Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan, has a reputation for being a desirable place to live. It is incredibly safe, the locals are welcoming, Taiwanese food is fantastic, the health care system is world-class, and getting around is a breeze. These are a few reasons why InterNations has chosen Taiwan as the top place in the world for expats twice in the last five years.
- <skip to budget details>. Monthly budget in Taipei = ~$1,600
- A mid-range budget, but high quality of live with an active social life and frequent meals out
- Quality healthcare and long-term visa potential
The cost of living in Taipei is lower than in major cities of the United States or other Western countries. Compared to other parts of Asia, Taiwan isn't quite as cheap as most Southeast Asia countries, but Taipei isn't an expensive city like Hong Kong or Japan. While buying property in Taipei is expensive, rental rates are quite affordable. Dining, entertainment, and transportation are all relatively cheap. But, luxury items, technological devices, and cars can cost as much as, if not more, than in the US.
I have spent more than a decade living in Taipei. Originally from Canada, I went there as an English teacher expecting to only stay for a year, but like so many others, I ended up falling in love with the city and staying much longer. I met my wife in Taipei, and our two kids were born and raised there.
We lived in New Taipei City, a sprawling city surrounding Taipei City, but I worked in Taipei. Think of New Taipei as Taipei's suburbs with the two cities connected by the vast Taipei MRT system. By living outside the city center, I enjoyed cheaper accommodation costs yet kept easy access to all the pleasures of Taipei City.
Having lived in several Asian countries before, I found the cost of living in Taiwan comparable to Thailand but slightly more expensive. I would also say the costs are very similar to those of South Korea.
In this sample budget, I breakdown the monthly living costs in Taipei for a single person. You can spend less by sharing accommodation with others and/or living in New Taipei City as we did.
INSIDER TIP : Chinese Language- While Mandarin is the primary language used for official matters in Taiwan, many locals also speak the Taiwanese language. English is also fairly standard, and most locals can speak at least some basic English.
What Is The Cost Of Living In Taiwan?
|Total Monthly Expense||$1,593|
|COST PER MONTH|
|Rent- Furnished Studio Apartment City Center||500|
|Housekeeping Services 3-hours 2 times per week||0|
|High Speed Internet||20|
|Cell Phone- 8 GB Internet Per Month||36|
|Total Housing Expense||656|
|Home Cooked Meals||100|
|Local Food Stalls (3 times Per Day)||365|
|Mid-Priced Restaurant 1 times per Month||15|
|All-You-Can-Eat Restaurant 1 times per Month||40|
|Total Food Expense||520|
|Budget Night Out-Drinks with Friends 2 time per Month||20|
|Bowling with Friends 2 time per Month||20|
|KTV Night with Friends 2 time per Month||20|
|Big Night Out- Cocktail Bar 1 time per Month||50|
|MRT Easy Card||100|
|Uber/Taxi 2 times per Week||87|
|Total Transportation Expense||187|
|National Health Insurance (NHI)||40|
|Health Care Expense||40|
|60-minute massage 1 times per month||30|
|Personal Care Items- Shampoo, Soaps, Etc.||20|
|Household Items- Laundry Soap, Tools, Dishes, Etc.||20|
|Full Service Laundry 2 Loads Per Month||10|
|Total Personal Care and Misc Expense||80|
|Exchange Rate to $1 USD to TWD (Taiwanese Dollar)||27.92|
EDITOR'S NOTE : Cost of Living in Taiwan- Taiwan's largest city is not the capital. Taipei is actually the 4th largest (New Taipei is first, followed by Taichung and Kaohsiung). But with most expats, digital nomads, and retirees living in Taipei, it makes sense to use Taipei as our baseline for monthly living costs.
It is possible to live for cheaper than $1,600 in Taipei (choosing shared housing, only eating street food, etc.), but it also very easy to blow your budget (dining in upscale restaurants, choosing a fancy apartment, going out a lot).
I based these monthly expenses on what I spent as a single expat living in a reasonably standard studio apartment in Taipei, living cheaply on a day-to-day basis with an occasional weekend splurge. I bought groceries and ate lots of simple street food, but I would go to pricier restaurants with my friends and some bars or nightclubs a couple of times a week.
