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Moving to Taipei

Expats moving to Taipei will find themselves in a global city that presents a seamless blend of history and modernity.

The pace is frenetic in Taipei and change is constant. As such, the metropolis hums with the activity of millions of people living, working and entertaining themselves – all of which happens under the shadow of Taipei 101, one of the world’s tallest skyscrapers and the defining image of the Taiwanese capital.

Expats working in Taipei are positioned at the economic centre of Taiwan. Relatively unscathed by the Asian financial crisis, the city has exhibited a steady growth which is driven by high-tech industries, manufacturing and an expanding services sector.

It is also at the heart of Taiwanese culture and lifestyle in the city is characterised by its fantastic food. From tasty fare at five-star hotels to xiaochi snacks served at street level, Taipei is a culinary wonderland. Its almost endless choices reflect the history of the city, combining the influences of indigenous tribes as well as Chinese and Japanese cuisine. 

As the capital, it is also the most Westernised city in Taiwan, making it a little easier for Western expats to find the things they miss from home. Despite this, Western goods can be expensive and the cost of living in the city is generally quite high by Taiwanese standards. Accommodation, which consists mostly of apartment living, is also on the pricey side. Fortunately, foreigners working in Taipei will have access to Taiwan's excellent and heavily subsidised public healthcare system.   

Despite its large population being concentrated in a small area, getting around in Taipei is easy. Expats will be able to navigate the city using the MRT subway system and an abundance of yellow cabs. Scooters outnumber cars on the road and provide a convenient, popular and thrilling mode of transport.

Although it is densely urban, Taipei is close enough to the natural beauty of the Taiwanese countryside and beaches, contributing to the attractions of a city that offers expats prosperity and a high quality of life.

Pros and cons of moving to Taipei

Taipei strikes a wonderful balance between the pros and cons of living in East Asia. It’s less polluted and has fewer massive boulevards than Beijing, is friendlier than Hong Kong, cheaper and easier to assimilate into than Tokyo and warmer than Seoul.

Many people who move to Taipei end up staying long-term and cite the ease with which they made friends in Taiwan, its accessibility, the opportunities to learn Chinese, the variety of geography and outdoor activities, the laid-back culture and delicious food as key reasons for this.

On the other hand, many new arrivals feel that Taipei seems more intense and dirtier than what they are used to back home. It can be difficult to adjust to the weather, the traffic and some elements of business culture, but, on the whole, most foreigners enjoy all of the great things that Taipei has to offer. As such, most people leave Taipei – if they leave at all – with great memories, happy for the time they spent living in Taiwan.

Accommodation in Taipei

+ PRO: Accommodation in Taiwan is comparitively cheap

It's possible to get an apartment in downtown Taipei for about a third of the cost of those in major Western or Japanese cities. Expats stand a realistic chance of finding comparatively affordable accommodation that is centrally located and close to convenient transportation routes. If accommodation in Taipei does seem to be too expensive, the cheaper inner suburbs are convenient and often have easy MRT (subway) access.

- CON: Many apartments are older and don’t have elevators, and foreigners often end up in "illegal" top-floor apartments

If accommodation isn't being arranged through a company, expats may find themselves looking at a lot of unregistered fifth-floor 'walkups' that don't have elevator access. Living on the top floor of an older building also leaves tenants vulnerable to roof leaks and, in the summer, exceedingly hot rooms. If the low price and living conditions of these top-floor apartments suit one's needs, then they can be a good option. Otherwise, it may be worth waiting until better accommodation becomes available. 

+ PRO: Apartments in Taiwan are bigger than elsewhere in East Asia

Living spaces tend to be larger than in Japan – bedrooms are often small but living rooms will be on par with apartments in the West. Living conditions generally won’t be rough as utilities are on par with the West and it’s fairly easy to set up amenities such as air conditioning and wireless internet. Other luxuries, like an oven or clothes dryer, can be bought fairly cheaply, as most apartments don’t come with these furnishings. 

- CON: Apartments in Taipei tend to look "cheap"

Apartments in Taipei are often painted in cheap white paint, and some landlords prohibit painting over. Flooring tends to be cheap tile and the metal bars and textured glass windows are not aesthetically pleasing. 

Lifestyle in Taipei

+ PRO: Life in Taipei is characterised by convenience 

Unless moving to the outer suburbs of Taipei, expats will likely be within walking distance of a few convenience stores, one or two supermarkets, a wet market, a few coffee shops and cheap and delicious local restaurants. 

Convenience stores are everywhere, and they operate differently to those in the West. In addition to selling groceries and other typical goods, they also offer services such as seating areas, printing centres and counters where residents can pay their utility bills.

- CON: Heavy traffic in Taipei

Many foreigners are put off by the Taiwanese road culture which results in speeding, disregard of traffic laws and congested roads. There are limited sidewalks and where they do exist, they can be uneven and difficult to navigate. Traffic signs tend to be in English but intersections can be extremely busy and confusing. Scooter accidents are common, and some expats complain about the noise levels near major thoroughfares.

+ PRO: Public transport in Taipei is great

Taipei has some of the best public transport in the world – a clean, safe and on-time MRT system and comprehensive bus system. This means that, while many foreigners choose to buy scooters and get around as locals often do, it's far from necessary. Those living in Taipei will never "need" a car or scooter.

