What’s not to love about traveling by train, it's relaxing, and much faster than a car but without any of the stress associated with traffic and unfamiliar roads. Taiwan's trains are efficient, and fast, showcase beautiful landscapes right around the island with comfort and connect all major cities. It is a system easily accessible to the traveler and what’s more, English signage is pretty decent and available in most stations and on trains.
Taiwan's railway will take you from one end of the island to another in just a few hours by high-speed train and although there are no trains that run centrally into the mountainous regions, there are tourism branch lines that do.
Tze-Chiang (limited express), Chu-Kuang (express) and Fu-Hsing (semi-express).
These are express trains and are therefore the fastest, and most expensive. However, discounts are available for senior citizens, children, and there are ‘early bird sales’ when purchased in advance, so try to make use of this. The high-speed trains run from Nangang, just north of Taipei City, and go all the way down south to Kaohsiung.
- Tze-Chiang is the fastest, most comfortable and expensive train in Taiwan. The trains only stop at major stations. It is advisable to reserve a seat so you don't have to stand, especially on the weekends or on a national holiday.
- Chu-Kuang and Fu-Hsing are slower than Tze-Chiang but still fast and stop at more stations between the main cities. They can get crowded often and are definitely not worth riding without a reserved seat.
- Fu-Hsing applies to shuttle trains.
- Chu-Kuang applies to Puyuma and Taroko.
For additional information on the high-speed-rail system or to book go to : https://www.thsrc.com.tw/en/TimeTable/SearchResult
Local Trains (not express).
These access a majority of locations all over Taiwan, stop at every station and are cheaper. They are slower too with speeds that vary as they can be very old or very new. You cannot reserve seating but are generally quieter than the express trains. If you are happy to take your time they are air-conditioned and do make for a peaceful and enjoyable trip.
For local train timetables and bookings go to : https://www.railway.gov.tw/en/CP.aspx?sn=16988&n=19590
How To Book?
It is advisable to book in advance and reserve a seat, especially if you plan to travel on weekends or on a public holiday. If you book in advance you may also be able to get an ‘early bird’ discounted rate. Tickets can be booked 14 days in advance online or 12 days in advance in person at a train station.
For information on early bird discounts go to: http://www.thsrc.com.tw/en/Article/ArticleContent/da4e4552-97f3-427f-93fc-a79af439f80e
Online. You can book on the Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) website, your passport number is required but it is very easy to do. You then need to take your booking number to any train station or convenience store to pay within two days of making the booking.
You can use this link to check out train timetables and book online:http://126.96.36.199/twrail/EN_QuickSearch.aspx
Convenience store. You can use an Ibon kiosk at a 7-Eleven to book your train ticket. These are, however, only in Chinese, but you might find a friendly store assistant who can help you. It will print a slip, which you need to take to the counter, and pay. This will validate your reservation.
Train station. Go to any train station with your passport and book your ticket at the kiosk.
Tickets: What Are The Options?
Single journey tickets. If you have a set schedule.
Return tickets. Return to the departure station.
Taiwan Railways, Multi-card system, Easycard, IPass and Taiwan smart card. These can be used if you want to go cash free and a 10% discount is given on some of the lines. Go to http://www.easycard.com.tw/english/use/index.aspx for information on the Easycards.
TR Pass.For students. Can be purchased at the station's ticket kiosk with a valid student ID. TR passes can take you on Intercity and Juguand trains unlimitedly during the valid dates.
Day passes. The tourism branch lines (Pingxi, Neiwon, and Jiji). The pass may only be used on the day of validation. It may not be used without a validation stamp. You can hop on and off the trains as many times as you like within the designated zones.
For a complete list of ticket types please go to : https://www.railway.gov.tw/en/CP.aspx?sn=16972#
How to Ride?
- Decide your origin and destination. (Google Maps can help on this.)
- Find the appropriate schedule, and find the train you want.
- Visit the online booking system, or visit any convenience store kiosk, or head directly to a train station for their automated machine or windows to buy the ticket.
If you decide to book online, write down the ticket code after booking, then pay online with a card within the specific time frame, visit a train station window (card or cash), or a convenience store to pay and pick up your tickets.
Arrive 30 minutes early or earlier if you are collecting a ticket or purchasing at the station, there might be a queue.
- Check the platform your train will be arriving on, escalators and stairs may be needed. If you are confused, station personnel are very helpful and will often use body language to help should they not speak English. (Download Google translate, it is extremely useful as it can translate spoken words.)
- Go through the ticket punching gate, find your platform and car and wait there.
- The conductor will visually check the boarding process, so don’t worry the train won’t leave you if you’re being polite at the end of the line. After you board and found your seat if someone’s sitting on it don’t sweat just politely ask them to move or simply show them your ticket. If you do not have a reservation you are permitted to sit in an empty seat.