Like most Taipei residents, I mainly used the MRT to commute, but I also took taxis several times per week. My holiday travels around the island are excluded from the budget.
Because my salary as an English teacher was around $2850 (80,000 TWD) per month (most make around 60,000 to 90,000), I was able to save about a third of my excess income while living this mid-range lifestyle.
EDITOR'S NOTE : Geoarbitrage on a Teachers Salary- Did you know that working working abroad as an English teacher for just FIVE YEARS could get you to retirement with an additional $2,000,0000+ in savings. If you save $11,000 per year ($2850 x 33% x 12) and invest in ETFs with a 7% return for five years, you end up with $67,000. Save nothing else and just sit on your money, after 40 years that $67,000 would grow to $2,000,000.
You can expect your salary to be at the lower end in your first year, but you can move up to better jobs or supplement your income with tutoring jobs over time. After I got my APRC, I transitioned to writing and editing work, and my salary also increased.
How do costs in Taiwan compare to the United States?
As mentioned, Taipei costs slight more than other Asian cities like HCMC or Manila, but Taiwan has first-class healthcare and metro system that other countries miss. Don't get me wrong, there are still lots of geoarbitrage opportunities. Compared to the a medium-cost US city, you will save close to half-off your monthly budget.
$3,060 per month in US vs $1,567 in Taiwan
Living in Taipei can cut you expenses by 49%
Expense Estimates: The Earth Awaits
HOW DOES COST OF LIVING IN TAIPEI COMPARE TO OTHER CITIES?
What Kind of Lifestyle Can I Afford On $1600 Per Month?
Shopping at a specialty gourmet seafood market for spider crab, the biggest crab in the world.
Let's add some context to the $1,600. Let's compare a US city (Portland) to a city in Taiwan (Taipei).
The Top 4 major costs in the US are housing, food, transportation, and healthcare. These 4 expenses make up 68% of the average costs in larger cities.
Total Average Per Month
Save 43% on Major Monthly Expenses
The lower cost of living in Taipei could save you almost $18,000 per year. Now look closer at the standard of living a $1,600 budget buys you.
A Typical Week Living in Taipei
As an English teacher, I did a combination of part-time jobs at different schools and some private tutoring in children's homes. This program meant I did a fair bit of commuting. Luckily, Taipei has an incredible metro system called the MRT. It is considered one of the best in the world, and it goes practically everywhere. It is clean, passengers are polite, and (essential in summer) it is heavily air-conditioned.
Many Taipei locals ride scooters, and the traffic can be pretty wild. While I think it's useful to have a scooter in other parts of Taiwan, I don't recommend it in Taipei. Driving a car is even less convenient. It is expensive, parking is often impossible to find, and there are frequent traffic jams. All this is why the MRT is such a godsend!
Like most local Taiwanese, who tend to have long working and school days, I also ate out a lot. Food sold on the street and from hole-in-the-wall shops in Taiwan is incredibly cheap, delicious, and available everywhere. There are countless breakfast shops and food trucks in the morning, while for lunch, there are takeaway lunch boxes, buffet restaurants where you pay by weight, and more. In the evening, the city's famous night markets come alive, while every street corner has several food vendors to choose from.
In a nutshell, Monday to Friday, I relieved heavily on the MRT to get around, and I ate most of my meals on the go from cheap eateries.
When it came to the weekend, it was a different story. I would often hop in a taxi to meet my friends in a nicer restaurant. These meals could easily cost 5-10 times more than the average meal on the street with drinks. We'd then take another taxi to a bar or nightclub, stay till the early morning, then I'd take a taxi back home.
Some weekends, we'd also do day trips or overnight trips around the country. Taiwan is small enough that you can get almost anywhere in the country in a weekend, especially with the High-Speed Rail. While quite a bit more expensive than the local train, the HSR can traverse the country from north to south in just a few hours.
How Much Is Rent In Taipei?
