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Pay Off Your Student Debt By Teaching in Taiwan

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1. High Salary as an English Teacher – $20/hr

Note: The currency used in Taiwan is New Taiwan Dollars (NTD). I have converted all numbers in this article to USD for simplicity’s sake. All of the figures are also based on a monthly basis unless stated otherwise.

With the difficulty of finding a job in the US, teaching English in a foreign country can prove to be a great source of income. One thing many recent college graduates look to do is teach abroad, which can prove to be a great way to start paying off student loans.

I’m currently living in Taiwan and have been for almost the past two years. It has been a series of bumps and rides and wouldn’t trade it for the world.

One of the biggest things that has caught my eye here is the amount of savings I have made. To be honest, my savings rate is a lot higher than when I was working back home at my sales job thanks to my high salary as a teacher.

The minimum teaching salary in Taiwan and the one I started at is $19.33 an hour. That’s really good, considering your income is only taxed at 5%! This was really good considering all of the jobs back home were only offering me around $16 dollars per hour with a psychology and Spanish degree.

With the cost of living (covered below) in Taiwan, teaching is both a great way to save money and enjoy your time here. The age groups that are usually taught in Taiwan may consist of students anywhere from age 2 to 18. There are adult teaching jobs as well, but not as common as teaching kids.

Two of my former kindergarten students.

Two of my former kindergarten students.

One company that is great to start with that offers free training is called HESS. They may not be the greatest long-term, but if you’re looking to secure a job before you land in Taiwan, they’re the best way to go. Otherwise, after you get some experience, look for a school with better pay and benefits.

When I was working with HESS, I was working 32 hours a week and bringing in about $2,300 a month after tax. Let’s cover the cost of living to see how much you can save.

It’s very easy to become an English teacher in Taiwan. All you need is a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited university/Associates degree with a TEFL certificate and to be a native speaker of English.

2. Low Cost of Rent – $290 Including Utilities

The quality of apartments in Taiwan may not be considered as good as the West, but if you don’t mind a slight change in lifestyle, this could be for you.

The apartments in Taiwan consist of everything you need: a bathroom, a kitchen and a place to sleep. Here is a picture of my apartment below in which you can see 2 of the 3 essentials.

My apartment in Taipei, Taiwan. Sorry for the mess!

My apartment in Taipei, Taiwan. Sorry for the mess!

My apartment is a one-person complex and runs me at about $285 dollars a month. This figure includes electricity, cable television and internet. This is incredibly cheap compared to a studio in the United States.

It’s definitely not the king’s palace, but it’s all I really need.

The funny part is that many Taiwanese consider my rent to be on the high side, stating that I could easily find something for as little as $200 – $250. I couldn’t live without a kitchen and without being close to the metro, however, so I decided to fork over a little extra cash.

If your main goal is to primarily save money, you should consider moving to the south of Taiwan, where the rent is even lower with the same salary. I’ve heard of people paying as low as $150 – $200 a month for an apartment that’s a lot nicer than mine.

3. Convenience and Cost of Transportation – $120

Car insurance in the US along with car payments, gasoline, oil change…. etc. adds up quickly. It’s not difficult to remember that I was spending almost $500 a month to own a vehicle back home. Here in Taiwan, there’s really no need for one.

The main source of transportation is a scooter. You don’t have to drive one, but if you want to, you can get a used one for around $400 USD.

It’s a pretty good deal, especially considering that you have to only fill up gas about once a week and insurance is really cheap as well (about $30 dollars per month).

The downside is that it can prove to be a little dangerous.

scooters in taiwan

The crazy amount of scooters in Taiwan.

If you don’t want to drive the scooter around Taipei, the metro system in Taipei is the epitome of convenience and often faster than a scooter. It takes only about 10 minutes and you’ve traveled over 7 kilometers. This is really good since you don’t have to deal with traffic or stop lights.

The cost of an average metro ride is about $.70 cents, but can be as high as $1.50 if you want to travel to the other side of the city.

I personally take the MRT only about 3-4 times a day, meaning I spend roughly $4 a day on transportation or $120 a month. That’s a lot better compared to back home.

If you really want to be a Frugal Fran, you can take the bus. A bus ride ranges from $.40 cents to $1.00 and is sometimes more convenient than the MRT depending on where you want to go.

4. Food is Extremely Cheap – $200

The food here consists of some of the most incredible dishes that I have ever tasted in my life. This reason alone has convinced me to stay as long as I have here. I don’t really prefer the typical American food, but the Taiwanese food is off the charts.

I’ve only run into a few things that I don’t like here, but there’s such a large variety of food that it never ends – braised pork rice, beef noodle soup, oyster omelet, bubble tea, milkfish, pineapple cake, stinky tofu, dumplings, shrimp fried rice, goose duck, fried cabbage – the list goes on and on.

My favorite Taiwanese dish - oyster omelet.

My favorite Taiwanese dish – oyster omelet.

The oyster omelet is by far my favorite, but what’s even more amazing about the food is the price. An oyster omelet will typically cost me about $1.65. This is actually a little expensive to me compared to what I can get.

Let’s take a look at a meal that would fill you up.

A typical hot pot meal.

A typical hot pot meal.

This hot pot meal is actually considered a little pricey and cost me around $4.25 and put me at more than full. A typical meal for me is usually at most $3.00.

Of course it’s easy to get caught up in trying so many different things that you overspend at first and go to nice restaurants, but if you want to, it’s easy to save a lot of money on a $20/hour salary.

