If you’re visiting Taiwan, there’s a very good chance you’ll be making use of the TRA (Taiwan Railways Administration) system, which runs trains in a full loop around Taiwan and some small side-lines into the mountains.
To be clear, this is Taiwan’s “regular” train system. It has several train types, from slow local trains to super fast express ones. But it is not the HSR (High Speed Rail) system, which is Taiwan’s version of the bullet train and only runs down the west coast.
Booking train tickets in Taiwan can be a little complicated. Some trains must be reserved, some are optional, and some can’t be booked in advance. Some trains take EasyCard and some have the option of e-tickets via the train booking app. Some must be booked as soon as they are released and others you don’t need to plan ahead.
I wrote this guide to provide step-by-step instructions for purchasing train tickets in Taiwan. I’ll cover when to swipe EasyCard or just buy tickets at the station before boarding, purchasing tickets on the official TRA site, booking electronic tickets on the app, importing already purchased tickets into the app, and buying tickets in person in Taiwan.
Tickets for Kids, Seniors, Bikes
Before we delve into the options for buying tickets, let’s cover these important points.
Children under 6 ride trains in Taiwan for free (same goes for MRT, HSR, and many attractions). They don’t need a ticket, but they also won’t get a seat.
If you want a seat for your child, or for children age 6-12, you can buy a 50% off children’s ticket (also labeled “Discount Ticket” on the train website). If you’re swiping EasyCard to board the train (see the next section below), foreign children don’t qualify for the student EasyCard but they can get a Concessionaire Card for any MRT station window, which only gives some small discounts when transferring.
Foreign seniors unfortunately don’t qualify for the discount – only local ones do.
If you want to bring a bike onto a train in Taiwan, look for the green bike symbol beside the trains when you search for tickets on the train website. You’ll need to buy a ticket for your bike (50% of normal adult price). See this detailed guide to taking bikes on trains in Taiwan.
Then you just show up at the station, swipe your EasyCard to enter (make sure you have a positive balance before swiping, i.e. anything above zero). Then you swipe again to exit the station when you arrive.
However, you can only do this for certain trains, as follows:
|Local Trains||Any trains that are called “Local”, including “Fast Local Train”. These trains don’t even have seat numbers.|
|Chu-Kuang||Any train with Chu-Kuang in the name. You should book your seats on these trains, but you can also swipe EasyCard and stand in the aisle or sit in any unoccupied seat (until someone comes along with a ticket for that seat).|
|Tze-Chiang||Any train with Tze-Chiang in the name except Tze-Chiang 3000. Same details as Chu-Kuang trains.|
Some examples of trains where I would swipe EasyCard would be:
- Taipei to Keelung or Ruifang/Jiufen (for day trips from Taipei)
- Short train rides like Xinwuri (Taichung HSR station) to Taichung Station in the city center or Shalun (Tainan HSR station) to Tainan Station in the city center.
- Kaohsiung to Tainan (the cities are so close together and there are many local train options, so you don’t have to worry about booking a specific time on a fast train).
- During busy times, I found that the train I wanted was sold out, so I will swipe onto a local, Chu-Kuang, or Tze-Chiang train (all numbers except 3000) and just squeeze on. Note that you can’t do this for Taroko Express, Puyuma Express, or Tze-Chiang 3000 trains.
Buying a Ticket Just Before Boarding
If you don’t have an EasyCard or prefer to pay in cash, you can also buy a ticket from one of the electronic machines at the station just before riding.
On these machines, you can buy both reserved (for any ride in the next 28 days, or 29 days for Saturday rides, or 30 days for Sunday rides) and non-reserved tickets (for any train going today only).
If you want to get a booked seat, then choose “reserved”. If you’re planning to ride an express or faster train, don’t count on showing up at the station and buying a reserved seat just before boarding. It may be possible, but these trains often sell out long in advance.
If you want to ride a local train or just buy a standing ticket for any of the trains I described in the last section, choose “non-reserved”. For non-reserved (standing) tickets, they never sell out, but are only available on Local, Chu-Kuang, or Tze-Chiang (all numbers except 3000) trains.
These machines have English and take cash only. For non-reserved tickets, you’ll notice there’s no time on the ticket. That’s because it can be used for any local train to that destination on the day you purchased it.
After buying the ticket, proceed to the ticket scanner for entering the station, and insert the ticket into the slot. The ticket will then come out of a different slot. Take the ticket out and the gate will open. Make sure to save your ticket, as you’ll need to do this again at your arrival station.