Monthly rent varies wildly depending on your type of accommodation. But keep in mind, Taipei is a crowded city where space is a luxury. Therefore, houses are virtually non-existent. Everyone, even the rich, lives in apartments, and only the ultra-rich have huge flats. The lack of space plays havoc with real estate prices, so the average Taipei apartment most people live in is relatively small.
As a single person, I lived in a small studio apartment and paid $500 per month (14,000 TWD). These can easily go up to $700 (20,000 TWD) or more, especially with more than one bedroom.
As I mentioned, space is at a premium in the city center. If you want to step up to a bigger one-bedroom (average rent $650/18,000 TWD) or a two-bedroom (average rent $780/22,000 TWD), expect to pay significantly more.
Other things you might need to include in your housing budget: WiFi in an apartment ($20/month) and apartment utilities ($100/month).
INSIDER TIP : If you want to save on accommodation costs, I later lived in New Taipei City (which is quite a bit cheaper than Taipei City) with a friend, and we only paid $570 (16,000 TWD) between the two of us for a two-bedroom apartment. By MRT, it only took us about 20 minutes to get to the Taipei City center.
What Is The Average Food Budget In Taipei?
Taiwan is considered to be the boba tea capital of the world.
As I mentioned above, I ate most of my meals during the week from food stalls and simple eateries. The average breakfast cost me $3, which includes both a meal from a breakfast shop and an Americano from 7-Eleven (Taiwan has the highest concentration of convenience stores in the world, and they offer a surprising range of foods and services.)
For a typical lunch, I would spend $4.50 on a large bowl of noodle soup or takeaway vegetarian lunch box that included several dishes on a bed of rice. It would be some street food from a food stall in my neighborhood with a similar price for dinner. Once in a while, I'd get meals at Western restaurants or get international food, which costs more like $10-20 per meal.
I did eat some meals at home, too, so I also spent around $100 on groceries per month.
On weekends, when I often had dinner out with my friends, I would easily spend $15-40 on a meal at a mid-range restaurant, and that would usually be including a few alcoholic drinks. If we went to a local restaurant, it would be on the cheaper side of that range, but something like all-you-can-eat hot pot, Indian food, Western food, etc., was higher.
How Much Should I Budget For Entertainment?
Ximen is a bustling shopping district and considered the hippest neighborhood. It's the main weekend hangout for the city's Millennials.
Entertainment and Sports
- Bowling with Friends $10- My friends and I often went bowling for less than $10 per person, and we could bring in our own drinks and snacks.
INSIDER TIP : For a budget night out, you can buy beer and other alcoholic drinks from convenience or grocery stores in Taiwan. There are no open liquor laws, so you can drink in a park, at the tables provided at convenience stores themselves, or while going for a stroll in the streets. Boom. A fun night out with friends for less than $10.
There are loads of free or low cost entertainment options in the city. There are lots of hiking trails around Taipei, which of course are free, while it only takes 1-2 hours to reach several beaches by cheap local bus or train. In winter, you can visit hot spring spas around Taipei ($2 for public ones, up to $25-100 for a private room). Finally, There are also lots of museums in Taipei, with tickets only costing $2-3.
What Does Transportation Cost?
Clean, cheap, and on time, the Taipei Metro, locally known as jie-yun, is considered one of the world's best metros.
Like most Taipei residents, I relied heavily on the MRT. I used a reloadable EasyCard, and I put around $100 on it per month. This monthly expense included multiple rides per day and some trips on weekends, too. You can also swipe an EasyCard at convenience stores and on local (non-reserved) train or bus rides between cities.
Taxis are relatively cheap in Taipei, and there are so many of them that you never have to call. You just go to any main road and wait. Outside of popular places, there is usually a line of them. The base fare is $2.50, and it goes up slowly from there according to distance and time. Most rides I took cost less than $10, and even the longest ones (from the city center to the suburbs when I later moved there) still cost well under $20.
