Most people confuse a travel-filled lifestyle with one of wealth and luxury. And while there are a million blogs and articles about how to travel on a budget, the way that’s worked best for me is simply moving abroad.
Taipei is a hidden gem of a city that has so much to offer, especially for someone who is travel-minded. If you’ve ever dreamed about exploring Asia, Taipei is a great place to make your temporary (or permanent!) home. Here’s why:
Close to everything good in Asia
- Okinawa – 1h 26min
- Hong Kong – 1h 55min
- Shanghai – 1h 55min
- Manila – 2h 15min
- Seoul – 2h 30min
- Hanoi / Ho Chi Minh – 3h+
- Tokyo – 3h 10min
- Bangkok – 3h 40min
- Singapore – 4h 40min
- Kuala Lumpur – 4h 40min
Think of the variety of food you can get on weekend trips alone. And flights are inexpensive – for between $150 and $500USD you could do 10 countries in a year in one of the most diverse regions on earth. If you love to travel and you want to explore Asia, make Taipei your main stomping grounds.
Low cost of living
Taipei is a relatively inexpensive city to live in. Rent is low (just don’t try to buy a house), as are living expenses. I live in Xinyi District, Taipei’s financial center and one of the more expensive parts of the city, and with roommates I pay less than $500USD a month in rent. For $600USD you can find a cozy and new studio, and if you move out to less central areas, rent gets even cheaper without sacrificing any convenience.
Due to such a low cost of living, subsidizing your life in Taipei is easy. You can tutor or teach English part-time, and if you are a freelancer of any variety, there are plenty of online platforms where businesses are looking to hire freelance writers, designers, or developers. Provided you’ve got the skills, you can easily subsidize a comfortable lifestyle with plenty of cash left over for travel.
Public transportation is extremely affordable, healthcare is inexpensive and high quality, and the cost of food, drinks, and fun can be kept staggeringly low should you be budget-minded. This is super helpful for expats who would rather spend their money on exploring and experiences than on day-to-day items that can eat up your cash in more expensive locales.
High quality of life
Bloggers and journalists have written ad nauseum about how great life is for expats in Taiwan, so I’ll spare you all the details. However, and speaking from personal experience, Taipei is great for a bunch of reasons not really discussed by everyone else.
It’s an international city in its own right, with a vibrant expat community and travel-minded locals. Taiwanese people are highly educated, genuinely friendly, and appreciate visitors. Taipei is clean, super safe, street food is everywhere, and there is a ton to see and do. Did I mention food? And Taipei has everything you need. Obviously Taiwanese Chinese food is covered, but you can get Burgers, Pizza, Indian… whatever your stomach desires.
Here are a few of my favorites:
Night Market: Tonghua Night Market – smaller and more central than massive Shilin, Tonghua has a more local feel with the same variety.
Burgers: Burger and Co. – if this shop opened in the US, it would be as good as anything out there.
Indian: Balle Balle – about as genuine as it gets, this place is cozy and affordable, and the service is always top notch.
Sushi: NCIS – short for Northern California Inspired Sushi, this spot offers some wild rolls and a fusion of flavors from around the Pacific.
Mexican: Pachuco – As much a bar as it is a restaurant, the selection is solid and the tequila runs freely.
Pub: On Tap – A proper British-style pub right in the heart of Taipei, excellent for both beers, food, and pool and darts.
Club: Triangle – The most laidback club in Taipei, if you like good drinks and a range of music, this is the spot to be.
Beyond just travel opportunities and for saving money, Taipei has been great in terms of living a fun and vibrant lifestyle.
Taiwan itself is amazing to explore
One of the greatest discoveries I made when I moved to Taiwan was the awesome domestic travel opportunities – which is also significantly less expensive than traveling around Asia. Taipei itself has plenty to offer, but it takes very little effort to find some of the most unique and enriching destinations across the island.
You can scuba dive at Green Island, visit aboriginal villages around the island, see Dutch Forts older than America in Tainan, and Taroko Gorge might be my favorite national park on the planet. Hiking is common, and Taiwanese people (and visitors) love to bike literally around the island.
Honestly, I could go on all day about why you should pack up and head for Taiwan. My personal experience has been travel-filled, yes. But more than that, I’ve started a successful business, gone to graduate school (without going into crazy debt), learned Mandarin, and expanded my horizons more than I’d ever thought possible. Many of my friends here have different yet equally vibrant experiences. So, if you have the travel bug, want to see Asia, and explore a place with a ton to offer, book a flight to Taipei today!
Adam Hatch has been living in Taipei for more than 7 years and working as a freelance writer. He has traveled extensively around Taiwan as well as East and Southeast Asia. When he’s not writing, he’s likely working on his Master’s thesis or hiking around Taipei.
photo credits: james tarantino