One of the biggest decisions you can make is where to live in Taiwan. If you are being sent over by a company or get recruited by a school overseas then you won’t have much of a choice on where to live. But the vast majority of people who come here (especially those who are here to teach in Taiwan) will need to decide where to live.
I’ve already covered the pros and cons of living in Taipei in a previous post, so I suggest checking that out for a more in depth look at what it’s like to live in Taipei. I’ll cover Taipei again, but I’ll also focus on some of the other areas most foreigners choose to live in, including Kaohsiung, Taichung, Tainan, and some other notable areas.
Living in Taipei
Taipei is the capital of Taiwan and is by far the biggest and most populated city in Taiwan with nearly 7 million people in the city and surrounding areas. It is also the most international city (by far) in Taiwan, so you generally have a choice about how much you want to immerse yourself in the culture.
Many people come here and completely immerse themselves in learning Chinese and/or Chinese culture, while others come here and only hang out with foreigners. The great thing about Taipei is that you can easily do either of those two things or even a mixture of them and no one will care or bother you about it.
In terms of jobs, Taipei has the most English teaching jobs and also most other kinds of jobs held by foreigners. That’s why so many foreigners fly into Taipei and just decide to stay here. From buxiban (cram school jobs), to teaching in public schools, Taipei is generally one of the best places to look for jobs.
Other nice things about Taipei
- Great public transportation system, so it’s easy and convenient to get around the city and there isn’t a need for a scooter (see my post on driving a scooter in Taiwan).
- Surrounded my mountains, which means there are tons of hiking/outdoors activities you can do regularly.
- Close to lots of touristy activities, which is great for learning about Taiwan.
Living in Kaohsiung
Kaohsiung is the 2nd largest city in Taiwan and is about 200 miles south of Taipei. There are nearly 3 million people in metropolitan Kaohsiung, so while it isn’t as big as Taipei, it’s still a fairly large city.
Kaohsiung has really developed a lot of the past 10 years or so, and is becoming more international and modern. However, Kaohsiung still definitely doesn’t feel as international as Taipei and there are a lot less foreigners living there. But there are still many western restaurants, bars and other places and it’s continuing to grow, so you can generally find western things whenever you want them.
There is also a decent size foreign community and because it’s a large city there are many English teaching opportunities there as well.
Some of the other nice things about living in Kaohsiung are:
- Much better weather than Taipei (it’s hotter, sunnier and generally rains a lot less despite being only a couple hundred miles away).
- Close to Kenting (about a two hour bus trip away), which is Taiwan’s preeminent (and really only) tropical style beach town/resort area. (Click here to see what hotels are available in Kenting)
- Close to mountains with good hiking and outdoors activities. Make sure to go see the monkeys at Monkey Mountain if you live in Kaohsiung.
- A little cheaper than Taipei in terms of living costs.
Living in Taichung
Many foreigners I’ve met in Taiwan love Taichung. I think it’s because it embodies the best aspects of Taiwan. It’s still a relatively large city (approximately 2.6 million people), but it doesn’t feel as large or anonymous as cities like Taipei and Kaohsiung do.
Taichung is pretty easy to get around and generally you can get from one side of the city to the other in under 30 minutes. Taichung also has fantastic weather and despite being only about 100 miles South of Taiwan experiences far less rainy days that Taipei. It’s actually pretty amazing how often it is raining in Taipei and be a beautiful sunny day in Taichung. Taichung is also a lot more laid back than other parts of the island.
Perhaps because of a combination of the great features, Taichung has a pretty good sized foreigner community and I know many people live there for years. I know several foreigners who teach in Taichung and they say finding a job isn’t too difficult as long as you’re willing to look.
- Much better weather than Taipei (often compared to California’s weather due to the frequency of dry days). I’m jealous of how nice their weather is every time it rains in Taipei (which is a lot).
- Central location in Taiwan makes it easy to explore all over the island. Taipei and Kaohsiung are just an hour away each via the high-speed rail, and other fun things to do like Alishan and Sun Moon Lake are close by.
- Great laid back lifestyle.
- Close enough to hiking trails if outdoors activities are your thing.
- Cheaper to live in than Taipei or Kaohsiung
Living in Tainan
I’ve lived in Tainan and know it very well. Tainan has a population of 1.8 million, and while that seems to be pretty big for most of us from the west, the city itself is actually pretty small.
You can drive from one end of Tainan to the other in about 20-30 minutes and there really aren’t many tall buildings. Tainan has a very relaxed and laid back atmosphere.
In terms of weather, as long as you don’t mind the heat it’s fantastic. It’s not as temperate as Taichung, but it has nearly as many sunny days and is warmer, which is great during the winter. Tainan also has a close knit foreigner community and chances are you’ll get to know a good amount of them since more people frequent the same restaurants, bars, clubs, etc.
I highly recommend Tainan to anyone who doesn’t want to live in a big city and wants something more laid back. Here are some more reasons that living in Tainan might be for you:
- Very easy to get around. You can get most places in 10-20 minutes by scooter, so you can live anywhere in the city you want and not worry about getting to work.
- Very laid back compared to other parts of Taiwan.
- The food in Tainan is known for being amongst the best in Taiwan and it’s also cheaper.
- Significantly lower cost of living than the other cities, especially Taipei (my rent in Tainan for a similar apartment was 1/2 the price of my rent in Taipei)
- Close to Kaohsiung (about 45 minutes by regular train) for bigger city adventures, and also relatively close to Kenting (about 2.5-3 hours away)
Other Places to Check Out
- Kenting is a small beach resort town. There aren’t too many jobs down there, but if you love the beach it’s worth taking a look to see what’s available.
- Yilan is on the coast and close to some decent beaches and is especially popular amongst surfers. I know some people who live in Yilan and commute into Taipei (about 1 hour away by) because they like living there so much.
- Hualien is a small city in eastern Taiwan. To be honest I haven’t heard that many great things about living in Hualien, but I do know some people like it there because it’s much quieter and there are many really cool places nearby like Taroko Gorge.
- Taitung is a small city in southeastern Taiwan. Not too many foreigners live there, but if you are trying to get away and really immerse yourself in a different culture thenTaitung may be a good option. I haven’t been there, but I know many people who have and they say there are many beautiful places to see there.