Taiwan, an island nation with a population of 23 million, may be easy to miss on a map, but its small size belies a wealth of culture, food, natural beauty, and ESL students!
There’s a reason expats flock here to teach English in Taiwan and soak up all the island has to offer.
Teaching English in Taiwan is popular because costs are low, jobs are abundant, and life is easy.
This guide will answer all your burning questions about what living and teaching English in Taiwan is like and how to make it happen.
Are There Still Many ESL Teaching Jobs in Taiwan?
Because of the great weather, culture, and food, Taiwan is a popular destination in Asia for expats.
While these factors make it a great place to live, the tide of foreigners they lure to the island makes it harder to find jobs teaching English in Taiwan than in some other places.
Taiwan has an aging population and a glut of foreigners, and as a result, it’s becoming harder and harder to find work there. However, there is still a high demand for English teachers, so assuming that you’re a qualified native speaker, you’re sure to find a good job teaching English in Taiwan.
Job Opportunities and Average Salaries for English Teachers in Taiwan
Since Taiwanese parents have a strong desire for their children to learn English, there is any number of positions available for teaching English in Taiwan.
You can teach at a public school, private kindergarten, or cram school (called a buxiban in Taiwan). There are also home and online tutoring positions available.
Taiwan is one of the countries paying the highest salaries for ESL teachers.
There are two types of buxibans in Taiwan: those run by native Taiwanese people and those run by foreigners.
The foreigner-run buxibans tend to expect more of their teachers, but they also pay higher salaries – as much as 100-150,000 TWD (3,226-4,840 USD!) per month.
Other cram schools tend to pay around 620-660 TWD per hour (or 20-21 USD). Many foreigners report making around 60,000 TWD per month (2,000 USD), but some do complain about low teaching hours, poor management, and high turnover rates.
There are great opportunities at buxibans, but do your research and talk to current employees before committing to one.
Private and Public Schools
If you choose to teach at a public school, you’ll have shorter hours and a more regular schedule.
You’ll earn a lower salary, but it will still be more than enough to live on and you might get benefits, such as school-provided accommodations, that you wouldn’t find at a cram school.
At a public school, you can expect to make around 60-70,000 TWD, or 2-2,400 USD, per month.
Public schools in Taiwan do have stricter teaching requirements than private schools, however, as they tend to ask that teachers have prior teaching experience, and sometimes teaching certification in their home countries, as well.
If you don’t have these qualifications, don’t worry. You can always look for work at a private school or other institution.
Private schools tend to offer similar benefits to public schools: accommodation or a housing stipend, medical insurance, and more.
Private school salaries tend to be a little lower than public schools’, but you can still earn somewhere in the ballpark of 40-62,000 TWD (1,400-2,100 USD) per month at a private school – more than enough to sustain you in Taiwan.
Plus, working at a private school is a great way to gain teaching experience and start building out your CV!
Giving Private Online Lessons
Of course, you can always teach English online, no matter where in the world you are!
The great thing about online teaching is how flexible it is. You can make it your full-time job, or you can pick up odd classes to flesh out your paycheck.
Best of all, if you teach online in Taiwan you’ll be in the same time zone as your students, so you won’t be waking up at 3 or 4 am like people teaching Chinese students from America have to.
Online teacher salaries vary, but you can expect to make around $15-22 USD per hour through most online teaching companies.
VIPKID, the world’s largest online teaching platform, offers great benefits and starting salary.
How to Apply for a Teaching Job
Many job boards focus on connecting you with recruiters or agencies. A teaching agency will help you navigate some of the initial struggles you may face in Taiwan, such as finding housing and navigating the visa process.
Make sure that you feel 100% safe, informed, and on-board with all aspects of any company you’re considering working with before signing any documents.
Basic Requirements for Teaching English in Taiwan
The basic requirements for teaching English in Taiwan are few.
You can enter the country without getting a visa beforehand, and U.S. tourists are allowed to stay in Taiwan for 90 days at a time, so many people teaching English in Taiwan find ways around getting proper visas and working documents.
However, it’s of course always best and safest to have all the proper documents, if you can.
In order to get a work visa in Taiwan, you’ll need the following items:
- a passport proving you’re from an English speaking country (Australia, Canada, the United States, England, South Africa, New Zealand, or Ireland),
- a bachelor’s degree,
- a TEFL certificate,
- and a clean criminal background check.
Last, you need a work permit, which your employer should process for you. You’re technically not allowed to work until the permit has processed, which could take several months.
However, many people teach in Taiwan without a work visa, or enter on a travel visa and then transfer it to a work visa once they’re there. The only requirement for a travel visa in Taiwan for U.S citizens is a valid passport.
Keep in mind that the only way to work legally in Taiwan is with a proper work visa, and as such, you should aim to get a work visa if you can, and should understand the risk you’re taking if you choose to work without the proper documents.
