Secrets to Surviving a Boring Layover in Taipei (TPE)

This is a guest post by Dwight Turner, founder of In Search of Sanuk.

Have you ever had a layover in Taipei, Taiwan?

I found out pretty late that I had misread the itinerary and had a 10 hour layover in Taipei, Taiwan. Not happy.

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I have been in transit in Taipei more than a few times and nothing I could remember made me think being there for that long would be tolerable. Maybe if I could hangout in downtown Taipei for a few hours, but it was the end of my month of vacation and I had exhausted most of my adventuring budget while I was in Japan.

By chance I did happen to come across a forum comment that mentioned something about the airport doing FREE tours, but that person didn’t provide any details.

I said my reluctant goodbyes to my family, got all my toiletries thrown away by some nice security people because I didn’t have any Yen left to buy the plastic ziplock bag they offered, and hadn’t gotten enough sleep the night before. Top that off with the approaching doom of the killer layover and you could safely say I was pretty unhappy.

Despite all of that, when I arrived in Taipei one of the first signs I ran into was the free half day tour sign. I did the tour and enjoyed it and thought it may be helpful for someone else in transit if I wrote up a few tips to keep you sane while in TPE (Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport). I hope they make your longer than normal layover more fun or less unbearable too.

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Taipei Free Airport Tour

Secret #1 – Free Half-Day Tour

I recommend it. The guide speaks English, Chinese, and Japanese. Tells some corny jokes, but was very friendly and informative. I suggest you jump on it. Plus, it’s free. Now there are a few drawbacks like not having a lot of time to explore the sites, but when the tour is over you can hang out on your own if you need to explore or have more time to kill.

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Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall - #1

The tour goes by Taipei attractions such as:

  • Taipei 101
  • The Longshan Temple
  • Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
  • Martyrs’ Shrine
taipei 101 Secrets to Surviving a Boring Layover in Taipei (TPE)

Taipei 101 Tower

I had actually visited most of them before when I stayed in Taipei for a week in 2006. I still found the tour interesting, but could have been better if there was a food-stop, however brief.

Requirements for taking the tour:

  • Must have a layover in Taipei from 7 – 24 hours
  • Sign up at the Tourist Service Center – located right in the main Airport Arrival Lobby
  • You MUST have your passport (valid for over 6 months), and must fill out the immigration entry/exit Taiwan form
  • There is a morning tour (starts at 8 am) and an afternoon tour (starts at 1 pm)

For more information and details, click here.

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The Longshan Temple

Secret #2 – Great Public Transportation

Taipei has about 6 subway lines and buses going all over. There’s more than enough to do just on the main subway lines and plenty of places to get lost.

I suggest hitting a night market before it gets fully crowded, grab some food and escape before the hordes of pushy people fill the place up.

Note: The subway doesn’t go back to the airport, so you have to catch a bus back which costs 145 Taiwanese dollars ($5).

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Highway View of Taipei

Secret #3 – Wi-fi & 3G

There’s free wifi in most of the Taipei Airport and in many places around the city. I needed to make some calls and track a few things on my phone so I went ahead and signed up with Taiwan Mobile to use 3G on my iPhone.

The unlimited data package and the SIM together cost about $15 for one day. A cheap way to keep my connectivity addiction appeased.

Secret #4 – TPE Terminal 1 Transit Lounge

This is fairly new and I hadn’t read about it anywhere. There are computers you can use, a movie lounge with massage chairs, showers, and some couch like areas for napping or hanging out. Score! The restaurant there has decent food and coffee. This is especially great if you don’t qualify for the frequent flyer lounges that take up so much space in this airport.

The catch is it can be hard to find and I’m not sure if there’s something similar in the other terminals. If you do end up flying China Air or are in TPE Terminal 1, I’d take advantage of it because the gates don’t have any space where you can stretch out or good access to power outlets (Remember it’s targeted towards people in transit. If you’re coming from the other terminal or checking in after you’ve been out of the airport you have to go to the A Side and find the elevator down. This can be tricky, but then you walk through the security check backwards and mumble somethings in English while pointing and it should be right outside the doors.)

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iPhone, #2

Secrets #5 – Boredom Survival Kit

Of course the regular gear that helps you survive travel boredom is always suggested: a good book, an external hard drive with your downloads of some TV shows you love, music, cute Danish girls and movies to watch with them.

I’m not a hug fan of the Taipei International Airport. It’s cold, there’s not a lot of selection for food, but the people are nice and there’s Wi-Fi. There is occasionally some cool art on the walls and they do have a Hello Kitty themed gate on Terminal 2, but I was pretty sure those attractions would keep me entertained for even half an hour.

It’s nice to see the airport and the tourism authority have made improvements to make people’s transit here more enjoyable. The city of Taipei is cool if you have time to explore, so I’m glad to be adding TPE to my (extremely short) list of airports I enjoy!

