A taste of Taipei ….

Duty Free Shopping Taiwan Taoyuan AirportAs Asian airports go it’s a bit dated, but the shopping offer is a useful diversion.It may come as a bit of a surprise to find out that Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport is among the 15 biggest hubs in the world for international traffic.

The island of Taiwan, officially the Republic of China, sits just 160km to the east of the much larger People’s Republic of China which lays claim to it and which has created political tensions between the two states for decades.

Those tensions meant that there were very limited direct flights between the PRC and ROC and travellers were forced to go via hubs such as Hong Kong. However, in 2008, new agreements opened up the market for direct flights and these have transformed the market at Taiwan Taoyuan Airport, formerly known as Chiang Kai-shek International, with traffic jumping by 16% last year.

Just two terminals serve passengers although a third is pipelined. The oldest, T1, is now being renovated while the newer T2, part-opened in 2000, handles the majority of international airlines.

The shopping at the airport is dominated by three key retail operators: Everrich Duty Free Group, Tasa Meng Company and the Taiwan Tobacco & Liquor Corporation. Between them you will find everything you want as far as beauty, fashion, wines and sprits, jewellery and watches, and of course tobacco, are concerned. All the premium brands have representation here including Burberry, Cartier, Bvlgari, Coach, Gucci, Prada, Fendi, Furla and Dunhill to name a few. For electronics 3C Stores’ Digitial Plazas have a vast choice of cameras computers, games and other electronic items.

The Taiwanese have a sophisticated brand palate so expect to see high end luxury items wherever you look. An influx of mainland Chinese travellers is also expected to push this luxury skew even further in the future. The low ceilings of T1 may make you feel a bit claustrophobic but focus on the store windows and their fascias instead to search out what you want. In a utilitarian way, many of the 17 shops in this terminal are identified by the product category: Tobacco/liquor/chocolate or Jewellery-Gifts-Fashion are two examples so keep those eyes peeled! Of course the concourses mostly merge into the stores so there is no problem seeing the front-of-store promotions and what’s inside. About the only branded stores are the Rose music shop and Hsin Tung Yang which specialises in Taiwanese arts and crafts plus local food products.In T2, there are 11 store units but their scale and height give a better impression of the overall retail offer. Tasa Meng and Everrich dominate in this terminal with a total of seven stores covering the full gamut of categories including sports wear and consumer electronics, but there are some specialists too. Lianwan Co has a booth selling Taiwanese foods, there is another Rose music unit, while the rather functionally named Polymer Clay Design sells craft and souvenir products.

This terminal also has an interesting innovation: a specially created e-reading waiting room near Gate C5. For free, you can curl up with around 400 e-books from the likes of National Geographic and Elle magazines or children’s novel and Sherlock Holmes classic detective mysteries. And if you are not keen to use an electronic reader, don’t worry, the waiting room has more than 2,000 second-hand books on the shelves, in both Chinese and English.

Other ‘toys’ include GPS navigation systems in case you want to look at maps of your destination and also photo equipment that allows you to take photos and email them to friends and family.

Also see our guide to: Duty Free Allowances for Taiwan

Taipei Downtown Duty Free Shopping

For those who prefer to do their duty free shopping at a more leisurely pace, Taipei now has a downtown duty free store operated by EverRich.

It’s a well planned layout covering 5 floors, and product range is extensive. Floors are numbered 1F to 5F. 1F, “Hello Taiwan”stocks Taiwanese souvenirs, electronics and sports equipment. 2F “Fashion Square” fashion brands and boutiques. 3F “Luxury Boutiques” .4F for cosmetics, skincare, fragrances, liquor and tobacco and jewellery products. Floor 5F is the VIP and restaurant area.

Stores are open 7 days a week and using their pre-order service you can shop at leisure in the city center and pick up your goods at the airport. Locations are Minquan E Road, Taipei City, trading hours are 08.00>21.00 and Jinzhuang, Neihu, Taipei, hours are 08.00>19.30. Remember, you will need your flight/travel documents and passport.

Taoyuan Airport Fact file

  • Passenger traffic 2010: 25.1 million
  • Airlines: Almost 40, of which the biggest (by number of routes) are China Airlines, EvaAir, China Southern and China Eastern
  • Worth knowing: A third terminal is in the planning stage and should take the airport’s capacity above 40 million when it’s eventually completed.