I used to think of Taipei and Taiwan as an extension of China. In my ignorance (before I visited) I expected an island version of mainland China. There is some truth in this, but that doesn‘t tell the whole story. The Taiwanese people are descendants of Chinese (there are indigenous tribes but I’ll leave that discussion to the experts) who emigrated when the communist regime came to power. As I understand it, when communism came to China, the artists, intellectuals, and political opponents left for Taiwan. The result is an Asian island with laws that protect culture and the arts, forward-thinking entrepreneurs, and an open society.
Taiwan has always embraced technology – the so-called Taiwan Miracle refers to the explosion of economic growth in the last century of the country’s history. Taipei is a modern city, open to foreigners, with a healthy entrepreneurial community.
All of this makes Taipei, the country’s capital, an attractive location for digital nomads.
Taipei has a lot to offer digital nomads. Here are a few reasons to go.
Taipei is like the best of Bangkok and the best of China mixed together. It’s one of the best cities in the world
3-month visa on arrival for most developed nations (EU, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Chile). Citizens of Canada and the UK can extend the visa to 180 days.
It can get hot, but unlike places like Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City (which I love, by the way), there is some variation in temperature throughout the year. In January, the average temp gets down to a low of 13C. The highest temperatures are in July when the average High is 34C.
People speak English better than in most South East Asian countries (apart from Singapore). The official statistics put the English level as “average” but I found it to be pretty good, at least in Taipei.
One thing that makes life a little difficult for non-Taiwanese speakers is that most websites (apart from tourist-related ones) do not have English translations. At least that’s what I found. Supermarket, gym, and apartment rental sites for example, are often only in Taiwanese. And if you’re not a speaker, you’ll know that it’s impossible to even make a guess. Google Translate can help to a point here.
Open to foreigners
Some of the friendliest people I have met in the world are in Taipei. Something I didn’t expect before I arrived. On several occasions, strangers approached me on the street and in subway stations to ask if I needed help.
Security people and police officers always went out of their way to give advice and help. There appears to be a genuine interest in helping foreigners.
Taipei is a very open culture. LGBT people and people of colour are welcomed here. The Taiwanese are tolerant of religions and women are respected.
Almost 3 million people live in Taipei but I didn’t find it particularly crowded. The excellent subway system and transport in the city means that people move around freely and easily. The only places you might feel claustrophobic is in the night markets. But then that adds to the atmosphere.
World class food and drink
The food in Taipei is world class. It’s one of the best places in South East Asia for foodie travel. In some respects, I prefer the food here to the places that usually get all the credit (Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore)
One thing you can’t miss is the night markets, of which there are many. If you’re into food, visiting a night market is like going to Disney World.
And bubble milk… Okay, it’s not essential but you will definitely want some when you visit. And you’ll see Milk stores everywhere.
This is one of the best cities in Asia for coffee drinkers. In fact, I’d put it in the top 3 places in the world to drink coffee. It certainly beats a lot of other Asian capital cities for quality and the sheer quantity of cafes dotted around the city.
There are so many cafes in this city that I don’t know how people sleep. And most of them are really nice, trendy places. There are Starbucks and other horrible chains, of course. They are unavoidable, but the independent cafe scene in Taipei is going strong. And I recommend you try a few of them.
If you’re planning on doing visa runs from Thailand, the Thai embassy in Taipei is efficient. Compared to the hassle of getting a visa in Laos, this is a breeze.
But a word of warning: While in Taiwan, I took the opportunity to apply for a 2-month visa in Thailand. I was spending most of my time in Thailand at the time. The visa process itself was easy and fast. But I had a few problems with Thai immigration. It’s the only embassy that questioned what I was doing in Thailand. “Are you working in Thailand?” and “How are you supporting yourself in Thailand?”. A bank statement should be enough to get around this. So don’t forget to have printouts. I forgot and had to make a dash to a coworking space to print them out before getting back just before
The immigration official told me that he wouldn’t permit me to get a further 2-month visa at the Embassy of Thailand in Taipei again. That was me warned, I guess. I still find it hard to believe that they think I’d actually work in Thailand, rather than work online for western wages.
