The Cost of Living in Taipei

So as I’ve been scouring the Internet for more resources on digital nomads & free-lancing life, I’ve come across a copious amount of ‘cost of living’ posts for every digital nomad hotspot under the sun. (Chiang Mai, Thailand seems to be one of the top places to be if you’re travelling free-lancer).

That got me thinking about how much it costs to live in Taipei, and if it too could be in the running for a digital nomad hotspot.

If you are (a) an ABC who has seen too many pictures of tantalising, out-of-reach 台灣美食 posted by your friends in Taipei and has decided to do something about it, or (b) a wanderer/digital nomad/student who has wisely decided to make Taipei your next city to fall in love with– then this is the post for you.

And because I live in (and am totally in love with) Taipei–who could possibly be more qualified to write this post than me? 

So I sat down to dutifully write this post—and that is when I came to the startling realisation that I hardly know anything about how much it costs to live in Taipei. People, it’s time for me to get a bit candid. These are the facts about my life–and I’m not especially proud or embarrassed about it, I just accept it as the way it is right now–(a) I live with my parents and  b) My schooling & all my leisure expenses are paid for by my parents (or gifts from my relatives). This is the cue for many ABCs to knowingly nod their heads; and for all non-Asians & trust-fund babies to judge me. Judge away.

So this totally immature, ridiculous financial situation–plus the fact that even when I have made money in the past (Yes, I have had my first job, thanks to the UNIQLO in NYC)–I am absolutely terrible at keeping track of where it all goes. The point is that I essentially don’t have to really have a clear idea of how much it costs per month to live in Taipei. (Though I do know that it’s cheaper than NYC, where I lived before!)

But thankfully, a few friends stepped in to help me out and together we came up with a rough outline. The inspiration for this post & the format for the budget comes from a post that NomadSpirit did on the cost of living as digital nomads in Chiang Mai. There are tons of posts about living in Chiang Mai as digital nomads, but I liked theirs because they were frank about their living habits (they love meat & alcohol)–and they weren’t all “omg, i can totallly live like a bosssss in chiang mai on what poor people live on in the West because they’re all poor & stuff”–I despise that kind of haughty, vaguely neo-imperialist attitude when talking about living cost in Asia. But that point is moot in this post anyway, because you sure can’t live on the same amount of money in Taipei as in Thailand (although you’d be shocked how many people say, when I tell them I live in Taipei: “Oh, you live in Thai—land? How fun! I’ve heard there’s totally awesome beaches there!”) Alright. End rant, roll budget:

ALL FIGURES ARE PER PERSON, PER MONTH. 

RENT: 8,000-12,000 NTD // $267 – 401 USD. 

Taipei has one of the largest rent price-to-sell-price disparities in the world, but that’s only because in Taipei, shitty 2-bedroom apartments in the right areas can sell for over a million dollars USD. One or two person studios are extremely common in Taipei–expect to pay within this range if you live in Taipei City (in contrast to New Taipei City, which is typically cheaper). Sharing multi-bedroom apartments are only a bit cheaper, but you will get a living room and a full kitchen (which most studios don’t have).

WATER: 100-200 NTD // $3.34 – 6.70 USD

ELECTRICITY:  600+ NTD// $20 (winter)
                          1200+ NTD// $40.15 (summer)

There is a huge disparity between summer & winter electricity prices? Why? Two magic little words: A/C. Think you can be thrifty & avoid paying the fees? My friend, come spend a summer in Taiwan: you will need that wonderful  fan & A/C unit life-giving power almost all the time, unless you move into a department store.

INTERNET: 900 NTD (for one router, semi-unlimited connections)// $30 USD

I only say “semi” because my friends (from whom all this information is taken, so if it’s faulty, make inquiries to Lane 333, Roosevelt Rd, etc etc) pay this much for a “theoretically” unlimited router that starts kicking people off at 8 or so connections. Rude!

