One of the downsides of finding unbelievably cheap flight deals on the web is that most of the time the in-transit route is not the fastest and/or most convenient. Layovers are either way too long or so short that the slightest delay in your first flight could cause you to miss the next flight entirely. I usually avoid the short ones all together but a long one won’t necessarily scare me off so long as it’s not an entire day or more. Although I would consider it if it’s in a place I’ve been dying to see and if I had more vacation time to allot to my final destination. On this past trip to the Philippines we had a 9-hour layover in Taiwan which was a bit of an awkward duration. It’s not quite long enough to get a hotel room and have a huge exploration day without being worried about getting back to the airport on time, but just long enough that 9 hours at the airport could potentially be hell. We flew into the same airport when we went to Bali 6 months earlier and had a decent amount of time to explore the airport so I really wasn’t looking forward to spending 9 hours there. Joe and I were both interested in checking out the area and adding another spot to our travel list so we decided that we would leave the airport for this layover. It all worked out in the end but not without its share of obstacles! If you transit into this hub quite often and are thinking about finally venturing out of the airport during your long layover I hope this brief guide will help you not to waste any time (like we did for almost an hour just trying to find baggage lockers, ATM that worked for our cards, and transportation!). Keep on reading for our day trip explorations and some tips to help make the most of your layover adventures:
1.) If you have carry-on bags like we did just go to the luggage lockers. The lockers are fairly new I hear, and I believe they are available in Terminal 1 and 2. If I remember right, we stored ours in Terminal 1 in the Arrivals Hall. It is across the hall from the Luggage Storage Counter area. We really didn’t want to go through security again with our baggage so we were trying very hard to find storage before going through immigration but the only service available is bonded luggage. I am still unsure what bonded luggage is for but I do know that the staff puts your baggage on the plane for you which defeats the purpose of our carry-on and we wanted access to our bags. The lady at the counter told us where we could go to hold baggage and it was past the security gates so first you will have to go through immigration. I was surprised at how fast it was to get through immigration though. There are plenty of counters and the staff were very friendly. When you get to Terminal 1 there is a luggage hold counter that I believe is meant for longer storage time (I could be wrong) and it is a little pricey. The lockers are just across the way, a couple feet down the hall. The lockers are pay by the hour. The max it lets you put in is for 3 hours and you pay upfront but don’t worry if you plan to be out longer like we did. Once the 3 hours are up it won’t unlock for the world to have access to, instead it’ll just keep charging you hourly until you come back and then you will pay for the excess hours before it unlocks. It was reasonably priced although I cannot remember what we paid exactly. I apologize for that, I lost the receipt, but I am going to start carrying a small journal around to log notes while travelling so my blog can give you guys the most accurate information! Take what you’ll need for your day trip and be on your way! I highly recommend a light jacket depending on the time of year you go. We were there in late March and it wasn’t freezing cold but it was windy and chilly enough for a light jacket or long sleeve shirt. The sun was shining but I got pretty cold and ended up having to buy a cheap light sweatshirt while we were out and about.
2.) I had a hard time during our first layover at this airport finding an ATM that worked with my credit cards. The one in Terminal 1 near the entrance worked for my card, so if you’re having difficulties with ATM’s when you arrive try that one out!
3.) Honestly I never really figured out the public transportation system and so we just went with the easiest, quickest, but by far the most expensive option…a taxi. This was probably best for us anyways with our time crunch but if you have a longer layover I would suggest doing some research on the bus and train. The taxi rides are pricey, which I had read about in my research and was prepared for, but it’s still kind of a shock if you have just been back from a place where transportation was very cheap haha. I believe we paid around $40-$50 one-way, so approximately $80-$90 something total. The good news is you know you are not being ripped off because the meters are on and very accurate. The taxi drivers drive insanely fast as well, I was surprised at how fast we were zipping by everything. Traffic wasn’t nearly as bad as I had anticipated but I think we just got lucky. Make sure you factor in traffic when you are deciding on when to return to the airport. Taipei is almost an hour away from the airport on top of any traffic. Also, there are 2 airports so make sure you specify the International one, Taipei-Taoyuan that is an hour away from the city.
4.) Research what district you want to spend time at. We spent time at Xinyi and Datong and if I could do it all over again I would have explored Datong and another district or just Datong. One thing for sure is I would’ve skipped Xinyi. It was great seeing Taipei 101 and the awesome shopping centers but the crowds were not really our cup of tea. I knew it would be crowded but it felt extra congested with the normal local traffic and the tourist traffic. It’s also a very pricey area and we didn’t run into the most friendly people while there. I saw many judgmental eyes and had one snarky encounter but that didn’t bother me too much. It was like being in one of the huge cities in the U.S. (ie New York, LA, etc.). Not everybody is super friendly but the vibe is something you can’t really experience anywhere else.
