Although the cost of living is much lower in rural and south Taiwan, most foreign nationals moving to Taiwan settle in Taipei. A comparatively expensive city, the 2020 Mercer Cost of Living Survey ranked Taipei at 28th out of 209 other popular expat cities, although this is still far below other regional hubs such as Hong Kong, Tokyo, Beijing or Singapore.
In general, if earning an expat salary, one can enjoy a higher standard of living than back home, even if the actual wage, before adjusting for purchasing power, is lower. However, many foreigners soon discover that they can generally afford more with less money. Even as a local hire, new arrivals will probably be paid a 'foreigner' rather than a 'local' wage – especially if bilingual, and certainly if speaking English or another foreign language is considered a needed skill for the position.
That said, Taipei has as much of a consumer-orientated culture as many large Western or Asian cities, and expat families will need to decide how much of their monthly income they are prepared to spend to maintain the lifestyle that they were living in their home countries. Western clothing and foodstuffs are generally much more expensive than local options.
Cost of accommodation in Taipei
Housing in Taipei, although higher than elsewhere in Taiwan, is affordable as renting and living centrally is not as expensive as it might be in Western cities.
On the other hand, it's prohibitively expensive to buy property in Taipei, as real estate costs as much as it does in more expensive countries and does not reflect the local cost of living.
Cost of food and eating out in Taipei
Expats will be astonished by the depth and breadth of the options for eating out in Taipei, from food stalls making cheap, tasty and quick meals or snacks to restaurants offering sit-down dinners of several courses.
One downside is that it can cost as much to cook at home as it does to eat out, especially if cooking Western food. For those who prefer their own cooking or like to have total control of ingredients and the cooking process, this can be frustrating.
If drinking Western alcohol, it can cost more in Taipei than in the West, but going out in Taipei is still affordable. Even Taipei’s fanciest bars are affordable, and most local and expat-friendly places have wallet-friendly prices as well.
Cost of goods in Taipei
Goods tend to be cheaper in Taiwan than they are in the US or UK. With all the street stalls selling accessories, and the affordability of decorating, many furnishings are more affordable than elsewhere.
Although many goods in Taipei are cheap, they are often poorly made. This is especially true when it comes to textiles and some electronics brands. Sheets, pillows, blankets, towels and curtains tend to be of lesser quality, and many are made of synthetic, even plastic-like fabrics.
Despite an abundance of cheap goods, imported luxury brands are expensive due to high import duties.
Cost of living in Taiwan chart
Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Taipei in January 2021.