Taiwan has consistently ranked near the top of the list of best expat destinations in the world (read more about that here).
Still, it’s largely underrated compared to the other Asian countries that are more popular with travelers. Here are 15 reasons why we believe moving to Taipei would make the most ideal place to live.
We hope that it gets more of the recognition it deserves — and perhaps even convinces you to visit this beautiful city with us!
|Table of Contents|
1. Modest city size
There are many advantages to living outside Taipei, but the capital city is the center of the country’s action. The great thing about Taipei is that it strikes a balance between a bustling international metropolis and laid-back local towns.
With a population of around 2.7 million, it’s still decently large by North American and European standards, but smaller compared to the behemoth East Asian capitals of Tokyo and Beijing. You get a not-too-big, not-too-small feel — exciting, but not overwhelming.
2. Friendly people
Taiwanese people are, in general, some of the kindest people that we’ve met whilst traveling around Asia. Most interactions we have on a daily basis with shopkeepers, taxi drivers, and even total strangers are at least pleasant which often leaves us smiling.
We’ve also found it much easier to integrate into the local social scene in Taipei than in other Asian cities we’ve lived in. This is thanks to the relatively high level of English, awareness of Western culture, and the general open-mindedness of the people.
3. Excellent public transport
Taipei has a world-class public transportation system that’s extensive and very affordable. A fast, clean, and very efficient metro system (MRT) that connects most of Taipei and New Taipei City, and an even more extensive network of buses cover the places that they miss.
The city has an increasing network of ‘YouBikes’, a publicly shared bike system that anyone can access with their transport card after quick registration. These bikes are high quality, extremely cheap to rent, and convenient to pick up and drop off.
4. Delicious food and drinks
Taiwanese food has recently enjoyed its moment in the international limelight, with popular Taiwanese restaurants popping up in major world cities like New York and London.
You have probably heard of the more famous dishes like soup dumplings, made famous by the restaurant chain Din Tai Fung, which now has locations in 14 countries, or beef noodle soup, Taiwanese hamburgers, mango shaved ice, pineapple cakes, and stinky tofu.
Even if you haven’t heard of these, you have definitely heard of bubble milk tea, which is a craze that has swept the entire world in the past decade.
The truth is, there are so many other delicious foods to try here, and most of them are pretty inexpensive. Taiwan is bursting with incredible street food, cafes, night markets, and restaurants, and even the food available at supermarkets and convenience stores is pretty good.
5. Beautiful nature
For a relatively small country, Taiwan is brimming with all sorts of stunning natural wonders. There are endless mountains, beaches, waterfalls, gorges, rivers, and miles and miles of coastline.
Due to this incredible diversity in nature, Taiwan is a wonderland for outdoor activities like hiking, river tracing, rock climbing, surfing, and camping. There are a number of stunning hikes within and just outside Taipei itself, so if you wander a little further afield, it offers even more opportunities for adventure.
6. Incredible healthcare
Arguably one of the best parts about life in Taiwan is access to their national healthcare system. More than 99% of the Taiwanese population (including foreigners) are covered by NHI (National Health Insurance), which ensures that everyone has access to quality, affordable medical care.
This system is efficient and relatively simple to navigate, even for foreigners — so much so, that an American student’s testimony about his time in a Taiwanese E.R. went viral, being picked up by major news outlets such as the Washington Post.
It’s understandable to feel overwhelmed by the idea of learning Mandarin to survive in Taiwan, but the reality is that you can get by in Taipei without ever learning a word. Now, this is not to say that we don’t recommend learning Chinese while you are here – it’s just an expression of how English-friendly Taipei is.
Plenty of people speak some basic English, and even if they don’t, most people are willing to try and understand your mimes and hand signals.
8. Mix of cultures
Many different cultures have made their imprints on Taiwan over the centuries, and this historical blend of influence is evident to this day. Aboriginal cultures still thrive in the mountainous interiors of the island, with each tribe retaining its own set of traditions and food. Colonial structures built by the Spanish and Dutch are still preserved in the north and south.
Many Chinese migrants arrived in the country, bringing with them traditional Chinese customs, architecture, and artifacts (some of which no longer exist to the same degree in China).
Taiwan was then occupied by Japan for 50 years up until the end of the second world war, which greatly affected its social and economic development. The Japanese influence can still be strongly felt around the island, but especially in Taipei’s Zhongshan District, where streets are filled with Japanese restaurants and bars.
Another huge wave of immigration from China happened when Chiang Kai-Shek and the KMT retreated to Taiwan, which had a strong impact on Taiwan, leaving its mark on everything from politics to street names.