If you really want to save money, you can easily cook at home. I tried cooking only at home for an entire week and only spent $40 dollars. I was far from hungry, eating plenty of fruits, vegetables and meat.

For me, I liked to cook and eat out a few times each month. My food costs run me from $200 – $250 and I have plenty to eat.

5. Health Insurance – $20

Taiwan has a national health care system, meaning that everyone is automatically covered by the government. If you are employed in Taiwan, a percentage will be taken out of your paycheck. Not to worry, as your employer will pay roughly 70%.

I pay around $20 per month on health insurance. Actually getting a checkup can be really cheap as well.

With insurance, I can go see the dentist for about $5 USD. Get sick and need to see a doctor? $5.

What if you don’t have insurance and find yourself jobless? Just double the cost. That means a trip to the dentist or doctor will only cost you $10 USD.

All of the doctors here speak really good English and the quality is just as good as many other places.

6. Low-Cost Education – $2,000 Max Tuition Per Semester

If you’re interested in learning Chinese, language schools here are relatively cheap costing about $800 for an entire semester depending on the school. When you compare this to universities back home, a semester for learning Chinese can add up to a few thousand dollars depending on where you go.

Me practicing my Chinese letters. In my opinion, the most difficult part about learning.

Me practicing my Chinese letters. In my opinion, the most difficult part about learning.

If you’re looking into other forms of education such as getting a Master’s Degree or PHD, the typical Taiwanese university doesn’t run more than a couple thousand dollars per semester.

When compared to the quality of western universities, they might not be as high-ranked, but give you a chance to attend school at an affordable price.

The best university in Taiwan that is currently ranked in the top #100 in the world is National Taiwan University with a tuition fee of only $2,000 per semester. A lot of their courses are in English for those lacking ability in their Chinese.

7. Traveling to Nearby Destinations is Affordable – $1,000 Annually

Being in Taiwan has not only allowed me to see a bunch of different sites in Taiwan, but an opportunity to learn about many different cultures in other countries as well. Taiwan is great for being a hub to travel to other countries.

The plane ticket to another destination might not be cheap, but countries such as Vietnam and Thailand will prove to be extremely affordable if you want to go on vacation.

You can even go to Japan to try some sushi or check out their famous sakura flowers.

I once took a trip to Thailand for a week with my girlfriend and it only cost me $400 including the plane ticket. Given that we didn’t mind staying in a cheap hostel, our expenses turned out to be very low. We got to see the beach, try excellent food, and bring back some souvenirs.

If you’re trying to be frugal, don’t stay in the most expensive hotel or hostel. Any place within walking distance to the beach was good enough for me.

The beautiful beaches of Thailand.

The beautiful beaches of Thailand.

Living in the Seattle, it was difficult for me to get out and explore nearby countries. There was always Canada, but the cultures were too similar and didn’t give me a chance to explore something new like Taiwan has.

Traveling outside of Taiwan comes at an affordable price, but so does traveling within the country. A typical bus ride from Taipei to central Taiwan will only cost you around $5 for a two-hour ride. Considering the high price of gas, it’s quite a great deal. Take the train and you’ll save even more.

If you’re looking to get from one end of the island to the next, a six-hour car ride can turn into 3 hours with Taiwan’s High Speed Rail. It is a little more expensive at around $40, but is a lot faster than a car without costing you an arm and a leg.

Taiwan has beautiful scenery to explore and can be done with convenient modes of transportation located throughout the island without having to travel outside of the country to have access to it.

8. Entertainment – $50

A lot of things that you can do in Taiwan are seen outside and are public events. This means you don’t have to pay a dime.

1,600 paper mache pandas were made to raise awareness of how little pandas are left.

1,600 paper mache pandas were made to raise awareness of how little pandas are left.

Sometimes you will find music or concerts outside that don’t expect anything for the price of admission either.

But for those of you who like to go to a bar or an nightclub once in a while, don’t go too often and you won’t be finding yourself wasting your money. A typical nightclub entrance fee will be $10 – $20 and the price of alcohol can vary. That’s why I tend to maybe go only once or twice a month to these places to save money.

There’s lots of mountains nearby for hiking and traveling to the nearest destination is incredibly cheap. You really shouldn’t spend more than $100 a month on entertainment at the most.


Taiwan can be a great place to save up money and establish a new lifestyle. Let’s quickly breakdown my cost of living. Take note that these are averages and vary from month-to-month.

Rent – $285

Food – $200

Transportation – $120

Entertainment – $50

Health Insurance – $20

Average Monthly Travel Fees – $85

Total Monthly Living Expenses: $758.00


With a teaching salary of $20 an hour at 32 hours a week, I’m able to save almost $1,542 monthly or $18,500 annually in USD after tax!

That’s a lot more than I would have ever saved at home with my job prospects.

These are my living expenses on a monthly basis. Being the frugal person that I am, I don’t go spend that much money. Your costs my vary depending on where you live, but I live in one of the most expensive places on the island and still don’t spend that much.

If you were to move to the South, I guarantee that your monthly expenses could be cut down by minimum $100, saving you even more cash depending on where you live. All of my expenses were in the most expensive city in Taiwan.

The Money I Save From Working In Taiwan.

The Money I Save From Working In Taiwan.

Saving money in Taiwan is definitely doable with jobs a-plenty. If you have a high student debt, this can be a great method to tackle your financial problem for a year or two.

If you have any questions about costs in Taiwan, how to find work, or any comments that you’d like to add, please provide them below. Once again, thanks for reading!

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