Working life, cost of living and taxes in Taiwan

A major reason why, at this point in my life, I really enjoy living and working in Taiwan is because of the low number of working hours, comparatively high salary I get paid and the low cost of living. 

I work about 25 hours a week.  This leaves me a LOT of free time to actually “live” (which, up to recently,  has been to engage in various different types of debauchery.  But that’s beside the point).

Like I said, I work 25 hrs a week.  That’s about standard (25 – 30) for anyone teaching English (in cram schools) in Taiwan.  It is possible to get more or less hours if you want, but I find that this is the perfect amount that lets me do all sorts of things.

I started off getting paid 55 000 NT a month which is roughly about $1835 US  (approx. 30NT = $1).  This is slightly lower than average, but has since gone up drastically, and I now get about 64 000NT ($2 136 US).  Some consider this to be low as well, but it’s enough for my current lifestyle.  Average starting salary for a Taiwanese with a bachelors degree is 25 000 – 30 000 a month.

Foreigners are taxed 18% for the first 6 months, then it drops to 5 %.  You get money back if you file a tax return (which my awesome boss does for me) and total taxes for the year work out to around 5 – 7%.  Some schools, if you stay with them for long, will work it out so that you just pay around 5% all year with no tax return, so it’s pretty much the same thing.  Regardless, my yearly tax rate is around 5%.  The only other deduction I have is for national health insurance which is around 200-300 NT per month.  One thing to keep in mind about this is that the damn tax laws here keep changing.  Luckily, my boss deals with all that, so I don’t have to.

So my take home comes to about 60 500 NT per month.

Here is a rundown of my BASIC expenses per month. Keep in mind, I live in a small town. Prices will be higher in a big city:

Rent : 5200 (incl. hydro, TV, internet etc.)

Electricity : 300 – 800 (depending how much I use the air conditioner and fridge)

Food : 10 000 (eating out every day….local food.  If you want western food it will be much more)

Cell: 1 000

Fuel for scooter : 1 200

Total : 17 700

Balance left : 42 800

As you can see, my BASIC expenses take up only about 30% of my take home.  It is very possible to live on this budget, without suffering,  if you want to save money.  I, obviously, have not been doing this.  Here are costs of various other things that I find to blow all my money on:

Beer: 50 – 70 for a tall can (depending on brand)

Whisky: 500 – 1 500 per bottle

Cigarettes: 55 – 100 a pack

Expensive food : 300 – 500+ a meal

Movies : 300 – 350 a ticket

Clothes : 1000 – 10 000

Travel : Totally variable.

Coffee : 40 (at 7-11) 90 (at Starbucks)

Western Breakfast : 100 – 250 per meal

Fruit Juices :  40 – 100 a day

English books : 250 – 800 per book

Snacking : 20 – 150 a day

Night out at the bar : 2 000 – 3 000

Surfboard Rental: 500 – 800 per day

Girlfriend : Lots. Makes me cry.

This is by no means a comprehensive list; there is a lot more, but I can’t remember all of it right now.

Once all the dust settles, I now manage to have about 30 000 NT ($1 000 US) left at the end of the month, which is a LOT of spare change in Taiwan.

This was not the case for the first few months.  They consisted of spending rampages and living like a rockstar.  The first few month of any newcomer to Taiwan  seems to be a whirlwind of travel and excitement which results in “zero” savings, but once life settles down a bit, you can save some serious cash.  I have started thinking that the way to riches Taiwan is not by making more, but saving more.

Unlike back home, work here does not consume my life.  In the west, I defined myself by my job (which I’m sure a lot of other people do as well).  Beside taking up a third of my day, I also used to think about work and talk work all the time.  I didn’t engage in too many other activities because there just wasn’t enough time, or I was too tired (from working).  I was like this guy:

Here, work is just something I do for money.  It doesn’t play a big a part in my life, but it pays for a big part of my life.  Because of the low cost of living, I have a lot of extra money after expenses .