Some smaller train stations in Taiwan don’t have these machines. In that case, you can just buy a ticket in cash from the ticket window (see next section).
Buying Ticket at Convenience Store or Train Station
You can buy TRA train tickets at any 7-Eleven, FamilyMart in Taiwan, HiLife, or OKMart. You’ll need to use the electronic machine (iBon at 7-11, FamiPort at FamilyMart, and so on). The system is in Mandarin only so you may need to ask the clerk for help.
If you can’t speak Chinese, I suggest you use a translation app (see my recommended apps here) for communicating what you need with the clerk. You’ll need to provide your passport number. There is a very small surcharge for printing the tickets at convenience stores.
Alternatively, go to any train station ticket window in Taiwan to book your tickets. Remember you can only book tickets 28 days in advance (or 29 days for Saturday trips and 30 days for Sunday trips).
You will get a physical (paper) ticket with a QR code that you’ll need to scan when entering and exiting the station. These tickets can be refunded at any station ticket window up to 30 minutes before your departure time, with a small cancellation fee.
Also learn how to use luggage storage lockers in Taiwan.
Buying Tickets on the TRA Website
For most of my history of living and traveling in Taiwan, I have always used the official TRA website for booking my train tickets in Taiwan. It is easier to use than the app.
This is my most recommended method for buying tickets on any express (Puyuma, Taroko, or Tze Chiang 3000) trains. I also recommend it for buying tickets on medium speed trains (Chu-Kuang or all Tze-Chiang trains besides 3000) if you want a guaranteed seat.
Overall the website is easy to use (as far as websites in Taiwan go). I find the desktop version better than the mobile version, so I always use that. If you really want etickets, then use the app instead (see next section), but it is more complicated.
I always buy my tickets as soon as they are released (28 days in advance starting from midnight Taiwan time, or 29 days in advance for Saturday trips and 30 days in advance for Sunday trips).
Part of that is just my travel anxiety, but some popular trains in Taiwan can sell out literally in a few minutes, especially for long weekends or holidays, and especially for popular routes like Taipei to Hualien or Taitung.
Here’s a quick outline of how to do it:
- Log on to the official site, do a search, choose your train time, and book.
- One passport can be used to buy up to 6 tickets per day.
- Children under 6 ride free and don’t need a ticket. They’ll need to sit in your lap. Children 6-12 can get a seat for 50% off, or you can choose this option for a child under 6 if you want a seat for them. Foreign seniors don’t get a discount.
- Pay online with credit card and screenshot your Booking Number.
- Take your Booking Number and passport to any convenience store or train station ticket window in Taiwan to pick up the physical tickets at least 30 minutes before departure.
- You can also import your tickets into the TRA app for eticket option (I’ll cover that in the app section further below).
Step 1: Book your train online
The official TRA site is relatively easy to navigate. On the home page, choose your departure and arrival station, date of travel, and desired time range.
Note that you can search the times for trains up to around 3 months in advance, but only trains in the next 28 days (or 29 days for Saturdays, 30 days for Sundays) will have the option to book.
Next comes a page of all the possible trains types and times for your query (see image below). Don’t worry about the words “Mountain Line”. Some trains when doing a full loop around Taiwan will take a more inland route (the “Mountain Line”) for a few stops around Taichung and others will take a “Coast Line” there. For most journeys, this information is irrelevant.
“Adult” ticket price is for most people. “Discount” ticket price is for local seniors (Taiwanese only) or any child seats (age 6-12), including local or foreign kids.
Note that under 6 can ride free but will need to sit in your lap. If you want a seat for your under-6-year-old, you can buy a child seat for them. Anyways, you don’t need to choose that quite yet – the ticket prices are here for your reference.
If tickets can be ordered for this train now, you’ll see the blue ticket symbol under the “Order Tickets” column, as below. Click that symbol to proceed.
Next you’ll be taken to a page confirming the details of your booking. You have the option to book regular car (this is fine for most people) or business car. You’ll need to enter your passport number, confirm details, and choose number of tickets. Don’t worry about adult vs child tickets yet.
Clicking “I accept change of seats on the same train” means you would be OK if you have to change seats part way through your journey. This is unlikely to happen, but in cases when trains are already almost full, this can increase your chance of getting tickets.
You can also make a seat preference (aisle vs window). Note that you won’t be able to choose your seats – the system will automatically choose them for you. In cases when trains are almost full, you may be separated from your travel mates.
