This time around, I shall share something special here, the High Speed Rail here in Taiwan. This is different from the commuter rail which are more extensively throughout the country and takes you to different cities. The High Speed Rail are like bullet trains that goes up to more than 300km/hr. Rule of a thumb, the HSR only travels on the west side of the island! It is a super convenient way to travel, given that a trip from the northern part of the country, Taipei, to Kaohsiung take a mere 2 hours journey. Making the whole island extremely well-connected. This present lots of time savings in comparison to the normal commuter trains.
First up, a slight cons of the high-speed train, the stations of this high speed trains are usually not located near the city, with the exception of Taipei, where they all comes to the Taipei Main Station. Most of the HSR train stations are located on the outskirts of the city, for example, the Taichung HSR is located about a 30 mins bus ride to the city center. It is important that we take note of this while researching our travel methods. Meanwhile the normal trains takes you right to the city centre. However most of the time they do provide a free bus transfer if you hold a HSR Ticket.
Purchase of a ticket. This is in fact the main motive for writing this post. You can certainly buy a ticket straight from the High Speed Rail official website or what I did was actually purchased from Klook for my 2 trips on the HSR, From Taoyuan to Taichung and Taichung to Taipei. First up, the official website, you are able to search for all of the timings of the trains and then if you buy early in advance, there is discount for certain timings, depending on the load. Do note that you tickets are only available for the train timing you have chosen. I did a comparison on Klook and realised that their fares are cheaper and instead I can take any trains on the date that I have bought. This is far more flexible instead. Just exchange for the ticket at the station!
All you had to do is to turn up in advance at the train station and head to the ticket counter and then show them your klook reservation. You can then collect your ticket for any trains and seat reservations. It is good as I didn’t know exactly what time I will arrive at the train station from the airport, so when I was there I can just take any trains this way. A con for this would be the seat reservation. On my first ride, they didn’t have anymore seat reservation for the next train, so I do have to wait for the next one to Taichung. But I collect at the same time my other train to Taipei and I got my ideal choice of train timing and seats reservations that my family are seated together.
Now the train itself, similar to European style, just check out where your seat is and which cabin you are at, then board at the right door. Trains arrive and depart within mins so be punctual. I love that they had marking on the ground that makes queueing up very organised. The High Speed Rail here is very simple since they only runs in two direction. North or South. North for Taipei and Zuoying which is in Kaohsiung for South bound.
Being a traveller that have taken countless high speed trains and famous ones like German ICE, Renfe, Austrian Railjet, I can say that I am super impressed with the Taiwan High Speed Rails. The train are much more spacious than any of the Europeans one that I have been before. Even though that I only got the normal Economy ticket and the trains are in a 3-2 configuration, the aisle is so spacious and the leg room is so huge. Definitely no awkward arm bumping!
I love the leg space of the seats. It is super spacious and you could stretch all you one. The seats also have a nice recline on them. A slight cons of the seat would be the material, which is fabric and not leather like most Europeans ones. Trains announcement are also made in Chinese, Dialect as well as english. If you are feeling a little peckish, the staff roll down cart down the aisle regularly and you can buy from drinks to snacks and even the world-famous Railway Bento. It is an affordable 100TWD. A perfect Taiwanese delight for food on the go.
In conclusion, I am pretty happy with the High Speed Rail, It is so efficient and it cut down journey time so much. It is definitely worth the premium, pay a little more but so convenient. Seeing how great the economy class is, I am now further intrigued to try out the business class! Next up, I am going to share about my Ximending Airbnb in Taipei. Stay tuned.