If you’re doing any visa procedures in Taiwan, bring photocopies of everything.
Taipei airport is one of the few places I’ve been stopped and questioned by security. My current facial hair and head hair arrangement are quite different than what you see on my passport picture. So they pulled me aside to find out if I was really who I said I was.
Internet & Phone
Internet speed is fast almost everywhere and phone plans or pre-pay mobile phones work well.
The average speed of internet in Taiwan is just over 80 Megabits per second (Mbps) according to Speedtest’s global index, beating the global average of 55 Mbps by quite a margin. That puts the country in 24 th position in the world.
It’s sometimes hard to find the right information when it comes to country comparisons, because Taiwan is often lumped in with China.
Mobile speeds are slightly better with Taiwan’s mobile speed ranking in position 23 with 42 Mbps on average.
When it comes to mobile phones, there’s a range to choose from. If you can’t decide which SIM provider to choose, go with Chunghwa. It’s the most popular option for digital nomads and you can grab a SIM card in Taipei Airport when you land. You might as well buy the card there when your passport is close at hand and you don’t need to bring any other forms of ID.
Chunghwa offers unlimited data on the 4G plan. Coverage includes all of Taiwan including some islands. You also get access to 50,000 wifi hotspots around the country. The 30-day plan costs $32 but I think it’s the best value plan among the SIM card companies.
If the thoughts of changing SIMs leaves you cold, try a service like OneSimCard.
Disclaimer, I haven’t used the service but I’ve heard positive feedback from other travellers. Apparently, you can save a huge chunk of change on roaming if you use this SIM. More details on the website.
Cafés To Work From
Night owls will love Le Park Cafe.
Le Park Cafe is a quirky spot, created to look like a French café (hence the name). You’ll find people studying and working in here until late in the evening. The cafe opens at 1 pm and stays open until 11 pm (quite late for Taipei – it’s not a nightlife city).
No. 146, Liaoning Street, Zhongshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan 10491
Astar Coffee house is a place where they take their coffee seriously.
They also serve alcohol (hard liquor) and food so you could make an evening out of it and sober up with a few cups of joe afterwards. One of the tastiest cups of coffee in the city. And friendly service to boot. Go there!
No. 41, Alley 13, Lane 60, Section 3, Minquan East Road, Zhongshan District
Dante Coffee is more of a Starbucks-style coffee house so don’t expect anything too artisan or “boutique”. But they have plenty of seating, power outlets, and free Wifi all day. They also serve reasonably good food. A good spot to work for a few hours. It opens around 7am so it’s a good choice for early starters.
No. 398, Fuxing North Road, Zhongshan District
Homey’s Cafe is friendly to the laptop worker brigade (that’s you and I) and offers plug sockets and long high tables for working from. These high benches are not comfortable for working at if you’re sitting. But I use them as makeshift standing desks.
The food and coffee options are a mix of Asian and Western. My only gripe is with the opening hours: 12 pm to 12 am, which makes it best for night owls and late risers.
No. 36, Lane 236, Section 1, Dunhua South Road, Da’an District
Arthere Cafe might be hard to find on Google Maps as the English-language version of the name doesn’t appear. Search for 上樓看看
Another cafe that opens late but stays open late (the Taiwanese love late night cafes), this one has an upstairs area that’s pretty well set up for digital nomads. A long bench to perch your laptop and wooden tables in a moderately quiet area make up the space.
You’ll find locals studying and working here all day and long into the evening.
No. 6, Alley 3, Lane 165, Section 5, Zhongxiao East Road, Xinyi District
FutureWard Central is a big coworking space with different spaces and areas to work. It’s one of the best coworking spaces I’ve seen on my travels.
My only gripe is that it opens quite late, at 9.30am. Not everyone’s an early bird but many of the digital nomads I know like to start work very early. 5am or 6am, for example, are typical start times. I usually try to open my laptop by 6:30 at the latest.
