Tourist transit tips in Taipei’s Taoyuan Airport
Traveling on a budget can certainly come with compromises, especially when those cheap flights come with long layovers in foreign countries that may not have necessarily been on your list of must-do travel destinations.
I experienced this first hand in my recent travels from Vancouver to Brisbane, which involved a lengthy 19 hour layover in Taipei’s Taoyuan International Airport. In case you find yourself in a similar situation, here’s my top ten ways to get your tourist-on at Taiwan’s busiest air entry point.
1. Do a free half day tour.
It seems somewhat redundant to endure long transit due to cheap flights only to blow your budget in the airport. So rock out with your visa exempt status (depending on passport type) by popping over to the tourist service centre and book yourself into a free half day tour, yes that’s right- free!
We take the morning tour which takes us 22km southwest of Taipei to the small district of Sanxia, but if shopping is more your cup of tea the afternoon tour offers a trip to Chang Kai-Shrek Memorial Hall and the Taipei 101 Mall.
Our guide David, walks us through the intertwining narrow alleys paved with bricks to the main attraction, the Zushi Temple. While the end of World War Two saw a majority of the Temple left in ruins, a restoration project lasting over 40 years has seen the development of intricate carvings in bronze and stone. Next stop is the pottery and ceramic district, known as Yingge. Submersed with the locals’ love of ancient pieces, this small town offers a world of tiny hidden shops.
2. Jump the next train, to the next Terminal
Want to fully understand the vast size of Taiwan’s Taoyuan International Airport? I recommend jumping on-board the airport’s very own skytrain. This mini adventure allows us to explore the ever expanding hubs of international travellers, each taking turns for renovations throughout the past decade. Running every five minutes with a three minute travel time, you needn’t worry about security check points.
3. Get the most at The More
Like most, Taoyuan Airport is littered with lounges for the elite members of the travel world, but if you’re a commoner like myself , for $40 you can have three hour access to The More lounge. Once through the golden gates we’re treated to an all-you-can-eat Taiwanese buffet, a range of massage chairs, dining rooms and resting lounges. If you’re a recluse and wish to hide away, do so in one of the napping rooms. Spent too much time sharing your travel pics on Instagram and need to catch up on work? Use the Business Room complete with PC, printer and phone. Each lounge also comes with its very own Xbox but if you want to inspire the Tiger Woods within, the small indoor putting green is where you need to be.
4. Be an art critic
As far as airports go, Taoyuan is leading the way, culturally speaking, by showcasing the works of its flamboyant local artists. My favourite pieces are those produced by Hung Yi. Utilising baked enamel steel and a wildly colourful imaginative take on animals, his large sculptures are scattered randomly throughout the airport and provide a somewhat cartoonesque surroundings- awesome!
5. Book a short stay at The Evergreen.
I was in desperate need to rinse away the filth that had accumulated over the past 24 hours of flying and needed to sleep on something other than a pedestrian highway of whizzing wheels and screaming children, so decided to take a little trip to The Evergreen Transit Hotel within Terminal 2. Three sweet heavenly hours set us back NT$1,350 or AUD$60. The room is superstar status worthy; a giant bed swimming in soft comforting pillows, soft duvet and a lush bathroom complete with wondrous bathroom amenities, even slippers and bathrobes.
6. Get Food
I am like a kid in a candy store; like an over excited pug waiting to be fed, panting eagerly as I try to decipher labels and closely inspect hot food items hidden behind glass. I contemplate the corn on a cob resting in a hot dog warmer, question the eggs freely bobbing in what I assume to be a type of brine and then over analyze the varying warm Taiwanese fast food treats. The food court if full of delectable goodies, from fancy Tepanyaki restaurants to McDonald’s and smaller food stalls with Taiwanese cuisine.
7. Nerd out at the Library
Step into Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou and the National Museum of Taiwan’s Literature, and welcome to Taoyuans International Airport e-library. With 24 hour access this high-tech library is free!. Search through hundreds of e-books, explore the literature realms with available tablets or simply go old-school and treat yourself to the huge range of Chinese and English books.
8. Find serenity now at the Zen Garden
Nestled behind the towering bamboo and sweet smelling orchards, you can find yourself kicking back in the grips of gratification as you strap yourself into a massage chair (find free tokens for this pleasure at the Apple store next door), pop on your head phones and be teleported to another place.
9. Go gaming
Try before you buy or in this case – fly, the gaming station offers all the latest game releases and no gamer geek is left displeased with a selection of Playstation’s, Xbox’s and PC’s. I waddle over to the PlayStation 4 now abandoned by a once overly keen child, and hit the X button to proceed. After a bit of shouting at the screen I remember where I am and decided to venture to the next distraction before I draw attention to airport security.
10. Take a wander to the Hello Kitty Gate
The moment I hear “K-I-T-T-Y !” chiming through the hallways I can’t contain my OMFG’s or my WTF’s. The walls are pink, the ladies washroom sign is covered in bows and there is even a sweetly decorated mothers’ nursing room. The playground is bright pink and surrounded by pictures of Hello Kitty and her pals in airplanes plastered with slogans like “Let’s travel around the world.” But don’t wander off just yet, your Hello Kitty collection isn’t complete without purchase from their gift store.
Have you been to Taipei? Tell us about it in the comments.