Is Taiwan A Good Place To Live?
It’s hard to believe that I have lived in Taipei, Taiwan for 6 years already. For the most part, I have felt confident in my decision to trade my comfortable life in Southern California for a life of relative uncertainty. I am happy with my choice as it has given me the chance to travel and experience the world in ways that would be impossible with 10 days of vacation annually. When I meet people on my travels they always ask me two questions.
1) Why did I choose to live in Taiwan?
2) Is Taiwan a good place to live?
Take a look at my thoughts and experiences about life in Taiwan. Hopefully, it will offer some insight if you are thinking about living in Taiwan?
Admittedly, these questions were a bit difficult at first. The decision to trade a secure future and income for a life of adventure can be hard to explain at times. After spending some time in Asia I feel like I have the ability to answer these questions better. Today I’ll focus on the topic of living in Taiwan. In the recently published survey by InterNations, Taiwan came out on top as the country most favored by the 14,000 ex-pats surveyed. This might seem surprising but there are a few reasons why foreigners enjoy the quiet island.
Why do expats like to live in Taiwan?
Food – Taiwan is renowned for its wide selection of food and snacks. Many Taiwanese delicacies have made their way around the world. One example is bubble milk tea, which has become quite common in the west (including numerous shops in my hometown). One thing to remember is that sanitation standards will be a bit different from what you are used to. If you have a sensitive stomach you may want to ease into the food here. Whether you chose to eat street food or in a Taiwanese restaurant, you can rest assured that the food will be cheap and delicious.
Natural Beauty – Although a relatively small island Taiwan is a hidden treasure for outdoor enthusiasts. Taiwan has the highest concentration of mountains in the world. There are 286 mountains over 3,000 meters. More than any other country in the world! If you aren’t one for hiking there are a number of other places to check out. Some of the most notable sights are Taroko Gorge (located in beautiful Hualien County) a great place for trekking, Kenting (墾丁國家公園) the popular beach on the southern tip of Taiwan, and if you’re feeling adventurous there is always Taiwan’s tallest mountain YuShan (玉山) also called Jade Mountain.
The south of Taiwan is a popular place to head on the weekend. Thanks to Taiwan’s compact size, taking a day trip is really easy! Our trip to Kenting was great fun and showed us some of the beauty and good weather Taiwan has to offer.
Cost of Living – Taiwan is also an attractive place to live due to its low cost of living and relatively high salary. Expats working in Taiwan will notice that the cost of living is significantly less than the cost in other major cities around Asia. The best value for rent and food can be found in the south of Taiwan or in less populous cities around the island. Even if you choose to live in the capital of Taipei you should be able to save a bit of money, how much you save will depend mainly on your choice of living and how often you go out for a night on the town. Don’t expect to get rich here (my salary is lower than it is in America), but if you are good at saving Taiwan can help you pay off student loans, travel to nearby countries, or save money for your next adventure. You can check the cost of living in Taipei here and compare it to where you live.
Healthcare – Taiwan has an excellent national health care system with affordability that can rival the best in the world. The standard copay for doctor visits/dental work/etc. is 200NTD (roughly $6.50). And that copayment includes all the medicine you will need. I don’t get sick or visit the doctor often but it has been great to have. When I developed an allergy to cashews 200NTD. Acupuncture 200NTD (seriously!). Periodic dental cleaning 200NTD. Expats can rest assured knowing that seeking healthcare in Taiwan won’t break the bank.
What do expats dislike about Taiwan?
Weather – The most common complaint I hear from other foreigners in Taiwan is about the weather. Taiwan is a tropical island with frequent rain and occasional typhoons. It is a good idea to carry an umbrella with you when you walk around Taipei. You never know when you will get caught in a sudden shower. The weather is the worst in the summer when the heat and humidity reach their peak. The humid summers make walking outside uncomfortable. When should I visit Taiwan? The best time to visit Taipei is during the winter when it is relatively cool and dry. Is Taiwan a good place to live? If you can’t stand humidity then you won’t be too happy here.
Housing – Apartments in Taiwan tend to be small and cramped, at least more than I’m used to. Most people I meet in Taiwan either stay alone in a small studio or 1 bedroom apartment. Another option is to find a room in a shared house. In my experience roommates can be either totally amazing or completely horrible so I prefer to live by myself. I plan to write another post in the future with tips on making the most of your housing budget.
Food – In Taiwan food is both a pro and a con. Food from around Asia can be found in abundance (there is a lot of great Japanese food here!) but there is a lack of international options. If you want something specific your choices will likely be few and far between. For example, a recent craving for Greek food sent me on a 45-minute trip to the other side of the city. Even the capital of Taipei lacks the international flavor that can be found in cities like Hong Kong, Tokyo, or Beijing.
Pollution – I have heard a lot of people complain about the pollution in Taiwan. To be honest, it hasn’t bothered me, but maybe I’m just used to the pollution in Los Angeles. Air pollution in Taiwan is comparable to Los Angeles and isn’t as bad as in other cities in Asia (manufacturing cities in China *cough*). The water here is a bit of a problem as it isn’t considered safe enough to drink. Bottled water is inexpensive and can be purchased at any supermarket or 7-11 and shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
Is Taiwan a safe place to live?
Absolutely yes! Taiwan is a very safe place to live with crime rates that consistently place it as one of the safest countries in the world! This is due to their strict adherence to the law. Taiwanese conduct themselves in an orderly and respectful manner, and when in Taiwan you should as well! In fact, serious crime is so uncommon that any instance of violence is sure to make national news. The only crime that you could expect to face as a foreigner in Taiwan is the very occasional dishonest taxi driver or pickpocket. In 5-years in Taiwan, I have only had bad experiences with taxi drivers twice, and have never been pickpocketed. When you come to Taiwan you will be greeted by people who are overwhelmingly pleasant and friendly. Hopefully, Taiwan is on your list of places to visit – or even live!
