12 Tips for Foreigners Moving to Taipei
You’re planning an exciting adventure to move to Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan, but you’re not exactly sure what to expect?
Here are 12 tips to help you be prepared from the moment you arrive:
1. Bring an umbrella and a pair of rain boots
It rains a lot in Taiwan. May, June and September are some of the wettest months with afternoon thunderstorms that’ll happen out of nowhere. Across the rest of the year, it can rain suddenly, it can rain then stop then rain again. Then there’s the typhoon season from June to October which can bring about some scary torrential rainfall.
Nothing’s worse than getting caught up in a downpour without the proper rain gear. Umbrellas are sold in every convenience store, but rain boots can be trickier to find. Many foreigners realize this a little too late by forgetting to bring a pair of rain boots from home.
You can also avoid the rainfall completely by using the accurate 7-day Taipei weather forecast.
2. Pack for both hot and cold weather
You can feel the summer heat around May to October in Taipei which can reach above a blistering 30°C (86°F). Taiwan is humid, so you’ll also sweat from the moment you step outside as if you are in a sauna.
Taiwan may be a subtropical island, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s hot all year around! In the winter months, temperatures can plummet to around 10°C (50°F), yet, it will feel much colder than that. Winters are still wet, meaning the cold painfully penetrates deep inside your bones as you shiver. Most buildings are predominantly made of concrete as they’re designed to keep you cool in the summer with no insulation. However, this allows the chill to creep indoors, into every room.
To overcome the chill, use electric heaters for your apartment, and wrap up warm in many items of clothing. It’s also in these cold months that a dehumidifier is pretty essential. Most apartments may even include a dehumidifier to prevent the walls and windows getting mould. – You’ll be surprised how quick one can fill up with water, so be sure to use it!
3. Learn to speak some basic Chinese
It’s true that you can get by in Taipei without speaking any Mandarin as many people can speak a decent level of English. But knowing some basic Chinese phrases could prove very helpful. There will be situations, such as being in a taxi or at a local store where it’s unlikely they can speak English when you’d need them to. Making an effort to learn Chinese in a predominantly Chinese speaking country can be very useful indeed.
The most recommendable way to begin learning Chinese is by using a language app on your smartphone. There are many ideal apps and sites that’ll give you a great start on the basic understandings of Chinese for when you arrive.
We recommend these 3 to start off with:
- ChineseSkill App – Learn Chinese / Mandarin language for free.
- Hello Chinese App – The best Chinese learning app for total beginners. (Also for free).
- Duoingo Site – This is a website version, but they’ve recently launched an app version.
4. Taipei has (almost) everything you’ll need
Don’t worry about what to bring with you because Taipei has pretty much 99% of everything you’ll need or possibly want. Taiwan is a modernized and developed nation with an advanced infrastructure and healthcare system. Thanks to international trade, imported goods are readily available in Taipei’s many convenience stores, supermarkets and malls. This means foreigners have access to many products from their home countries.
There are a few things that can be tricky to get in Taipei which you should consider bringing with you:
- Deodorant – there’s a limited selection here.
- Makeup – in darker shades.
- Cheap painkillers – it’s much more expensive here.
- Larger sizes – especially in clothing and shoes.
5. Discover the street food at the night markets
Taiwan’s night markets are a true foodie paradise, and some of the most famous ones are in Taipei. Even the smallest stalls with no proper seating besides a couple of plastic chairs may serve a very delicious meal. For a cheap price, you’re able to try some great snacks, and discover that food is a deep passion to the Taiwanese.
6. Make good use of public transport…
There really is little need to own a car in Taipei. Taxis can be helpful when you’re in a rush to get somewhere specific, and are probably a lot cheaper than back home. The best tip of all is to use the public transit for your daily commuting needs. It’s very modern, and most signs, if not all, include English.
It has a world-class reputation of being clean, safe, cheap and very reliable which also extends to all their transport modes. They run very frequent buses to each stop, and also facilitate a bike sharing system with bike parking stations scattered across the capital city. What makes their transport efficient is that all of these modes of transport can be accessed using the same prepaid transit card. It’s called the EasyCard, and it can easily be bought or credited at any station or convenience store.
7. …but respect its rules and etiquette.
As a guest in Taiwan, it’s important to familiarize yourself with their rules and to respect the local etiquette.
The law enforcement in Taipei takes the transport rules very seriously, so everyone upholds them. This has helped build a safe and pleasant environment for all passengers when using the rail system.
Here’s what you need to know:
- Don’t eat or drink inside the busses or the Metro system (the MRT). This keeps the public transit very clean. This rule is taken so seriously that you can even be fined for chewing on a mint.
- Avoid sitting on the clearly marked priority seats. The Taiwanese culture highly respects the elderly and people with disabilities. You’ll often find that those seats are largely avoided, even when there’s no one eligible to use them. In any case, you should always give up your seat to someone who needs it more.
- Unlike many other Asian countries, most passengers will be quiet in their conversations when using the public transit in Taipei. Be sure to be respectfully quiet, and ensure your devices are on silent. If possible, try to avoid having any telephone conversations, it’s considered rude here.
8. Be wary of cockroaches
Sooner or later, you will inevitably encounter these little horrid creatures in the city. Cockroaches are a common pest in Taiwan, and they become more active in the summer as the temperature rises. They can grow to anything around 2 inches, and scurry across the pavements at a frightening speed. Stay vigilant so they don’t catch you off guard when one darts straight at your feet from nowhere!
9. Bring your driving licence with you
Although the public transit is the most ideal form of transportation, you’ll notice that many choose to ride scooters. Scooters are another popular and convenient way of getting anywhere around the city. If you decide to rent a scooter, you are able to with your home driving licence. Most scooter-renting places will accept your home licence as proof that you can ride one, even if you haven’t before!
10. Expect it to be loud at night
Taipei is one of those cities that never sleeps. As scooters are one of the most popular forms of transport in Taipei, expect the constant sound of zooming traffic. If your apartment is nearby a main road, it’s likely you’ll hear them passing by all day and night.
One way to avoid this noise pollution is to find an apartment that isn’t too near any busy areas in Taipei. Consider how close it is to the main roads on Google Maps when you begin searching for a place to live. Many light sleepers overcome this issue by using ear plugs to bed to drown out the bustling city traffic.
11. Connect to the large expat network
It’s easy to feel lonely when you’ve moved to a foreign country. But rest assured, there’s a large expat community in Taipei, and it’s growing! Taiwan is starting to get a global recognition as it currently holds a ranking as the 4th best place in the world to live as an expat by the InterNations Expat Insider’s report, (it was even ranked #1 last year!). – This recent positive attention brings an ever increasing number of foreigners to Taiwan as an emerging popular destination.
You can easily make many awesome friends from different backgrounds that’ll share mutual interests. They will be more than happy to offer their support, share activities and explore the island with you.
12. Anticipate staying longer than planned
There’s an overwhelming number of foreigners living in Taipei for over a decade. Many of them had initially planned to stay just a year or two. It’s easy to appreciate that Taipei offers a VERY comfortable and enjoyable lifestyle. Most expats agree that their quality of life has improved a lot since arriving in Taipei.
Be precious with your time here from the moment you arrive. You’ll look back after 12 months, and agree that a year can EASILY feel like no more than 6 months. If and when you do leave Taiwan, it’s likely to be in at least some regret. Worry not, this beautiful island is always happy to have you back! As like so many expats have in the past, many have made a return a year or so later. It’s hard not to love the comfortable city life in Taipei!
Last updated: February 2018 – Taipei.Expats