Do you have a layover in Taiwan with some extra time before your departing flight? If you think spending the day at the airport is a complete waste of time then you are one-hundred percent correct. There are so many fun and affordable things to do in Taipei during a layover!
Some Things To Consider During Your Layover In Taipei
Find out if you need a visa – In recent years the Taiwanese government has extended visa-free entry to an expanding list of countries. The length of stay granted is between 14 – 90 days. Far longer than any layover! Be sure to check the link above to confirm whether you are eligible for visa-free entry to Taiwan.
Check the weather forecast – There’s nothing worse than a downpour of rain to put a damper on your day. And only having a short time to enjoy the city only makes it that much worse. In the event of rain, you might want to avoid some of the outdoor activities and stick to things you can do inside as much as possible.
Remember: 7-11 in Taiwan sells everything. You can easily purchase a cheap umbrella from one of the 7-11s in the airport. There is no need to bring one with you!
Understand the geography – The vast majority of flights coming through Taiwan don’t actually land in the capital of Taipei. Instead, flights land at the Taoyuan International Airport which is 30 miles (48km) from the city center. This means that you will need to account for the time it takes to actually get into the city and back. Expect the journey from the Taoyuan Airport to the City Center to take about 45 minutes each way. Consider yourself lucky if you have a layover at Songshan Airport. Songshan is located in Taipei City which makes getting around much more convenient.
Methods of payment – Taiwan is a primarily cash-based society. Large businesses like Starbucks and department stores will take cards, but you will definitely need cash if you want to make the most of your experience in the city. ATMs are plentiful in Taipei and can be found in convenience stores as well as banks. Check out our Cost of Living in Taipei if you want an idea on the general cost of food and other goods. An easy conversion: 1,000 NTD = $33.
Transportation – Taiwan has an excellent public transport system with a bus and subway network that covers the city well. You can even get to the city via the newly completed airport to city MRT line which costs 160NTD each way. Always take the Express Train from Taoyuan Airport to Taipei – it is MUCH faster and will save a lot of time!
If you’re in a hurry, both UBER and traditional cabs are available in Taipei. Don’t worry if you find yourself needing a cab. You can find one pretty much anywhere in the city and they can be flagged down at any time. Taiwan is pretty much the only country in the world where I am confident that I will never get scammed by a taxi. Drivers are honest and reliable the meters always show the actual price. Just make sure you have your destination written out or on Google Maps as there is often a language barrier.
If You Can’t Leave The Airport
There are many reasons why you might choose to spend your layover at the airport. It could be visa issues, time constraints, or possibly just an overnight layover. Don’t worry, we will take a look at some things you can do to pass time at the Taoyuan International Airport.
Terminal 2 of the Taoyuan Airport has a number of cultural exhibits set up throughout the terminal. If you have a short layover I’d recommend taking a look at the different displays and exhibits. It will give you a certain sense and knowledge of the country without even stepping out of the airport.
If you’re looking to get some sleep, you are in luck! Taoyuan Airport has many facilities that cater to weary travelers. Check around the terminal and you will find many quiet areas that offer comfortable sleeping spots and even reclining chairs!
Food! Taiwan is known as a destination for food lovers. This even holds true for airport-bound travelers. Check out one of the many food courts for some traditional Taiwanese food and snacks.
The Best Things To Do In Taipei During A Layover
1 – Lin Family Mansion and Gardens
This mansion complex was built by the Lin family over 100 years ago. The buildings and gardens sprawl over 5 acres of land in Taiwan and are a well-preserved example of a Chinese mansion. Visitors can easily spend a couple of hours here walking around the buildings and relaxing in the gardens. Admission is $3 which helps to cover the cost of preserving the buildings. If you visit be sure to take some time to sit and take in the view of the ponds. The pond, with banyan trees growing along the edges, has a calming effect and is a great place for those looking to relax. This is arguably one of the best things to do in Taipei during a layover.
2 – Head to a nightmarket
Taiwan is famous for its night markets – and rightfully so. They are an absolute must visit in Taipei and most visitors will want to make room in their schedule for at least 2-3 night markets! This is the best way to load up on freshly prepared plates of Taiwanese food and Snacks. The only catch is that night markets don’t open until the late afternoon – something that is sure to disappoint those with an early transfer.
The top night markets to check out are the Shilin Night Market, Raohe Night Market, and the Longshan Temple Night Market.
3 – Visit Longshan Temple
Speaking of the Longshan Temple, it is actually a major draw in its own right. This large temple was built in 1738 so there is a great deal of history behind its walls. It’s a great example of Chinese temple architecture and serves both Buddhist and Taoist worshipers.
The area around the temple is older and has a more traditional feel than the rest of the city. Take your time to walk around and explore! There are also a lot of eateries where you can chow down on some local Taiwanese food before continuing on your journey.
Oh, and remember to keep an eye out for the snake soup which is only sold in this part of town. You will know it when you see it!
