Curt travels the world on business and for leisure and enjoys local hospitality and cuisine.
Taipei, Taiwan's Taoyuan International Airport (TPE) is a popular layover point for travelers heading to and from Southeast Asia. Flight timings often mean that layovers are long—between six and twelve hours in many cases. Fortunately, the city of Taipei, the Taiwan Tourism Bureau and Taoyuan Airport have made it easy to make a mini-vacation of an otherwise long wait between connecting flights.
To leave the airport and tour Taipei during a layover, passengers must have:
- a passport with six or more months remaining until its expiration
- an immigration card (available at the airport or online here)
- a visa, if your country requires it (United States, Canada and most of Europe do not require a visa for stays of up to 90 days)
Free Taipei Tours From Taoyuan Airport
Easily the best value for layover passengers are two free tours offered by the Taiwan Tourism Bureau. Tourists may pick one tour or the other, but not both.
- The first departs at 8:15 AM and is for tourists on connecting flights that depart no earlier than 3 PM. It visits the Taiwanese districts of Sanxia and Yingge, famous for antiquity and pottery.
- The second departs at 2:00 PM and is for tourists on connecting flights that depart no earlier than 8:30 PM. It visits more common tourist sites—Taipei 101, and Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall & Memorial Park.
Twelve seats are available on each tour on a first-come-first-serve basis. Six seats on each tour are available by reservation from 2–4 weeks prior to arrival. Both Terminals 1 and 2 have a tourist service center in the arrival lobby where tourists can book tours.
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Do-It-Yourself Touring Using the Taipei Metro
Many passengers arrive in the early morning hours and want to see Taipei 101, Longshan Temple, and Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall & Memorial Park. These sites are not available during the free morning tour from the airport.
Fortunately, it is easy to get to Taipei directly from the airport using the MRT purple line—a rapid transit line connecting the airport and downtown Taipei every 15 minutes from 6 AM to 11 PM. The journey takes just over 30 minutes. Fares are $160 NTD (About $5 USD each way). Tickets are available from vending machines and booths at the airport station and downtown.
At Taipei Main Station, a one-day metro pass is NTD $150 (a little under $5 USD). This metro card is a must-have for all-day travel. The Taipei metro is quick and easy to use.
Suggested Do-It-Yourself Itinerary for a Taipei Layover
- Longshan Temple, open from 6 AM-10 PM, has a particularly fun ambiance at 8 AM, when worshiping crowds gather for chanting. From Taipei Main Station, it is only two stops west on the Blue Line toward Dingpu and is a worthwhile first stop in the early morning.
- Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Park is open from 5 AM to midnight and is a wonderful place to stretch tired legs following a long flight. The adjacent Memorial Hall is open from 9 AM to 6 PM and features an array of displays. There is a changing of the guard hourly, beginning at 9 AM. Tours are available on-site for a fee. The park can be found on the red line, going toward Xiangshan from Taipei Main Station.
- Further along the red line is Taipei 101, the building that held the record as the tallest in the world from 2004 to 2009. Impressive views of the city can be seen from the observatory (NT $600, USD $20), open from 9 AM to 10 PM.
What to Do With Baggage in Taoyuan Airport
If luggage is not checked through to the final destination, or if travelers have only a carry-on, Taoyuan airport offers a bonded baggage service. Similar to a coat check, the service costs between $200-$500 NTD ($6-16 USD). It is available at a counter in the baggage claim area prior to the customs checkpoint. Travelers can retrieve baggage after passing through immigration on the way back into the airport.
Savvy passengers should consider checking their carry-on with their airline if they predict a long layover in Taipei, eliminating the need for baggage storage altogether.
There is no reason to stay in the airport terminal during a long Taipei layover. Whether taking advantage of pre-packaged free tours or using transit to spend time at Taipei's many sites, one shouldn't miss the chance to learn about the island's unique history before moving on.
Questions & Answers
Question: If I arrive in Taipei at 5:15 am and have a connecting flight at 10 am, will there be enough time for me to get to 101 and back?
Answer: I wouldn't chance it. The ride between the Airport and downtown is a bit long (40min-1h), and assuming 45 minutes through immigration and airport arrival 2 hours before your flight, it would be a really tight squeeze.