When traveling on your own in Taiwan, taking the train (huo che; 火車) is a great option for getting around the island. The railway systems—High Speed Rail (gao tie; 高鐵) and Taiwan Railways (tai tie; 台鐵)—are modern,convenient, and efficient.
While both systems are fully bilingual, with clear English provided, it is helpful to know certain railway-related terms in Chinese in order to make your journey even smoother and more relaxed.
One thing that can be a bit confusing for first-time visitors taking a train from Taipei Railway Station are the terms “northbound” (bei chang; 北上) and “southbound” (nan xia; 南下). If you want to go to Hualien (花蓮) for example, which is southeast of Taipei, you have to take a northbound train, the reason being that trains bound for eastern Taiwan will first head northeast toward the coast before turning south and moving through Yilan (宜蘭) before continuing on to Hualien.
LOCAL TRAIN (QU JIAN CHE; 區間車)
Then you have to choose a train. At a conventional-railway station on the Taiwan Railways system you have the following category options (from slowest to fastest): Local Train (qu jian che; 區間車); Local Express (qu jian kuai che; 區間快車); Chu-Kuang Express (ju guang hao; 莒光號), and Tzu-Chiang Limited Express (zhi qiang hao; 自強號). The fastest trains in the Tzu-Chiang category are the Taroko Express (tai lu ge hao; 太魯閣號) and Puyuma Express (pu you ma hao; 普悠瑪號). The faster the train, the fewer stations it will stop at. Some Tzu Chiang trains, for example, don’t make any stops on the way from Taipei to Hualien. Only trains in the Local Train category stop at every station.But first, of course, you need to get to a station. If you don’t know where the nearest station is, you can ask for the huo che zhan (“train station”; 火車站).
If you take one of the High Speed Rail trains, note that most of the stations between Taipei and Kaohsiung are located outside city centers. For example, Taichung’s station is in the suburb of Wuri (烏日). There are, however, convenient shuttle-bus services (jie bo che; 接駁車) at each station. If you want to locate a bus stop at a High Speed Rail or Taiwan Railways station for one of the routes of the convenient-to-use Taiwan Tourist Shuttle network (www.taiwantrip.com.tw), ask for tai wan hao xing (台灣好行), the name of the shuttle service.
TZU-CHIANG LIMITED EXPRESS (ZI QIANG HAO; 自強號)
Hungry while taking the train? Why not try one of the popular railway lunch boxes available at certain stations. If you don’t know where to find them, ask someone to point you in the direction of tie lu bian dang (“railway lunch boxes”; 鐵路便當).Did you know that you can use an EasyCard (you you ka; 悠遊卡) to pay for train rides—except for Puyuma and Taroko and certain special trains—between all stations from Pingtung (屏東) in the south to Su’ao (蘇澳) in the east (i.e., excluding service east from Pingtung to the east coast, and then up to Su’ao)? Remember to swipe your card when getting on and off at smaller stations without gates, for example Shifen (十分) on the Pingxi Branch Line (平溪支線).
And finally, if you want to wish someone a nice journey, you can say lü tu yu kuai (旅途愉快)—Bon Voyage!
TAROKO EXPRESS (TAI LU GE HAO; 太魯閣號)
PUYUMA EXPRESS (PU YOU MA HAO; 普悠瑪號)