There isn’t anything you can do about this, besides asking someone to trade seats with you on the day of travel.
After the above page, if the train is sold out, the system will inform you that no tickets are available.
If there are tickets available, the below ticket confirmation page will follow. Note the words “Booking successful” and the Booking Code. I suggest that you screenshot this page or write down your Booking number.
This means your booking is now made but you need to pay before the stated deadline (09/22 (Fri) 24:00 on the below ticket) otherwise your ticket will be canceled.
If you produce a booking code but don’t pay 3 times (you make a booking buy don’t complete a payment before the deadline), your passport number will be blacklisted and you won’t be able to book any tickets online for the next 30 days (booking at station still possible). So if you’re experimenting with the booking page, don’t take it this far too many times!
For travelers with kids, this is where you’ll have a chance to choose adult vs child seats, as you can see in the below image.
Note that 1 passport can only be used to book up to 6 tickets per day. Keep in mind that kids under 6 ride free and don’t need tickets but won’t get a seat, while “children seats” for age up to 12 are 50% off.
Step 2: Payment
After you click “Next Step” in the above screenshot, you’ll be taken to a payment page where you can choose the option of payment by “Visa, Mastercard, JCB”.
Alternatively, you can take the Booking Number and your passport to a convenience store of train station ticket window to collect the tickets before the deadline (if you’re in Taiwan already!)
For payment, I found that somehow the system wouldn’t accept my Visa card, but it did accept my Mastercard. If one card doesn’t work, try another.
Step 3: Ticket Collection
After paying, the system will provide you with the following details about options for collecting your tickets:
Option 1 as above is to take your Booking code / QR code and passport (or ARC if you live in Taiwan) to a train station ticket window for printing the physical ticket.
This can be done anytime from the point of booking until 30 minutes before your train’s departure line (stations sometimes have lines, but seldom more than 5 minutes’ wait).
Options 2 as below is to import your tickets into the TRA app for eticket option (note that if you plan to do this, you may want to just book your tickets in the app to begin with). I’ll describe how to do this in detail further below.
Option 3 is to take your Booking number and passport/ARC/Taiwan ID to any 7-Eleven or FamilyMart to pick up the tickets.
This comes with a small printing fee. It needs to be done at the iBon/FamiPort machine in 7-11/FamilyMart. The system is in Mandarin only so you’ll need to ask the clerk for assistance.
Buying Tickets on the TRA App
TRA has an official app, which is called 台鐵e訂通.
Overall, this app sucks. Booking train tickets on this app is a complicated process. The app is full of confusing prompts, poorly translated English, and there are some important popups that come in Mandarin only.
Unfortunately, however, using this app is the only way to get etickets for TRA trains in Taiwan. With an eticket, all you have to do is scan the QR code on your phone to enter and exit stations. Another cool thing is that even if you already booked your ticket on the official site, you can then import your ticket into this app for digital ticket option.
But there are some more annoying things to know:
- Each ticket holder must have their ticket on their own phone.
- This means if one person buys all the tickets, then each person will later have to download the app and import their ticket into their own phone.
- What about kids with no phones? They won’t be able to get an eticket.
- You can’t use a screenshot of the QR code. You can only scan the QR code from inside the app. If your phone battery dies or you can’t open the app, you won’t be able to enter the station.
I used to not even recommend this app at all because it is so non-user-friendly. However, if you use the below guide, you should be able to successful book digital tickets on the TRA app.
Step 1: Download and open the app
When you first open it, there will be some introduction pages in Mandarin. Scroll right to pass through them, then click the pink button “開始使用” (start using) to start using the app (below left).
Then there’s another page (below right) in Mandarin. Click “同意” (agree) and “確認” (confirm).
After doing that, my app app automatically converted to English. If yours doesn’t, click the hamburger menu, settings (gear) icon, 語言 (languages), then choose English.
Step 2: Booking your train in the app
Now you should see the app’s home page (below left). Click “Booking ticket” to be taken to the train booking page (below right).
On the Booking page, choose your departure and arrival stations, desired times, and (not pictured here), whether you’re OK with changing seats mid-ride, seat preference, and local ID or passport number.
Not much different than the official site, you’ll be given a list of train types/times and blue ticket icon for booking them, if they are bookable yet (below left). Click the blue ticket icon to book. If there are no seats left, the system will now inform you.
If there are seats, you’ll get a successful booking notice (below right). Just like the official site, you wouldn’t want to go this far three times and not complete a payment for the ticket, otherwise your passport number will be blacklisted for 30 days.
