10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Moving to Taiwan

10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Moving to Taiwan

A busy Taiwanese street.

Table of Contents

  1. Table of Contents
  2. You’ll need sunscreen (and an umbrella)
  3. Get an iPass 一卡通
  4. Learn some Chinese
  5. Visit the local Taiwanese markets
  6. Find someone who cuts your hair well
  7. Take your time apartment hunting
  8. Use Public Transport
  9. Get some transportation
  10. Get a decent Taiwanese phone contract
  11. Travel more around Taiwan
  12. In Summary

On a cold spring morning, I received an email. I had a job offer in Taiwan but only left me one week to prepare for the move. I hastily researched online, booked the ticket and here I am six years later. I aim to help you avoid the pitfalls I encountered. Here are a few tips before moving to Taiwan.

You’ll need sunscreen (and an umbrella)

Taiwanese weather can be unpredictable.

The weather can be changeable in Taiwan. As someone with a fairer complexion, my first few days in Taiwan burned me into some red monster. The sun and heat in Taiwan can be intense in the summer months, especially heading to the south. In contrast, the rain can be just as equally extreme. It can go from clear and sunny to a monsoon within the span of a few minutes, then keep raining for days. Taiwan’s typhoon season usually starts in May and ends in September. Usually, you can buy disposable raincoats to combat the rainy days at any local convenience store. I usually suggest travelling around Taiwan during the early spring or autumn to escape the blistering heat and downpours.

Get an iPass 一卡通

iPass in Taiwan is essential

An iPass is a contactless smartcard that can be used to store money and used for services throughout Taiwan. It can be used to take trains, take the MRT in major cities, take buses, rent bicycles, buying goods at convenience stores. As an electronic wallet, you can top up throughout the city and never need to use cash. I found it extremely useful during my first few months, especially for train travel. You can purchase them all over Taiwan in convenience stores such as 7-Eleven and FamilyMart.

Learn some Chinese

Mandarin Chinese is the national language of Taiwan

When I first arrived in Taiwan, I knew two phrases: 你好嗎? 我是英國人 nǐ hǎo ma? wǒ shì yīng guó rén (How are you? I’m from England) . As you can probably guess, these two phrases never came in handy and due to butchering tones, most people couldn’t understand me (or were just confused). Learning Chinese is not as difficult as you have been led to believe. There are great resources on the internet, a lot of them can be found for free or very little. I suggest at least taking a few online speaking lessons on a platform like iTalki to master some basic travel phrases. You will not only find life easier, but you’ll create deeper connections with people on a different level.

Visit the local Taiwanese markets

Full-width image A busy Taiwanese fruit stand.

When visiting a foreign country, even the simple act of buying groceries can be daunting; the language, the currency and the different foods can be barriers. Taiwan offers a plethora of amazing local markets that sell produce considerably cheaper than most supermarkets. If you are confident enough and know a little Chinese, you can often get great bargains on vegetables, fruit and other produce. I regularly buy fruit from a local fruit stand that is nearly half as cheap as the local supermarket. It really pays to shop around.

Taiwanese morning, evening and night markets are a treasure.

Find someone who cuts your hair well

Every haircut will be different.

After living in Taiwan for over five years, I’ve had many interesting experiences with people cutting my hair. You can find cheap places that will cut your hair for just $100NTD, or find more expensive places that cost over $1000. I’ve had bad experiences with both. Despite bringing multiple pictures of my hair before, communicating in Chinese and English, I’ve had several terrible cuts. I’ve spoken to others, and they have echoed my experiences. Be prepared to undergo a few bad cuts before finding the right place.

Take your time apartment hunting

Don’t rush looking for apartments

When living in a different country, you might feel anxious about finding a stable place to live after securing a job. Apartments in Taiwan can vary depending on which city you live in, but most are quite affordable outside of Taipei. I suggest you search for an apartment with a Chinese speaking friend or do your research on Taiwanese websites such as rent.591.com.tw. I have visited old buildings, been quoted exorbitant prices for electricity/other amenities and had my fair share of bad experiences with third parties trying to make a commission on your naivety. Never settle for the first place you find.

Use Public Transport

When I first arrived in Taiwan, I was amazed at how many different options there were for travelling. I guess I was shocked coming from a small rural UK village to a larger city, but there are still many convenient ways to travel all around the island.

There are cheap inner-city buses, rentable bicycles, long-distant coaches, trains, high-speed rail, cheap taxis and much more. I have never felt stranded or stuck during my stay in Taiwan due to the number of options I have for travel.

Get some transportation

Full-width image A street of scooters.

Travelling just using public transport is very convenient in Taiwan, however, if you want to explore and go off-road (especially if you want to venture into Taiwan’s many mountain areas), you’ll need some transportation. In some cities, you can use your international driving license to rent a scooter or a car. Scooters are one of the main forms of transportation here, and I highly recommend getting one if you plan to stay here long term. If you have a valid ARC (with six months or more left before expiry) or an APRC, you can also apply and take a test to get a local license which allows you to own your own scooter here in Taiwan.

Two wheels can get you everywhere

Get a decent Taiwanese phone contract

Getting connected in essential.

When getting a phone in Taiwan, you are presented with a lot of options. Most contracts are for a year or two years. A lot of companies will offer introductory prices like cheaper rates for the first three months. Always check the small print to see exactly when the contract ends. During my first year, I signed up for unlimited internet for $399NTD per month. This changed after the first few months to $699NTD. I’ve met friends who have been bound to four-year contracts with terrible rates, so remember to always check the small print and have a Chinese speaking friend help.

Travel more around Taiwan

Full-width image A beautiful vista in Kending.

It can be overwhelming after first moving to Taiwan, but after a while, you learn to survive and get into the habit of working. One of my biggest regrets was not travelling more as soon as I got here. Never lose focus on why you first moved to Taiwan in the beginning. There are many amazing places to visit in Taiwan, especially if you travel to the east coast. You can visit lush green areas, breathe in the fresh air and relax. Remember to give yourself time to switch off every now and then.

Formosa is truly a beautiful island.

In Summary

Taiwan has been a life-changing experience. I have personally grown more as a result of moving to Taiwan. I have met some incredible people, made great memories and changed my worldview. Although I do still have some grumbles and grievances, I would still choose to move to Taiwan all over again. I hope this post has been helpful for those planning to make a similar move in the future.