Taipei is known for being one of the best food destinations worldwide. There's a wide variety of restaurants, night markets, and pop-up shops to try. Some of the common local dishes include beef noodle soup, various hotpot places, the home of milk tea with black pearls, and stinky tofu. Taipei is also home to several world-renowned architectural and cultural landmarks, such as elephant mountain and CKS memorial.
Taipei is also a decent place to live due to its lower-cost of living compared to western countries and the abundance of people who can speak English.
If you're an American citizen you automatically get a landing visa as soon as you come into Taiwan. You can get a three-month visa that's good for exactly the 90 days. It is not extendable at all.
If you come here on a student visa, you can get a six month visa. You just have to apply in your home country and give them the required documents they ask for and then you get six months visa. You can't extend it so you have to exit the country and then re-apply at another Taiwan embassy, which is a huge pain. The best solution is to apply for an ARC (alien residence card) card at the four month mark, and then as long as you are a full time student you don't have to worry about border runs.
The first time I came to Taipei I stayed only two weeks and I rented an Airbnb. I stayed in the Xiny Anhe district, super near Taipei 101 and I ended up paying $717.90. Looking back -- I totally got ripped off, that's the worst price you can ever pay but it's pretty much the average price you can expect to pay on Airbnb -- that is if you don't negotiate with the owners through private chat. Also since it was my first time I can forgive myself for not knowing better, can't learn without making mistakes.
The next time I came to Taipei I stayed in a nicer area called Zhongxiao Dunhua. There I rented a Airbnb for the whole month and then for the price I negotiated the price with the owner. We came down originally from $1500 all the way down to $759.11. It pays to negotiate with the owner and from my experience from the first time I got smarter about the pricing. Plus this apartment was a lot better and bigger than the first one I got.
Later on when I came back, I decided to try room-mating in a bigger apartment in the Wenshan area, which is located in the southern part of Taipei. It's located near to the brown line of the MRT.
I was in a 3 person apartment and was paying rent+utilities which came out to $237.49 per month. I got my own room but had to share the bathroom with one other person. The third roommate had his own bathroom.
The apartment had a large kitchen and living room area. It wasn't too bad however the only problem was commuting to classes. It sucked because the classes were in the center of Taipei near Taipower building area. To get there I had to take a bus, ride a train, and then take a u-bike all the way to campus.
With the time spent commuting, I could have been doing work and being productive.
The next place in Ximen I rented a room for a whole month on Airbnb. This one was way cheaper than a lot of the other ones I saw. This one was $578.42 month with the electricity and water included. The problem was there was somebody who lived on a different floor who used to come to our floor and smoke cigarettes in the hallways. There are huge signs everywhere that says no smoking but I guess this guy won’t respect that. The room would fill up with the smell of smoke and it just made me feel sick.
And the final room I rented in Taipei was in the Gongguan district. It's an area with a lot of different schools. I lived right next to the night market but the building was super old which is expected in most heavily trafficked areas. The rooms were all remodeled but the insulation was really bad. The base rent was $500 and then electricity came out to about an additional $50.85. So approximately $550.85 total per month.
So believe it or not in Taipei the cost of fruits and vegetables are not very cheap at all. In fact it's close to U.S prices depending where you shop at. If you go to the supermarkets you're going to pay a little bit more than if you go to the open markets.
For daily budget for food you can expect to pay about $10 a day on food. If you go to a night market the cheapest would be 30 cents for a snack. The thing is you can get cheap food at the night market but, how many days in a row can you eat night market food until you get sick of it? Every night, the night market is going to be exactly offering the same food.
Cooking at home is going to be a lot cheaper but a lot of rental rooms don't have kitchens. If you plan on eating out all the time expect to spend about $10 a day for breakfast to dinner.
Taipei has a lot of different modes of transportation you can take. You can take city bikes which are called YouBike. For the public bikes, you just need to swipe an easy card. An easy card is a card system, where you can add money to it and you can swipe it for the bus, the subway, or in this case the city bikes to rent one.
So if you want to rent a city bike it'll cost you about 34 cents per 30 minutes which is the cheapest I've ever seen for any city. Then if you want to ride the bus it's about 51 cents per ride. The MRT is tiered based on distance, so on average the low end is 68 cents and then the high end is $2.21.
