Taipei 101 is a Tourist Trap, but is it Worth it?
Tall buildings are the quintessential tourist traps. No matter what country you’re in, you’re charged way too much money to ride an elevator, mill around for a short while and then head back down to earth with the opportunity to purchase a miniature version of the building you were just on.
The views are typically excellent, but there are diminishing returns once you reach a certain height. The 101 floors on the aptly-named Taipei 101 seemed like overkill. There were perfectly good views from the 45th floor of a hotel I stayed at. Why go up the second tallest building in the world? (skip to the bottom for the TL:DR ).
During my first trip to Taiwan, nonstop rain and heavy clouds kept any urge I’d have to go to Taipei 101 at bay. A few days into my second trip, my brother and I were blessed with as clear a day as one could hope for. With a free evening, we decided to make the obligatory trip to Taipei 101, which was the world’s tallest building from 2004 to 2010. We got what we were expecting, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
The tickets are sold on the fifth floor of an incredibly glitzy and expensive shopping mall at the base. At $500 TWD a pop, the tickets came to about $17 USD. There’s a $50 TWD discount if you’re using a foreign Visa card. This amused me because I’m used to paying more in Asia countries for being a foreigner. We queued up, were somewhat forced to have a cheesy photo of us taken (you can buy these if you have the urge for some reason) and hopped on the speedy elevator within 15 minutes.
Unfortunately, there’s nowhere to see out of the elevator, but you can feel how fast it’s going in the pit of your stomach. A digital map also charts the elevator’s rapid progress. The doors opened into a windowed room with lots of information about the construction of Taipei 101 and references to other historic building projects. The views at night were fantastic, as I expected. Taipei doesn’t really have any big skyscrapers except for the one I was on, so nothing on the horizon compared. There were huge swaths of darkness where some of the city’s many undeveloped park areas were located.
Included in the ticket is a free audio guide. It shared info about the city and pointed out key landmarks in each direction
we faced. Most of the content was to hype up other attractions in the city, which I guess is to be expected considering the guide didn’t cost anything extra. There were also some coupons so that exorbitantly priced drinks and souvenir were only slightly less exorbitantly priced.
On Top of the World
The top floor is what I was really interested in, but the heavy bars prevented those terrifying â€œoh my god I’m going to dieâ€ views that I love so much. It was a little disappointing, as the glass downstairs and the heavy bars on the roof (obviously to prevent any accidents/jumpers) hindered the views a bit. Still, I snapped some good photos and we looped around the rooftop twice
The views are still incredible, but what made Taipei 101 mostly worthwhile is all the info about the construction of the massive building. There’s an enormous 660 ton damper near the top of the building that’s used to offset the building weight in case of heavy winds. There’s also a video about the construction (I wish it was longer) and placards about the project. None of it was too in-depth, but it whet my interest and I later watched this Discovery Channel video from YouTube about the construction.
You might get a lot out of your visit to Taipei 101, but it’s still a trap. Upon exiting, you’re forced to walk through an enormous store dedicated to selling coral reef art. The cheapest one I saw was the size of my first and went for $1000 USD. Most were much, much more expensive than that. If half the space of that store went into the engineering aspects of the building I would have been much happier.
Still, my brother and I had no regrets about spending the money to enjoy the rare clear night. We’ll never do it again though. We can only lukewarmly recommend it, but anyone making the trip already knows exactly what they’re getting: some good views for a price.
Open from 9 a.m. and the last elevator ride up is at 9:15 p.m.
$500 TWD for adults (with a $50 TWD discount if using a foreign Visa card)
Lots of overpriced junk and drinks up there.
In total, spent an hour. Nice views and we’re glad we went. Wouldn’t do it again, though.
I'm an American freelance writer who spent a couple years living in Cambodia. Now I'm on the move again and traveling all over the place. I'm willing to try any bizarre liquor that's presented to me. Any recommendations?