Our first stop was the Xinyi District and we asked the driver to drop us off at Taipei 101. As soon as we got out of the cab it was sensory overload. The crowds, the tall buildings, the chilly wind, the noise, the hustle and bustle of it all…I had to sit for a second to get my thoughts together and make a game plan. We admired Taipei 101 for a little while and snapped some photos. We went inside the shopping area and then quickly walked out. The building is filled with very expensive designer stores which was definitely out of our price range. I’m sure the sales people could tell judging by the looks on their faces! We walked around the district looking like lost puppies and taking in all the sights and sounds. People watching was fun here no doubt about that. There are tons of stores here and lots of shopping to be had if this is what you’re seeking. Shopping was not on our list of priorities so we knew we would be leaving soon to explore another district. We were interested in going to Tiger Mountain but with the short amount of time we had we decided to skip it. I would love to go back and hike up the steps for the view next time. Before leaving we stopped at a Family Mart which was a store I knew I had to visit before we left Taipei. I lived in Okinawa, Japan during my early pre-teen years and Family Mart trips with my school friends is a very special and vivid memory of mine. I loved all the goodies we found there from the yummy drinks to the tart candies to the savory onigiri (I called them spam sandwiches when I was a kid!). We fueled up on salmon, tuna, and chicken onigiri and then headed off to the Datong District.
The Datong District was one of the first settlements in Taipei and is rich in history. At a point in time this district was the commercial center of Taipei but those days have long passed. Out of the 2 districts I definitely felt that Datong had a more traditional, authentic, and humble feel to it which I personally prefer over the cosmopolitan ritzy vibes. Our first stop in the Datong District was the Dalongdong Baoan Temple. This temple is a part of the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards for Culture Heritage Conservation. The temple is absolutely gorgeous with so many intricate details. Truly a work of art! The history is also very fascinating and it was a pleasure to watch some of the locals praying and paying their respects. You can read in-depth about this temple and its history by following this link:
When we arrived the temple was still very busy with visitors as can be seen in the photos.
Across the way is a beautiful little garden and pond area that also serves as a performance venue. The entrance area was set up for some sort of show when we visited. We walked around for a little bit and got some photos of the large dragon fountain in the middle of the pond. In my research I saw that some people call this place the Linsheng Garden but I am still unsure if that is the name.
Located across the street (southeast) from the Baoan Temple is the Taipei Confucius Temple. This temple was not busy at all, surprisingly! We got to take a lot of great pictures due to the lack of people here and it was really fun being able to take our time exploring and admiring the details of the temple.
After checking out the temples we stopped at a 7-11 which also sells onigiri and got ourselves a little snack before heading back. I didn’t know that the 7/11’s sell onigiri as well and now I am a little upset that the U.S. doesn’t do the same. We seriously need to step our mini mart game up!! After refueling we walked around and looked at some of the small shops. Once it started getting dark out we decided to find a cab to head back but how I wish we could’ve stayed and experienced the night life in Taipei. I would have loved to see how the city lights up at night and to check out the night markets. Maybe one day we will be back with more time to explore. Overall, I really enjoyed the very little bit of the Datong District that we got to explore and it definitely felt like more of our scene. People there seemed to be more friendly as well. I even had a brief run-in with a girl who knocked on my bathroom stall door to give me an unopened pack of tissues because she had just came out of that stall and there was no toilet paper in there. It’s really the little kind acts like that which remind me that humanity has so much more good than what is advertised in the media 24/7. I know it doesn’t seem like much but for a complete stranger to do that for me without a second thought, not to mention the potential communication barriers…it was just so sweet to me.
Our last misadventure of the evening was our first total communication barrier with our cab driver who didn’t speak ANY English at all. I am fine with communication barriers, after all I am in YOUR country I should be speaking YOUR language, so I’m always grateful when people do their best to work with me. We all know that isn’t always the case in my own country (America) so I am even more grateful that people are kind enough to work it out with me knowing I am American. It all worked out in the end. The driver pulled up Google Translate and we both communicated through it, laughing the entire time. It was a great little learning experience and a fun story to tell to friends later on. We headed back to the airport a lot earlier than we had anticipated and again we got lucky with traffic so we still had about 3 hours to kill once we got back to the airport. Again, you just never know with traffic, so always better to be safe than sorry. Please allot traffic time into your adventures! Well that about sums up our brief venture into Taipei! We made it through our very first layover adventure and I already can’t wait for more in the future!!
I hope this helps you out a bit if you are embarking on a Taipei layover adventure soon! I would love to know about your journey as well! Feel free to leave a comment or use my contact form to message me about your experience!
Until next time,