Listen, budget traveling is not glamorous.
Please don’t believe the instagram posts under #wanderlust and #travel are the complete truth. There are nasty sides to traveling on a budget. One of those is cheap flights.
When buying plane tickets for my trip to Indonesia I was in dangerous circumstances that I didn’t realize at the time. My circumstances were that I had a lot of time off of work, more than I needed, and a very tight budget. These circumstances gave me the opportunity to debate two different ticket options; the 7 hrs total travel time tickets for $800 or the 27 hrs total travel time for $400.
I decided on the cheaper option with long layovers in Taipei, Taiwan. Why not? right?!? I’m young! How bad could a 18 hour layover in Taiwan be?
…Not quite unbearable, but pretty darn awful.
Before leaving I checked out what the internet had to say about the Taipei airport on this handy website for travelers. From the website I learned that the airport in Taipei offered free shuttle tours into the city for people with long layovers and where the best sleeping spots were. This layover was going to be a piece of cake!
On the way to Indonesia we had 12 hours in the airport. Unfortunately our 12 hrs were at night so we couldn’t go on one of the free airport tours of Taipei. The stay was unpleasant but full of excitement and adrenaline. The website said the best thing to do was to check into the airport before the desk close for the night and spend the night inside the airport past security. The desks wouldn’t let us do that so we had to improvise new sleeping spots. It was cold and uncomfortable, but not miserable. I could do 12 hours again.
On the way home from Indonesia the layover was longer, a full 18 hours. I also had climbed a volcano at 2 am the day before leaving Indonesia (blog post coming soon!). It was difficult.
Here is how I spent my 18 hrs in the Taipei Airport:
Hours 1 and 2 (9:30-11:30 pm)
I spent the first few hours editing photos from my trip. I figured that I might as well get something useful done during these few hours. Tom and Alyssa went to sleep on a bench in the food court. After I got bored of editing the pictures I tried to join in on their naptime but couldnt manage to become comfortable because of how cold I was.
Hour 3 (11:30-12:30 am)
I spent the next hour wandering everywhere I possibly could looking for the warmest place in the whole airport to sleep in. I finally settled on a hallway on the 3rd floor in-between the arrivals and the parking garage. It unfortunately was still too cold there for sleep. Dang it.
Hour 4-8 (12:30-4:30 am)
I decide to watch the final season of the “West Wing,” for the hundredth time. I absolutely love this show. I tried so hard to convince myself that I was awake and watching it because I desperately wanted to be and not because I couldn’t fall asleep. Thank God for President Bartlet and Aaron Sorkin.
Hour 9 (4:30-5:30)
Texting with my friend Laura during her visit to America who was currently experienceing jetlag. We traded travel stories, I migrated back and forth to the bathroom so I could warm my bum on the heated toilet seat.
Hour 10 (5:30-6:30)
Go downstairs and find Alyssa and Tom awake and looking still exhausted. Alyssa and I watch the guy working at Starbucks prepare to open the shop with burning stares. I pass out asleep on the table. This is the first bit of sleep I have gotten.
Hour 11 (6;30-7:30)
Starbucks. Heavenly Starbucks.
Hour 12 (7:30-8:30)
This is a bit of a blur. Maybe more table sleeping?
Hour 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17 (8:30-1:30)
Meet the morning tour group at the front counter and head out to see a bit of Taipei. Its lucky this airport does these tours because I don’t think I would have made it until our flight without a little change in scenery. The tour is alright. We go to a cool temple and then a ceramics museum. There were a couple other travelers in our tour group and it was fun to trade stories with them about our respective trips. Also, the shuttle had free wi-fi which was incredibly awesome for those of us wanting to connect to the outside world.
Hour 18 (1:30-2:30pm)
arrive back at the airport and checkin for our flight. I am so ready to go back to Japan. I was missing it so much that I even ate Japanese food for lunch at the airport. Katsu-Curry never tasted so sweet!
Basically, cheap flights… long layovers… Are they worth it? Maybe. I’m not sure I will ever do a layover longer than 12 hours again. Perhaps I will do it again when I end up in similar circumstances and time has transformed this 18 hour layover into a nostalgically funny memory.
On the bright side of this experience the airport layover tour was awesome. More airports should offer services like this. The tour guide said they do it to encourage travelers to come back and visit Taiwan properly. I don’t know if it was successful for us, but we appreciated the opportunity to see the city a bit for free.
I realize now that this might have been exceedingly boring for you to read. Sorry that you had to suffer through reading this post until now, but just imagine what it was like living it.
Budget travel is better than no travel… right?