- CON: Public transport is limited outside of Taipei

Outside of Taipei expats will need a car or scooter – buses are less frequent and only Kaohsiung in the south has another MRT system. It can be very difficult to get around the rest of Taiwan without one's own car and although trains and buses go to most destinations, it can be difficult to get to the countryside from the bus or train station.

+ PRO: Proximity to great holiday destinations 

From Taiwan, it's cheap and easy to take short trips to Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and most of Southeast Asia. India is even within affordable reach. Guam and Palau are popular vacation spots with locals and foreigners alike. With the advent of direct flights between China and Taiwan, visiting China is also easier than ever (although getting a visa may not be). 

- CON: Lack of direct flights to Taiwan

For all destinations outside of this corner of Asia, one generally needs to catch connecting flights. Direct flights to major cities such as New York and London exist, but they are expensive and usually involve a transfer in Hong Kong or Tokyo.

+ PRO: Outdoor sports

Hiking, biking, river tracing, camping, paragliding, surfing and other outdoor sports are extremely popular in Taiwan. Taiwan has scenic natural geography with a varied coastline, a few beaches, towering mountains, paddy-covered plains, rivers and high waterfalls, gorges and cliffs, and plenty of opportunities to get out into nature. It’s far easier to get out of the city than in most major Western cities. Northern Taipei has hills and mountains, and some hikes can be done within the city limits.

- CON: Wet weather

It rains a lot in Taipei. From late November to early April one can expect very few sunny days. Autumn (mid-September to mid-November) is beautiful, often clear and sunny and is punctuated by the occasional late-season typhoon. Winter is an almost constant procession of grey clouds that cover the sky. Spring is hot, humid and interspersed with frequent, sudden downpours and thunderstorms known as “plum rains”. Summer is also humid and hot with typhoons and thunderstorms on many afternoons – and then the cycle repeats. Many expats take vacations mid-winter just to escape the incessant grey weather.

+ PRO: Cafés and nightlife options abound

Whatever expats like – from quiet cafés, swanky see-and-be-seen lounges, neighbourhood bars, student dives, expat hangouts, pool halls or thumping nightclubs – Taipei has it all. There are also bistros, cafés and shopping streets. Taiwan is famous for its lively night markets, which stay open until about midnight, even on weekdays, and feature better shopping and eating than one might find in the liveliest city centres elsewhere.

+ PRO: Accessible foreign food and English language books

One can generally find a variety of cuisine options in Taipei. Indian, Thai, Mainland Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, German and French food are also popular, and many American chain restaurants have established themselves in Taipei.

There are some large bookstores offering English books, including travel guides, and a few used bookstores with fair selections.

+ PRO: Lots of countryside to explore

Just outside of Taipei, if heading south and east, is an impressive collection of mountains with winding roads and breathtaking views. Head straight south and one will hit the cultural heartland of Taiwan, with towns and cities like Sanxia, Daxi, Beipu, Sanyi, Lugang, Tainan, Meinong and Donggang preserving elements of traditional Taiwanese arts and lifestyle. There are also many fantastic national parks which often display unique geographical features. As such, there much to do outside of Taipei.

+ CON: Pollution

Although it’s noticeably less polluted than China and far cleaner than it was even ten or 20 years ago, Taipei is not known for its crisp, clean air. Occasionally the dust of a sandstorm or a gust of pollution from China blows down to Taiwan, and occasionally the smog comes from local industry. 

Education and schools in Taipei

- CON: Taiwanese traditional teaching styles and cram schools

Students get an overwhelming amount of homework and learning tends to be rote learning rather than being based in critical thinking. Many parents will say that these local schools are fantastic – they help children learn more, review more and understand more, and help them score more highly on Taiwan’s important placement tests. However, most Westerners feel that the amount of time Taiwanese students spend in class just to compete at the most basic level is too much.

+ PRO: Taipei has excellent private schools

Taiwan has a developed world school system which is competitive and holds students to high standards. The international schools are very good, although there aren’t many of them. These are generally excellent and provide a Western-style education in Taipei.

Healthcare in Taipei

+PRO: Taiwan's National Health Insurance 

Public healthcare in Taiwan is excellent, heavily-subsidised and accessible. If working or studying here one is eligible for it.

Taiwan’s National Health Insurance (NHI) doesn’t cover checkups but it does make treatment, medication, dental and vision care and hospitalisation affordable. If an expat passes the health check required to get a long-term visa in Taiwan and gets an Alien Resident Card, they will be covered by Taiwanese public healthcare.

- CON: National Health Insurance in Taiwan is concerned with survival and treatment and not quality of life

Often the most comfortable, easiest treatments are not covered (or not covered initially) because they improve quality of life but not survival rates. 

If one is sick and needs a certain medication, there are regulations as to what can be prescribed first – and what can be given after that if the first drug doesn’t work. Doctors are not always free to just prescribe the medication they feel will be most effective.

Working in Taipei

Expats working in Taipei will find themselves at the centre of the Taiwanese economy. The city prides itself as a global leader in electronics and industrial manufacturing. The country’s improved trade relationships and proximity to China have also led to more business opportunities in Taipei. 

Foreigners need a work permit for Taiwan to legally take up employment, a process that must be started by a local employer.

Job market in Taipei

During the "Taiwan Miracle", a period in the second half of the twentieth century when the country experienced rapid economic growth, foreign investment substantially increased and presented many employment opportunities for foreigners.

