The National Currency of Taiwan is the New Taiwan Dollar, usually abbreviated as NT$ or NTD. As of June 2004, the exchange rate for NTD was approximately 33.7 NTD to 1.00 USD. Outside of certain banks and foreign exchange centers, most businesses only accept cash in the form of NTD. In addition, Working in Taiwan while holding a Student Visa is prohibited (in most cases, see Taipei City Police Dept. Website for details), so it is necessary for ICLP students to a have a stable source of funds on which to rely on, as well as a way to withdraw those funds in local currency while residing in Taiwan.
Cost of Living in Taiwan
Recent ICLP students have prepared the following ballpark figures for their average monthly expenditures and initial settling-in costs:
| ||Range (NT$) ||AverageNT$ (US$) |
|Rent ||5,000 - 20,000 ||10,000 ($300) |
|Food ||5,000 - 12,000 ||8,000 ($240) |
|Cell Phone ||300-3,000 ||1,000 ($30) |
|Utilities ||1,000-2,000 ||1,000 ($30) |
|Incidentals ||2,000-5,000 ||3,000 ($90) |
(incl.rent deposit, etc.)
|15,000 - 50,000 ||25,000 ($750) |
The overall average total for rent, food, and incidentals is approximately NT$23,000, or US$700 at the current exchange rate of US$1 to NT$33.50. It is important for students to realize that the cost of living in Taipei is often similar to that of living in a major US city, though this will vary greatly depending on a student's individual tastes and requirements.
Paying Bills in Taiwan:
Paying bills such as telephone, gas, water, etc. is extremely convenient in Taiwan. Students can simply take the bill to their local convenience store and pay it at the register. The cashier will stamp the bill with a mark showing the date paid and provide a receipt and proof of payment. The conventional method of mailing bills along with a check or money order is also acceptable, but should be avoided if possible.
A Note on Part-Time Work While at ICLP:
Except for some special circumstances, a Student Visa does not allow a student to work while in Taiwan. Therefore, it is important that ICLP students have a reliable source of funds from which to draw on during their stay at ICLP (please see below). Although some students may be tempted to accept "under the table" work such as teaching English, etc., ICLP advises against this, as it is a violation of Taiwan's Student Visa regulations, as well as making it even more difficult for a student to keep up with the rigorous schedule of classes at ICLP.
Students generally require a sum of money to cover initial "settling-in" costs. The amount of these funds - including possible advance rent payments and purchase of furniture - will vary from person to person; it is often US$450-$1200 for single students (depending on individual requirements), while more will be required for families. Students may wish to bring small amounts of foreign currency, but most currencies, including US Dollars, are not broadly accepted in Taiwan, and so will be of little use to ICLP students. Carrying substantial funds in the form of foreign currency is not recommended.
Many students have found that the most convenient way to bring these initial settling-in funds is by using traveler's checks. Traveler's checks do not need to be declared to customs, and are safer than carrying cash. Once in Taiwan, students can cash their traveler's checks at the airport or at many Taiwanese banks. Cashing traveler's checks entails a small fee. Student's can cash American Express Traveler's checks at the American Express Office for free. Other brands of traveler's checks are also available.
The most convenient place to change traveler's checks or foreign currency into NTD is at the International Airport upon arrival. Once in Taipei, there are also several banks that will change foreign currency, and most banks will cash traveler's checks if accompanied by formal identification such as a passport.
Money Transactions while in Taiwan
Cash is King in Taiwan, and although this trend has changed somewhat in recent years, many smaller stores and services are still run on a cash-only basis. Usually only larger stores, chain stores, and upscale establishments accept credit cards. The majority of convenience stores do not accept credit cards. Therefore, most Taiwanese people and foreigners residing in Taiwan carry enough cash on their person to take care of their daily needs. Once residing in Taipei there are several ways to conveniently obtain cash from one's bank account. The following are five of the more common methods.
(1)Automatic Teller Machines:
Many ICLP students use ATMs as a fast and convenient way to obtain cash directly from their home bank accounts while in Taiwan. , Most Taiwanese ATMs accept ATM/Debit cards with the [Master Charge, Visa, Cirrus, or Plus] symbols. Many ATMs will also allow students to obtain a cash advance on their Visa or Master Card.
For ATM/ Debit Cards, the amount of cash able to be withdrawn daily is subject to the daily limit of the student's home bank and is often around US$300-500 per day. For credit cards, the limits are different and vary with the individual bank or credit card company. Credit card companies usually charge a fee for the cash advance service which may be a flat fee or a percentage of the funds withdrawn. Students should check with their local bank or credit card company for more details.
There are several ATMs within walking distance of ICLP and countless ATMs located throughout Taiwan. A number of ATMs, including some China Trust ATMs (20 minutes walk from ICLP) and Citibank ATMs (at the northern end of the city, NOT near ICLP), also dispense U.S. currency.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Many international ATMs only accept 4-character pin codes. If a student has a five character pin code for his/her ATM card, he/she may be unable to obtain funds from ATMs in Taiwan. Students should check with their local banks regarding this issue and make the necessary adjustments before leaving for Taiwan.
(2)Setting Up a Bank Account in Taiwan:
Some students may choose to set up a bank account in Taipei and then transfer the necessary funds from their foreign account. The process of setting up a bank account in Taipei as a foreigner is usually fast and easy, and may be as simple as showing a passport and perhaps paying a small fee. Many banks will issue new account holders an ATM card on the spot, providing a convenient way for students to withdraw funds while in Taipei.
Many Post Offices in Taiwan also provide services similar to a bank. Students can deposit money in a Post Office and than withdraw funds using the Post Office's ATMs. Post Office accounts also usually earn a small amount of interest every month.
(3)American Express Card / Personal Checks:
Another convenient way to change money is an American Express card coupled with a personal checking account in the student's home country. The American Express Office in Taipei will cash personal checks for cardholders up to a limit of US$1000 for any 21-day period. Cashing checks in this way at American Express does not entail a fee if the cash given is in local currency. A gold card entitles the user to more privileges but is more expensive. There is a 1% fee for cashing checks into US currency. American Express Traveler's Checks can also be useful in covering initial settling-in costs (please see "settling-in" section above).
(4)International Bank Services in Taiwan:
For students who do not wish to open a bank account in Taipei, but wish to conduct transactions more complicated than simply withdrawing cash from ATMs, etc., many foreign banks have corresponding branches in Taipei through which students can conduct transactions, however, students must notify their own bank and make appropriate arrangements before departure. Bank tellers in a student's local bank are often unfamiliar with these matters, and students may need to speak with a supervisor in order to persuade the bank personnel that it is possible to make such arrangements. In most large banks the arrangements are possible, but the tellers don't necessarily know about them.
Once a student's local bank has notified the Taipei branch of a student's special needs, the Taipei branch should be able to render the appropriate services during the student's stay in Taiwan.
5.)Other Methods of Obtaining Funds
Students who do not have a personal bank account and do not wish to open one before leaving for Taiwan may consider 1) bringing a supply of travelers checks sufficient to cover the year's expenses, 2) having telegraphic transfers or certified checks sent periodically (personal checks made out to the student are not recommended), or 3) using a U.S. Dollar check drawn on a personal U.S. account* to cover expenses. These methods are all less convenient than the methods mentioned above, and are generally not recommended.
*This transaction is called 託收(Tuo1Shou1), and although most banks still provide this service, there is usually a fee of approx. NT$260 (=US$8), and the process takes 3-4 weeks. The process may be speeded up by using [(dian4chuan2), electronic wire transfer], but this will entail an additional fee. This a particularly risky transaction and should be avoided if possible.