Step 3: Payment
You’re close but not finished yet. Now you need to pay for the ticket. You can click “Pay Later” if you want to take your Booking Number and passport to a convenience store or train station ticket window for ticket payment and collection. This has to be done before the stated deadline (usually midnight of one day later).
Click “Pay Now” to pay now with a credit card, which is what you probably want to do. I found that next I had to confirm adult vs child tickets. Remember that children will need their own phone in order to get etickets. There will be a final page to confirm (below left). Click “Immediate Payment” at the bottom.
After confirming, there will be a page in Mandarin (below right). You’ll need to click “網路存款” (online payment) on the bottom right.
Next you will be taken through some pages for completing your payment by credit card. Keep in mind that some cards may not work. If this happens to you, just try a different card.
Step 4: Ticket Collection
After you pay, you’ll be taken to a screen with some awkward language about the ticket collection methods. The awkward language basically means you can only choose one method.
Method 1 is to produce an e-ticket in the app. Method 2 is to take your Booking Number and passport/ID to a convenience store, post office, or train station ticket window (below left).
Choose the blue “Collect the ticket immediately” button at the bottom. After this, I got a little confused about where to go next. But eventually I found my “uncollected” ticket under “My Bookings” in the hamburger menu and I clicked on it. Then I had to choose again “Collect the Ticket Immediately”.
This time, there will be a Chinese popup (below right). You need to choose the gray “取手機行動車票” (get mobile ticket) button on the top.
Next will be a confirmation page (below left). If the ticket is for you, click the circle beside your ticket info.
If the ticket will be for other people, select “Not collect tickets on this device”. Your travel mates will need to import the tickets into their own device (I’ll cover this below).
Make sure to only issue your own ticket here. Follow my below instructions for your travel mates to import and collect theirs in their own app.
Choose the blue “Collect tickets and issue” button at the bottom. If you see the below right Mandarin pop-up, that means “Successful”.
Now that the ticket has been issued, you can find it under “My Tickets” in the app’s hamburger menu (below left).
Click on the ticket to show the QR code (below right), which you will need to scan at the station, for entering and again after arriving.
Remember that a screenshot or printed version of the QR code won’t work. You can only scan the QR code from within the app.
Importing Tickets into the App
There are two cases when you might need to import a train ticket into the TRA app:
- You bought a ticket on the official TRA site, but you want to convert it to an eticket instead of picking up a physical ticket in Taiwan.
- You bought tickets for someone else, so now they must import their ticket into the app on their own device (every ticketholder must have their own device – if kids don’t have one, they can’t get etickets). If you want to avoid doing this, each person should just book their own tickets on their own app/device to begin with, but then the seats probably won’t be together.
First, the person who wants to import the ticket must download the app. In the hamburger menu, click “Booking Inquiry” (below left). Select “Passport No. and enter the passport number originally used to book the ticket.
Also enter the Booking Code. The person who booked your tickets should have saved this when making the booking. Important: only the first 7 digits should be entered.
If you originally bought the tickets on the official TRA website, the Booking code and QR code show something like “3815943ZSL84″. But 3815943 would be the Booking code.
A few times, this didn’t work for me. The system couldn’t find my ticket. So, I clicked “Forgot Booking Code” at the top. Then I had to input my departure and arrival points, date, and passport number (below right). This actually worked and it found my ticket.
After the system finds the ticket you want to import, click “Join Pending Tickets” at the bottom. The system will take you to “My Bookings”. You should see “Uncollect ticket (1)” (bottom left) and the ticket will say “Status: Paid but not pick up”. Click on the ticket.
You will see “Paid but not pick up” (below right) in orange. Click “Collect ticket immediately” at the bottom.
From the Chinese options in the subsequent pop-up (below left), choose the first one “取手機行動車票” (get mobile ticket).
Agree to the terms then click the small circle beside the ticket details (bottom right). Select “Collect tickets and issue” at the bottom.
There will be a Mandarin “successful” (成功) pop-up. Your tickets will now be visible under “My Tickets” in the app’s hamburger menu. Click on the ticket to get the QR code for entering and exiting the train station.
Remember that you can only show the QR code from inside the app, not as a printed or screenshot version.
If you want to cancel an eticket, you can also do so in the app. Just click on the ticket in question under “My Tickets” and select “Refund” at the bottom. The total amount minus a small cancellation fee will be refunded to your credit card.