What are the Living Costs Like in Taiwan?
Like anywhere, the cost of living varies depending on where in Taiwan you choose to live.
Taipei is the most expensive area in Taiwan, as it’s the biggest city and has the most going on.
Smaller cities like Kaohsiung, Taichung, and Tainan are less expensive than Taipei, and each has its unique perks.
If you’re looking to save on expenses and want a truly different cultural experience, you’ll find totally dirt-cheap living in rural areas.
However, the good news is that living anywhere in Taiwan, even in Taipei, is pretty cheap.
Let’s break down some common living expenses in Taipei:
A one-bedroom in the city center will run you around $18,400 TWD, or $595 USD.
However, if you choose to live outside of the city center or with roommates you can find rent for 10,100-13,300 TWD, on average. That works out to about $323-430 USD – much cheaper than New York!
And, of course, if you end up working at a public or private school, your company may either provide housing or give you a housing stipend.
Utilities, Groceries, and Other Basics
The median price of internet and utilities combined in Taiwan is a little under $3,000 TWD per month, or $97 USD.
A meal at a restaurant is said to cost $100-300 TWD ($3-9 USD), but you can of course pay as much or as little for food as you want in a city with as rich and wide-ranging a food culture as Taiwan.
On the whole, groceries and other necessities are pretty cheap in Taiwan. A cappuccino costs around $73 TWD, or just $2.93 USD. A ride on the subway will run you $20 TWD, or $0.64 USD.
Overall, Taiwan is imminently far cheaper to live in than the United States. And on your sizable teaching salary, you’ll never want for anything in Taiwan.
Keep in mind, too, that costs will vary by location, with Taipei being the most expensive place and rural areas being the least.
Unless you’re on an improper visa (and perhaps even if you are), your employer will provide healthcare for you while you’re teaching in Taiwan, and the nominal monthly fee will be deducted from your paycheck.
However, even if you do end up having to get your own health insurance, have no fear, because Taiwan has truly world-class healthcare. In fact, a recent HSBC survey concluded that Taiwan “offers the cheapest and best medical facilities of any country in the world”.
Some Tips on How to Enjoy Your Expat Life in Taiwan
Daily life in Taiwan varies, of course, by region and city, but overall it’s an incredibly easy place to live.
With its temperate, subtropical climate, laid-back vibe, and extensive night markets, it’s no wonder people flock to get English teaching jobs in Taiwan.
Better yet, because it’s changed hands between Japan and China historically, Taiwan’s culture is a cool mix of Chinese, Japanese, and Western all rolled into one.
Taiwan is unique because people there speak Mandarin but write using the traditional script.
To compare, in mainland China people speak Mandarin and use simplified Chinese script, and in Hong Kong people speak Cantonese and use traditional Chinese script.
It’s confusing, I know.
When you embark on your journey of teaching English in Taiwan, you might understandably be nervous if you don’t speak any Mandarin, or if you do speak some Mandarin but have only learned simplified Chinese.
While the language barrier may significantly hinder and isolate you if you decide to teach in a rural area, you’ll be able to get by just fine on English in Taipei and most major cities.
One English teacher in Taiwan did note that menus in Taiwan tend to be written in traditional Chinese script with no pictures or English, making it hard to know what you’re ordering without a guide or a friend to help you.
As an added bonus, some teaching jobs in Taiwan offer free Mandarin lessons!
Taiwan is incredibly navigable.
It has a huge bike culture, and you’ll find rentable bikes scattered throughout the country.
In addition, most cities have fantastic metro systems, and you’ll find dirt-cheap taxis lying in wait everywhere.
No matter where you end up teaching in Taiwan, you’ll be able to get from home to work to wherever else you’d like to go easily.
Because Taiwan is so small, you can travel around the island easily, making weekend excursions easy to do at a moment’s notice. Traveling is especially easy if you have access to a motorbike or a car.
If you’re looking for singular, interesting nightlife, Taipei is the place to be. Internationally renowned for its art, fashion, food, and clubs, it will never bore you or even give you a second to breathe.
However, there are great options for cultural engagement outside of Taipei, too.
Taichung, Taiwan’s second-largest city, is known as the island’s food capital, which is saying a lot considering the whole of Taiwan is known for its delicious street food and Hakka specialties. Taichung also abounds with museums, parks, and clubs.
Kaohsiung, New Taipei City, and Tainan are a few other cities of note in Taiwan, each with its unique traits and beautiful idiosyncrasies.
Taiwan is on the rise, and there’s no better time for you to see it than now.
It should be on the list of the best countries to teach abroad.
With Taiwan’s pain-free visa process, abundant jobs, and a beautiful environment, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a reason not to teach there.
So gather your documents, buy your plane ticket, and prepare to embark on the adventure of a lifetime!