I hope this post gave you some insight into some of the major questions (and worries) that you might have. The choice to live in Taiwan has been a great one for me, but may not be right for you. If you are thinking of making the move and have any questions you can ask them in the comments below. I will be happy to answer them!
Also, if you have lived in Taiwan I would like to hear about your experience. Is Taiwan a good place to live? If you agree/disagree with me on any issue or if you feel that I missed anything I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
Nice post Chad!
I am considering living in Taiwan to English and study Chinese.
You don’t recommend living in Taiwan to folks who don’t like humidity; so I am wondering if Air Conditioning is a considerable expense, and is common in apartments?
Great questions Steve,
I hope you do give Taiwan a chance as it does have a lot to offer. I grew up in southern California with no rain or humidity all my life so I think it was harder for me to adjust to the humidity than it would be for others. I think it’s bearable for most of the year though.
Also, every apartment and office building in Taipei will have AC. It’s a necessity as Taiwanese seem to hate the summer heat as much as me 😀
The cost will vary depending on the size of your apartment, whether you run the AC 24/7, and if you’re in a managed apt building or not. Managed buildings seem to charge a higher rate for electricity than others which charge the government rate. Either way, it’s not expensive.
I used to live in a 1BR apt with a high rate for electricity (or so I was told). My bill was for water and electricity combined and never topped $40/month.
Let me know if you have any other questions and I’ll be happy to help!
Great article, Chad! And thank you for sharing your experiences living in Taiwan. We are considering moving to either Taiwan or Singapore, and Taiwan has more checkmarks for all reasons, especially in terms of affordability, democracy and natural beauty. Would appreciate your recommendations for a good family friendly area in Taipei. Either a condo, apartment, townhouse or house in areas popular with expats. Thank you again.
Hi James, If you’re choosing between Taiwan and Singapore I’d definitely choose the former! I’d also look at Malaysia over Singapore if you do choose against Taiwan.
The most popular places for expats would be around Tianmu or Guting (due to the nearby universities) but you will find expats in most parts of the city. The best place to live depends a lot on what you’re looking for – I live in a quiet area near CKS station with good bus conections and lots of local food.
Are there any important qualities that you’re looking for in a neighborhood?
Nice blog!!! Well, I am living in Taiwan and feels always better and safe that this place is really good place to live. Only I face one problem that is language problem, lots of people here are not able to communicate in English.
Thank you! Taiwan is a safe and pleasant place to live for sure.
I think most younger people can speak English to some degree but with older people, it’s hit or miss. Most Taiwanese I meet are afraid of making a mistake when talking to foreigners and are shy/nervous about speaking English.
On the plus side, it gives you a good reason to learn Chinese!
Love your articles about Taiwan. My family and I are planning to visit my best friend who lives in Taipei, Taiwan for 10 days in November. Would you recommend a place to buy a sim card for the cellphone? It has to be outside of the airport since our flight arrives at very early in the morning before the airport kiosks are open. Also, how much money would you recommend to bring for a such short trip?
Thanks again for sharing your experience about Taiwan. Looking forward to hear from you.
I’m glad to hear that you have an upcoming trip to Taipei. The weather in November will be much better than in the summer!
As for the SIM card, I’d recommend visiting a Taiwan Mobile store near your hotel. They have branches all over Taiwan so it shouldn’t be far. Here is a link to their prepaid plans listed online. https://english.taiwanmobile.com/product/4GPrepaidCard.html
It’s tough to answer the question about how much money you should bring as it really depends on your travel plans/style. Most high end shops and restaurants accept credit cards so that will cover most large expenses. However, Taiwan is still a cash-based society so if you plan on eating and shopping with the locals you will need to prepare more cash.
How many people are you traveling with?
Hi Chad, thanks for a very informative article. We are considering retiring in Asia. Does a resident in Taiwan buy health insurance like in the US? Where is a good area for retirees (not looking for a reirement village) which offer good varieties of food (Asian) and activities in the nature? Thanks for your advice.
Taiwan I think Taiwan makes a nice choice for retirees, and will be considering it myself when I retire!
My biggest question for you would be which type of visa you would be staying under? I am not familiar with retirement visas in Taiwan so I’d need to take a look at that.
I do know that you can buy in to the national healthcare system if you are a resident here. The cost is fairly affordable at $40 or so per month.
There are tons of great places to stay in New Taipei City that are close to nature nad hiking spots. I’m assuming you want to live in Taipei?
hi! I would love some more information. Would you be able to email me? I see you have Twitter, but I don’t.
Hi Cindy, I’ve been away from the blog these past couple of months – just sent you an email!
Hi Andrew Kong from ca USA I am looking for a place to retire too kind of question about USA money transfer to Taiwan money is it better thanks
Hello Chad, we are thinking about retiring in Hualien Taiwan. We don’t need a work visa, so is it possible to live there and pay for expat medical insurance? Also, is there an English expat community in the area? Any other recommendations? Thank you, Tom
But what of the risk of China sending in its army into Taiwan and bringing war? If that’s put into the factor, I’d say Taiwan is much more dangerous than the USA
This situation has existed for many decades before I was born. The risk is there and is something you should consider when deciding to live or travel to the island. However, in my mind, potential risk does not equal danger and I view Taiwan to be an extremely safe country.
I am thinking of retiring in Taiwan. I am learning Mandarin. Can you actually live here as a US Citizen without working here?
I guess the question is -Does Taiwan allow Americans to retire here there?