If you want to buy a scooter, the economy transportation among locals in Taiwan costs $1500-2500. You'll need to take a local driving test. Once you have it, though, fuel costs are low, even cheaper than riding the MRT. For better deals, you can find used scooters for $300-1000
If you'd like to purchase a car, expect to pay even more than what they cost in the United States. You may also have to pay a monthly fee to park it (even in your neighborhood, as the narrow streets don't have space for them), plus parking fees wherever you go in the city.
Taipei also has a public bike share program called YouBike, with stations everywhere. You use an EasyCard (MRT card) to sign them out, and they only cost $0.35 (10 TWD) per 30 minutes. Taipei does have some air pollution due to the heavy traffic, but it's not as bad as it used to be, thanks mainly to the MRT.
INSIDER TIP : For walking, main roads have sidewalks and traffic lights, but most smaller, residential streets don't. It's essential to be careful, and the rule of "pedestrian always has the right of way" absolutely does not apply in Taipei.
Other Miscellaneous Costs
Important Information about Moving to Taiwan- One-Time Moving Costs
When you first arrive in Taipei, if you plan to become a resident through work, you'll need to budget in some set-up costs. These include residence card application fees, health check fees, and so on. You should budget $200-300 to cover all of these expenses.
Most landlords ask for a deposit of 2-3 months' rent on apartments and ask that you sign a one-year contract. If sharing an apartment with others, you can sometimes just pay a monthly rate without signing a contract.
If you're moving to Taiwan for work, you should consider the time before you start working, set-up fees, plus the time you need to make it to your first paycheck. You might have to get by for one or two months before even seeing your first paycheck. For these reasons, I wouldn't recommend moving to Taiwan if you don't have at least a few thousand dollars set aside for start-up costs.
How Much Is Health Care?
Taiwan has a national health care system, and any resident (ARC holder) pays a tiny percentage of his or her income into it. Anytime you visit a doctor or dentist, you pay a nominal fee of $5 (TWD 150), including any medication prescribed.
EDITOR'S NOTE : Healthcare for Expats- If you apply for residency (ARC) in Taiwan, you must enroll in their National Health Insurance. This "requirement" is a good thing. Taiwan has the highest-rated healthcare systems in the world and health care cost are low.
Expats Healthcare Insurance would cost you:
- Through a local employer- 1.41% of your monthly income (your share of insurance premium would be )
- As a digital nomad on the Gold Visa- still only 4.69% of your monthly reported income.
Private health insurance or travel health insurance - These options may make sense if you are only in Taiwan for a few months. My travel health insurance covers me everywhere globally, except the US, for roughly $50 per month.
Will I Have To Pay Taxes Living In Taiwan?
If you're planning to work in Taiwan, you should be aware that you need to spend 183 or more days in a calendar year in Taiwan to avoid being taxed 20% of your income (with no deductions). For example, if you are a teacher and plan to arrive in Taiwan in August to start teaching in September, you'll have to pay 20% of your income from September to December of that year. These taxes could add up to thousands of dollars.
If you spend more than 183 days in Taiwan in a given year, you'll only have to pay around 5% (depending on your income bracket), and you'll receive some deductions so that the tax rate could be close to zero. They actually count the days you are physically in the country, so if you take any holidays outside of Taiwan, those days will be deducted from the total number of days you spent in the country. It doesn't matter whether or not you were working, just how many days physically in Taiwan.
For this reason, I recommend arriving in Taiwan before July if you plan to work that year, even if that means you won't start working until September. The same thing goes when you leave Taiwan; stay until at least July, or expect to have to pay 20% for the first months of the year, even after you leave.
EDITOR'S NOTE : Tax Residency- Expats who stay in Taiwan for 183 days or more in a calendar year are considered a tax resident. A foreigner who stays for less than 183 days in a calendar year is considered a non-resident.
Get A Free Tax Consultation and $25 off your US Expat Tax return
What Is Not Included In The Monthly Budget? Taxes!
Taiwan uses the credit method to avoid double taxation. Foreign income tax paid on foreign income may be applied to reduce the income tax owed in Taiwan up to the amount of Taiwan income tax derived from foreign-source income.
