Living in Taiwan: An Expat’s Guide to Taipei

Living in Taiwan for a year was our plan. It turned out to be only three months thanks to our new jobs teaching English online. That said, we learned a lot about how living in Taiwan would be during our time there and we’re going back for an extended time in 2020! We searched for the cheap and tasty food, affordable groceries, and comfy but very economical living. We give our insights below.

If looking for some cool things to do in your new city then check out our post on things to do in Taipei!

Living in Taiwan: View of Taipei

Getting Around Taipei

One of Taipei’s greatest resources, the MRT, turned out to be one of our greatest challenges all because we over packed. Is it confusing? Not really, especially when a friendly Taiwanese guy sees that look of desperation on your perspiring face and kindly offers help. He even led us through the station to find our train and asked if we needed help with our bags. We had read/heard the Taiwanese were friendly but WOW. He was a life saver.

Convenient, clean, cheap, the MRT is the best way to get around Taipei. However, most international flights land in Taoyuan, not Taipei, so it’s important to note that there are two MRT systems: one for Taoyuan airport (a very long ride into town) and one for the Taipei area.

Departing the airport MRT, you will most likely switch lines at Taipei Main Station. We arrived on a Friday night and it was a bustlin’… We were toting three 50 lb suitcases, one 50 lb keyboard and three backpacks all while navigating our way through an ocean of people. Not a pond, not a lake, but an ocean. Our friendly Taiwanese stranger was our lifeboat.

Thanks, Eric!

Here are our tips for cruising through the MRT to make living in Taiwan easier:

Use the helpful MRT metro map when living in Taiwan as a guide to help you get around the city
Enter the MRT in Taipei while living in Taiwan via entrances like this

Convenience and groceries on a budget while living in Taiwan

Living in Taiwan: 7 Eleven Stores

We read a lot about 7-Eleven before making the move to Taiwan but we never realized how convenient it actually is. They are everywhere. Don’t like 7-Eleven? You’d be crazy not to.

No worries, because there’s Family Mart. It’s also everywhere. Most likely next to or just down the street from 7-Eleven.

We loved both! You can print documents from an email or memory card at an Ibon Kiosk, grab some fruit, sandwiches, pasta (which they’ll microwave for you), sushi, tea eggs, oreos, milk…the list goes on! You can even send mail, pay bills, buy railway tickets, and have them call a taxi for you! Practically a one stop shop, 7-Eleven and Family Mart have it all.

Try some Oreos from 7 Eleven while living in Taiwan

Most importantly for us, they have cheap water. For the short day trip it makes a lot of sense. And it comes in 2.2 Liter bottles. With a “buy two for less” deal going on we could get 4.4 liters of water for NT$49 ($1.60). We would do this a couple times of day while still figuring out our surroundings. Gotta stay hydrated!

Those first few days living in Taiwan were rough. We were looking for a job in Taipei, running around to get our health check, meeting different schools, all in early August. It was HOT! Feeling exhausted, 7-Eleven and Family Mart were our go-to, hydrating and saving!

While living in Taiwan, a typical day at 7-Eleven/Family Mart would have us spending a little less than $5 USD per day. That’s getting 4.4 liters of water, a few bananas, and some tea eggs.

Try the cheap and delicious tea eggs while living in Taiwan

Once we were settled we discovered that you can buy most items for even less at grocery stores like PXmart. They have everything! There was one nearby during our stay in New Taipei City. We stopped going to 7-Eleven and FamilyMart and started stocking up on groceries a couple times a week. More details on the cost below!

If you’re living in Taipei or New Taipei City then we highly recommend going to your local supermarket instead of convenience stores. You’ll save money and have to take out less trash. Those bottles of water can really pile up!

Our first two weeks took place in the Zhongshan District of Taipei and it was pretty cheap but didn’t match our expectations from our research. When our plans changed and we decided to teach English online instead of in a school we quickly found the cheapest accommodation we could near Taipei, which was in Banqiao District of New Taipei City.

It’s incredible what the difference in price was!

We were spending upwards of $10 USD for lunch in Taipei and around $15 USD for dinner. Zhongshan was definitely more touristy so the price makes sense.

In New Taipei City we spent around $4 USD for lunch (when we ate out) and around $5 USD for dinner (these prices are for 2 people). We spent about $20 USD at the supermarket (PXmart), and that covered our breakfast/lunch for 5 days. As you can see, much cheaper!

Just be ready to take out the trash and meet your neighbors! If you’re in the city and hear a classical tune approaching, it’s the trash! The yellow truck is trash and the white truck is recycling.

