Ally, one of the readers in this blog has asked me about monthly living expenses in Taipei.
I was just going to answer via the comment section when I thought that other people may be interested on how much I spend here in a daily basis, just in case they are thinking of moving Taiwan.
As a student, I was able to live off one-year scholarship that gave me the opportunity to study Mandarin at my school of choice, while receiving a NT$25,000 stipend to cover all my living expenses (e.g., rent, food, clothes, tuition, etc.).
Life as a student was of course, cheaper than life as a professional. For the latter, you tend to go to nicer restaurants, enjoy more expensive comforts and go out to hippier night spots, so I spend tons more now than I did then.
But I digress…
Bottomline is, if you live simply, think wisely and not spend $$$ like crazy, I think you can even save a little bit of money from the NT$25,000 monthly student stipend. If you want to have an active nightlife though, prepare to bore a hole in your pockets cause your $$$ will just disappear like magic.
Here’s the breakdown:
Rent depends on where you live. The closer to downtown you are, the more expensive it gets. Of course, you can live in the middle of nowhere, but who wants to do that?!
If you’d like to study Mandarin, the tuition fee at Shida costs NT$18,000 for 3 months, excluding books which cost around NT$300++ each. Classes are merely 2 hours a day for 5 days a week and better go to all your classes lest you lose your student visa!
You can get a room without your own bathroom (you have to share with other roomies) for as low as NT$4,000 to NT$6,000 per month. These are called ya fang. A room with your own bathroom would cost at least NT$8,000 to NT$12,000. We call these tao fang. These prices are just for a room, so don’t expect having your own kitchen and living room. Some places do, some places don’t.
My own place at the heart of the Shida night market (near the school area) cost around NT$8,500 plus utilities. So rent would definitely chew up most of your savings! Anywhere you go, it should probably take up 1/3 of your allocated budget.
For meals, if you eat simply, an average meal cost NT$100. When I was a student, breakfasts would cost me at most NT$50, while lunch and dinner was around NT$100. Anything above NT$150 is already a luxury. I find this funny because now, as a yuppie, I often spend around NT$200 to NT$500 for dinner at a time.
Before, I’d balk on the thought of plopping NT$500 for a single meal, but after eating at restaurants that charge more than NT$1,000 for a piece of steak, NT$500 doesn’t seem that bad at all. So it’s all about the relativeness of cost and how much money you are willing to spend for better dining.
Transportation costs are reasonable — Buses cost NT$15 a ride, NT$12 if you’re a student, and riding the MRT would cost you from NT$20 to NT$50 depending on your destination. Taxis start at NT$70 and jump NT$5 every time. It gets expensive fast, so buy a scooter/bicycle if you can.
Entertainment guzzles up most of your money.
Movies here are way too expensive, at NT$300 a show in an ordinary theatre, excluding popcorn and a regular coke which cost NT$160 a set.
Clubbing is super expensive.
Roxy 99 is already a deal at NT$300 with one free drink, but higher-end bars like Luxy (NT$400 before 11PM,, NT$700 I think after), Plush (NT$700), Room 18 (NT$800), Mint (NT$800 to NT$1,000) would burn a hole in your pockets.
Luxy, Plush and Mint will give you one free drink, while Room 18’s price is consumable. Room 18 btw, is my favorite among the three as the music’s better. It’s a fire hazard though, since there’s only two visible exits in the entire place. Cocktails at these places would cost at least NT$250 to as much as NT$450 a glass.
MoS is only NT$350 with one free beer before 11PM, and more expensive afterwards… but who wants to go there since demographics are way younger (college students, anyone?) and it’s just too far.
KTV isn’t really my thing, but cost at least NT$500 for just a few hours. It can easily hop on to NT$1,000 or so if you stay longer.
Now as I write about it, I realized how much money I’ve wasted on short-term pleasures… but hey, life is too short not to live! 😀
Overall, living costs here cost way more than back home. My eyes almost popped out last year when I went back home, when I saw cocktails were merely P80 to P120! Now, that’s freaking cheap! Everything’s cheaper in Manila!!! My mom tells me how much they spend in each meal, and am like, that’s nothing here in Taipei.
Salary-wise, it depends what type of job you have. Chinese skills are very important, and if it’s not really as fluent as the locals, why would companies hire you? Hence, most Filipinos here work as technical writers, English teachers (so long as you have an American accent), editors and anything related to English. Sometimes, you see some in sales, but usually in companies owned by Fil-Chi businessmen and they usually try to cheat you anyway.
On average, a typical yuppie doesn’t get a lot of moolah.
My 31-year old friend for example, who is working as a business manager in a consumer goods company has a salary of NT$30,000 to NT$35,000 and this is even with 5 years experience. You can probably get more, but it depends on the industry and Chinese speaking skills. If the latter is non-existent, prepare for a tougher life here. Of course, if you’re in an IT-related field, you get a lot more. Salary is better here than back home though.
Experience count, but Chinese speaking skills are still essential. Without which, it’s going to be tough finding a job here. There’s also the issue of working without a permit, which is a hassle. If you work here, best to protect yourself with a work permit, and the best way to do this is work in a big company.
The only job that doesn’t really require English is to be an English teacher. English teachers can get around NT$80,000, but that’s if you’re blond and break your back working 8 hours teaching. Per hour, teaching English can get you NT$500 an hour. My Dutch friend received NT$1,000 an hour, but I guess it’s because he’s tall, handsome and looks very Anglo-Saxon. It’s a dead-end job though, but good for those who wants to build up their savings or pay their debt back home.
Cellphone calls cost around NT$10 per minute, NT$2.50 to NT$5 per text message so if you’re complaining about Globe or Smart, smile and be happy with what you have. Phone bills would eat up your money here.
English books cost NT$300 and above, so better have your library card ready and just borrow books.
Movie/DVD rentals cost NT$80 overnight to a lot more in bigger stores like Blockbuster.
Overall though, life is expensive, but good here. You can save as much as you want to, and spend as much as you’re willing to spend. There are cheap meals, and expensive meals. You can walk, or take the cab. You can just mill around the park or go clubbing.
Like any place, Taipei is as expensive or cheap as you make it.
Of course, it’s just common sense…
If you spend more than you earn, you’re in deep sh*t. But if you save more than you earn, regardless on how much you spend, you’re still fine.
So, do you still want to come to Taiwan? 😉
It’s not that bad though… I earn more than my compadres back home, that’s for sure. But I do spend way more. I mean, who’ll spend NT$2,800 just for a lovely steak dinner?
But still, Taipei allows you to live life to the fullest, and that’s what I’m doing — even though I’m spending more than I should. But so long as my parents don’t know about this, who cares? ;-D
Hope this helps!
*Please note that NT$1 is around P1.5 to 1.6 depending on the exchange