You gotta love long layovers. It sometimes allows a twofer on a longer trip. I had previously flown through Taipei, Taiwan but the layover was too short to go outside. On my way to Indonesia, I had a long layover in Taipei… a whopping 19 hour overnight stop.
Immigration is quite efficient. No visa is needed for most nationalities.
Getting to downtown takes 35-50 minutes depending if you take the commuter train or express, on the brand new purple line MRT. They run on the same track and the cost is $160 Taiwan dollars (a little over $5). Don’t make the same mistakes I did and assume the public transportation takes credit cards. I only traded $20 US to get some nice food in town, but neither the the subways or the airport train took credit cards, so I found myself using the ATM later.
It was getting close to 5pm by the time I arrived at the main train station (note: the walk is nearly 10 minutes from the airport train to the normal subway lines). I was debating between dropping my bag at the hostel and checking in, or carrying it with me and heading straight for Elephant Mountain. As I was looking to buy tickets and guy came up and asked in English how and where to buy subway tickets to Elephant Mountain. As we both were traveling solo we decided to pair up for the evening. He was from Atlanta and works for an airline and has been to 69 countries at the young age of 29. Top tip for the subway: there is no use in buying the 24-hour pass unless you’re going to ride the subway (not including the airport line) 7 times or more. My 3 trips cost a total of $75 TWD, but the 24-hour pass was $180.
So we caught the subway to the end of the blue line and did the walk up Elephant Mountain. There are directional signs, but you can also ask any local for directions. Elephant Mountain provides an amazing view of the Taipei Skyline, including the most famous Taipei 101 building. This was the tallest building in the world for awhile but now is beat by the Burj Kalifa that I visited a couple years ago. The sky had been pretty grey in the afternoon but the sunset was pretty nice. It was getting dark by the time we came down, the the tower was aglow in purple lights.
Raohe Night Market
We walked well over a mile to Raohe Night Market. This was a cool night market and combo of established shops and kiosks selling goods and food. Some of the food looked absolutely disgusting and didn’t smell good either. You can pretty much get the body part of any traditionally eaten animal… from chicken feet, to pigs ears, to whole duck heads. I wasn’t feeling too adventurous so we had the pepper pork buns, by far the most popular food stand in the market, but the line of 30 or so went quick. This was at the eastern entrance of the market so we also checked out the temple next door.
Getting Some Sleep & Longshan Temple
I had to check into the Duckstay hostel by 10pm so I said goodbye to my new friend. This hostel was good but it seemed like it was dozens of young Taiwanese folks (not sure if they were traveling or students or ?) and me. If you need a place to stay on your long layover in Taipei, booking.com has a huge selection for Taipei. Support this blog at no additional cost to you.
The advantage of staying here was that I had time to check out Longshan Temple at 6am when it opened and have enough time to get back to the airport. The bed was great, I had my own pod.
Longshan Temple opens early in the morning and it’s a nice spot to view the early worshipers. It’s a nice way to end a long layover in Taipei.
TPE airport is a great airport. They even have a whole gate devoted to Hello Kitty and an orchid garden. If you have Priority Pass, there are several lounges that can be visited.