[kad_youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfB3NY9sHIs&feature=youtu.be” width=600 ]

Eating in Taipei

Food. The reason we came to Taiwan. We researched countless times that Taiwan is the foodie capital of Southeast Asia, which made living in Taiwan even more appealing. Taipei is very diverse when it comes to food. One street has Michelin-starred restaurants and the next has a street food vendor selling dumplings for just over $1 USD. We never made it to those fancy restaurants. No need! Cheap and savory options are everywhere. 

Breakfast/Lunch

Most of the food we list below can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner! We typically would chow down on these foods for breakfast and lunch and eat a bigger dinner. Most meals would run you about $5 USD or less for 1 person.

Eating tasty shaobing while living in Taiwan
Cheap and delicious breakfast while living in Taiwan
Dinner

A whole different ball game. If you’re anything like us then your stomach is growling by dinner and you want to feel even somewhat full. Portions do run smaller here after all. Depending on the district, your dinners can run you anywhere between $2.50-$10 USD for one person. When we lived in the Zhongshan district (Taipei) dinner would be around $8 USD per person but in Banqiao (New Taipei City) we ate like kings for $2.50 per person.

Living in Taiwan: satisfying and delicious Ramen
Try hot and sour dumpling soup while living in Taiwan
Living in Taiwan: Beef and Tendon Soup

There’s definitely no shortage of good eats in Taipei and these are just a handful of what you can find. It can be daunting to try and order from a restaurant with no pictures on the menu and no English (or whatever your native language) so if you want to try a place out then find a picture of a dish you like from their Google/Yelp reviews and show them that! If you can’t find any then just point and give it a go! Practice using those chopsticks and happy eating!

Cost of Living in Taiwan

So much to see, so much to do, so much to eat! We first arrived with the mindset of settling in and finding a home in Taipei, so we weren’t super cognizant of a strict budget. About a week later when we knew we wanted to backpack and travel the world as digital nomads, we got our budgeting butts in gear. Keep in mind these costs are for two people.

Taipei Weather

Feelin’ Hot, Hot, Hot!

Feelin' hot, hot, hot while living in Taiwan

Traveling in August to a subtropical climate wasn’t the brightest idea. That said, our timing depended more on the school year than the weather so we just had to accept the fact that we showered in our own sweat whenever we stepped outside. While we were covered in sweat stains, you could barely see a drop on the locals.

The temperature would reach the low 90s Fahrenheit (32-34°C) just about everyday, high 80s Fahrenheit (around 31°C) if we were lucky. But the humidity was our main foe, making the outdoors a sticky mess. 

We were prepared for all the rain. It was pretty comical. Our extensive research made us believe it would rain practically every day. It didn’t rain our first 13 days….

Rain, Rain Come Our Way

We finally got some relief on a Sunday afternoon when it rained for about five minutes. Beggars can’t be choosers. Short but sweet, we’ll take it. The pattern definitely changed after that. Almost every morning was a sunny morning, and we mean sunny! It would be so bright around 05:30 that we’d think it was after 08:00. Try falling back asleep with the sun bursting in. It’s not easy.

Those bright mornings turned into a hot lunch, leading way to afternoon thunderstorms. The downpours would get pretty intense but not for long. Then you have days where it never stops raining. These were rare but we loved them. It was a great opportunity to open the windows and let the cooler air rush in.

Oh yeah, and typhoons. Luckily for us, very unfortunate for Japan and the Philippines, they missed Taiwan. Three had approached the island during our stay, which had us more than a little nervous. Living in Taiwan during the cooler months like December definitely has its advantages!

Weather Tips

Be prepared for weather that can change in an instant. Lots of people have umbrellas on hand for this reason. If you’re out and about and you can’t wait it out or the rain just seems endless, odds are there’s a random shopfront near you that has umbrellas. Sometimes the MRT stations have free umbrellas for you to take near the exits. How cool is that?!

Otherwise, keep dry on the sidewalks and let the shop awnings do the work for you. Grab some bubble or milk tea while you wait! If you want our opinion, chocolate milk tea is the best 🙂

Summary of Living in Taiwan: An Expat’s Guide

Living in Taiwan is an incredible experience and one we hope you get to enjoy. Surrounded by beautiful nature and hikes, packed with delicious food and friendly people, Taipei is a must. We hope you get to take some time to explore Taipei and all the beautiful island of Taiwan has to offer during your time as an expat.

Awesome night view of Taipei 101 and surrounding buildings in Taipei, Taiwan

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Darah and Garrett in Spain

Where Food Takes Us

We’re Darah and Garrett. Our life has been an adventure ever since we eloped in a pink Cadillac in Las Vegas. Now we’re running around the world, working online, and eating everything we can.

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