That means working an hour or two before interrupting the flow to move to the coworking space. The good thing (or bad thing, depending on how you look at it) is the coworking space stays open until 20:30 most days. Closed on Sunday.
No. 343 Changchun Road, B1, No. 343號, Changchun Rd, Songshan District
Taipei Digiquarters is a hybrid coworking and coliving space in the Zhongzheng District.
Living quarters consist of single rooms and dorm bunk beds ( 2 or 4 beds – same sex only) and the working quarters are basic but comfortable. The internet speed max is 160Mbps. At just over 700 USD a month for a single room, the rates work out quite reasonable if you include the cost of renting a coworing space at the same time.
Digiquarters is not open to drop ins. You must be a “resident” to use the facilities.
No. 19, Lane 143, Section 1, Hangzhou South Road, Zhongzheng
Connect coworking space is a beautiful looking place with day rates around $20. It’s less of a place for
106, Taiwan, Taipei City, Da’an District, Lane 147, Section 4, Zhongxiao East Road
Impact Hub Taipei is part of a larger network of hubs (in South East Asia there’s on in Yangon, Phnom Penh, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Manila). There are standing desks, an outdoor terrace, chill out area, and even bean bags. Prices are a very reasonable $7 USD a day.
Open from 9 am to 9 pm.
Impact Hub is Located close to the Gongguan Night Market. No. 3, Ln. 265, Sec. 2, Heping E. Rd.,
Next, we have the Taipei Hackerspace,
It looks like a cross between a laboratory and someone’s garage. It‘s definitely not a corporate feel and would suit people that thrive on new inputs and ideas.
If you’re workoing on a physical product or want to meet fellow geeks, this is the place for you.
4F, No. 26, Lane 133, Taiyuan Rd.
Health & Insurance
The standard of healthcare in Taiwan is very high so you won’t need to worry about getting the very best treatment in case of an emergency. Prices are low compared with Europe and the US.
Taiwan isn’t a popular medical tourism destination yet, but it’s begging to draw in visitors who come for dental, laser eye surgery, and cosmetic treatments.
Don’t visit Taiwan without medical and travel insurance. It doesn’t matter how good the local healthcare might be, leaving home without proper insurance is playing a dangerous game. It’s dumb.
Cost of living in Taipei
According to Numbeo, the site that crunches the numbers on user-generated data, a single person’s monthly costs before rent are just under $750 (€700). From the figures on the website and my own research, I would suggest doubling this number to include rental costs.
Living costs ($750) + one-bed apartment rental ($750) = $1500. Not bad for a modern city with plenty of amenities.
Expatistan, the site that compares the cost of living between cities, puts Taipei as 89% cheaper than New York City, 25% cheaper than Austin, Texas, and 15% cheaper than Berlin.
Bangkok is 29% cheaper than Taipei, in case you were wondering.
As the well-known travel blogger Johnny Ward once told me, “Taipei is like the best of Bangkok and the best of China mixed together. It’s one of the best cities in the world”. He’s been to every country in the world and lives in Bangkok, so he’s qualified to make statements like that.
Transport & Getting Around
The metro (subway) in Taipei is extensive, inexpensive, and fast. It really is the best form of transport
It’s easy to get around the city by walking and subway/metro. There are also taxis and buses but the metro lines cover pretty much everywhere you’d need to go.
For day trips out of the city and for travelling around the rest of the country, I recommend the train. It’s an efficient and comfortable way to travel.
Most visitors to the city head out to Wulai at some stage. Wulai is a popular relaxation destination of hot springs set in beautiful scenery only an hour from the city. If you look up “how to get to Wulai” on Google most of the advice suggest taking bus 849 from Xindian MRT Station. This is the easier option and is quicker than the train. I couldn’t even find advice on taking a train there but there is a way. It took me twice as long as the bus but I prefer trains. Grab the train from Xindian MRT station to Wulai and then the Wulai Scenic Train (a bit of a tourist gimmick with nice scenery) to the foot of the town.
