I asked myself this question before I visited Taiwan for the first time and now that I live here I will do my best to help you out with an overview of the costs involved when visiting Taiwan.
Is Taiwan expensive? The simple answer is, “No, generally, travelling in Taiwan is not expensive.” This does not mean that everything is cheap either. Some items are ridiculously over-priced! Don’t automatically think that everything is cheaper here in Taiwan.
When visiting somewhere, it is easy to forget about your budget. You take into account the significant costs such as airfare and accommodation but fail to account for the day-to-day expenses involved. When these mount up it can lead to you leaving a destination with a bitter taste in your mouth.
Read on to make sure that doesn’t happen to you.
How I approached this guide
Is it expensive? This is not easy to answer! Whether or not something is expensive is a relative question and depends on a lot of factors. We all have our own ideas of what is a fair price for something. But most of us will use a comparison between where we live and our current travel destination.
Geography and culture will shift the prices up and down, and we must take this into account when making comparisons.
Lifestyles vary dramatically, and the way of life in Taiwan is very different from western countries.
Finding accurate data is not always easy, but I will make direct comparisons wherever possible.
The Big Mac Index
This actually exists and is an interesting concept. The multinational giant McDonalds varies its prices around the world based on the local economy. People use it to get an idea of how expensive a country is. Ok, so it might not be super-accurate, but it will give you an idea.
The Economist restricts access to subscribers but here is a version for 2018 from statista .com.
Getting to Taiwan
This is arguably the most significant cost of travel, and the price is not really related to Taiwan, but it should be factored in if you are making a budget for your visit.
Airline prices are notoriously volatile, so it is worth taking time to educate yourself how to find the best prices.
The average airfare is going to set you back 700 – 1,000 USD.
I wrote an article that will help you get the best deals on flights:
Travel costs within Taiwan
Taiwan has an excellent transportation network. Bear in mind that the island has a spine of high mountains running down the middle of it. This means most forms of transport circle the perimeter of the island. The high-speed rail only serves the west coast.
Travel from Taipei to Kaohsiung
- High-speed rail 2hrs – 1,500 NT$
- Normal train service 5hrs – 550–950 NT$
- Bus 5hrs – 500–800 NT$
This section is split into several parts. People have different needs when it comes to finding a place to stay.
Hotels & Hostels
A simple hostel offering a shared, single-sex dormitory might only cost 400 NT$ or even less.
Hotels can be found for around the 1000 NT$ mark depending on the location.
Obviously, you can spend as much as you want on a hotel room and the sky is the limit!
Be wary of AirBNB in Taiwan as it is currently illegal.
When using online booking services such as hotel.com, unscrupulous owners might allow you to book but then ask you to cancel and then pay cash.
Long term rentals
If you plan to spend a lot of time in Taiwan, then a rental might be a better option than hostels or hotels.
I stayed in a university dormitory when I studied Chinese at a university. The price is incredibly low, 4,300 NT$ for 3 months that included everything except air-conditioning power.
This might be a good idea if you are staying in Taiwan for an extended period. Prices will vary based on location, but a simple room can normally be found for 4–5,000NT$ per month. You can find a furnished place for this amount that includes the internet. You will normally have to pay electricity on top. This will be another 1,500–2,000 NT$ per month. Running an AC unit is expensive but necessary for most of the year.
How do the locals live?
The salary of a typical Taiwanese person is not very high. The average wage is around 28,000 NT$ per month so you can understand why the cost of living is generally lower. Many young people cannot afford to buy property here, and they are rightly upset by this. Of course, this is not just in Taiwan, it is the situation in much of the developed world.
Locals will eat family meals or go out to the cheaper restaurants that offer simple dishes at low cost.
Food at a local restaurant is the best value, a bowl of rice or noodles typically will set you back 50–60 NT$. Extra side dishes will be 20–30 NTS
The price of a Big Mac just went up from 69 to 72 NT$ which is much cheaper than much of the world. The same applies to other franchises. Expect prices to be around 30% lower.
Buying food in supermarkets
Chinese style food is cheap, but western food will be more expensive than at home. Dairy products such as milk, cream, cheese and yoghurt are incredibly costly when I make a comparison with the United Kingdom.
Chocolate, potato chips and other snacks are more expensive too, this must be because these items are imported.
Good things to buy in supermarkets are traditional food such as soy sauce, and sesame oil along with rice and noodles, etc.
Bread products are not only expensive, but they are also terrible quality. Loaves of bread tend to be bland and sweet. They really need the bread police to pay a visit!
Convenience store mark up
7-Eleven’s and the other convenience stores carry a broad, diverse range of products, but the prices will be a little higher than supermarkets. This is the cost of having 24–7 access.
Taiwan is a shopper’s paradise with many large malls and shopping areas. There are definitely bargains to be found as long as you are shrewd. Never assume that everything is cheaper, always double check with the price back home.
There are tax refunds available, so this can sway the balance in your favour as long as you understand how the system works. I’m no expert, but I believe that the item needs to look new when you leave Taiwan, but then get used before you walk through your home country customs. Otherwise, the article may be subject to import tax.
Some of the bargains I have found include camera gear, books, and other electronic equipment.
Is Taiwan a good backpacking destination?
Yes, it is a fabulous backpacking destination. It has everything you need in a small package. You can experience bustling city life, eastern culture, vast and varied food. If you are a fan of the great outdoors, then you can spend time exploring the mountains or the coastline!
Another reason to visit Taiwan is that it is not yet considered to be a tourist location in the west. You will never be swamped by tourists (other than Chinese and only in the real tourist traps).
Q: What is the best month to visit Taiwan? I like the winter months, so October through to April. Winter is cooler and rains less than in the summer months. You shouldn’t get disrupted by a typhoon either!
Q: How many days do you need in Taiwan? This is an easy answer, as many as you can spare. There is so much to do and see that a few days will not do the place justice.
Q: Is Taiwan more expensive than mainland China? In most cases, yes it is. The exception would be the big Chinese cities.