Frequent flyers on China Airlines, Eva Airways and Malaysia Airlines have likely spent a fair amount of time wandering the halls of the Taipei Airport where all three carriers stop on their way to other Far East destinations. If your clients can map the fastest route to the airport’s remote Starbucks location or if they can give you an itemized list of the inventory at the Hello Kitty super store, it might be time to consider getting them outside the airport.
Free Half-Day Tours
Passengers with a healthy seven-hour layover, and conveniently timed flights, can take advantage of free half-day tours departing from Terminal 1 and 2. The morning tour, which leaves the airport at 8:15 a.m. and generally returns by 1 p.m. (traffic permitting) takes travelers to Sansia, a century-old town southwest of Taipei. The area’s most famous attraction is the Zushih Temple, also known as Sansia Bird Temple, because of its unique bird art. The tour also stops at Yingge, Taiwan’s pottery center, where numerous shops sell merchandise ranging from simple cookware to beautifully carved statuettes.
Afternoon visitors will be taken into the heart of Taipei, making stops at the Presidential Office Building, Taiwan’s equivalent of the White House, and the National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall (also known as the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall), a monument built in commemoration of the late president, Chiang, and surrounded by nearly 61 acres of pavilions, ponds and gracefully landscaped gardens. The tour also stops at the Martyr’s Shrine dedicated to the fallen heroes of China’s wars and is popular for its hourly changing of the guard ceremony. Visitors will also see Longshan Temple, one of Taiwan’s oldest temples, as well as the Taipei 101 Building, the world’s tallest building, which houses an office complex, a shopping mall and an observatory. The afternoon tour departs from the airport at 1:45 p.m. and returns by 6:30 p.m. To register for either tour, guests must clear customs and immigration before signing up at the Tourist Service Center. The tours are available only to travelers from visa-exempt countries, which include the U.S. and Canada.
‘I Land Paradise’ Promotion
Stopover passengers who really want to explore Taiwan, however, can secure special room rates starting at $79 during the country’s “I Land Paradise” campaign. Visitors may book up to two nights at the discounted rate, offered at several participating Taipei hotels. A $119-per-night rate is also available for a slightly higher room class or a higher-caliber hotel.
The room rates in both categories include breakfast for one person, as well as the nation’s mandatory 5 percent business tax and 10 percent service charge. There is a maximum of two guests per room, per night. During the promotion, which runs until Dec. 31, Eva Airways and China Airlines are also waiving the stopover fee they charge passengers wishing to experience Taiwan.
Travel agents who register with the Taiwan Visitors Association may become an official seller of the program, earning a $10 commission per accommodation booked. Agents may also elect to use any other registered seller and earn commission on hotel upgrades and optional land tours.
Taipei City Tours
For the duration of the “I Land Paradise” promotion, Taiwan-based Edison Tours is offering a special half-day Taipei City Tour for $20 per person. The tour visits the Martyr’s Shrine, the Presidential Office Building and the National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall. It then stops at the National Palace Museum, which is the world’s fifth-largest museum and contains the world’s largest collection of Chinese art and artifacts, some dating back more than 7,000 years. The tour then stops at the Taiwan Handicraft Promotion Center, a nonprofit center, offering Taiwan’s largest selection of local handicrafts, jewelry, paintings and aboriginal ornaments at reasonable prices. Morning and afternoon departures are available, each offering hotel pick up. Reservations can be made with just three hours notice.
Edison Tours, as well as a number of other tour operators, offer a variety of other commissionable half-day and one-day tour programs that can be booked in lieu of or in addition to the $20 half-day program. Half-day programs include a Taipei Night Tour, a Northern Coast Tour and a tour to Yangmingshan National Park and hot springs. A full-day program to Taiwan’s popular Taroko Gorge is also available.
Taiwan Tour Bus
Operated in conjunction with various Taiwan-based tour operators, the Taiwan Tour Bus offers 30 daily tour routes throughout the island. This collection of tour programs offers a “best of the best” overview of the more popular tour options in Taiwan. Full-day trips visit standard favorites such as Sun Moon Lake and Taroko Gorge, but also travel to lesser-known locations such as the Gugan Hot Springs and Bashianshan Forest Recreation Area in Central Taiwan and the mountains and seascape which surround Southern Taiwan. All itineraries include transportation, a tour guide and insurance.
Visitors who don’t wish to be constrained to a tour schedule may request the “Taiwan DIY Travel Guide” from the Taiwan Visitors Association offices located in San Francisco and Los Angeles. This handy guide outlines Taiwan’s top attractions, shopping and dining, with a listing of the best way to access these locations using public transportation systems.