Are you looking for a cheap foreign country to retire in? Look no further than Taiwan. Taiwan has been named as the number one best place for expats to live for multiple years. The local people are very friendly to foreigners in general, especially rich expats from western countries. Taiwan also has a low cost of living, one of the best healthcare systems in the world, a safe environment, convenient transportation, and a free democratic society. You will not regret spending your retirement in Taiwan.
What is Taiwan?
Taiwan is an island country in East Asia, with its own democratic government and military, and a population of over 24 million people. It has about the same population and GDP per capita PPP as Australia. The southern half of the island is tropical, and the entire island is warm year-round. Two-thirds of the island are also covered with high mountains, and the island has the highest peak in East Asia, Jade Mountain at 3,952 meters, 12,966 feet. Taiwan also features the world's deepest marble gorge (Taroko Gorge) amazing tropical beaches, and thousands of waterfalls.
Taiwan Fast Facts:
Population: 23.9 million
Main language spoken: Mandarin Chinese
GDP per capita purchasing power parity: 69,500
Average life expectancy: 81.16 years
Literacy rate: 98.5%
Population below the poverty line: 1.5%
Climate: Taiwan has a humid subtropical climate in the north and a tropical monsoon climate in the south. Temperatures in the north vary from 14-20 °C (57-68 °F) in the winter and 26-34 °C (78-93 °F) in the summer, while in the south temperatures vary from 16-24 °C (60-75 °F) in the winter and 26-32 °C (78-89 °F) in the summer on average.
For more info, check out Taiwan's Wikipedia page here, or the CIA factbook page on Taiwan here.
Why you should retire in Taiwan?
Taiwan has recently received a lot of press for its great response to the Covid-19 outbreak. But Taiwan has had a world-class universal healthcare system for decades, known as National Health Insurance (NHI). People have long been coming to Taiwan for "medical tourism," due to Taiwan's low cost and high-quality medical care.
Taiwan Residents can join Taiwan's NHI program. However, if you are not a resident, the healthcare costs are still relatively cheap, especially when compared to the United States.
For more information, check out our full Taiwan healthcare FAQ here.
Taiwan is one of the safest countries in the world. Besides effectively containing the COVID-19 pandemic, it was named in the top global peace index and was named the safest country in the world in 2016. People are not allowed to own guns in Taiwan. You don’t need to worry about getting mugged in the street when you are here, being racially profiled by police, or walking alone on the street at night. People here are nice to people they don't know, especially if they are from a vibrant (rich) foreign country. Also, Taiwan is politically stable, even with pressure from China. In addition, Taiwan is environmentally conscious and has good air and water quality.
Taiwan is also a thriving free democracy that supports free speech and the rule of law.
Taiwan is one of the most convenient countries in the world. There are almost 10,000 convenience stores, putting them within walking distance for most people. It is hard to tour Taiwan without seeing a 7-11, Family Mart, OK Mart, or Hi-Life everywhere you go. These stores also let people pay their bills with cash, purchase travel tickets, print pictures, ship and receive packages, buy everyday items, and much more.
In addition, Taiwan has some of the most convenient public transport anywhere, from the MRT, lots of buses, to the train and high-speed rail.
Taiwanese people are some of the most friendly people in the world to foreigners and strangers. This has to do with Chinese cultural values of saving face, as well as the love of other cultures that Taiwan has. This is not to say that they are friendly to all foreigners, but to the typical westerner, they show interest because if you are from a rich country, you know English, and culturally there is no discrimination.
5. Great Weather and Climate
The weather is nice most of the time throughout the year. Winters are not too cold and summers have lots of sunshine to go around. The Tropic of Cancer lies across the middle of Taiwan, giving Taiwan a humid subtropical climate in the north, and a tropical monsoon climate in the south. Temperatures in the north vary from 14-20 °C (57-68 °F) in the winter and 26-34 °C (78-93 °F) in the summer, while in the south temperatures vary from 16-24 °C (60-75 °F) in the winter and 26-32 °C (78-89 °F) in the summer on average. The most rain falls in the summertime across Taiwan, with Typhoons bringing torrential rains during that time.
6. Great Outdoors
Taiwan is full of beautiful beaches, mountains, waterfalls, hot springs, rivers to go river tracing, open fields, canyons, and forests. Also, there are hundreds of thousands of waterfalls, and unique geological formations like Moon World pictured above. Two-thirds of Taiwan are mountains so there is quite a lot of nature to explore.
7. Cheap Cost of Living
The cost of living in Taiwan is relatively low, and Taiwan has one of the best standards of living in Asia and the world. Take a look at some of the commodities prices in Taiwan here: https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/in/Taipei
8. Great Food
Taiwan has some of the best local food anywhere. It is sweet and flavorful. It is also wholesome and healthy. We love Taiwan food! Don’t be the expat that eats at McDonald’s for every meal. There is so much delicious food everywhere!