For Uber, which is the big rideshare player there, I calculated all my trips and on average I paid about $6.66 for one ride and the reason why it's so high is because Uber has a $5 fee per ride. No matter what distance you go it's always going to have a flat fee of $5.
I'm sure there's other ride sharing apps in Taipei. Uber was the only one that I know of and have used.
In Taipei, the co-working scene is kinda non-existent. I say this because I lived there for almost 2 years and I couldn't find any real co-working space. If you look on nomadist, many of the spaces listed are not in business anymore as they shut down already, some are just hostels and then some of the listings are just cafes.
Taipei on the other hand has a lot of cafes, the biggest player here being Starbucks. They have so many Starbucks in Taipei and many of these Starbucks have three stories of seating. In Taipei people go crazy about Starbucks. They get a coffee, sit, and they study/work for hours.
The thing about Taipei is it's super rare to find outdoor seating at a café. If you do manage to find outdoor seating, it'll be taken up by people smoking.
The cost of gyms in Taipei is high. The reason for that is because a lot of people don't really work out. Now there’s a trend and a lot more people starting to work out because the government is encouraging people to go work out especially the older population because the government doesn't want to pay for so much universal health care costs.
For world gym which is one of the biggest gym chains in Taiwan, I was paying about $50 a month and that included multi-gym access, so I can go to any chain location and use their facilities. There's not that many options, they do have local city owned municipal public gym facilities. The city gym cost is $1 per 70 minutes but the problem with the city gym is that if you go at the wrong times it's super crowded. Also they don't have that much equipment so you be stuck having to wait for some guy to do 20 sets before he finishes and also some of the locations are really far out and not convenient to get to.
First time costs
So depending on what season you come to Taipei, will determine your first time costs. In general, during the daytime it'll be warm or hot and then night time it'll cool down considerably. So in the winter time if you rent an apartment that has really bad insulation -- which is most of the places here, since most of the buildings are more than 50 years old then you definitely need to get a blanket and if that's not enough you have to go buy a heater.
Average price for a blanket starts like $30 and goes up so you can pay all the way up to $100. For heated blankets which you can get for like about $40 bucks and then for a heater -- heater prices start from as low as $15 to $120.
Most places don't have kitchens unless you rent a bigger place or roommate with people. If you rent a place with no kitchen you got slum it and buy a water boiler and some basic kitchen utensils and supplies which can range anywhere from $15 all the way up to $65.
Also, for rental deposits, take the base rent cost and add 1 or 2 months ahead in advance plus the first month. So you need to pay three months up in advance.
In Taipei they have Chinese rules wherein people smoke in bars and clubs but they have a law that makes it's illegal to do it. But some places don't enforce it.
For alcohol, you can go to a bar and expect to pay about $6 average but usually most people go to 7-11 buy beers for between $1 all the way up to $6 for a whole pack and then go back into the club.
Most places don't have cover charges unless you go to some fancy clubs and even then sometimes it'd be between $3 to $15. Aside from nightlife you can enroll at Latin dance classes. This one place I used to go to called Taipei Bailalo. An 8-class card there was about $95. If you do one class per week that'll last you two months. It's a decent way to socialize, meet new people, and learn a new skill.
They also have these claw machines. They start 33 cents per play and then some machines with bigger prizes obviously going to have a higher cost per try. These machines are everywhere and they can get pretty addicting.
But overall, there's not much to do for entertainment because it's a small city. Most people end up hiking because there's many places to hike. Or waiting in line, because that's like a pastime here.
So in conclusion, the cost of living in Taipei is not high but it's also not super cheap when you factor in things like food and gym costs. Also I don't like how there are many apartments in old buildings. They do have alot of apartments in newer buildings, but sometimes they are either located far from the city center or they are really expensive.
What I can say is that living in Taipei was definitely an interesting experience and doing Chinese language studies here was definitely more comfortable compared to doing it in mainland china. In part because Taipei culture is alot more easier to live in especially if you are coming from a western country. So hopefully you got something from this, because I know that I did, and until next time. Safe travels my friend!