We went to Hualien after spending a week in Taipei. We decided to take the train from Taipei to Hualien because it would be the quickest and most convenient mode of transportation. However, as the Taiwan High Speed Rail (HSR) does not operate on Taiwan’s east coast, we can only rely on Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA), the country’s main railway operator.
Types of passenger trains
There are several types of passenger trains, such as local, Tze-Chiang Limited Express and Chu-Kuang Express. You can make the best choice for your needs based on travel time, budget, and destination.
Local trains stop at every station along the route. The journey is longer, but the fares are lower. Express trains are faster because they only stop at specific stations, but they are more expensive.
The Tze-Chiang trains are the fastest of all the service classes operated by the TRA. When booking your ticket, it is highly recommended that you consider the following Tze-Chiang Limited trains:
- Taroko Express
- Puyuma Express
- Tze-Chiang Limited Express (3000) – the journey is 40-60 minutes shorter than the regular one (non-3000)
Total journey time and departure time were deciding factors for us because we wanted to arrive in Hualien early and not waste too much time travelling.
Tickets can be purchased at any TRA station’s ticketing counter or vending machine. Nangang, Songshan, Taipei Main Station, and Wanhua are the TRA stations in Taipei City.
You can also book online through the TRA website or the TRA app (most recommended). Download the app from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.
There is no option to select seats and the system will assign them at random.
Once you’ve completed the payment, save the booking code or take a screenshot because you’ll need it to retrieve your ticket later.
Our tickets from Taipei Main Station to Hualien Station on a Tze-Chiang Limited Express (3000) train cost NT$220 per person per way.
Tickets can be collected at any TRA station, post office or convenience store.
Ticket collection at TRA station is free. If you choose to pick up your tickets at a convenience store (7-11, Family Mart, Hi-Life, or OK Mart) or post office, you will be charged NT$8 per ticket. Please keep in mind that a round-trip ticket is considered two tickets, not one.
All ticket collections must be completed at least 30 minutes prior to the departure time.
If you have the TRA app, you can download the ticket with your booking code, which is a QR code. And all you have to do is scan the QR code at the entry point. Easy!
Check LED screen for the platform number
Simply refer to the LED screen to find out the platform number for your train.
Purchase food and beverages beforehand
Several Taiwan Railway Bento (台灣鐵路便當) outlets are located around the Taipei Main Station, where you can get railway bentos i.e. pre-packaged meal boxes.
Prices range between NT$60 and NT$100. A plastic carrier bag will be charged an additional NT$1.
Scan QR code at the gate
One advantage of using the app is that we don’t have to keep any physical paper tickets. We only need to scan the QR code here to get in.
We just sat in the departure waiting area and relaxed while waiting for the train. There was also a convenience store and public restrooms on the premises.
We went down to the platform a few minutes before our train arrived and waited by the assigned car number.
Inside the train
Plenty of leg room between seats. There was also a foot rest.
Above us, there was room for small bags. Large suitcases had to be placed at the back of our carriage, near the last row of seats.
There are toilets on the train in case of ’emergency,’ so don’t worry. For those who need supplies during the long journey, drinks, snacks, and bento boxes are available for purchase.
The train ride was very enjoyable. There was plenty of scenery to enjoy along the way.
Railway bentos for brunch
Woohoo! Lunch time!
Braised pork belly aka kong bak
That slab of braised pork belly was tender and flavorful. The vegetables were crisp and fresh. I also enjoyed the rice because it was fluffy and not stodgy.
Pork chop with tofu skin
The meat was tender but not super soft. It was a little chewy near the bone. Nonetheless, it was delectable. The combination with the preserved vegetables was fantastic.
Pork chop with fried shishamo
This pork chop was slightly softer than the previous one. In general, I’m not a fan of shishamo. But everything else was excellent.
Surprisingly, these railway bentos were much more than mediocre lunch boxes. They appeared homey and hearty, and they certainly tasted fresh and delicious. Best of all, they were so affordable!
If you’re wondering where to throw your trash, someone will come by at regular intervals to collect it.
Arriving at Hualien
We arrived at Hualien Station in under 2 hours and 30 minutes. A taxi auntie approached us and asked where we wanted to go, just as I was trying to figure out how to get to our inn. Surprisingly, she wasn’t like one of JB’s taxi drivers who would simply quote an exorbitant fee. Very honest driver who followed the meter. And she was so warm and friendly.
Excellent start to the day in Hualien!