Sound complicated? It is. Expat taxes are complicated. Speak with a tax accountant for details. Nomadic FIRE has partnered with Expat Tax Specialists offering a FREE 30-minute consultation.
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What Are The Visa Requirements For Taiwan?
Typically, you can come to Taiwan on a tourism visa and stay for 3-6 months, depending on your nationality. I had friends in Taiwan who worked under-the-table jobs part-time and did visa runs indefinitely.
However, during the pandemic, tourists are not allowed to enter Taiwan. This policy is one of the reasons Taiwan has done some well with COVID-19. Life there has remained mostly normal, and they've had very few cases and only a handful of deaths.
The only way you can currently enter Taiwan is by moving there for work. You'll need proof of employment, and you'll also have to get a test before flying and do 14 days of quarantine in a government-approved hotel upon arrival.
Working in Taiwan – Working Visa
The school or company you work for will usually apply for an ARC (alien residents card) and working visa on your behalf. You can also get an ARC through marriage to a local. If you maintain an ARC for five years, you can apply for an APRC (permanent ARC).
If you're a native English speaker, it's easy to find teaching work in Taiwan, and you only have to teach a minimum of 14 hours per week. Besides teaching work, there are not so many employment opportunities available if you can't speak Mandarin.
INSIDER TIP : If you get an ARC (working visa) through a school or company in Taiwan but decide to quit, you may lose the ARC. You'll either have to find a new company willing to provide you with one ASAP, convince your old company to transfer your ARC to the new company, or leave Taiwan, re-enter, and start again from the beginning.
Other Resident Visas
Entrepreneurs and digital nomads can also apply for a Gold Visa if they make $5700 or more per month.
EDITOR'S NOTE : What about a Taiwan Retirement Visa? - Taiwan has neither a Digital Nomad Visa, nor a Retirement Visa. Taiwan has two ways for retirees and digital nomads to stay long term.
- Gold Visa- good for successful digital nomads, as the visa allows you to work in Taiwan, if you can prove ~$5,700+ monthly income.
- Investor Visa- good for retirees who can invest $200,000 into a local active business or investment fund.
Nomadic FIRE will have a full article on visa option for Taiwan in the near future. In the meantime, check out these countries for retirement visas.
Still researching the best cities for retirement? Check out our extensive Cost of Living collection for the best expat destinations. Get insider information and real examples of expat life from people who have spent years living abroad. I've compiled all the information you need: cost breakdowns, insider tips to save money, and detailed examples of the quality of lifestyle you can enjoy.
Final Thoughts: Cost of Living in Taipei, Taiwan
The cost of living in Taipei is by no means the cheapest in Asia, nor are any types of visas easy to get right now. But if you make an effort to get in and establish yourself, you'll love your quality of life. A comfortable life in Taipei is very affordable, and that's why so many expats swear by it.
EDITOR'S NOTE : HOW-TO BECOME AN EXPAT- This is Nick's 2nd collaboration with Nomadic FIRE. In December, I interviewed 12 expats who have lived in 22 different countries, with over 100 years of combined expat experience. These expats reveal their tips for traveling abroad for the first time, breaking down the challenges they faced living internationally and sharing their essential steps on How To Become An Expat.
I have traveled to over 40 countries to give you the best ways to save, invest, and live overseas for less cost than in the US. After five years of traveling, my list of places to live keeps getting longer. To give you more information on the best places to live abroad, I partner with experts from the expat community.
You want insider information from people with feet in the street? I only work with expats with real-life experience living in countries you want to know about. Together you get updated info on the best neighborhoods, detailed Cost of Living examples, money-saving advice, and recommendations on the local places to eat, drink, and see.
Are you a travel blogger with information you can share on living in another country? Contact me and let's talk about collaborating on a guest post.
EXPAT CONTRIBUTION BY: Nick Kembel
Nick Kembel is the author of Taiwan in the Eyes of a Foreigner and has written about Taiwan for CNN, National Geographic Traveller, and many other publications. He is also the creator of Spiritual Travels, a travel website dedicated mainly to Taiwan, and Taiwan Travel Planning, a free travel resource for Taiwan travel information.