More recently, migrants from around Asia (and further abroad) have brought slices of their own countries with them. Together, this mix of heritage has created a unique cultural landscape that can’t quite be found anywhere else.
9. Make it as cheap or expensive as you like
Taipei may not have the highest salaries or the lowest cost of living in Asia, but that doesn’t mean you can’t save money. Modest studio apartments tend to rent in the NT$8000 – $20,000 (around US$250 – $650 per month range at the time of publishing this).
If you’re mindful of electricity and water usage, your utility bill should be no more than NT$1000 per month. You can get phone plans with unlimited data for between NT$500 – $1000 (US$16 – $32), depending on the length of the contract.
As long as you stick to public transportation and eat cheap, local food or cook at home, daily expenses should be pretty minimal. So, even though Taiwan is by no means the cheapest country, it’s completely possible to stick to a budget and have enough left over for saving or traveling!
On the other hand, Taiwan also has plenty of fancy bars, shops, and restaurants (especially in the glitzy Xinyi District and the westernized expat haven Tianmu) where you can splash your cash. The choice of your lifestyle is all yours.
10. It has everything you need
Taipei really is a modern city and comes equipped with almost everything you would need, with just a few exceptions. You may not find your favorite snack or the exact same brand of conditioner you normally use, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a wide variety of food (both imported and local), cosmetics, clothes, cleaning supplies, and accessories to choose from.
11. Well placed geographically
In addition to having easy access to the whole of Taiwan, Taipei is a good starting point for traveling to many other destinations. Firstly, being in East Asia means that flights to and from Japan, Korea, China, and Hong Kong are fast and relatively inexpensive. They’re nowhere near as cheap as internal flights within Europe or South East Asia, but still very affordable.
Taiwan also offers relatively cheap flights to South East Asia, especially Vietnam and the Philippines. Taoyuan Airport, Taipei’s international airport, is reasonably well-connected and offers direct flights to plenty of cities in Europe, North America, and even Australia!
12. Low-key and quirky
When expats are asked what they love most about living in Taipei, one of the most common responses is how comfortable their lives are here. The city still has a flavor of a fast-paced Asian lifestyle and it can feel crowded at times, but it’s a comparatively relaxed place to live when you consider the quality and efficiency of day-to-day living.
There are so many cafes to kick back in and quiet alleys to meander through. Taipei is also home to countless niche subcultures that add plenty of diversity to the city, such as Ximending, the hub of teen shopping and hip living. It has quiet lanes bursting with street art which Taipei has been internationally recognized for due to its street style.
In recent years, Taiwan has made history by becoming the first Asian country to legalize gay marriage, a move that has been praised all over the world. It’s not uncommon to see gay couples holding hands on the street, which is rare to see in Asia.
Taiwan also has a female president, who happens to be the first woman to run an Asian country that is not the child of a political dynasty. Female representation in politics is also significant, and Taiwan has been called a model in terms of empowering women in politics.
In one fairly recent report, it was revealed that Taiwan ranked first in Asia in terms of gender equality, and eighth in the world. Most young people are very open-minded and society, in general, is quite accepting of diversity.
Overall, Taiwan is a very safe country to travel and live in, and Taipei is no exception. Violent crime rates are relatively low, and the streets generally feel safe no matter the time of night. While there is still a small risk of petty crime, there is no need for you to be more concerned about this than you would be in your home country.
Most women report feeling safe walking, traveling, or taking taxis alone, and reports of harassment are very low. Scams do exist, but most involve ATMs and bank fraud instead of directly ripping off tourists.
One thing you do need to look out for is a slightly relaxed observation of traffic rules – but it’s nowhere near as bad as other countries in Asia. There’s also minor risk from natural disasters such as earthquakes and typhoons, but Taipei is well equipped to handle these events and the locals have a relaxed attitude about them.
15. Number of people who stay
Perhaps nothing demonstrates Taipei’s appeal better than the retention rate of expats. Of course, there are plenty of foreigners that come for short-term work or study stints, resulting in plenty of turnover on a year-to-year basis. Although, as for our personal experiences, most expats end up staying in Taipei for far longer than they originally planned, finding their lifestyles to be so comfortable and enjoyable that they aren’t ready to leave.
It’s not uncommon to hear stories of foreigners who came to Taipei initially planning to stay only a couple of years and are still here 20 years later.
We can understand why – we love living here, and we’re sure you would too!
🗓️ Updated: June 2022 – Taipei.Expats