Although growth has slowed since then, there are still many employment opportunities for foreigners in Taipei. The downside is that, aside from company transfers, opportunities for expats in Taiwan are concentrated in a few industries, such as IT, English teaching, translation, international trade and journalism. There are many English-language publications, so qualified expats may find work with a newspaper, magazine or with other publishers. Long-term residents often start up their own businesses, including bars, bakeries and restaurants. 

That said, if an expat has the right kind of qualifications, there may be opportunities in their field. It's common to meet foreigners working in tech companies, accounting firms, banks, finance companies, pharmaceutical firms and more.

Finding a job in Taipei

Most foreigners with senior positions in Taipei have been transferred to the city by their company back home. Apart from this, it can be difficult to find a senior position, as most companies try to hire locally.

Expats searching for jobs in Taipei should look for listings on online job portals and through local publications. As there are many multinational companies in Taipei, job seekers should also visit company-specific websites to see if any positions have been posted. Otherwise, expats should approach recruitment agencies who represent companies in Taiwan. 

Work culture in Taipei

One major complaint by expats and locals alike is that the 9am to 5pm workday in Taipei actually consists of longer hours than initially advertised. Expats may be asked to work on weekends and might get emails or phone calls from work as late as 10pm. It isn't uncommon for employers to expect their employees to finish projects or conduct research in their personal time.

Teachers and other hourly-wage workers may find themselves with more unpaid work than they think is fair. While it's uncommon for locals to protest these incursions into personal time, if they are polite, it is possible for expats to establish boundaries regarding what they are willing to do and when they are willing to do it.

Cost of Living in Taipei

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.

Accommodation (monthly rent in a good area)

One-bedroom apartment in the city centre

NT 18,200

One-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

NT 12,000

Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre

NT 45,000

Three-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

NT 27,500


Eggs (dozen)

NT 74

Milk (1 litre)

NT 94

Rice (1kg)

NT 98

Loaf of white bread

NT 55

Chicken breasts (1kg)

NT 288

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

NT 120

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

NT 135

Coca-Cola (330ml)

NT 27


NT 97

Bottle of local beer

NT 59

Three-course meal for two at mid-range restaurant

NT 800


Mobile-to-mobile call rate (per minute)

NT 5

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable average per month)

NT 615

Basic utilities (per month for small apartment)

NT 2,440


Taxi rate (per kilometre)

NT 25

Bus/train fare in the city centre

NT 20

Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

NT 27.50

Accommodation in Taipei

Depending on an expat’s reasons for relocating, accommodation in Taipei can differ dramatically. Senior businesspeople that move with their families will find a very different housing market to expats looking to teach English in the city for a few years.

Housing in Taipei is expensive. Although there are efforts to bring prices down, they are expected to stay high for the foreseeable future.

The most expensive accommodation in Taipei is located in the areas closest to the city centre and prices decrease as one moves into the periphery. To save on rent, many expats opt to share an apartment.

Types of accommodation in Taipei

Regardless of wealth, most real estate in the city is found in the form of secure apartment blocks that have stair access to upper floors. Elevators are scarce except in the most luxurious complexes.

The Taiwanese measure floor space in a unit of measurement called ping, where one ping is equivalent to 3.3 square metres. Expats will find that by Western standards, apartments in Taiwan are very small and close together with little outdoor space.

Finding accommodation in Taipei

In many cases, employers will provide assistance in finding accommodation or will include free accommodation as part of an employment package. This is more often the case for multinational companies, but sometimes language schools do this as well.

If this is the case, then expats should investigate the arrangement. Aside from apartments in Taipei being smaller than Western apartments, accepting a lower salary in lieu of an accommodation allowance may not always be the best decision.

It may be wise for new arrivals to first spend some time in temporary accommodation while they explore the city. This allows expats to get a feel for the options available and to visit potential apartments before settling on a lease.

For expats moving to Taipei to teach English, it's possible to find flatshares with other expats quite easily, with many flatshares being posted to expat social media groups. This saves money and can create an opportunity to make meaningful social connections.

Expats who don’t speak Mandarin and who don’t have a colleague to help them should consider enlisting an English-speaking estate agent to help their search for accommodation. Most real estate agencies charge half of one month's rent for their services. Expats can also search for accommodation through online property portals, some of which list properties in English. 

Renting accommodation in Taipei


A two- or three-month deposit is typically required upon the signing of a lease, depending on the landlord. However, it's often possible to negotiate that the payment of this lump sum be spread over several months.


Most leases are for 12 months and tenants are billed monthly on the same date until the end of the lease. 

Furnished or unfurnished

There are both unfurnished and furnished apartments in Taipei, and it is sometimes possible to negotiate for appliances or furniture to be included in the rent. Major appliances such as refrigerators and stoves may or may not be provided. There isn’t a standard that landlords are required to adhere to, but most will expect to negotiate prices, so it is sometimes possible to get a cheaper price.

Note that Taiwanese kitchens seldom have full stoves. The same goes for dishwashers. A normal kitchen consists of a refrigerator, gas cooktop stove and microwave.


Sometimes rental prices will include utilities such as building maintenance and garbage disposal. Tenants must typically pay their own water and electricity bills, but these are relatively low.  Basic utilities depend on the building type and the location, but will generally meet the standards of Western expats. 