9. Central Location in Asia
Taiwan sits in a central location in Asia, and has four international airports, meaning that you can find cheap flights to all other countries in Asia if you make Taiwan your home base. This can be a great place to stay long-term if you are interested in touring Asia.
10. Great for owning property and investing
Foreigners are allowed to buy property in Taiwan, as long as there is a reciprocal agreement with your home country. Unlike China, in Taiwan, you can own property and it will not be turned over to the government after a certain number of years. Taiwan has its own stock market (TAIEX) with major players in the global electronics industry such as Foxconn, TSMC, Pegatron, Quanta Computer, and Cathay Life Insurance.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: Is there a Retirement Visa in Taiwan?
A: No. But there are ways of living in Taiwan long term during retirement, such as the Plum Blossom Card, Gold Card, setting up your own company, through relatives, or using the 90 day visa free program.
Plum Blossom Card: An investment visa that gives you permanent residency in Taiwan (see details below)
Gold Card: A resident card for specialized and high-income earning professionals.
Employment ARC under your own company: You can set up a company or Representative Office in Taiwan, which you can use to sponsor your own visa. A Rep Office is the easiest, cheapest, and fastest type of entity.
Taiwan relatives: If you have relatives in Taiwan or marry a Taiwan citizen you can apply for residency through your Taiwan relatives.
90 day visa free program: If you are from one of the many countries that has a 90 day visa agreement with Taiwan, you can come and live in Taiwan for 90 days at a time without applying for a visa.
Q: How do I apply for a permanent residency investment visa as an investor/business owner in Taiwan （Also known as APRC Plum Blossom Card)?
A: If you are an investor/business owner in Taiwan, you must complete one of the following investment requirements:
Q: How do I apply for permanent residency in Taiwan (APRC)?
A: Check out our APRC FAQ here.
Q: What is the Taiwan employment gold card?
A: The employment gold card is a four-in-one visa, work permit, alien resident certificate, and re-entry permit. It also provides other benefits to foreigners as mentioned below.
Q: What benefits does Taiwan's employment gold card have?
A: The main benefits associated with the employment gold card or special professional work permit are as follows:
Q: Who can apply for and obtain Taiwan’s employment gold card?
A: Foreigners that are specialists in their field. This includes ROC dual citizens and citizens of Macau and Hong Kong, but not ROC citizens with household registration.
For more information about the gold card, see our full employment gold card guide here.
Q: What are the requirements for the employment gold card?
A: The full requirements for foreign special professionals can be found here.
For more information about the gold card, see our full employment gold card guide here.
Q: What kind of resident permits are there?
A: According to the Bureau of Consular Affairs, there are 9 different types of resident permits:
CODE-TR: Changing a visitor visa to a resident visa
CODE-P: Touring, visiting relatives
CODE-TS: Foreign spouses
CODE-FR: Studying Chinese
CODE-FC: Overseas Chinese students
CODE-FS: Foreign students
Q: Does Taiwan Allow dual nationality?
A; Yes if you are born Taiwanese, but no if you are a foreigner. You can consider revoking your citizenship and becoming a Taiwan National as a way to stay in Taiwan permanently, but it is a complicated process.
Q: What are the retirement requirements for employees in Taiwan?
A: For local Taiwan employees, according to Art. 53 of the Labor Standards Act, a worker may apply for voluntary retirement in any of the following situations:
Q: What are Taiwan pension schemes like in Taiwan?
A: Taiwan has two pension schemes: the old pension and new pension, which are compulsory for all employees in Taiwan. Employers are required to deposit at least 2% of monthly salary to the old pension scheme, and 6% salary of monthly to the new pension scheme. Employee contributions to either pension scheme are voluntary.
Old pension scheme:
Funds from the old pension scheme can only be accessed if you retire with the same company; if you switch employers, your pension starts from zero again. Unused old pension funds become the property of the company if there are no employees left using the old pension fund.
The old pension scheme is for foreigners working in Taiwan that are not married to a Taiwanese spouse, and do not have permanent residency. Those that are married to a Taiwanese spouse and have permanent residency may choose to join the new pension scheme, which is more favorable. Also, Taiwanese workers who have had the same employer before 2005 may stay with the old pension scheme.
New pension scheme:
The new pension is paid to a government account under the Labor Bureau, meaning that you can keep accumulating your pension even if you change employers. You can check your pension balance on the Labor Bureau's website.
The new pension scheme applies to Taiwanese citizens, foreign spouses of Taiwanese nationals, and APRC holders. The system was implemented in 2005. If you are a foreigner with a Taiwan spouse or APRC, you can join the new pension.
Q: I'm a wealthy retired foreigner with no ties to Taiwan, how do I immigrate and retire in Taiwan?
