Depending on an expat's reasons for relocating, accommodation in Taipei can differ dramatically. Senior businesspeople moving with their families will want different housing than expats looking to teach English in the city for a few years.
Housing in Taipei is also expensive. Although there are efforts to bring prices down, they are expected to stay high for the foreseeable future.
The most expensive accommodation in Taipei is located in the areas closest to the city centre, and prices decrease as one moves to the periphery. To save on rent, some expats opt to share an apartment.
Areas and suburbs in Taipei
Taipei comprises 12 administrative districts, each with its own distinct character. The Da'an and Xinyi districts, known for their skyscrapers, shopping, and entertainment venues, are among the priciest. Da'an is home to many high-end apartments, while Xinyi, as the financial district, hosts several international corporations and luxury hotels.
Taipei's Zhongshan and Songshan districts are also popular, featuring a mix of modern buildings and traditional homes. Both districts are known for their food scenes and night markets, offering a taste of authentic Taiwanese life.
On the more affordable end of the spectrum, outer districts like Beitou and Shilin offer less crowded living conditions. They are closer to natural attractions like hot springs and national parks. However, expats here may have to commute longer to the city centre.
See our dedicated Areas and Suburbs in Taipei page for more information.
Types of accommodation in Taipei
Regardless of wealth, most real-estate in the city is found in the form of secure apartment blocks that have stair access to upper floors. Elevators are scarce except in the most luxurious complexes.
The Taiwanese measure floor space in a unit of measurement called ping, where one ping is equivalent to 3.3 square metres. Expats will find that by Western standards, apartments in Taiwan are tiny and close together with little outdoor space.
Note that Taiwanese kitchens seldom have stove and oven units. The same goes for dishwashers. A typical kitchen consists of a refrigerator, gas stove and microwave.
Finding accommodation in Taipei
In many cases, employers will assist in finding accommodation or include free accommodation as part of an employment package. If this is the case, expats should investigate the arrangement. Aside from apartments in Taipei being smaller than Western apartments, accepting a higher salary instead of an accommodation allowance may not always be the best decision.
For young expats moving to Taipei to teach English, it's possible to find flatshares quite easily through expat social media groups. This saves money and can create an opportunity to make meaningful social connections.
It may be wise for new arrivals to spend some time in temporary accommodation while exploring the city. This allows expats to get a feel for the options available and to visit potential apartments before settling on a lease.
Expats who don't speak Mandarin and don't have a friend or colleague to help them should consider enlisting an English-speaking estate agent to support their accommodation search. Most real-estate agencies charge one month's rent for their services. Expats can also search for housing through online property portals, some of which list properties in English.
Renting accommodation in Taipei
Making an application
When applying to rent accommodation in Taipei, expats will usually be asked to provide some documentation. Typically, this includes proof of employment or income, their passports and a Taiwanese contact person. There may be a form to complete, where one needs to provide some basic details about themselves.
In some cases, the landlord may want to meet the potential tenant before accepting the application. This is a good opportunity to discuss any queries or concerns and to ensure that both parties are on the same page when it comes to the rental agreement.
Leases, costs and fees
Leases in Taipei usually run for one year, although shorter-term leases are available. It's important to read through the lease carefully and ask for clarification on any points that aren't clear. Leases will typically be written in Mandarin, so having a trusted person translate the lease is advisable for non-Mandarin speakers.
Upon signing a lease, tenants are generally required to pay a deposit, usually equivalent to two months' rent. In addition, the first month's rent is usually payable upfront. On top of these costs, there may be a management fee to consider, which covers the upkeep of communal areas and security services.
For those who wish to terminate their lease early, it's worth checking the contract to understand the implications. Some landlords may charge a penalty fee for early termination.
See Accommodation in Taiwan for more on the rental process.
Utilities in Taipei
Expats can rest assured that electricity, water and gas will almost certainly be hooked up and ready to use before moving in. Utilities are affordable in Taiwan, and tenants will start paying from the first moment they use them. In Taipei, utility bills don't come every month but every two to three months, depending on the utility company. They can be paid at any 7-Eleven convenience store, open 24 hours a day, at the bank, post office or through their landlord.
Gas and electric
The Taiwan Power Company provides electricity to all of Taipei. As for gas, it can be either piped (city gas) or delivered in cylinders (bottled gas), depending on the property. One provider is Taipei Gas. Using electricity for heating and cooking is common in Taipei due to its convenience and relatively low cost.
Bills are usually based on meter readings and can be paid via the same methods as general utilities. Newcomers who want to transfer the electricity contract to their name can submit a completed application form and proof of payment for the previous bill to Taiwan Power Company.
Water in Taipei is supplied by the Taipei Water Department and is safe to drink directly from the tap. Expats who need to start or stop service can visit their nearest Taipei Water Department office or call their customer service lines. Bills are issued every two months and can be paid at convenience stores, post offices, or through automatic bank transfers.
Bins and recycling
By law, refuse must be separated according to different recyclable materials, e.g. plastic, glass, paper and cans. Some apartment blocks have a communal area where refuse can be left at any time and is collected by refuse trucks. If one does not have such an area, however, residents must personally take out refuse when the trucks come around and throw rubbish bags into the truck themselves. These yellow trucks usually play a jingle that makes it easy to identify. They service different neighbourhoods on specific days and times.
The yellow rubbish trucks are typically followed by white trucks, which collect recyclable waste. Taiwan's waste collection system has not only significantly reduced pollution, as residents are forced to hand-deliver their rubbish to the trucks, but also fostered a strong sense of community in Taipei.