Start your search before moving to Taipei when you are still overseas. The first step is deciding which area to live in. This decision must be based on your personal lifestyle and preferences: If you have children, would you prefer to live closer to their school or would you rather live closer to your office? If you are single, would you prefer to live closer to entertainment areas or stay in a quiet neighborhood but still close to city life?
While parents with children have to decide if they want to live closer to their children’s school or closer to their office, they should not choose somewhere in the middle. I met an expat parent who decided to live between their children’s school and their office. This didn’t turn out well because both of them would have to commute about 35-45 minutes each way per day, and that became tiring for both the parent and the child.
These are some areas in Taipei that expats most prefer based on personal needs such as access to food sources, entertainment and nightlife:
This district is very upscale with many options for food such as modern cuisine, and it offers a very active nightlife. It has several shopping malls with the most popular brands and several high-end supermarkets carrying a wide selection of international imported products, as well as a movie theater with latest releases. Public transportation is plenty with both buses and two MRT lines. This area works well for people with bigger budgets as apartments here tend to be larger, more modern and high-end. However, living here, you quickly find yourself surrounded by many people and engaged in full-on city life. During the weekends and some weeknights, there are many activities going on such as conferences, expositions, weekend shopping promotions and nightclub events.
The area is known as Taipei’s “educational district.” With two major universities, it attracts many foreign students and university professors. It has a big central park, a weekend flower market and some food establishments catering to foreigners that accommodate a wide range of budgets. There are plenty of public transportation options as well as fast access to any other district due to its central location. Expect higher pollution as many buses, cars and scooters pass-by to go to other parts of the city. This means that apartment dwellers would rarely open their windows and there would be loud traffic noises during rush hour. Beware that newer apartments in this district are rented out fast, often leaving older buildings with no elevators as the only choice available.
It has easy access with several MRT stops, and attracts many weekend visitors to the most famous night market in Taiwan. It is a good starting point to go to the national park for hiking or to the hot springs for a weekend soak. This district is quite large and there are some areas that are not accessible to MRT or are inside mountainous areas so when searching for an apartment, it’s necessary to look at the exact address and its proximity to public transportation, stores and eateries.
The Tianmu Community is part of this district and a popular area of choice for expats. With three international schools, particularly foreign diplomatic personnel pick this community. It doesn’t have an MRT (subway) nearby, but a short bus or taxi ride takes you to the nearest MRT. There is one major mall, but there is no movie theater and you would have to travel a bit further to find one. Beware that traffic in and out during rush hour can get very frustrating. Most people who live here do enjoy the village-like environment, though, and they find enough entertainment and international food selections to avoid the long commute to other areas.
You can easily recognize this district by the row of office buildings that host part of the technology sector, and which serve as a sort of mini-Silicon Valley in Taipei. A little further away from the tech park, the area is surrounded with beautiful nature trails, parks and nice views to the green lush-covered mountains. Some eateries with international food and supermarkets are available, but depending on where the apartment is situated, there might not be a wide selection. Living in this area offers great nature views, tranquility and less pollution. However, one has to decide whether it is worth the lack of selection in eateries and entertainment compared to other areas.
This is a quiet and enjoyable neighborhood with a large amount of eateries and organic food stores. It is perfect for those looking for a calmer and healthier lifestyle without sacrificing the urban sprawl.
Part of this district is the Minsheng Community where one can find the most exquisitely-designed boutiques, antique stores, and coffee shops in Taipei. It has a life and pace of its own and it offers a very suitable environment for families and couples. This district houses the smaller international airport, and it can get intimidating seeing the airplanes land and take off so closely. The district also has a stadium where popular concerts are held and an ice skating rink.
Sophie Hsu is the current Ambassador of InterNations in Taipei, and has lived in the countries of Costa Rica, the US, Singapore, Germany and the U.K. She has lived in Taipei apartments for five years before moving back with her family.
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