Areas and suburbs in Taipei

The best places to live in Taipei

Taipei is a compact city, meaning that just about any area can be convenient to live in, but it's also densely populated. This can make getting around slower than one might think. 

Each area and suburb of Taipei has its own unique qualities and there are plenty of options for expats looking for accommodation.

Quiet and family-friendly areas in Taipei


While expats in various life circumstances will enjoy living in these areas, they are also ideally suited to families as they're less busy and more suburban than other areas in the city.


The Danshui area is located at the northern terminal station of the Danshui MRT line. The area is quiet, with a small-town feel, and is close to some beautiful beaches. There's much for expats to enjoy in Danshui. Residents can travel to the mouth of the Danshui River and enjoy a day out of the city, take in Danshui’s old street for unique gifts and food, or hop on a bus out to Fisherman’s Wharf to enjoy the catch of the day and, on the way back, check out Hong Mao Fort, a beautifully maintained historical site from the days of Portuguese settlers.

The downside to Danshui is that there are fewer amenities and it's a long commute into Taipei for work. The area can also be crowded during the summer months


Da’an is predominantly home to families. Many expats choose to live here for its convenient location close to work and for its family-friendly atmosphere. There are plenty of excellent places in this neighbourhood to eat, hang out and play. Among these is the popular Da’an Forest Park, one of the city’s largest green spaces. Close by are the Jade and Flower markets, which are open on weekends, as well as the Zhongxiao Dunhua and Fuxing shopping areas.

Housing is relatively affordable, and there are great amenities in Da'an, but it's heavily populated and public transport is a bit more limited.


Just across the Dahan Stream lies the Dazhi District. Largely residential, it provides a convenient respite from the city’s bustle. Residents can enjoy Dazhi’s riverside park areas complete with paved bike paths that stretch across the city.

Neihu is home to a thriving community of multinational companies, high-rise luxury apartments and green spaces that entice and encourage family living without the commute. It hosts some of Taipei’s largest stores such as Costco, Carrefour and RT-Mart, and expats can enjoy world-class shopping at Miramar Entertainment Park, where kids can take a ride on a huge Ferris wheel.


Songshan is another favourite option for expat families who want to live in a quieter neighbourhood. Located just north of Zhongxiao Road, Songshan features a variety of restaurants, neighbourhood parks and older apartments. It tends to be one of the more expensive areas but is a great place to raise a family in a convenient location. Each small neighbourhood-within-a-neighbourhood is designed to meet all a family's needs. The area is well-connected via the Songshan Airport and Songshan train station, and there is lots to see and do.

Young, upbeat areas in Taipei


Young foreigners tend to enjoy living in these areas as they're centres of nightlife and urban culture. 


These are Taipei’s official student areas, dominated by an eclectic mix of foreigners and locals. This makes for a colourful melting pot of food, fashion and culture. Shida (National Taiwan Normal University) is Taipei’s liberal arts campus. A short distance away is Taipei’s premier university, Taida (National Taiwan University). The large population of students make this an affordable and interesting place from which to enjoy Taipei. 


The glass and steel heart of Taipei, Xinyi is young and modern. The district has all the trappings expected from any modern city. Many of the best restaurants, nightclubs and designer shopping opportunities are available here. Whether a person wants to have a beer, dance the night away in a nightclub, shop for the latest styles, or take in a movie at Warner Village, Xinyi District has it all.

Utilities in Taipei

If planning to rent in Taiwan, it’s almost certain that electricity, water and gas will be hooked up and ready to use before moving in. Tenants will start to pay from the first moment they use any utility. In Taipei, utility bills don't come every month but every two to three months depending on the utility company. Utility bills can be paid at any 7/11 convenience store, which are open 24 hours.


Water is usually already hooked up when one moves into an apartment. Drinking tap water isn't recommended in Taiwan. While the water itself is fine, the water pipes in most cities and towns are old and cracked, which can result in heavy metals getting into drinking water. This can cause health problems with continued use. However, Taiwan’s water is fine for washing, showering and cooking and water use tends to be inexpensive.


Taiwan uses natural gas or propane for cooking and heating water. Efficient, space-saving systems are in place to heat water so expats will never have to pay for a heated water tank. CPC is the main provider of natural gas. Monthly fees are inexpensive for connected gas lines. In older and more remote areas where natural gas lines aren’t available, local propane sellers can deliver gas to one's home.


Electricity is relatively inexpensive and is billed every two months. Rates do vary depending on the season. During the cool, wet winter, expect a very low rate. In summer, one will have no choice but to run air conditioning and fans, so expect larger bills.

Taiwan is mostly situated in a sub-tropical climate, so heating systems aren’t built into the majority of homes. Space heaters are widely available and work off of electricity to take the chill out of the air in winter. Humidifiers are more expensive, but also help to remove the ambient moisture and warm up living spaces.


Refuse is required by law to be separated according to different recyclable materials e.g. plastic, glass, paper, cans. Some apartment blocks have a communal area where refuse can be left at any time and is collected by refuse trucks. However, if one does not have such an area, residents are required to personally take out refuse when the trucks come around and throw rubbish bags into the truck themselves. Trucks service different neighbourhoods on specific days and times.

Healthcare in Taipei

The system of healthcare in Taipei is well-regarded, both in the public and private sectors. Medical facilities are modern and well equipped, and most doctors speak English, though their proficiency differs. 