UBikes are a great option for whizzing around the city. They might not be the most comfortable form of transport in July or in the rains of September but they’re fast, cheap (around
Airports and Flights
The airport is located around 45 minutes away from central Taipei in Táoyuán. Get a train to and from the airport. The taxi fare is quite steep.
Flights to and from Taiwan can be very cheap with the budget airlines AirAsia, TigerAir Taiwan, Thai Lion, NokScoot, VietJet Air, Cebu Pacific, Vanilla Air, and Jet Star.
Flying to China for a visa run isn’t really an option for most people thanks to complicated visa procedures in China but trips as short as 2 and 3 hours (Hong Kong and Hanoi, for example) are possible.
Another airport, Songshan, is less popular with tourists and holidaymakers. It’s mainly for business flights so don’t expect to find any bargains here.
A third option is Taichung, the smallest of the international airports in Taiwan. A budget airline called HK Express serves only Taichung and flies to, you guessed it, Hong Kong (HK). I found weekend trips (Friday to Sunday) to HK for around $100 USD. This might be an option for visa runs.
I’ll presume (for convenience sake) that most digital nomads will need accommodation for between 2 weeks and 3 months. The majority of Western visitors to Taiwan, get a 3-month visa on arrival. Anything longer requires a bit of extra work. We can also consider these people expats rather than digital nomads.
Accommodation for a few months will generally limit you to Airbnb, short-term rental apartments, and hotels. Most hotels won’t let you stay for longer than a month. Check out the rates for month-long stays on Airbnb. Many homeowners drop their rates considerably for people that stay more than two or three weeks. I use hotels for short stays almost exclusively, but for anything longer, Airbnb can work very well.
The site I use for booking hotels and apartments in Asia is Agoda. If you want to experience living in different parts of Taipei, try booking two week stays in Agoda properties and move around the city.
A small room in shared home in a trendy neighbourhood in Taipei will cost you around US$28 a night.
I stayed in the Zhongshan District, a cool mix of cafes, local shops and some touristy places. According to Wikipedia, Zhongshan was once the main tourist area of the city. It doesn’t feel like that now but there are certainly plenty of cafes and restaurants around.
This Facebook group has almost 3000 members and is a good place to start for finding apartments in the city
Health & Fitness
Taipei is a big city but once you arrive, you’ll notice that the mountains (hills, really) are pretty close. In fact, if you jump on any metro line you can be at the foot of a forest-covered hill in less than 30 minutes. Walking around the hills of Taipei isn’t exactly fun when it’s super humid but it’s still a beautiful way to get fit, get out in nature, and see some awesome views of the city. It’s a beautiful city from up high.
Let’s presume that you’re going to be in the city for a while (weeks at least if you’re like most nomads) so getting into a work/life/play routine is important. I don’t need to stress this.
If you’re like me, you take your health and fitness seriously. Sitting (or standing) at a computer for the entire day, often 7 days a week, can take its toll. It’s important to eat well and exercise. But exercising in a city, especially a hot and sticky one, can be difficult.
That’s where the gym comes in very handy. Here are a list of quality gyms (two of which I used) in the city:
- Taipei sports and fitness center. 104, Taiwan, Taipei City, Zhongshan District, Section 1, Minsheng East Road
- World Gym. There are many locations of this gym chain – this one is the best: 114, Taiwan, Taipei City, Neihu District, Lane 180, Section 6, Minquan East Road.
- Feng CrossFit. 106, Taiwan, Taipei City, Da’an District, Section 3, Ren’ai Road.
- CrossFit LOGA. No. 11, Lane 46, Section 2, Heping East Road, Da’an District
- CrossFit Ba Ke Si. 10442, Taiwan, Taipei City, Zhongshan District, Section 1, Chang’an East Road
- Taipei DaAn Sports Center. No. 55, Section 3, Xīnhài Rd, Daan District.
- Hatha Yoga.
- #33, 3rd Floor, JinShan South Road Section 2. (Close to Daan Forest Park)
There are plenty of parks in the city that make perfect locations for an outdoor workout. The Taiwanese (like citizens of many places in China and South East Asia) like to do their exercises in the early morning. So you can expect to see hordes of locals participating in exercise classes, Tai Chi, and meditation as early as 5 am.
