A five hour layover in Taipei can feel awkward.
It’s not quite long enough to leave the airport*, but it’s too long to idle on your phone with the free WiFi.
You’re tired. You want to be at your destination already. And, honestly, you’re kind of grumpy because you’ve been conditioned to think airports are boring, terrible, and expensive places, because most airports are boring, terrible, and expensive.
Luckily, Taoyuan International Airport in Taiwan is the total opposite! I’ve had long layovers all over the world, and Taoyuan Airport is definitely one where the layover was actually entertaining- even though you’re stuck in the airport for five hours.
How is it possible? Here are five things you can do to make the most of a 5 hour layover in Taipei! And if you’re looking for more general tips, check out my guide on how to make the most of a long layover anywhere.
Note: Technically the airport is in the nearby city of Taoyuan, but Taipei is the bigger city that people know, so we’re going with Taipei for clarity!
Get a massage
They have free massage chairs here, people! Grab a coin from the kiosk and find this in terminal C. They add amazing photos of the local scenery to this area, which make you feel extra relaxed and give you an idea of Taiwan’s natural beauty.
They also offer massages from the visually impaired. I didn’t get to do this because it was cash only at the time. If you do have cash, it seemed like a good way to give back to the community.
Location, hours, and phone number: https://www.taoyuan-airport.com/english/store1_detail/Visually Impaired Massage Service Center
Explore the themed terminals
In terminal 2, each gate is themed! From Hello Kitty, to the history of Taiwanese music, to the Taiwanese film industry, it makes exploring the airport so fun. You don’t know what you’ll find or learn about next. Even if you never leave the airport to explore actual Taiwan, you feel like you have some sense of the culture just from reading through all the gates.
Interactive music museum!
Hello Kitty gate!
Explore the mini exhibits
Not only are there themed terminals in Taoyuan Airport, but there are also a few exhibits you can explore during your layover. Look for the temple, the museum, and the different art exhibits. Some of my favorites include:
This is an art installation. One of the themes was trying to get over your fears to reach your full potential.
Fake beaches and orchard gardens– which could be an Instagram opportunity, if you’re not me.
Go souvenir shopping
If you love shopping this is an obvious.
But usually I hate shopping. Taiwan’s airport changed my mind though, because it has so many things that help you learn about the culture!
For example, pineapple cake is for sale, which is an important Taiwanese gift because the pineapple is a symbol of wealth.
And there are a ton of souvenirs celebrating their indigenous people- did you know that Taiwan has lots of diversity with at least 16 recognized indigenous groups? Even if you don’t buy anything, there’s a lot of information in the shops.
Eat relatively cheap, extremely delicious airport food
Who else is very used to airports selling $15 terrible junk burgers?
If so, you’re in for a surprise at Taoyuan Airport! The dumplings I had at Xiao Nan Men were literally the best I’ve ever had (think Din Tai Fung – but with 5x the meat and half the price). Their beef noodle soup was really good. And if you go to the food court in terminal C, the breakfast in the food court was a steal- they literally have congee that could easily fill two people up, for $7!! And they have a McDonald’s if you’re just craving a hamburger.
Sure, there’s probably even better food in actual Taiwan. But eating around the airport is actually a really enjoyable experience.
You can read more about the Taiwanese restaurants in the airport, including location and hours, here: https://www.taoyuan-airport.com/english/store2_1/1301
Bonus Taiwan layover tips
Find your own cool things
This list is just my favorite things that I stumbled across on my layovers, and I was only there twice. I’ve heard that the airport offers even more things from people who regularly travel from here– like a theater where you can actually watch movies, video game rooms where you can play real games, free showers and lounges, a gym, a library.
Do some exploring on your own and see what else you can find!
*People recommend leaving if you have at least 6 hours (to the suburbs) or 7 (to Taipei). If you have 7+ hours, the airport even offers free tours! You can read more here: https://eng.taiwan.net.tw/tour/index.htm