Life is Harder at Taipei

I was having a 9-days-vacation at Taipei last month, with my wife. We just lingered around Taipei area. During the stay, I actually learnt something about the facts of living in Taipei.

Would I visit the place again? Definitely yes. It is a very nice city. Would I consider migrate or work there? Definitely no.

Read on to find out why the life is more difficult at Taipei.

Food and Beverage

Taipei Juices

Taiwanese are good cooks, generally. We had taken Japanese, Greek, Taiwanese steam boat, and Taiwan local foods. All the foods are nicely prepared. The drink I like the best is milk tea. It is better than Malaysian Teh Tarik.

How about the pricing? A typical bowl of mee is about NT$40-60 (RM4-6), which you can find on road side food stores. Economic rice costs about NT$60-100 (RM6-10) per person. These are the cheapest food.

We tried some very high class restaurants. But surprisingly, a luxurious meal costs not as high as charged in Malaysia. We had a very nice Japanese dinner located at 45th Floor of Howard Hotel with a window seat. There was a very nice city view. For a 4-courses dinner, we only paid NT$425 (~RM45). In Malaysia, that’s the price for only one diner.

I would say the cheap food cost more in Taipei. But a fine gourmet is less expensive compared to Malaysia.

Public Transportation

Taipei MRT

The MRT system in Taipei is great. It provides much convenience. Most of the places can be reached via MRT.

Inside the MRT coach, you will find the special “priority seats” which are reserved for the old, pregnant mothers and kids. Sometimes I find the seat empty and nobody care to sit on it even though there is no people in need. However, it is great to have those seats reserved anyway.

Taxi basic fee is NT$70 (~RM7). We are lucky enough to be able to hire a taxi driver for a whole day for NT$3500 (~RM350), who happens to be a very experienced tour guide too. He brought us to many places where we wouldn’t have gone there by ourselves.

Car and Petrol

Taipei Petrol Price

The most common car is Toyota Altis. There are Toyota and Honda assembly factories in Taiwan. That’s the reason the Taiwanese say that those are national car, that are actually made in Taiwan.

A Toyota Altis is sold for NT$600k (~RM60k). Wow! This is half the price compared to Malaysia.

Although owning a car is not hard, to have a permanent parking lot might cost more than the value of the vehicle! Getting a parking space is not cheap. You can drive in Taipei city, but it is almost impossible to find a place to park.

However, the petrol is priced NT$30/liter (~RM3/liter). Compare to RM1.92/liter in Malaysia, Taiwanese are having a hard time filling up their gas tanks.

Real Estate

Taipei buildings

This is the hardest part. It is almost impossible to own a house in Taipei if you are not rich. A normal 1000sf apartment costs more than NT$10 million (~RM1 million).

We visited a friend’s apartment which he rents for NT$18k per month. The apartment has only 2 rooms. The kitchen is so small and I can’t even differentiate the living room from the dining room.

Books

Taipei Bookstores

I love Eslite book stores.  Eslite is the biggest book seller in Taipei. The Chinese book are priced from NT$150-300 (~RM15-30). We spent our remaining books budget there to fully utilise the RM1000 tax relief on books purchase. However, the imported English books are priced universal. So I ended up buying some Chinese translated versions because of the price difference.

Magazines are priced about the same as in Malaysia.

Sewerage

No paper in toilet bowl! Taiwan sewerage system couldn’t dispose paper. So don’t throw paper into the toilet. Sometimes I just forgot about it because I am so used to flush toilet papers together with my body waste.

Luckily we are living in Malaysia. Try to imagine having all the used toilet papers in your dustbin.

However, the public toilet is much better and cleaner than Malaysia.

Entertainment

CDs are priced NT$350-500. No more cheap CD in Taipei. I still remembered that I bought many CDs around NT$180-220, 6 years ago during my trip to perform in Kaohsiung.

Movie tickets cost NT$280 (~RM28). In Malaysia, the movie tickets are still very cheap. Please don’t support piracy. Enjoy the theatre surround effect while it is still very affordable.

Cable TV in Taipei is about half the price of Astro.

Night-life entertainment? I really don’t know because we don’t like it.

Convenience: 7-11 & Starbucks

Taipei 7-11

In Taipei, there is at least one 7-11 convenient store in every row of shop houses. You can find anything in a 7-11 store, including paying phone bill, utility bills, and traffic tickets. To Taiwanese, 7-11 is the most frequent place they visit. Sometimes, you can also ask the courier service to drop off the parcel at the nearest 7-11 if you are not at home.

Another store that is so common is Starbucks Coffee Shop. It is more than McDonalds or KFC. The existence of Starbucks in Taipei is similar to Nasi Kandar in Malaysia.