Pharmacies are widely available across Taipei, with many doctors having pharmacies attached to their rooms.

As part of government efforts to improve national infrastructure and offer civic services, the Taiwanese Universal Health Insurance (NHI) programme was created and made available to residents in 1995. Expats living in Taiwan for more than four months or who hold an Alien Resident Card (ARC) are required to join the NHI.

Hospitals in Taipei

Cathay General Hospital

Address: 280 Renai Road, Section 4

Mackay Memorial Hospital

Address: 92, Section 2, Zhongshan North Road

National Taiwan University Hospital

Address: 1 Changde Street, Zhongzheng District

Taipei Veterans General Hospital

Address: 201, Section 2, Shipai Road, Beitou District

Taiwan Adventist Hospital

Address: 424, Section 2, Bade Road, Songshan District

Tri-Service General Hospital

Address: 325, Section 2, Chenggong Road, Neihu District

Education and Schools in Taipei

Expats may find the lack of English-speaking schools in Taipei surprising. Although they do exist, most of these are either highly religious or one of several expensive international schools.

On the other hand, those open to raising Mandarin-speaking children have many excellent options to choose from, as Taiwanese schools meet high global standards. However, Western children should be prepared for a more pressured school experience than they may be used to.

Parents should also consider commute times when choosing a school. Traffic is highly congested and travelling can take a long time. On the plus side, public transport in Taipei is excellent and makes it easier for children to make their own way to school.

Public schools in Taipei

Education in Taiwan falls under the Ministry of Education, and the system regularly produces students with some of the best mathematics and science scores in the world. 

On the downside, Taiwanese schools are often criticised for placing too much emphasis on rote learning and not enough on creativity and independent thought. Students have long days, often attending private “cram schools” between 4pm and 9pm to improve their English before returning home to do their homework.

When it comes to public schooling, Taiwan is a good choice for expats wanting to move to a country where their children can learn in a Chinese-speaking environment while receiving a high standard of education.

Both local and international schools in Taipei begin the school year in August or September. The year consists of two semesters; the first semester ends with a break for Chinese New Year and the second ends with a break for summer holidays.

International schools in Taipei

International schools are usually the preferred option for foreigners in Taiwan, although there are surprisingly few international schooling options to choose from. As such, space is often limited and waiting lists can be extensive. Expats should therefore apply well in advance to ensure a place for their child at their preferred school.

International schools in Taiwan are prohibited by law from accepting Taiwanese students who do not hold a second passport. As a result, international schools are mostly attended by expat children. These schools are usually expensive and those moving to Taiwan as part of a corporate relocation should factor school fees into any salary negotiations.

International Schools in Taipei

Due to the high pressures placed on children in public schools in Taipei, most expat parents prefer enrolling their children in an international school. However, there are surprisingly few international schooling options to choose from in Taipei. As such, space is often limited and waiting lists can be extensive. Expats should apply well in advance to ensure a place for their child at their preferred school.

Below are our recommendations for international schools in Taipei.

International schools in Taipei

Acton Academy Taipei

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American
Ages: 6 to 11

Dominican International School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Modified American (Catholic)
Ages: 4 to 18

Morrison Academy Taipei

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American
Ages: 5 to 18

Taipei Adventist American School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American
Age: 5 to 13

Taipei American School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 4 to 18

Taipei European School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE, International Baccalaureate, German and French
Ages: 3 to 18

Lifestyle in Taipei

Initially, expats may find their lifestyle in Taipei is full of ups and downs. The city isn't necessarily the most aesthetically pleasing – marked by monoliths of glass and steel, congested boulevards and the pollution common to most major metropolises.

As a gateway between East and West, the cultural inconsistencies prevalent in Taipei can make it difficult for expats to carve out a niche in the city. For all their admiration for Western pop stars and ideology, locals often disapprove of pastimes that are fairly normal in the West. Drinking alcohol is taboo unless done in a bar or nightclub, being loud in public is looked down upon and complaining is a social faux pas.

Still, once expats become used to their surroundings they will find ample things to see and do in Taipei and get a better idea of the kind of lifestyle that they want in Taiwan's capital. 

A plethora of parks, nature reserves and rolling hills sit on the city’s edge. Further away, deserted beaches and countryside are begging to be explored during weekend breaks. The food culture is rich and unique, and shopping in Taipei is an experience in itself, whether at major malls or night markets. 

Shopping in Taipei

Shopping in Taipei will delight the discerning bargain hunters. The historical districts in central and west Taipei have many small stores lining the bustling, narrow streets, especially around the main station. Eastern Taipei has more open spaces and features shopping malls and large department stores. A number of these can also be found in the cosmopolitan Xinyi District, which is home to Taipei 101.

Nearly all of the high-end designer labels are found in shopping malls, which include the American-styled Breeze Center and Dayeh Takashimaya, which has a courtyard aquarium. Most shops open mid-morning at about 10am and close at 9pm. The Eslite Mall in Dunhua South Road is open 24 hours a day.

The Jade and Flower markets on Jianguo South Road are open during the day on weekends. The Jade Market, one of the biggest in Asia, offers good deals on gems. 

Technophile expats will be in their element at the Guang Hua Digital Plaza. Affordable, top-of-the-range electronics such as laptops and cameras are sold in stores and stalls throughout the building’s six storeys, and tech giants often unveil new products at the plaza.

