Expenses and the cost of living in Taiwan USD
I have been living in Taiwan, and working as a Business English teacher, for the past 4 years. One of the questions I get asked the most, aside from ‘why did you chose to live in Taiwan’, is whether Taiwan is an affordable place to live. In this post, I’ll break down the cost of living in Taiwan -focusing on the expected living costs in Taipei for two types of people. Those who want to save as much money as possible while living in Asia, and those who want to make the most of their experience!
All prices listed here are in NTD/New Taiwan Dollars.
As of February 2018
- 1 NTD = $0.03
- $1 = 29 NTD
Check this website for conversion rates between the USD and TWD.
Taiwan on a budget
If you’re looking to save some money, or prefer to spend your money traveling, then this is for you. The starting salary in Taiwan is a bit lower than you likely make back home, but with a relatively lower cost of living it is definitely enough to get by on – as long as you spend your cash wisely.
10,000 NTD is the standard price for a small, private studio in Taipei City. Be aware that small means small – like a bed and a desk small. If you want privacy and have a tight budget, this might be your best bet for accommodation. I did this for a whole year before tiring of the shower next to the toilet situation. This bathroom setup is standard in most older buildings in Taiwan.
For comparison, spending 14,000 – 16,000 NTD per month will get you a nice studio with a western bathroom in most parts of the city. It’s not going to maximize savings, but it will make life more comfortable!
Rent in Taipei drops a fair amount if you rent a room in a shared house. Numerous single rooms can be found in the 7,000 – 10,000 NTD/month range.
These prices are standard in Taipei, rent in other cities will be even less!
Pay attention to the websites/agents you use to find accommodation. I’ve found that a lot of services catering to expats offer apartments at highly inflated prices. To get the local price I always check 591.com.tw – This site is in Chinese so you may need to rely on Google’s automatic translation to help you out.
How much is food in Taiwan?
If I’m actively budgeting I spend 200-300NTD per day on food and drinks. It could be much less if I cook more and make coffee at home. Unfortunately, Taiwanese food is so delicious! It’s hard to avoid eating out in a city known for its culinary delicacies!
- Large coffee: 80 NTD, or 55 NTD if you are okay with 7-11 coffee
- Breakfast: 40NTD for a pork sandwich
- Lunch: 60- 80 NTD for a packed lunchbox (3 servings of veggies, rice, meat, and a boiled egg)
- Dinner: 100 NTD for a bowl of rice and beef, or some night market snacks.
If you’re on a budget 9,000 NTD a month is doable but doesn’t include many trips to western restaurants. Expect to pay 200-400 a meal if you eat out with friends.
This is going to depend a lot on where you live, and how far you are from your school or workplace. I’ll show my numbers as an example.
Daily transportation cost: 45NTD x 30 = 1350/month
Add in a few extra trips around town and I’m at around 2000/month – provided I don’t splurge on too many cab rides.
- The standard bus fare in Taipei is 15NTD.
- The standard MRT fare in Taipei is based on distance and ranges from 16NTD – 60NTD
- Taxi fares start at 70NTD
and OBike are both great (and affordable) options if you want to get some exercise in. These bike-sharing companies have plenty of bikes scattered around Taipei.
2019 update: OBike bikes have disappeared after a series of clashes with the government and new regulations applied to dockless bikes. You will still be able to rent, and return, a UBike from designated bicycle stations around Taipei. But the days of dockless bikes dumped carelessly around the city appear to be over.
The cost of living in Taiwan quickly get expensive if you don’t manage your monthly expenses. Thankfully getting a cell phone plan in Taiwan is quite affordable. My phone bill is 600NTD/month with unlimited 4G data. I personally recommend Taiwan Mobile as it has the best coverage of all the mobile companies I’ve used in Taiwan. The packages offered to you will likely be double this figure. It’s best to decline these packages and go for a cheaper option – unless you know you will be making frequent phone calls.
2019 update: Since returning from our honeymoon we have opted against signing a long-term phone contract. I currently use prepaid data from Taiwan Mobile. They have frequent offers that allow you to purchase data at a rate of 12-24GB for 1,000NTD. The amount you get will depend on the current offers available. Do note that sometimes the best rate is only available online. When I made my previous data purchase $1,000 would have got me 12GB in-store vs. 24GB online.
My first year, when I tried to save a lot, I spent around 25,000 – 30,000NTD per month. Spending 25,000 was a bit of a struggle but if you eat local food and learn what to buy it shouldn’t be that hard. Working in Taiwan and living frugally could potentially add $1,000+ to your travel fund each month.
Life on a higher budget
There are a lot of opportunities to increase your salary if you have teaching experience and don’t mind working hard. My second and third years have been pretty busy but has let me live a more comfortable life.
I currently pay 18,000/month for a rather spacious 2BR apartment, but decently sized 1BR apartments can be found for around 15,000. Rent is going to vary a lot based on the all-important location. I don’t mind renting an apartment farther from the MRT as long as it is a new building with a western-style bathroom and an elevator. Again, scouting out 591.com.tw will give you a good insight into the rental market in Taipei. The cost of living in Taiwan will vary greatly based on your accommodation cost. Finding a balance between cost and comfort will make life more enjoyable.
2019 Update: After our year-long honeymoon we are back in Taiwan and living with the in-laws. We are taking this time to be close to the family before we move back to California later this year!
Expect to budget 500-600 a day for food if you want to eat out at a western restaurant for dinner. For $300 a day you can fill up on the local fare.
- 50 – at a breakfast shop
- 150 – lunch
- 300 – dinner
- 100 – coffee/tea
600/day = 18,000/month
I find myself taking Taxis more often than I should because they are so much cheaper than back home. A taxi to work only costs 120 NTD/$4.
I take the taxi a few times a week and spend around 3,200/month on transportation.
2019 Update: I have been exclusively taking the bus in 2019. It works out to 15NTD each way which is very affordable!
I think 600NTD/month is the most you should pay for a phone contract in Taiwan. Unlimited data is the only thing to go for as everyone uses instant messaging apps like LINE to make calls.
The good thing about working a lot is not spending much money on nights out! I go out to the movies or bar 3-4 times a month. If you go out more than me then your expenses will go up significantly.
Seeing a movie in Taipei will cost around 800NTD for two people (tickets and 2 cups of soda)
A night out to the bar or nightclub on average costs 2000NTD/night including the taxi ride home. The less you go out the more you can put towards savings or travel.
If I look at my receipts, 6,000NTD/Month is my usual entertainment cost.
Consider your living standards when deciding how much it will cost to live in Taiwan. I currently spend around 60,000NTD per month and have settled into a comfortable life. I still save around 30,000 NTD a month but work 7 days a week to do so. And every couple of months I spend my savings on a new travel destination. The cost of living in Taipei is not as high as some other major cities around Asia and there are plenty of job opportunities. With some tighter budgeting, you have the potential to save even more money at the end of the month.
This equates to a cost of living in Taipei of $2,028
If you are interested in reading more about life and the cost of living in Taiwan be sure to check out 6 Things To Do Around Taipei and leave a like on our Facebook page!