Cost of Living in Taipei
Although the cost of living is much lower in rural and south Taiwan, most foreign nationals moving to Taiwan will be settling in Taipei. The 2016 Mercer Cost of Living Survey ranks Taipei as 43 out of 209 other popular expat cities – far below other regional hubs such as Hong Kong, Beijing or Singapore.
That said, Taipei has as much of a consumer-orientated culture as any large Western or Asian city, and expat families will need to decide how much of their monthly income they are prepared to spend to live as they did back home. Western clothing and foodstuffs are generally much more expensive than local options.
In general, if earning an expat salary, one can enjoy a higher standard of living than back home, even if the actual wage, before adjusting for purchasing power, is lower. Even as a local hire, expats will probably be paid a “foreigner” rather than a “local” wage – especially if bilingual, and certainly if speaking English or another foreign language is considered a needed skill for the position. Purchasing power parity is pretty good in Taiwan – one can generally afford more with less money.
Cost of accommodation in Taipei
Housing in Taipei is affordable if renting. If expats are willing to wade through several listings for sub-par apartments they can generally find a place to rent in Taipei itself. Living downtown is not as out of the question as it is for many people in Western cities.
Accommodation is more expensive in the concrete jungle of central Taipei than elsewhere in Taiwan, and most newcomers, especially young English teachers, will opt for tiny studio-style apartments or share larger apartments with other expats. A single room in one of these communal houses or apartments will cost anything upwards of TWD 8,000 a month, while staying alone in a studio apartment can cost about TWD 20,000 a month.
On the other hand, it is nearly impossible to buy affordable property in Taipei. It’s still financially prudent to buy in New Taipei City (which is really more like a county), but in Taipei real estate costs as much as it does in more expensive countries, and absolutely does not reflect the local cost of living.
Cost of food and eating out in Taipei
One will be astonished by the depth and breadth of the offerings for eating out in Taipei, from food stalls making cheap, tasty and quick meals or snacks to full-on restaurants. Restaurants, hole-in-the-wall small dining establishments, street stalls, food trucks and night markets abound. Taipei is one massive, urban food display, and the Taiwanese take their food seriously.
One downside is that it can cost as much to cook at home as to eat out, especially if cooking Western food. For those who prefer their own cooking or like to have total control of ingredients and process, this can be irritating.
If drinking Western alcohol, it can cost more in Taipei than in the West, but going out in Taipei is still pretty affordable. Even Taipei’s swankiest bars are affordable, and most local and expat-friendly places have wallet-friendly prices, too.
Cost of general items in Taipei
Accessories, home appliances and other things tend to be cheaper than they are in the US or UK. With all the street stalls selling interesting accessories, and the affordability of decorating (IKEA is considered “high end”), one will find that little pleasures come more affordably.
However, those cheaper things are often (but not always) more cheaply made, too. This is especially true when it comes to textiles and some non-exported electronics brands. Sheets, pillows, blankets, towels and curtains tend to be of lesser quality, and many are made of synthetic, even plastic-like fabrics. Stick to familiar brands for electronics, with the exception of the ubiquitous Datong rice cookers. Other local brands tend to break more quickly.
Expect to pay a stiff mark-up on imported luxury brands. Reasons for this vary – some say it’s what local outfits feel they can get away with, others say it compensates for high import duties on such goods.
For a detailed price list, see the Cost of Living in Taiwan.