There are a lot of places in the world where a native English speaker can choose to move in order to teach English abroad. Taiwan has the reputation for being one of the better places.
One of the biggest reasons for that is the salary earned vs. living expenses. That differential is definitely a major benefit.
There are many great places around the world to teach English, but not all of them pay well. When I first started researching teaching English abroad, I knew I needed to find a place where I could make enough money to at least cover all my expenses.
As we’ve written about in previous posts, you can definitely make enough money in Taiwan to cover your expenses and also save money if that’s your goal. I thought it would be helpful if I laid out my expenses so that you can see approximately how much it costs to live here.
Living Expenses for Taiwan
Before reading the below it’s important to note that these are my average expenses and they range each month (i.e. the power bill only comes every two months). Additionally, everyone has a different lifestyle so you could spend considerably more or less on all of these things. Also, your share of utilities will of course depend on how many people live in your apartment.
One other thing to point out is that most people spend more their first few months here for things like start up costs, going out more, and traveling around. For reference, the average English teaching salary is around $2,000 USD for new teachers and it has not increased much over the last decade.
All figures below are in USD for ease of understanding. Check out www.xe.com for the latest conversion rate.
Rent for my apartment is about $660, which I split with my wife for an average of $330 a person. The apartment itself has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a study, kitchen and living room area and a couple of balconies. Spending around $250-350 is pretty average for a room in a shared apartment or a studio in Taipei.
It is possible to find cheaper places, but these tend to be either outside the city a bit (although still possibly on the MRT) or of lower quality. It’s also very easy to spend more money on nicer places/better locations if you don’t mind.
Cellphone: I have a contract for a smartphone and I pay $47 a month, which includes unlimited data and a certain amount of money towards phone calls and texts (I never go over the allotted amount).
Water: The water bill comes bimonthly and it’s around $33, so about $16.50 per person, which is $8.75 per month per person. The bill is fairly consistent throughout the year.
Gas: The gas bill comes bimonthly and is around $50, so about per person $25, which is $12.50 per month per person. The bill is fairly consistent throughout the year.
Electricity: The electricity bill comes bimonthly and ranges pretty dramatically between the seasons. In winter, the bill can be around $50 for a two month period, so $12.50 per person per month. However, in summer our electricity can go to as much as $170 for a two month period, which equals $85 per person per month. So on average I probably spend around $25 per month on electricity.
I take the MRT every day to and from work and it’s $1.07 each way, so I spend $2.14 total. I probably spend about the same on weekends on the MRT, so each month I spend 30 x $2.14 = $64.20.
If you have a scooter you should be prepared to spend about the same on both gas and minor repairs that will be regularly needed.
On average I spend around $665 on food for the month. This includes not only regular meals, but also things like going out to nice places on the weekend for dinner, snacks, fruit, drinks (non alcoholic), etc. I like to eat healthy, so I definitely spend more than some of my friends do. You could probably cut this cost by half if you are careful and only get cheap meals.
One of the easiest ways to spend money in Taiwan is for nightlife activities like going out to bars, clubs, movies, etc. You can find yourself easily spending $60-90 (and more) for drinks, food and taxis for a single night out. I go out a couple times a month to bars or the movies and spend around $200. I know people who don’t go out much and they spend far less; however, I also know plenty of people who spend significantly more (i.e. $500-750) going out.
Every month there are random expenses that come up and they probably average $133 for me. These can be everything from taking taxis when I’m running late, buying umbrellas, buying clothes and shoes, going to the doctor/dentist, etc.
In total, I spend roughly $1,500 each month on my normal living expenses. Of course, this amount doesn’t include other expenses that will come up, like going away for the weekend, getting a root canal (I had to get one and it cost about $330), going to weddings, and other things like this. So you should consider these other expenses when planning a budget. This is especially true if you are new to Taiwan and want to do some touristy things (like a food tour in Taipei) for the first few months as your costs could be considerably higher.
And, not every city is going to be the same. For example, the cost of living in Taipei is going to iin general be higher than living in a more rural setting such as Taichung county or Hualien.