4 – Take a photo from the Taipei 101
The Taipei 101 is a notable building for both it’s size and architecture. The building, which once held the title of “world’s tallest building”, is modeled after a stalk of bamboo. Whether you love it or hate it, you must admit that it’s eye-catching.
After you get photos of the building, catch the elevator up to the 89th floor. The observation deck offers panoramic views of the city below. Tickets to the observation point are 600nt and give a lasting impression of the city that you won’t get anywhere else!
5 – Catch a bird’s-eye view of Taipei
If taking an elevator up the world’s third largest building doesn’t sit well with you, I’d recommend hiking XiangShan as an alternative. XiangShan, or Elephant Mountain, is on the outskirts of Taipei and is easily reachable by subway. The start of the trail is a short walk from the final stop on the Red Line, aptly named XiangShan Station. The way up is all stairs which can be tiring. However, when reaching the viewpoint you will have a bird’s-eye view of the city. Some of the best photos of Taipei can be taken here so don’t pass it up if you have time!
Do make sure that you have a long enough layover in Taipei before heading to Elephant Mountain. It might take some time to get here, but the good news is that the hike to the viewpoint is not very long. It’s roughly 30 minutes up and the same coming down. However, Elephant mountain is about as far away from the Taoyuan Airport as you can get (and still be in Taipei). Getting from the Taoyuan Airport to Xiangshan could take 1 – 1.5 hours depending on your mode of transportation.
6 – Relax at the Beitou hot springs
The Beitou hot springs are a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. Getting there is as easy as taking the subway to Beitou station! There are large public hot springs which can accommodate a great number of people, as well as many hotels which offer private hot tubs.
Private rooms in these hotels are available at an hourly rate so you can reserve as much as you want or have time for. The prices depend on the hotel but you can find many offers for rooms at $15 per 2-hour block. Each room will come with its own hot tub which has water pumped straight from the nearby hot springs. If you are looking for a nap you can opt for a room with a bed – take a dip in the hot spring water and enjoy a bit of sleep during your layover in Taipei.
7 – Stroll along the Tamsui boardwalk
Tamsui is a few stations north of Beitou so it is very possible to do these during the same layover. It is at the end of the Tamsui River, just before it meets the ocean. Locals often come here on the weekend to enjoy a walk along the river – with some good food and fresh air. Speaking of food, there are lots of food stalls selling fried seafood, chicken, and other snacks. There are also a number of excellent cafes that provide a scenic view along with food and drinks.
Make sure to save some time for shopping along Dansui Old Street. There are lots of shops selling everything imaginable – a true shoppers paradise!
8 – Explore the historic exhibits displayed at the National Palace Museum
The National Palace Museum is a great destination for lovers of history and culture. Taiwan’s massive collection of Chinese treasures is so large that the displays are constantly being rotated out. This means that you will always see something new no matter how many times you’ve visited. The official website is a good resource for hours and ticket prices.
The story of how these hundreds of thousands of artifacts ended up in Taiwan during the Chinese civil war sounds like something from a Hollywood movie. And it’s incredibly lucky that they did end up in Taiwan. A few years later and China’s cultural revolution led to the destruction of anything connected to art and history. One can only imagine the fate of these historical artifacts had they been left behind in China.
9 – Get a massage
Sure, I guess you could always get a massage at the airport. But what’s the fun in that? If you’re here I’m sure leaving the airport during your layover in Taiwan is a priority for you. Taipei has a great number of professional massage shops located all over the city. Taiwan is known for offering great massage and spa services. It’s something that tourists frequently enjoy and one of the best things to do in Taipei during a layover. Getting a massage won’t be as cheap as other destinations in Asia, but shops offer a professional service that, hopefully, matches the price. Expect to pay an average of $40 for a 90-minute massage.
10 – Tour Taipei’s landmarks
There are a great number of landmarks in Taipei that could be visited during a layover in the city. CKS Memorial Hall would be the first to come to mind. This impressive monument was built in honor of Chiang Kai-Shek, the former general and president of Taiwan. Other notable places would be SYS Memorial Hall, XingTian Temple, and the Grand Hotel. This is a short and sweet tour of some of the best architectural sights in Taipei. The best thing is that all of these buildings are easily accessible via public transport!
Bonus – Take a guided tour
Did you know Taiwan offers free half-day tours around Taiwan? These tours are great for anyone still deciding on things to do in Taipei during a layover. The tours run on a set schedule – 8:15 am for the morning tour and 2 pm for the afternoon tour.
- The morning tour takes visitors to Sanxia and Yinghe.
- The afternoon tour takes visitors to Xiamen and the Taipei 101.
Be sure to check the official website to make sure that you are eligible for the tour. The tours last 4 hours and you must have a layover of at least 7 hours to join. This is a great way for transit passengers to see a bit of Taiwan without the stress and pressure of planning their own itinerary. However, you will miss out on some of the best things to do in Taipei during a layover. Planning your own layover tour will require some planning and preparation, but will be worth it in the end.