If you have a long layover in Taipei, the hours go by pretty fast with the help of the Free Tour, speedy Wi-Fi and 3G, and the Terminal 1 Transit Lounge!

I hope you found this helpful, if you have more tips be sure to comment below.

About the Author:

Dwight Turner is a social media whiz and founder of a project known as “In Search of Sanuk,” — a Bangkok based volunteering project with a philosophy to help others while having fun! It was through a random series of spontaneous events that I happen to meet Dwight Turner, and we almost instantaneously discovered that our stomachs shared an identical voracious appetite for Thai street food. We jointly started Eating Thai Food, because Thai food is made to share!

- Mark Wiens

photo #1 – daymin, photo #2 – markcooz

Do you love food and travel too?

If so, I'd love to give you my FREE street food guide, "41 Irresistible Meals You'll Travel to Eat," plus you'll receive exclusive street food updates (it's free)!

Comments

  1. says

    The half day tour sounds like a great way to spend a layover. I wish more tourism boards would do something similar, who knows it might change people’s minds about actually taking a trip to some of these “transit” cities. Glad you enjoyed it and thanks for the tips, these are the types of things anyone whose ever wanted a layover wants to know!

    • says

      Thanks Jilian,
      You are right, it’s a great effort for an airport to take an initiative like this. It also might entice transit travelers to come back and spend more time the next time!

  2. adventureswithben says

    Seoul’s Airport offersTransit Tours too. I had a long layover in South Korea and saw the beach and a temple. It was the perfect way to kill a few hours.

  3. says

    Excellent tips! You mentioned that Taipai sometimes has art on the walls. I’ve been to other airports that have art displays or other special exhibits, too. That can be a good way to spend some time.

  4. Grace says

    I so needed this. I have a short layover at Taipei next week and I’m thinking of asking my airlines if I can extend the layover so I can do a half day tour. Thank you Dwight!

  5. says

    Hi Mark, I really like the photo of Taipei at dusk (or dawn?). Looks dramatic with Taipei 101 as a silhouette. What time did you take it and where did you take it from?

  6. says

    We have extended family in Taiwan and it’s been three years since we were there last. We went through the transit lounge during a few hours layover when we left US to relocate to Thailand. It is prob one of the best FREE-to-public lounge we’ve seen in airports. All the familiar sites make me miss Taiwan even more. :-)

    • says

      That’s great to hear! I also went through Taiwan about 2.5 years ago, coming to Thailand, but I remember I had a very shot layover, I don’t even think I had a chance to sit down. I’m hoping to visit Taiwan sometime in the future!

  7. Julia says

    Amazing post. Thanks for all the tips!

    I’ve got a ridiculous 38 hour layover in Taipei next month and your blog post will save me. All the other people just say stuff like ‘Ummm… Taipei 101?’ which only kills so much time. Day-tour, here I come (Thanks, Taipei Tourism people!). Stupid question–when are the busy times for the night markets?

    Plus I’m excited about that free airport lounge. Comfy places to kill time IN the airport are just as important as stuff outside, for when you actually need to be in there, waiting for your flight.

  8. Channing says

    This is fantastic information! I was upset that I have a 10 hr layover on my way to China. BUT not anymore! I am excited!

  9. Kattie says

    This article is fantastic! I have a layover in Taipei for 4 hrs and your articles makes me excited to go to Taipei than my real destination ;D Since I’m a foreigner, if I want to order food, what currency would they accept? Is it okay if i give US dollars or Taiwanese dollars? Thank you~~

    • says

      Hey Kattie, thanks glad you liked this article by my friend Dwight. Will you be leaving the airport? In the airport you might be able to just use US, but if you go out, you’ll want to exchange. Hope you have a great trip!

  10. justin says

    Hi! I have a 12 hour layover in Taipei this Saturday – only problem is my layover is from 9pm – 9am. Any recommendations of stuff to do on Saturday night in the area? Or is most stuff in the area closed that late?

    Thanks,
    Justin

  11. Barbara says

    This information is so awesome! I hadn’t a clue on what I was going to do for 11 hours. I get to tour another country! Bonus! I think I’ll print this out so I don’t have to try to remember everything. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  12. says

    really looking forward to my 11 hour layover in Taipei City now! These are some great tips.

    I wonder, though, if I visit one of the night markets, what foods you recommend I try if it’s my very first time only in Taiwan, but in Asia proper?

    _Maria Alexandra

    • says

      Hi Maria, good to hear you have a layover. I haven’t been to Taiwan myself yet, so no real suggestions, but hoping to go in the future. Hope you have a fun layover.

  13. Michelle says

    We have an upcoming 16 hour layover in Taipei as well. Do the free tours depart from the downtown hotel, too, or are they only from the hotel?

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