I’ve found, that this extra amount of time (and money) has freed me to actually start living and doing things that I enjoy doing.  I’ve had the opportunity to pick up surfing, Chinese lessons and soon drumming.  I go to the beach every day, and relax at a coffee shop every evening.  Now I’m all:

With this kind of setup, it’s an easy life on the island.  Having so much extra money, and time allows people to concentrate on doing things they love.  And then life becomes about living not just living for the weekend.

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9 Responses to “Working life, cost of living and taxes in Taiwan”


  1. 1 Steven Mitchell August 26, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    Hey dude,

    Do you live alone? Or do you have a roommate? Also, did your appartment come furnished? Or did you have to get furniture and such?

    Steve

  2. 3 George October 2, 2012 at 8:42 am

    I think we really need to emphasize on living in “rural” Taiwan here . I live in Taipei , and expenses are easily over 20,000 per month for just basic stuffs .(my rent is 13,000 , and its not even nice)

    GEorge

    • 4 islandsidechronicles October 2, 2012 at 9:12 am

      Absolutely. It is MUCH more expensive to live in Taipei. A happy in between may be smaller cities like Hsinchu or Miaoli. Cheaper that Taipei, and more stuff to do than the “boonies”. Thanks for the comment.

  3. 5 Paramitha Dewi Nugraheni July 21, 2013 at 7:22 am

    Hi.. I am goin to stay in Taiwan for internship in a year, I will work from 8.30 am till 4.30 pm, and the allowance is about 28.000 NTD per month, do you think this is enough to life in Taipei? and btw I am not native English speaker, do you think they have part time job in the evening to teach English?
    and hey yeah my first three month I am goin to stay in Nantou, do you have any information about living cost there?
    and I love traveling to mountain and the beach, any suggestions?
    sorry for billion questions :p

    thanks in advance 😉
    warm regards,

    • 6 islandsidechronicles July 22, 2013 at 4:01 am

      NT 28 000 is nothing in Taipei. If your rent is covered, then you should be able to live on it, but if you have to pay rent (which is VERY expensive in Taipei), wou will not have enough money for the month.
      In terms of teaching English, most schools will not hire you if you don’t hold a passport from one of the recognized “native speaking” countries which are US, Canada, UK, Australia, NZ and South Africa. That being said, you may be able to find part time work under the table or pick up private students by looking at sites like tealit.com or through contacts in Taiwan if you have relevant experience, or you manage to sell your services well.
      Nantou is SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper than Taipei, and the costs will be similar to what I’ve mentioned in this post. It’s a beautiful scenic area in the mountains – Sun Moon Lake, one of Taiwans premier tourist destinations is located here as is He Hua Shan – a mountain. Unfortunately, Nantou is landlocked, so no beaches.
      If you want beaches, the best ones in my opinion are down south in Kenting, quite far from Nantou. For a shorter ride, you could head up to Jhunan, Houlong or Taipei.
      For more outdoorsy stuff check out hikingtaiwan.wordpress.com.
      Hope this helps!

  4. 7 Ansley September 5, 2013 at 3:49 am

    Just thought I would ask a quick question. I’m preparing to come to Taiwan with an organization, and I need to raise funds as it is a volunteer position. The organization gave me a monthly budget which stated that it would cost over $6,000 USD to live each month in Taiwan. That seems insanely high, even with myself and two children, health insurance, and a few other things not typically in a budget, included. Just the basic cost of living, excluding extras like health insurance, they quoted over $4,000 USD. I think that is absurd. what do you think? Thanks in advance!

    • 8 Ansley September 5, 2013 at 3:52 am

      I think I calculated that right, wouldn’t $6,000 USD equal to $180,000NT? who needs that much to live on??? I think someone may have made some calculation errors!

      • 9 islandsidechronicles September 6, 2013 at 12:43 am

        That is an insane amount of money for a month in Taiwan!! Even if you live in Taipei and pay rent of 50 000 NT a month (which is very high), you are still left with 130 000 NT. Definitely a miscalculation. I myself don’t have kids, so I can’t really estimate how much the cost for a family would be, but 180 000 NT/month seems like a ridiculously high estimate.


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