Taiwan is THE place to be for the latest techno gadgets, laptops, computer parts, computer accessories, mobile phones and video games (and cool toys).
In terms of innovation and having the new, cool stuff, Taiwan isn’t quite as advanced as Japan, but it’s getting there. The products are often the same, if not better quality than what you would find overseas. And of course, the prices. The prices are, if you know where to look, just a fraction of what you would expect to pay in most Western countries. An added bonus is the long opening hours (often don’t close until 10pm or later).
So, where are the best places to find electronic goods (and cool toys) in Taiwan?
(Click on ‘More…’ to find out!)
Avoid department stores
First and foremost, avoid looking for electronics in department stores like Shinkong Mitsukoshi and SOGO (and places I detailed in this earlier post). Unless it’s a branded item that you won’t find in the cheaper outlets, don’t buy them there because the prices are likely to be relatively high (even when they have ‘sales’ on).
Nova is one of the most popular places in Taipei for shoppers of electronics, especially phones, laptop computers, electronic dictionaries, computer accessories, MP3 players, and to a lesser extent, video games.
Nova has about 4 levels, each with dozens of stores selling similar things – so make sure you look around, ask for prices and compare.
Don’t rush into anything. You can almost always get a cheaper price than what is listed. Most of the shop attendants speak passable English, so it’s not to difficult to get around. There are lots of foreigners there, so the chances of being ripped off are low, especially if you look like you know your stuff about computers.
One thing I do have to say though – the cheapest products are usually the locally made goods. You can always go for the SONY or Fuji stuff, but they will cost you an arm and a leg compared to the local produce. However, also be aware of the brands you have never heard of, because they could be dodgy.
My recommendation is to go for the branded, locally produced stuff (it’s best if you’ve at least heard of the brand) if you want to save money and still have some comfort in knowing that the thing won’t break down as soon as you get home.
Nova has a great location – right across from Taipei Main Station. Technically speaking, it is on Guan Qian Road, just before the corner of Zhongxiao West Road (Section 1). It also happens to on the other side of the road from the Shinkong Mitsukoshi.
Guang Hwa Electronic Mall
Probably the best place to go if you can only go to one place. Like Nova, the Guang Hwa Electronic Mall is all within a single building, but it is much bigger and has a lot more stuff.
Guang Hwa Electronic Mall is actually a relatively new place. Up to a few years ago, it was known as the Guang Hwa Markets – it had a slightly different location and looked fairly dodgy, selling not just electronics but also lots of porn and pirated DVDs and games in squishy narrow corridors. Well, the place has been cleaned up and the legit stuff has been moved over the to new, trendy building with the flashy exterior and the clean, organised interior.
The mall has (from memory) at least five levels, and each level is like a little maze in itself, full of shops selling computer parts and accessories, laptops, speakers, phones, cool gadgets, DVDs, video games and even books (on video games). Despite the make-over, the prices remain excellent, and if you know how to haggle, downright unbeatable. And don’t just ask for cheaper prices. Tell them another store on a different floor sells it for X price, and you’ll get it off them if they match it. Or tell them to throw in some extra accessories or goodies. If they don’t bite, just walk off – you can always come back later if you really want it. It’s actually quite fun when you get down to it.
A word of advice – if you are going to be shopping around and comparing prices, make sure you take notes and write down the prices, the floor and the store number. After a while, they all start to look the same, and we got really confused going back and forth trying to negotiate the best price available.
To get there, take the MRT (blue line) to Zhongxiao Xinsheng station. Take exit 1, and either walk through the narrow side streets to get there, or take the recommended route, which is to turn around and head back to Xinsheng South Road. Turn left and head all the way down and you’ll see the massive building on your left. Or you can just follow the crowd.
PS: there are also various exterior shops selling similar things in the nearby streets.
For video games and cool toys…try the (underground) Taipei City Mall
If you are looking for video games, you can do pretty well at Guang Hwa Electronic Mall, but the real place to visit is the massive underground mall at Taipei Main Station (Taipei City Mall). And if you are into those cool model toys (which seem to be very popular these days) – such as Gundam, Dragonball, Star Wars, and other movie and manga character figurines – then this place will be like heaven for you.
Taipei City Mall various sections, and one of them has has two seemingly never-ending underground strips of shops on either side, and a large patch of the strips are dedicated to video games and these cool toys. Look around and you might see a bunch of kids sitting in a corner somewhere, each with a PSP in hand, probably in some superbly organised link game. Each store appears similar but are actually different. You can literally spend hours checking out the stuff available in each one.
(Note it’s not just all video games and toys – there are other stores in the strip too, such as variety stores, CD/DVD stores, apparel stores etc)
Now, I won’t lie – Taipei Main Station is huge and it has several underground malls, and honestly it is not all that easy to find the video game section if you don’t know where you are. The place is like a giant labyrinth, and taking one ‘wrong turn’ could be disaster (not quite as disastrous as in the underrated Eliza Dushku movie of the same name, but pretty bad nonetheless).
Your best chance is to check out the maps at Taipei Main Station (especially the MRT ones) and ASK someone at the information desk if you aren’t sure. Don’t risk it!
Tsann Kuen (3C)
If you can’t be bothered going to one of the outlets above, you can still do quite well visiting one of the many Tsann Kuen (or 3C) franchises spread out across Taiwan (hard to miss that yellow sign – there are more than 40 in Taipei city alone). There is one right next to Nova near Taipei Main Station. There’s another one across the road from Guang Hwa Electronic Mall.
Tsann Kuen sells nothing but electronics and has very competitive prices, but being a ‘store’ some of the prices may be a little higher. However, don’t be surprised if you find something just as cheap there.