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High Speed Rail: zoom across the island

  • When to use HSR


  • How to book HSR tickets


  • Where are HSR stations?

In Taiwan, there are two types of train travel – regular and High Speed Rail. If you want a wide variety of destinations, have a little extra time on your hands or are on a budget, the regular trains are a great choice. However, if you want to get to your destination more quickly and are willing to spend a little bit more money, High Speed Rail (also called HSR, THSR, Gāotíe) is the way to go!


Finished in 2007, the HSR line runs along the western coast of Taiwan and can get you from Taipei to Kaohsiung and vice versa in an hour and a half. Unfortunately it only runs down the west coast, so if you want to get to any cities on the east side then you’ll need to take a regular train. But with 12 stations reaching down through each major city (like Taichung and Tainan), it’s easy and convenient to hop on for any west coast destinations! Both HSR stations and trains are clean, well-maintained, have toilets and stations provide free WIFI.


A regular adult one-way ticket from Taipei to Kaohsiung costs approx.TWD $1,490 and the shorter the distance, the shorter the price. Tickets are released up to 29 days out, which is VERY IMPORTANT to remember if you want to travel on holiday weekends – they go fast! There are also regular discount ticket options for senior citizens, children and some early bird promotions. While all regular tickets come with a seat assignment, you can roll the dice and choose a discounted ‘non-reserved seat’ ticket, which is cheaper and first come, first serve for any open seats or standing space in cars 10-12. BE CAREFUL: if it’s a full train or a busy weekend, you could end up standing in the aisle the whole trip if all of the seats are taken. 



In Taipei, you can catch HSR at 3 locations: Nangang Station, Taipei Main Station, and Banciao Station. They’re conveniently connected to the MRT and the regular trains, so just follow the signs in the station for whichever transportation type you’re taking. Outside of Taipei, make sure to look up the location of the HSR station before you book tickets – it will most likely be located a little outside the main city and a separate station from the regular train station (the general rule is regular train stations are located in the middle of a big city and HSR stations are on the outskirts, but there are some exceptions). Remember this for price & timing, since you’ll need to factor in 10-30 minutes additional taxi time into the main city and add taxi fare as well.


Sometimes a snack cart with very limited drinks and snacks will come by on the train, but most locals know it is better to come prepared. You can bring food from home, stop by a 7-11 or bakery in the station before boarding, OR the best way – pick up an official Taiwan Railway Bento! Technically bento boxes (bian dang) are found all over the country and not just on trains, but the train bentos are particularly famous and different stations fight to claim theirs are the best. They’re always sold within the station near the entrance to the gates, cost under TWD $100 and include a combination of protein (chicken, fish, pork or tofu) and an array of side dishes such as tofu, soy-marinated egg, and pickles, all served over a bed of steamed rice. 


There are 3 main ways to buy HSR tickets, depending on personal preference: online, at the station, or at convenience stores. At the station, you can walk up to the ticket counter or purchase tickets through the vending machines nearby, all in English and you can pay/receive tickets at the same time. At the convenience store, find their iBon machine, click the HSR icon on the main screen and follow the steps to put in your travel parameters and select tickets. When finished, you’ll receive a payment receipt from the machine that you need to take to the store counter and pay within 10 minutes. If you want to purchase online, go to the HSR website, which is a little clunky but does work, and put in your travel parameters to reserve tickets. Take a picture or write down your confirmation/reservation number because you will need this to pay for the tickets! Online tickets need to be paid for within 3 days of purchase or they’re released.


You can pay:

  1. at the station ticket window or vending machines
  2. online through the separate payment tab on the HSR website**
  3. at the convenience store through the iBon machine (instead of choosing ‘purchase ticket’, you choose ‘pick up ticket’, enter your reservation number and take the slip from the machine to the counter to pay for and receive your ticket).


**If you pay for the tickets online, you can pick them up at the station using your reservation number or any iBon machine using the ‘pick up ticket’ instructions from above – you’ll just have to pay a small <$20 TWD printing fee.


  • You can only buy tickets online up to 28 days out, day-of tickets can only be bought at the station.
  • iBon machines inside convenience stores are a little inconvenient and don’t have English translations, so you will need to use Google Translate or another translate app on your phone to know which buttons to press.


If I’m buying tickets day-of, I’ll do it at the station. Any other time, I’ll buy them online and when I’m at a convenience store the next day I’ll pay for them and pick them up.