Digital Tour Buddy (Taiwan)

Updated 14 Jul 2018: This article is no longer applicable/available. For an updated understanding on Tour  Buddy, please refer to the official website.

If you are traveling to Taiwan from 1 January 2012 to 31 December 2012, the National Youth Commission (NYC) is providing the Digital Tour Buddy: a free calling service for international backpackers. The Digital Tour Buddy's purpose is to ensure the convenience and safety of international backpackers traveling in Taiwan, as well as facilitate experiencing Taiwan’s IT advantages. It saves you the hassle of getting a new SIM card, and seems like a pretty cool and handy resource.

There are two options for the Digital Tour Buddy:

1. Pre-loaded Mobile Phone for Loan
The amount should be NT$50-100. So with this you can make and receive calls, check on the train schedule or to make a reservation for dinner. A very convenient item to have on hand, with even speed dial (including hotlines for 24-hour Tourist information from Tourism Bureau; life information enquiry for foreigners in Taiwan; Taiwan Youth Hostel Association, Youth Travel in Taiwan, Taipei Area taxi service), and Life information (general travel information, news, and discount information will be sent to users by text from time to time). It even comes with a dictionary.

2. 2G/3G SIM Card
When you get this, you can just pop it into your own mobile phone and start using it.

Application and Collection

There are 264 Digital Tour Buddies (mobile phone + 2G SIM card) and 500 mobile phone numbers (3G SIM card) available for application. Hence, as there is a limited number, you should apply online no later than 7-15 days before your planned day of arrival.

To apply you need to create an account at the NYC’s Youth Travel website. After receiving the approval reply from NYC, you need to print the approval note.

1. Register as a member from Youth Travel Taiwan website first.

2. Login

3. Fill up the form and click sent (送出)

4. After several days, you will receive an email(青年旅遊網寶貝機申請核准通知郵件‏) from them.

5. Collect the Digital tour buddy from International Airport Terminal 1/2 customer service counter (台灣桃園國際機場第二航廈 旅客服務中心服務). Documents required: original copy of a valid ID and photocopy of your passport.

You would need your IDs (including passport, photocopy of passport, valid IDs with photo, and the approval note) to collect the Digital Tour Buddy or 3G SIM card in person. When your identity has been confirmed, you have to leave (deposit), a photocopy of your passport and a valid ID to collect the Digital Tour Buddy or 3G SIM card from the airport.

This is a pretty innovative and interesting service to encourage people to visit Taiwan. But it is something that I would no be getting anytime in the near future. Simply because I don’t feel comfortable having to leave a (original) valid ID together with a photocopy of my passport, which can only be collected after the Digital Tour Buddy is returned. Most people seem prefer to leave their driving license, but what happens if you don’t have one?

Yes, this is one method to ensure that the Digital Tour Buddies are returned, but surely a photocopy of both the passport and valid ID should be enough? There has to should be a better method to protect both parties (minimizing losses for NYC and lowering the risk of identity fraud for travelers), but there seems to be no other choice.

So for the alluring freebie that it is, if you are comfortable with it, this is one good freebie. Otherwise getting a SIM Card, or renting a Wi-Fi device works just as well. 😊
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