Night markets 

Visiting a night market is a quintessential Taiwanese experience and a popular leisure activity. Held outdoors, the endless food stalls, game arcades and trinket peddlers create a carnival atmosphere. While they aren’t known for especially good quality, bargains are easy to find. 

Night markets are more than a shopping destination. They are an entire cultural experience that reveals much of the city’s hidden and traditional character. As the sun sets, thousands of stalls open to sell everything from pets to DIY tools and paper fans.

Markets run from 6pm to around 10.30pm. While some markets operate in the streets, others make use of purpose-built open areas.

Some of the most popular markets are Shilin Night Market which has been open since 1899, the Raohe Street Night Market and Snake Alley, where patrons can watch snake handlers or, for the brave, try snake meat.

Nightlife in Taipei

Although drinking culture isn't especially prevalent in Taiwan, expats have a variety of options when it comes to the nightlife in Taipei. There's a wide selection of bars, nightclubs, karaoke venues and tea houses all over the city

Karaoke isn't just a source of entertainment in Taipei, but is something of a way of life. Casually referred to as KTV, it is popular for birthday celebrations, staff functions and weekend entertainment. Entire buildings are dedicated to karaoke with multiple floors of rooms that can be rented by the hour. Food and beer are usually sold on the premises, and many establishments are open 24 hours a day.

Another popular pastime in Taipei is tea drinking. Taiwan produces spectacular teas, most notably fragrant Oolong tea and the richer Tieguanyin tea, both of which are popular exports. There are dozens of tea houses in Taipei where expats can experience the local take on tea culture.

Eating out in Taipei

Expats unaccustomed to Asian cuisine may baulk at delicacies such as stinky tofu or Thousand Year Eggs (duck eggs kept underground for six months until the yolk is green and the white turns to jelly) but there are many other options for those with less adventurous tastes.

Conventional dishes include fried rice, noodles, steamed buns with meat fillings, dumplings and simmering pots of vegetables and meats.

Street food is cheap and delicious, and Taiwanese-style omelettes with a variety of fillings are a popular breakfast on-the-go. Take-out meals from street stalls or small neighbourhood shops are extremely cheap and it is not uncommon for people to live on a steady diet of this type of fast food. Night markets are great for snacks such as calamari and skewered squid.

Expats may find it difficult to get used to Taiwanese food. The good news for those who want to cook something familiar is that a variety of supermarkets sell Western food. Jason’s, Carrefour and Costco are popular with foreigners. Italian restaurants and chains such as Starbucks and McDonalds are also common.

Sport and fitness in Taipei

Expats looking to maintain a level of fitness in Taiwan needn't worry - there's no shortage of gyms and sports centres in Taipei where they can exercise or join classes.

Indoor gyms and fitness centres in Taipei are either private gyms which are run as independent facilities or as part of large fitness franchises or public government sport centres. There are also gyms and fitness centres associated with many large hotels and with universities. The American Club Taipei has a fitness centre, courts for racquet sports and swimming facilities, and offers various classes taught by English-speaking instructors.

Public community sports centres are generally much cheaper than private gyms and do not require patrons to sign contracts, while private gyms will expect patrons to sign annual or monthly agreements and sometimes commit to paying exorbitant fees. For expats looking for a gym in Taipei with an English-speaking instructor, it may be best to head for the larger national chains.

Yoga and Tai Chi groups are common, whether run through fitness centres, by independent instructors or through dedicated franchises such as True Yoga.

Schools and universities usually open their sports fields to the public on weekends, although some may charge a nominal fee for the use of some facilities, like the swimming pool or indoor gym.

Parks in Taipei

Taipei's parks are popular with locals and expats alike for jogging, cycling or walking. The city’s riverside parks have extensive cycling tracks, while community parks often have fitness classes or sport-specific facilities for tennis, basketball or skating.

Da'an Forest Park

This popular park in central Taipei (Xinsheng South Road, Da’an District) is a favourite with joggers and has an open-air stage which often also features music concerts.

Youth Park

The large Youth Park in Shuiyuan Road, Wanhua District, has lots of facilities for different sports, such as basketball courts, tennis courts, a driving range, a swimming pool and a skating rink.

228 Peace Memorial Park

A famous landmark and tourist attraction on Ketagalan Boulevard, in the Zhongzheng District, this park has several historical buildings.

Gyms in Taipei

There are many gyms throughout Taipei, some of which belong to established multinational franchises, while other smaller local gyms also exist. 

Gyms in Taipei often host fitness, yoga and martial arts classes.

Public sports centres in Taipei

For those looking to join a sports class in Taipei, there are public sports centres throughout the city which offer both indoor training facilities and classes in everything from martial arts to shooting.

Basketball and baseball are the most popular sports in Taiwan. Some other popular sports in Taipei include tennis, badminton, volleyball, rock climbing, swimming, soccer, surfing, yoga, tai chi and kung fu. Classes offered will depend on the sports centre.

Cycling in Taipei

Cycling is a good way to get around the city itself, although as with Taipei's ubiquitous scooters, it can be dangerous in rush-hour traffic and at busy intersections. The best places to cycle are along special bicycle paths and outside of the city. Taiwan has gone to great lengths to connect the whole island by bike trails with the result that people can cycle almost anywhere along rivers, near beaches, and on country trails. There are some guided cycling tours as well.