Check out these places
- Da’an Forest Park
- Zhongshan Park
- Taipei Outdoor Gym in Zhongshan
- Huashan Park, Section 2, Civic Boulevard, Zhongshan District
Cycling is another great option, especially if you plan on getting out of the city. The country is ideally suited to circumnavigation by bicycle. With a high standard of roads, “safe” drivers, well-signposted routes, and breathtaking scenery, this is one of the top places in South East Asia to pedal. I plan to cycle some way around the island of Taiwan on my next visit. Maybe I’ll do the entire island. Crossing over from one side to the other is a little harder thanks to the 4000 m peaks in the centre of the island.
I found Taipei to be a bit lacking in expat events or meetup options.
Meetup.com lists plenty of groups with names as diverse as “Taipei German Language Meetup”, “Taipei Theater Meetup”, and “Taipei Language & Culture Meetup” but the events are few and far between.
The Nomad List Slack group, where digital nomads tend to chat about finding ice-cream and peanut butter, isn’t very active and the nomad list website rarely lists more than 20 nomads at any one time in the city. A pity because I believe it to be a very good option for digital nomads.
Internations sometimes gets a bad rap and in my experience, events can be so-so. But I’ve also had good experiences in a few different places around the world. I didn’t attend any Internations events in Taipei but the listings page shows that there are events at least once a week.
EventBrite is pretty good for finding networking and business events in the city. There are plenty of options here for not only networking but learning about local and international businesses.
Some generalisations coming, be prepared.
Taipei compared to other S.E.A. digital nomad destinations:
- Bangkok. Less exciting than the Thai capital by a wide margin. But Taipei suits people that like things paced a little slower. There are fewer “street food” options but the food markets are as good, if not
better,than in Thailand. The Taiwanese capital is also more expensive than the Thai capital.
- Hanoi. I’ve never really seen the attraction with Hanoi so for me, Taiwan is a much better place to spend time. Hanoi is the Wild West, while Taipei is modern and efficient. Some people prefer the broken sidewalks and craziness of the Vietnamese capital to the more ordered (Westernised?) systems of Taipei. The pollution, noise, and weather in Hanoi make it a less attractive option to live and work remotely.
- Bali (Combining Canggu and Ubud to keep it simple). I find it comparable in price to Bali. Taiwan may not be known as a surf destination but there are plenty of spots around the island where you can ride the waves. Like Bali, Taipei is an island so you’re never too far from the ocean. The water is warmer in Bali though. Transport-wise, Taipei kicks Bali out of the park. If you’ve ever driven around Kuta or Ubud you’ll know what I mean. Best time to go surfing is from September to November.
- Chiang Mai. Taipei is a lot more expensive than the northern Thai digital nomad hotspot. And very few places in the world have friendlier locals than Chiang Mai. And the northern parts of Thailand have arguably the best food in the country. Digital nomads are more likely to meet kindred spirits and business contacts in CM.
- Singapore. Much cheaper than the island city-country and just as safe.
Before You Go
- Learn some Chinese (Mandarin) before you arrive. It will make your life easier.
- Check all accommodation options: Airbnb, Agoda, Hotels, etc. Depending on the season, you can see big price variations.
- You don’t need an apartment with a kitchen unless you have particular dietary requirements or just like to cook. The food is delicious and cheap.
- It can get chilly in December and January. It can still be cold in February so plan your visit based around your preferences for weather and temperatures. July is stinking hot and humid and in September, like a lot of South East Asia, you can expect hot days and a lot of rain. For the most comfortable months try March, April, October, November.
- Stick a public transit app on your phone. Here are a few options:
- Go! Taipei Metro
- Taiwan Bus
- Metroman Taipei
- Taipei Metro Route Map
- And of course, the ever-reliable Rome2Rio app
- Book longer than you think you’ll need to spend in Taipei. Trust me, you will love it.