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Taiwan Rail Holidays

Taiwan Rail Holidays

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Travelling by Train in Taiwan

Travelling by Train in Taiwan

Taiwan’s rail network loops the whole island, linking major towns and cities. An important form of transport for over 100 years, the train line passes through Taiwan’s incredible nature and is a wonderful and comfortable way to experience some of it for yourself. Alongside the conventional line, a high-speed line runs between Taipai and Kaohsiung, using bullet trains very similar to shinkansen.

In fact, you may notice many similarities between Taiwan’s and Japan’s rail systems, from station design to train bento boxes, due to their shared history. Also like Japan, Taiwan’s trains feature great onboard amenities and a safe, efficient and fast service.

Standard Trains

Standard Trains

Taiwan Railways operates five service classes of standard train, the highest two of which are Tze-Chiang, a limited express train and the fastest of the classes, and Chu Kuang. Tze-Chiang trains travel up to 130 kilometres an hour, are fully air conditioned, have comfortable seats and an at-seat trolley refreshment service.

The Taroko Express is part of the Tze-Chiang service class, an electric tilting train that runs up and down the scenic east coast line. While most Tse-Chiang trains have both reserved and unreserved seating, the Taroko Express is all reserved.

Chu Kuang trains, also limited express, are also fully air-conditioned but are considered less comfortable that Tse-Chiang and are a slower and cheaper option for those travelling intercity. Below Chu Kuang are local trains that stop at all stations.

We use a standard train to travel between Taipei and Hualien on our private Taiwan by Rail tour.

High-Speed Trains

High-Speed Trains

Taiwan’s high-speed like runs for 350 kilometres, at up to 300 kilometres an hour, along the island’s west coast, between Taipei and the port city of Kaohsiung. It is based on Japan’s Shinkansen system and the experience of riding it is very similar.

Onboard the train, you’ll find spotlessly clean carriages with all seats forward facing, as they can be flipped round, in a 3+2 layout. Comfortable and spacious with a handy tray table, you can just sit back, relax and watch the landscapes of Taiwan fly by. There’s a food and drinks trolley to buy snacks from, or you can grab something at the train station before boarding but as the longest possible journey on the high-speed train is only 1 hour 55 minutes, there is no full meal option. Toilets are available onboard.

We travel between Chiayi and Taipei on a high-speed train on our private Taiwan by Rail tour.

Scenic Journeys

Pingxi Line

Pingxi Line

Just east of Taipei, the 13-kilometre narrow-gauge, single track Pingxi line was originally built to transport coal between Sandiaoling and the mountain village of Jingtong. Today it is one of the most popular day trips from Taipei, a beautifully scenic ride along the Keelung River and through the rugged Pingxi Valley, where you’ll pass verdant forest and rushing waterfalls including the picturesque Shifen Waterfall and the intriguing Houtong Cat Village (with its 300+ resident cats!). Many stops offer access to gorgeous hiking routes through picturesque nature.

The line was opened during Taiwan’s era under Japanese rule, and the train passes through many once thriving mine towns with old streets that have a distinctly Japanese influence in their architecture. The Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival takes place annually around Chinese New Year and sees Pingxi and Shifen towns releasing sky lanterns into the air – now a form of prayer, the tradition started as a warning of banditry to allow residents to run for safety in the mountains.

Ride the Pingxi Line on our Taiwan by Rail private tour.

Alishan Forest Train

Alishan Forest Train

The Alishan Forest Train was opened in 1912 as a narrow-gauge logging line, to transport native cypress wood down from the mountains. Alishan is now a popular mountain resort, and the train is a fun and scenic way to reach it. Said to be the highest railway in Asia (16 metres higher than the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway in India), the 72-kilometre Alishan line ascends from 30 metres above sea-level at Chiayi to 2,216 metres at Alishan, passing through lush vegetation that starts as tropical before transitioning to temperate than Alpine as you climb higher. The line is also famous for its series of rare Z-shaped switchbacks, spirals, and horseshoe bends, along with its 50 tunnels and 77 wooden bridges.

The train, complete with carriages from the historic fleet, is usually pulled by a diesel locomotive, but in the flower blossoming season (March to May) you can often find a restored Shay 21 steam locomotive, imported from the USA in 1912, doing the work. At the Alishan terminus is the Loco Shed Park, where you can discover original engines and carriages that used to ply the line. From here there are also several branch lines, on which you can discover the incredible scenery of the mountains.

You can experience the Alishan Forest Train on our Taiwan by Rail private tour.