The Dan Shui Riverside Cycling Path is a popular, well-maintained cycling path in Taipei (for joggers as well) that starts at the Tam Sui MRT station and progresses through mangrove swamplands.

Weekend breaks in Taipei

Taiwan is a compact island with first-rate transportation. Whether choosing to travel by bus, train, air or high-speed rail, expats can access the best that the island has to offer without much effort and in a short amount of time.

Taiwan’s northeast coast is packed with cosy places to stay, dramatic ocean-side vistas and unique activities. Each town has something different to offer and a chance to soak up some local culture while trying out delicious food. All are accessible by train, bus, or car in just about an hour from Taipei. 

Villages close to Taipei


Home of the annual Sky Lantern Festival where thousands of paper lanterns float into the night sky. The Sky Lantern Festival occurs just after Chinese New Year for about two weeks. During the weekend evenings, this sleepy town turns into a thriving night market with one-of-a-kind handcrafts.


Located outside of Wanli, photographers will be delighted at the photo opportunities that await them in Yehliu. Curious geologic formations known as hoodoos can be viewed at Yehliu Geopark. A number of the formations have been given poetic names such as “Fairy’s Shoe”, “The Queen’s Head” and “The Bee Hive”. The cape provides a windy, cool place to visit in the summer months to beat the heat. The easiest means of getting there is to rent a car or to hire a taxi when in the vicinity.


Taiwan’s famous “cat village” is home to hundreds of stray tabbies, calicos, and many others. Felines of all shapes, sizes and colours can be seen walking on the roofs, playing in the alleys, or napping on warm paving stones. Houtong has become a weekend destination for cat lovers and couples looking for a fun day trip just outside of the capital.


This mountainside hamlet is home to a traditional old street market and is a favourite with locals and expats for a weekend excursion. Try some local delicacies or fresh seafood along the long row of shops. Hand-worked leather goods, original artwork, and countless other treasures are just waiting to be scooped up by savvy shoppers. Of course, Jiufen is most renowned as a tea-drinking destination and there are countless teahouses spread around the town’s hills overlooking the Pacific.

Beaches and seaside getaways

Fulong Beach

About an hour away by train, Fulong is everything one could want in a weekend break and there is a great selection of small guesthouses and hotels. Fulong has a small downtown area with a couple of great restaurants and shops. In recent years, Fulong has become more popular with people trying to beat the heat during the summer months, so plan to leave early on a hot day because it can be crowded.

Tou Cheng Beach

A very relaxed surf atmosphere permeates this sleepy beach town. Tou Cheng is a place to surf, swim and generally relax. At night, there are usually a few beach parties that are held as well. Tou Cheng attracts a young crowd, so if looking for a lively beach atmosphere, expect to make some new friends with locals and expats alike.

Bai Sha Wan Beach

A well-developed family beach with a boardwalk, restaurants and other modern conventions. During July and August, the beach can be a little crowded, so be prepared. Year-round swimming is allowed and the water is still quite comfortable in late October.

Kids and Family in Taipei

Parents looking for things to do with kids in Taipei will be able to enjoy a variety of family-friendly activities and attractions to keep their children entertained.

Science museums, the Taipei Zoo, a number of water parks and theme parks, and various children's holiday programmes mean that no matter what the weather may be, it's always possible to find something to do with the kids.

Activities for kids in Taipei 

Taipei Zoo

No child can help but be entranced by the giant pandas at the Taipei Zoo. The zoo is the largest in Asia. It's often praised for its modern, humane practices and for its educational displays about conservation and the environment. 

Baby Boss

A popular attraction for young expats, Baby Boss is a massive activity centre modelled on a city where the kids dress up and pretend to have jobs. Different settings allow for role-playing and hands-on learning.

Taipei Astronomical Museum

The Astronomical Museum in Jihe Road, Shilin, opened in 1997 and has four floors of gadgets, displays and observatories. There is an IMAX theatre, a 3D theatre and amusement rides, and it's a must-see for adults and children.

National Taiwan Science Education Center

This is a must-see for children with an interest in technology. It boasts a high-tech museum with a kids' playground and discovery centre, where kids can play with Lego and draw on the walls. The complex has a 3D theatre with an ever-changing programme of exhibits and presentations.

Miniatures Museum of Taipei

The first of its kind in Asia, this museum of miniatures features delicate dollhouses and cutaway scenes of houses from around the world. The museum is in the same building as the Museum of Jade Art, which parents might feel is also worth a visit.

See and Do in Taipei

New arrivals will be able to immerse themselves in the enormous city of Taipei through its museums and architecture, while its entertainment options rival other major Asian centres such as Hong Kong or Tokyo.

Between the night markets, ancient temples and skyscrapers, expats will easily find much to see and do in Taipei.

Popular attractions in Taipei

Taipei 101

Taipei 101 was the world’s tallest building until 2009. Although it has been superseded, it remains the grandiose centre of Taipei’s financial district. Resembling a pagoda, the skyscraper towers above the city skyline at 671 feet (509m) and is the city’s chief landmark attraction. Visitors can take a trip up in its super-fast elevators and enjoy astounding views from the observation deck. The many shops and restaurants in Taipei 101 make it a weekend destination for locals and expats alike.