Lottery on Every Receipt

I found charity boxes where people drop in receipts. After asking some local Taiwanese, I learnt that there is a lottery number on every receipt. The receipt you get for every consumption has a 8-digit-number printed. This number is actually a lottery number which will give away millions NT$. Since only the old folks are free to match the number, that’s why people give away the receipts for charity purposes.

How much a Typical Fresh Grad Earn in Taipei?

This will shock you. Although the standard of living in Taipei is so high, a typical fresh graduate earn only about NT$20k – 30k (~RM2k-3k). Most working adults are still staying with their parents.

Money Tips: How to Save Currency Exchange Charges

Pukii's home

You need NT$ to spend in Taipei. There are three methods to get this foreign currency:
1. Exchange RM to NT$ in Malaysia, and bring it to Taipei
This is the most expensive way. RM1,000 can only get NT$9,200.

2. Use ATM card at Taipei to withdraw cash
There is no MEPS service (as I know). I use HSBC Plus ATM card. There charges is RM10 per withdrawal. But you can get an exchange rate as high as 9.6 (RM1000—> NT$9600). You can withdraw cash from Pukii’s home! (Pukii is pig cartoon character of Shanghai Bank)

3. Use credit card to pay
This is the best way. You don’t have to bring much cash. The exchange rate is standard. But more than half of the normal retail shop don’t accept credit card. Even some high class restaurants don’t accept it.
Because we don’t have much cash left on the final day, we ended up asking the waitress about credit card acceptance. If they don’t, we passed.

Summary for Malaysians

  • You can easily own a Honda Civic in Taipei, but it will break your pocket to pump fuel and get a parking lot. In Malaysia, we can only own crappy national cars, but our parking fees and petrol cost are still affordable.
  • However, people living at Taipei can count on the public transportation system. In Malaysia, I don’t know why there is Star, Putra and KTM all separated. Most of the time, we need to cross the road for interchange.
  • Houses are much cheaper in Malaysia. Buy your house as soon as possible since real properties are still affordable. If you have a house in Taipei, you can sell off your house and move to  retirement life in Malaysia.
  • Taiwanese work much harder than most Malaysians. Employees only have 7 days annual leave!


About The Author

KCLau

personal finance author and trainer

15 Comments

  • fathersez

    Reply Reply January 7, 2008

    I agree.

    The best way to fully appreciate our country is to travel.

    Many Malaysians have no idea that they have it so good.

    I sometimes think that National Service should be done by Malaysians in a country like Ghana for example.

  • eryn

    Reply Reply November 3, 2009

    thanks for sharing this KC lau..a very good article.
    sometimes malaysian don;t appreciate what we have in our country,

    p/s- you should send this articles to our local paper.

    • KCLau

      Reply Reply November 4, 2009

      Thanks for your constructive feedback.

  • Dylan Siauw

    Reply Reply June 21, 2010

    I just come across this articles today…

    anyway, i think everything is find in taipei except housing…
    and i personally feel that the best way to compare is use the % we spent on each category of expenses (by dividing on the total monthly net pay)…

    i will use the example of my own… 4 years experience engineer earn RM 3k but I get NT$ 40k per month…

    rental: malaysia RM350 / 3000 = 11.67% ; taipei NT$ 8000 / 45000 = 17.78%
    food/mth: malaysia RM 800 / 3000 = 26.67% ; taipei NT$ 10800 / 45000 = 24%
    satellite tv: malaysia (basic package) RM 50 / 3000 = 1.67% ; taipei (full package) NT$ 500 / 45000 = 1.11%
    transportation: malaysia (driving) = RM 400 / 3000 = 13.33% ; taipei (scooter) NT$ 2400 / 45000 = 5.33% or everyday take MRT&bus 2000 / 45000 = 4.44%

    alright make it simpler
    1 set of Mc D in Malaysia cost us about RM 8 (8/3000 = 0.27%) whereas in Taipei NT$ 120 (120/45000 = 2.67%).
    if you eat normal economy rice in kl it easily cost us RM 6, and if you eat nasi kandar it can go up to RM 10 which is obviously more expensive than fast food, Mc D.

    Let’s talk about convenient strore, 7-11.
    In Taiwan it’s really very convenient, you can do a lot of stuff with them.
    Back home in Malaysia, our IN-convenient store 7-11, what’s the purpose for us to go there…?? buying rubber (ya know what i mean)? alcohol ? ciggy? roti..??? what else..??

    Just my personal experience… nothing more…!!

    • KCLau

      Reply Reply June 21, 2010

      Hi Dylan, do you work in Taipei?

  • linda

    Reply Reply August 7, 2010

    Actually, receipt lottery wins are available to anyone.

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