Last Updated: 201601
Traveling in Taiwan, if you want the fastest way from point A to point B, then Taiwan High Speed Rail (THSR for short) would be your first pick.
As the Taiwanese economic took a leap in the 1970s, mass transportation demands rose steadily on the west coast of the island. In 2007, the technology of Japan’s Shinkansen got exported to Taiwan and was named HSR. After the opening of HSR, it takes only one and a half hours from Taipei to Kaohsiung, significantly reducing the trip which could’ve take four hours by car.
The THSR is currently only running between Taipei and Kaohsiung, stopping at stops in between: Taipei, Banqiao, Taoyuan, Hsinchu, Miaoli, Taichung, Changhua, Yunlin, Chiayi, Tainan, and Zuoying, a total of 11 stations. However, aside from Taipei, Banqiao, and Zuoying three stations, the rest of the stations are at a distance away from city center, so other forms of public transportation are needed to enter the city limit:
- Bus/THSR Shuttles: Every station has transferring buses and shuttles connecting to city center, famous sights, or other stations. Again, except Taipei, Banqiao, and Zuoying stations who are in city center, all the other stations have THSR shuttles free to ride with your THSR train ticket.
- TRA Trains: Some TRA stations are collocated with the THSR, so passengers can make a direct transfer at the following stations: Taipei, Banqiao, Hsinchu, Taichung, Tainan, and Zuoying.
- Metros: THSR stations at at Taipei, Banqiao, and Zuoying are also collocated with metro stations, all have cheap and convenient ways of transportation to access the city
- Taxis: Each stations have a taxi waiting area where cabs wait for customers.
Types of Trains
THSR uses a modified version of JR Shinkansen’s 700 series called 700T series. The train has twelve cars, car no.1 through no.9 are reserved seats, no. 10-no.12 are non-reserved seats; while car no.6 is business class.
Use the THSR fare finder on their website to check the fare of your trip.
Aside from the regular reserved seats, THSR also has some other tickets more suitable for backpackers:
- Non-Reserved Seats: On the day of boarding, no assigned trains or seats, open to ride on car no.10 to no.12, there’s a 3% discount.
- Early Bird: Buying a reserved seat ticket 5-28 days before the day of riding, you have the chance of 10%, 20%, and up to 35% off the ticket price.
- THSRPass (strictly for non-Taiwanese citizens)
- THSR 3 Day Pass: Unlimited entrances and exits for a three day period after the activation of the ticket, NT.2400.
- Flexible 3 Day Pass: For those on a weeklong trip, choose three days within a week to have unlimited entrances and exits, note you have to specify the seven day period at the time of purchasing the ticket. NT.3200
- 5 Day Standard Joint Pass: In a 5 Day Period, entitled to take the express (Chu Kuang) trains and other lower types for an unlimited amount of times. Pick two of the five days for unlimited rides on THSR. NT. 2800
- 5 Day Express Joint Pass: In a 5 Day period, entitled to take the limited express (Tzu Chiang) trains and other lower types for an unlimited amount of times. Pick two of the five days for unlimited rides on THSR. NT. 3600
Note: There are tourist visa regulations on these passes, and you must book through THSR or a local agency. Please visit this page for more info: http://www.thsrc.com.tw/event/2013/THSRPass/EN/Information.html
How to Ride THSR?
There’s little difference between riding TRA and THSR, not to mention the process has been simplified for THSR. Some ways to purchase the tickets are at the station window, online booking, convenience store, and even mobile app would apply for THSR. The English online booking system is a lot more mature than the TRA web pages so the level of usability is also higher. If your friend has a EasyCard linked with an local credit card, those would work for non-reservation seats but your own "original" EasyCard of Taipei Metro wouldn’t work in this scenario.
Regardless of how you book you tickets; they will be available 28 days before boarding at 00:00.
- Should I take THSR?
- Depends on the duration and the pace of your trip
- Compare to other shuttle buses, the prices are 2-3x but the time is also ⅓ of the time.
- Compare to TRA trains, it’s about 2x the price, time duration can be shorten up to ½.
- Would I have trouble purchasing ticket or riding the train?
- THSR has a pretty structured English system so there shouldn’t be major language barriers.
- How do I change or cancel my reservation?
- Basically, you are eligible to return the ticket wherever you bought it. If you bought the ticket through the online booking system and have received the actual ticket, then you’d have to return it at either the train stations or the same brand convenience store you received your actual ticket from. There’s an additional NT.20 processing fee for refunding the ticket.
- There’s one free alternation, the second one will be considered refunding the ticket.
- If you are departing from the terminal station(Taipei/Zuoying) on a non-holiday or weekday, then buying a non-reserved seat could save you some money because the non-reserved seats will most likely be available at the first stop.
- What are some famous tour sights along the THSR stations?
- Sun Moon Lake: Taichung Station
- Alishan(Mountain A-Li): Chiayi Station
- Kenting: Zuoying Station
- What if I’m Traveling to the East Coast?
- The fastest way for traveling east coast is still currently the TRA trains, Please refer to Traveling in Taiwan: Trains, or consider a short plane ride if you know where you’re going.
Translated by Nasha