and sandwiches, again these are available hot and cold
- ATM you can use western cards, and they have an English option
- Send and receive packages and parcels
- Beer and spirits (18 years or older)
- Basic electrical goods (cables, chargers, battery packs, USB things)
- Order a taxi
- Buy train tickets
- Top up mobile phones
- Buy and top up EasyCards and iPass etc.
- Ice cream and other frozen goods
- Instant noodles
- Packets of tea and coffee
The 7- Eleven is the master of the Taiwanese convenience store. You will immediately notice that every detail has been meticulously planned to provide as many different things to as many people as possible. These are the most common.
Family Marts are an almost exact copy of 7-Eleven. I do believe that they are a better place to use an ATM as they don’t have charges. Please check for yourself though!
There are other convenience stores such as OK Mart and, but as I rarely use them, I cannot comment reliably on their fun range of services.
These are very similar in principle to supermarkets in western countries. The stock that they carry is designed to meet the Taiwanese market. The prices are lower than convenience stores, but they are not always the best place to buy fresh produce.
I would class these as being “small supermarkets” they have a wide range of products including some western brands. If you are a cheese or dairy fan be prepared to be shocked by the prices, they are astronomical!
These are very large hypermarkets that are similar to their branches in other countries.
Healthcare and Cosmetics
Let me start by saying that I am a man, so I’m perhaps not the best person to advise ladies on their cosmetics. These are the stores I go to when I want to buy toiletries. I have to walk past the cosmetic section, so I know they have a lot of women things.
They are indeed not cheap places to shop, but then again I’m always frugal when it comes to these type of products. No that does not mean that I’m smelly!
Please note. You can get some over the counter health products here but not prescription drugs. You will need to visit a pharmacy for those.
These are large, modern, and perfect for ladies to buy toiletries and beauty products. They also stock things like insect repellent, post-bite soothing creams etc.
Watsons are similar to Cosmed, but I seem to prefer them. This is where I buy my shaving cream. Taiwan strangely lacks good shaving cream! It offers essential healthcare products but no prescription drugs.
I also notice that they offer some makeup types services. I see women lying down having something done to their heads. Ladies, check it out for yourselves.
Poya is the biggest of the three, so you will find beauty products, toiletries as well as some electrical products and kids games. They also sell snacks and drinks.
Again, they have healthcare products but no prescription drugs. I also find these places expensive, so I don’t go there very often if I can help it.
Coffee and Tea Shops
Taiwan has a load of great coffee shops. I will list a couple of the franchise shops below, but I would urge you to explore and see what you can find. There are many excellent independent coffee shops that are wonderful.
Note! If you want wifi, ask before ordering as not all coffee shops have it
Your typical corner coffee shop that is open 24 hours. They sell a wide range of coffee, teas and juices as well as snacks, pastries and cakes. These are very popular with the locals. They typically have seating inside and outside. It is an excellent place to find wifi!
Crown and Fancy
Another corner coffee and tea shop, This is very similar to Donutes and also offers snacks, pastries, cakes and wifi. I prefer these.
Another corner coffee shop that offers snacks. I have been here a few times and have found the drinks to be ok, but I would steer clear of the food unless you like rubbery chicken.
These stores are a blend of hardware and daily necessities. You will find them throughout Taiwan. I must admit that I find these fascinating as they have such a wide range of products at reasonable prices. I would go here to buy things like:
- Pots and pans
- Cheap tools
- Cleaning products
- Insect repellent
- Packs of cards
- Fixtures and fittings (I bought a new shower head here)
Taiwan has a fascinating blend of stores that blend East and West. So I’m sure that you will not be surprised by the following list of Western franchises. I have taken the time to give a brief description of how they vary to their western counterparts.
It’s no surprise that you can find McDonald’s in Taiwan. They offer mostly the same menu but with some glaring omissions!
All be basics are here, Big Mac, Chicken Sandwich, Nuggets etc. but you will not get BBQ sauce or, “shock horror” milkshakes. Yes, I was disappointed too! How they cannot offer milkshakes is beyond me.
Prices are much cheaper than the UK though!
Some English speaking staff and also some branches have touchscreen ordering in English, Yay!
Kentucky Fried Chicken
This is very similar to what you are familiar with, but they also have these strange custard type cake things of which I am not a big fan. I tend to give KFC a miss unless I really have the urge.
These are pretty much identical to Ikea’s everywhere. You know what you will find, but it’s always worthwhile checking their website if you are looking for something in particular.
Pizza Hut is here, but they tend to be takeaways and delivery only. I’m not a big fan of this franchise, I always found the pizzas to be so-so and the prices too high. Here in Taiwan, I have ordered a few times, and for my taste, the flavours are a little odd. They certainly make pizza differently here to cater to the oriental market.
Maybe you will like it though.
Pizza Rock is a chain of pizza restaurants owned by a guy from Canada. Arguably the best pizza I have tasted in Taiwan, I can recommend it! The restaurants are clean, well run and not too expensive. They have good wifi and an English menu!
I have only seen a handful of Subways in Taiwan, and They are pretty much identical to those in the west. If they float your boat, then go for it.
It is challenging to give a comprehensive guide to the high street in Taiwan, but I hope that has given you some insight as to the stores that are available.
There are many, many family-run businesses throughout Taiwan, and I will do an article in the future about some of my favourite ones.
Q: Is Taiwan a cheap place?
A: When you compare it to western countries, yes it is cheap! Tip – Use your phone to compare prices with Amazon before buying electronics.
Q: Can I haggle over prices in Taiwan?
A: Yes, and no! It very much depends on where you are. In a fresh goods market, or if you are making an expensive purchase it doesn’t hurt to ask for the best price. You may get a discount, or something thrown in for “free”. Tip – Take a local with you if you are buying expensive things.