A: If you have lots of money, consider setting up a company or Rep Office, or investing enough money for a plum blossom APRC.
Q: I'm a retired foreigner without a ton of cash, how do I immigrate and retire in Taiwan?
A: Consider working in Taiwan or finding love here. There aren't very many other options.
Q: What is the tax system in Taiwan like for retirees?
A: For Taiwan tax residents, Taiwan has a tax deduction of 6.7 million NT (210,000 USD) per year for foreign-sourced income.
For more information, check out our Taiwan Tax FAQ here.
Q: How do I send money to Taiwan?
A: There are many ways to send and receive money in Taiwan, as follows:
Taiwan local bank account: You can send and receive money after opening up a Taiwan bank account. Usually, you need an ARC card first before you can open a local bank account. Expect some banking fees.
International Bank: You can reduce banking fees if you use an international bank such as HSBC, Citi Bank, DBS, Bank of America, etc.
Western Union: You can also use Western Union or a similar service to send money internationally with smaller fees.
ATM: You can use Taiwan's ATMs to get cash, for which your bank will likely charge transaction fees.
PayPal or other: You can also use PayPal or other payment platforms in Taiwan.
Credit Cards: Taiwan is more and more accepting of credit cards, and you can get by in many chain stores and chain restaurants with using an international credit card.
Q: Does Taiwan have foreign exchange controls?
A: No, you can send and receive money in Taiwan freely.
Q: How does Taiwan make money? Where does Taiwanese wealth come from?
A: Taiwan makes most of its money by exporting electronics. Electronics are the most important part of Taiwan’s economy. Taiwan is the world’s largest supplier of computer chips. Also, over 70% of Taiwan’s GDP comes from the service industry.
Q: Which bank should I use in Taiwan?
A: Most banks will let foreigners set up an account. Some handy accounts to have when shopping are with Cathay Pacific, which has the Costco credit card, CTCB which is PX Mart, and Yushan Bank which is aligned with Carrefour.
For more information, check out our Taiwan Banking FAQ here.
How do I open a Taiwan bank account?
Typically you can walk into any bank, and open an account if you bring your passport and/or ARC. If you do not have an ARC, then you will need to apply for a Taiwan uniform ID number at the immigration office first.
If you are from a list of countries that is high risk because of money laundering it may be harder to open an account.
Also, if you are American you will have to sign a W9 or similar form because of FACTA.
For more information, check out our Taiwan Banking FAQ here.
What type of economy does Taiwan have?
Taiwan is an advanced liberal economy and the 7th largest economy in Asia. It is a member of the WTO, ADP, and APEC, and an observer of the OECD.
Is Taiwan a developed Country?
Yes, with a GDP PPP (Purchasing Power Parity) nearly equivalent to that of Australia, it has one of the highest living standards in Asia. Also, it has one the best quality of life for expats in the world according to an article by InterNations.
Q: Does Taiwan have reliable and unrestricted internet?
A: Yes, Taiwan has some of the fastest and least restricted internet in the world.
Q: Does Taiwan have reliable and clean water?
A: Taiwan has a stable water supply, however there can be droughts and water rationing in winter. Tap water is safe to drink in Taipei, but you may still want to boil water or use a water filter because the water infrastructure in some buildings may not be totally clean.
Q: Does Taiwan have reliable electricity?
A: Yes, however there may be blackouts once or twice a year due to peak electricity or natural disasters.
Q: Does Taiwan require heating or air conditioning?
A: Yes. In the summer it can get very hot, so A/C is needed. Winters are milder in the south, but some kind of heating is needed to get through winter months comfortably in the north.
Q: What kind of appliances do Taiwan apartments have?
A: Taiwan apartments usually have washing machines, gas stoves, sinks, rice cookers, A/C units, fans, T.V., and internet. Ovens, toasters, dryers, and dishwashers do not come standard in Taiwan apartments. Clothes are usually hung on a line to dry.
For more info, see our Taiwan apartment rental guide here.
Q: Is Taiwan safe?
A: Yes, Taiwan is one of the safest countries in the world according to Prescavve, due to low crime and high economic freedom and development.
Q: Where can I buy groceries in Taiwan?
A: Carrefour, PX mart, Shoppee, Uber Eats, Food Panda, and Costco should have all the groceries you need. There are also a few expat stores in Taipei, especially in the Tianmu area.
For more information about life in Taiwan, you can check out our Foreigner Survival Guide here, or check out our full FAQ list here.
We are US Expats that have extensive experience living, working, and travelling in Taiwan. In our day, we had to learn many things about Taiwan the hard way. But we have come to learn that Taiwan is one of the best places in the world for Foreigners to live. Our blog does not represent the opinions of every foreigner in Taiwan. We are just trying to help others learn more about this beautiful country.