TRANSPORTATION (per ride)15 NTD (bus)// $0.50 (bus),
                                                   20-40 NTD (MRT)//$0.66 – 1.34 (MRT)

If you take the MRT an average of 2-3 times a day, you’re looking at about $50 USD/month, less if you like taking buses. And the best part of living in a small, flat city? Biking. Absolutely free if you have your own, and the rentable YouBikes around the city cost almost nothing. I rarely spend any money on public transportation–there simply isn’t any need. I bike to my campus from home (3 min), bike to restaurants downtown (15 min), bike to Taipei 101 (30 min), bike to bars (depends on how drunk I am. joke)

CABS: 70 NT (meter starts) – 200 NT // $2.34 – 6.70 USD

I could totally write a passionate sonnet on how cheap Taipei’s cabs are, and how nice the drivers can be. When I don’t bike, I take cabs, because you can cross practically the entire city (again Taipei City, not New Taipei City) and the fare wouldn’t exceed 7 bucks.

MEDICAL: Taipei’s medical fees are an outrage–outrageously low! I definitely think that they need to raise the fees–doctors are overworked, and the entire system is sinking. There are tons of ABCs who come back to get operations and the like done because it’s much cheaper in Taiwan (and the US is outrageously overpriced). But the way it is now, if you have an ARC (Alien Resident Card), you can go to the doctor or dentist for something like 150 NTD// $5.00 USD. What? That’s crazy. (Meanwhile, Europeans roll their eyes…)

FOOD: 11000 NT (lowest) // $335 USD (as I said, absolute lowest)

I think this is the absolute lowest figure you could aim for. Bottom line: an average of 100 NT for 3 meals per day plus the occasional snack & drink, all eating out. Oh, but you like grocery shopping, you say? Nice. Don’t move to Taipei. Groceries are so incredibly expensive, and the quality is meh. Most people eat out, and for good reason: food is everywhere, in great variety, & so cheap. Since I live in a student area, it’s rare for me to spend more than 150 NT on a single meal, unless its Western food.

WESTERN MEALS: $250 + // $8.40 USD : Like Shanghai and Beijing, Western food in Taipei can be extremely expensive. American-style brunch has been really popular in Taipei in the past few years; and those usually are on the cheaper end of the spectrum. Including a drink, I’d price the average Western meal at around 400 NT// $13.40 USD.

Okay. Now let’s move onto two things that I actually know a lot about: cafes and alcohol. 

CAFES: 100- 130 NT (for an Americano)// $3.35 – 4.35,
              130-200 NT (latte) // $4.35 – $6.70

Taipei has so many great cafes. Sadly, the prices are not so great. However, as with most cafes around the world, you’re paying more for the atmosphere and your seat. Even so, certain places in the trendier districts boggle the mind, especially as many of them have a one drink minimum (and a minimum spend), regardless of whatever food or dessert you might order.

ALCOHOL (in bar/pub-pub? Like we really have those):
                  250-400 NT (cocktail) // $8.35 – 13.40 USD
                  150-250 NT (glass of wine) // $5.00 – 8.35 USD
150-200 NT 
(imported beer) // $5.00 – $6.70 USD

I actually had to google “price of a beer in Taipei” as I had no clue what the answer might be. The only times I have a beer in Taipei is at a “re-chao” (熱炒)–these cheap stir-fry places around the city that serve ultra-cheap Taiwan Beer (台灣啤酒) to go with the food.

MOVIE TICKETS: 250 – 300 // $8.35 – 10.00 USD

That should cover most of it, no? I’ll end with a list of things that are scandalously expensive in Taipei, some for reasons unknown: Milk (and all dairy products: cheese, yogurt, sour cream), spinach (so hard to find, too), all berries, wine.

Unlike the Chiang Mai posts, I’m not even going to try to add up the total cost of living. It simply varies too much, especially if you’re not wanting to be all thrifty-digital-nomad like they are. Let it be said that I noted: I’m sure many of you will disagree with the figures in this post. If you do, let me know, and do comment if you have a question (or if I’ve missed anything ultra important).

(photo by my awesome Taipei-based photographer friend Sean Marc Lee) 

Comments

Comments

3 Comments

  1. Akiko December 25, 2013

    Helpful info. Lucky me I found your website accidentally, and I’m surprised with it. And have a Merry Christmas!

    Reply
  2. Sandy July 14, 2014

    I had a question about the electricity, it is really only 40 dollars to run the AC day and night in the house?
    Just discovered your blog and love it. Wish you would post more about your sweden trip. :)

    Reply
    • Stephanie Hsu July 17, 2014

      Sandy – electricity is pretty cheap in Taiwan, actually – we’re quite spoiled in that way. Thank you for your kind words – I’m moving to Sweden on Monday so I definitely will be posting more about it. Keep watching this space x

      Reply

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