Lungshan Temple

Taipei has kept its ancient traditions alive as it thrusts towards the future. One of the city’s most famous temples is Lungshan, dedicated to Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy. Built in 1738 to serve as a place of worship for Chinese settlers, its various incarnations have survived earthquakes, fires and American bombs. The architecture is a fine example of traditional temple styling.

National Palace Museum

As an antidote to the modernity that often overwhelms new arrivals, expats should visit this museum for its vast collection of ancient artefacts and artwork. The National Palace Museum displays the bulk of what was relocated to Taiwan from the Forbidden City in Beijing with Chiang Kei Shek’s move to Taipei. Famous exhibits include the Jade Cabbage and a celebrated example of the Qingming Scroll.

Shilin Night Market

As Taipei's biggest and most exciting night market, the Shilin Night Market is a must-see. More than a shopping destination, it is a cultural experience that reveals much of the city’s character. Thousands of stalls and stores sell an immense range of food and goods, and there is much fun to be had playing carnival-style games amidst the passing crowds.

Taipei Zoo

Unique local and international species are housed in the Taipei Zoo. The animals are kept in their zones which mimic their natural habitats, such as the Asian Tropical Rainforest section, desert area and even African savannah. In total, the zoo covers 165 hectares, including an extensive indoor area, and is consistently rated for its humane practices and advanced scientific practices.

What's On in Taipei

Whether passing through or living in the city, there are plenty of annual events in Taipei to keep expats entertained.

From celebrations of Taiwanese traditions and culture to showcases of local artistic talent and global fairs, foreign residents in the city have numerous opportunities to engage with local culture.

Below are some of the most popular yearly events in Taipei for expats to enjoy.

Annual events in Taipei

Lantern Festivals or “Little New Year” (February/March)

Taiwan is famous for its romantic lantern festivals, which are held all over the island on the fifteenth day of the first month of the lunar year. Expect elaborate fireworks displays, thousands of sky lanterns and entertaining events on the ground.

Hakka Tung Blossom Festival (April/May)

To celebrate the onset of spring, a series of spring-related events take place across the island. Take in the riot of colours and smells by biking, hiking or taking a train through popular spots in the countryside.

Taipei Arts Festival (September/October)

The biggest arts and culture festival in Taiwan, the Taipei Arts Festivals allows expats to see local film, art, music and cultural events in a number of venues across the city.

Taipei International Travel Fair (October/November)

A showcase for Taiwan’s travel industry and a platform for global industry exchanges, the fair sees more than 60 countries take part in an event that invites the world to Taiwan. The fair gives expats a fascinating opportunity to see displays and performances representing cultures from around the world.

Taiwan Cycling Festival (October/November)

This event is a cycling festival featuring a round-island race and several shorter cycling events that sees many international names in cycling descend on the island.

Golden Horse Film Festival (November/December)

The most important event of its kind in Taiwan, the festival and awards ceremony showcases some of the latest from Chinese-language cinema. It is considered one of the leading film festivals in Asia.

Getting Around in Taipei

The city's advanced public transport system makes getting around in Taipei easy. Even frequent day trips out of the city are feasible with high-speed trains. 

Maps in English are easy to come by. However, due to a lack of consistency in adapting Mandarin words into the Latin alphabet (pinyin), maps and road signs often display different spellings of the same roads or areas,

Given the abundance of public transport options in Taipei, and the heavily congested streets, most expats find that driving a car is an unnecessary expense.

Public transport in Taipei

MRT (Mass Rapid Transport)

An efficient subway system in Taipei takes commuters all over the city, with trains running from 6am to midnight. All stations and trains have English signs. Stops are announced in four languages, including English. Even those who don't speak Mandarin should be able to find their way around easily. Stations have ticket booths, vending machines and a smart card system for frequent travellers.


New arrivals may find that buses can be difficult to navigate at first because most drivers don’t speak English and destinations on the city outskirts may only be written in Mandarin. However, once expats get the hang of it, the bus system can be incredibly useful.

Bus fares are charged according to fare zones – passing through some zones will incur a higher cost than travelling within one zone. Ticket payment is either by smart card or in cash. If paying with cash, exact change must be used.

Taxis in Taipei

Taxis are numerous and the most flexible way to get around in Taipei. They are considerably more expensive than public transport but affordable by global standards. Taxis charge higher rates at night and tipping is not expected.

Alternatively, ride-hailing applications such as Uber and FindTaxi operate in Taipei. Many expats prefer using these applications as it gives them more control over routes and service prices while diminishing language barrier issues.

Driving in Taipei

Considering Taiwan's stressful driving culture and the city's excellent and affordable public transport network, most foreigners do not drive in Taipei. This is also because parking spaces are rare in the city, while rented spaces can be extremely expensive.

Expats looking to explore the rest of Taiwan by road tend to rent cars to do so. 

Bicycles and scooters in Taipei

Owning a scooter in Taipei is cheaper and more practical than owning a car, but expats should consider the high number of scooter accidents that occur in the city. 

Bicycles are a common sight in Taipei, although not as common as motorised transport. The city is devoted to improving cycling culture in Taipei and this can be seen by an increase in cycling infrastructure such as dedicated bicycle lanes and bicycle sharing initiatives.

Walking in Taipei

Taipei is an extremely safe city to walk around on foot, especially during the day. That said, foreigners should beware of pickpockets in crowded streets and markets, and of the occasional drive-by bag-snatch in the city.