Cost of Living in Taiwan

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The cost of living in Taiwan is relatively inexpensive, depending on an expat's lifestyleThe cost of living in Taiwan varies depending on the area and expats' lifestyles. Most foreign nationals relocate to Taipei, although rural living and the south of Taiwan are much less expensive. The 2016 Mercer Cost of Living Survey ranked Taipei at 43 out of 209 cities, placing it as slightly more expensive than Paris and Miami, but a little cheaper than Sydney and Buenos Aires.

While Taipei may inspire the highest cost of living in Taiwan, it is still far cheaper than regional competitors like Beijing, Seoul, Singapore, and Hong Kong. That said, life in Taiwan is very consumer-oriented and expats living in Taipei, in particular, must battle the constant onslaught of trends, merchandise and entertainment if they wish to save their money.

Foreign English teachers in Taipei can live a comfortable lifestyle with relative ease. Expats will be able to save their earnings while seeing how far they can stretch their money.

As is the case anywhere, the cost of living in Taiwan varies depending on one's lifestyle. One can get by on 100 TWD a day (or less) or live a life of luxury. Expats should be warned, however, that cheaper products like clothing and food are often of very poor quality.

Cost of accommodation in Taiwan


Housing in Taipei is expensive and most accommodation is small and basic. Living alone is by far the least economical way to live and the affordable one-man apartments will most likely be lacking a kitchen. A small bachelor flat will cost about a sixth of the average full-time English teacher’s salary. It is significantly cheaper to share a house; generally, expat English teachers can do so for about an eighth of their salaries.

Clean, spacious apartments with three or four bedrooms are easy to find but the most fortunate are those who will be sharing with their partner as they will be able to rent an apartment of a significantly higher quality and split the costs.

Houses tend to suffer under the humid climate and the cheaper accommodation will often have fallen prey to the mould and mildew that the high humidity supports. Houses are also prone to general grime and unless a house has been properly cared for and rigorously cleaned it may well be very dirty.

Utilities are affordable, although electricity bills will increase a lot during the hot summer months when it is all but impossible to live without air conditioning. Stoves and geysers are usually gas powered, which helps to keep costs low. Initially the most exorbitant household cost will seem to be the trash bags, which are sold at a premium to encourage recycling.

Transport costs in Taiwan


Taipei has fantastic public transport which is affordable and reliable. It is possible to get anywhere at any time without a car. Owning a car is a great expense and most would say that the cons far outweigh the pros.

The monthly costs of owning a car include not only the car repayments but also fuel tax, licence plate registration, insurance, maintenance, hefty speeding fines and very expensive parking fees.
 
The vast majority of both locals and expats in Taiwan make use of the public transport. Buses join with metro lines, and there is always a taxi available. The average bus or train ride offers discounts for multiple trips made in a short time period. These discounts will automatically be applied to one's transport card.

Many locals (and some brave foreigners) have small motorcycles which are a cheap and convenient way to get around. Those without motorcycles usually have bicycles, which are easy to ride on Taipei’s flat streets.

Cost of schooling in Taiwan


There are world-class English-education schools in Taipei, but expats should be prepared to pay high fees. The Taipei American School's prices exclude the optional extras of school bus transportation and school lunches.

The Taipei European School has a more complicated fee structure with different amounts being applicable to the French, German, English and high school programmes.  

Cost of health insurance in Taiwan


The healthcare system in Taiwan is very advanced and the costs are low.

In Taiwan, the employer is legally required to subsidise an employee's health insurance. Expat employees will be placed on the National Health Insurance and receive the same benefits as Taiwanese locals. For a small stipend of a couple of hundred dollars each month, foreigners in Taiwan can have access to Western doctors, Chinese doctors, hospitalisation, dentistry, prescription medicine and much more.

Cost of food and clothing in Taiwan


The cost of food and clothing in Taiwan is hugely variable and it is up to the individual how much they want to spend. However, it's fair to say that the price very much depends on the quality. Quality clothing tends to be limited to designer brands and is therefore expensive. Many expats resort to buying clothes when they visit their home countries or even Internet shopping.

Night markets have cheap food and clothes but the clothes are often made from poor quality, synthetic fabrics. The food is often very oily and not particularly nutritious. It is possible to buy large amounts of fresh vegetables at local day markets. Fruit is also readily available and relatively inexpensive.

There are many restaurants tucked away in side alleys which sell local food, which is often a healthier and cheaper option.

Taiwan does not have much of a drinking culture and so alcohol is expensive. Spirits are the most affordable, followed by beer and wine.

Cost of living in Taiwan chart 

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Taipei in December 2016.

Accommodation (monthly rent in a good area)

Furnished two-bedroom apartment NT 50,000
Unfurnished two-bedroom apartment NT 45,000
Furnished two-bedroom house NT 60,000
Unfurnished two-bedroom house NT 55,000

Shopping

Eggs (dozen) NT 61
Milk (1 litre) NT 85
Rice (1kg) NT 85
Loaf of white bread NT 46
Chicken breasts (1kg) NT 220
Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro) NT 90

Eating out

Big Mac Meal NT 120
Coca Cola (330ml) NT 20
Cappuccino NT 80
Bottle of local beer NT 60
Three-course meal for two at mid-range restaurant NT 750

Utilities

Mobile to mobile call rate (per minute) NT 8
Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable average per month) NT 700
Basic utilities (per month for small apartment) NT 2,500

Transportation

Taxi rate (per kilometre) NT 20
Bus/train fare in the city centre NT 20
Petrol/gasoline (per litre) NT 24

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Our Taiwan Expert

Mara Horowitz's picture
South Africa. Taipei, Taiwan
I grew up in South Africa and always felt at home amongst the rolling oceans and endless skies. I always felt deep loyalty... more

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