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Kaohsiung and Hualien are two of the most popular destinations outside of Taipei for tourists visiting Taiwan. It is a little less convenient to get from Kaohsiung to Hualien than it is to get from Taipei to Hualien or Taipei to Kaohsiung, but it is still pretty simple.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a high speed train from Kaohsiung to Hualien. This is the reason it is slightly less convenient to travel between Kaohsiung and Hualien.
There are a number of other direct options though. You can take the train, fly, or drive. You can also take a bus, but there aren’t any direct buses.
I don’t recommend taking the bus because it takes a lot longer than the other options and requires at least one transfer. I won’t discuss taking the bus in this post because it really isn’t all that practical.
Option 1: Taking the Train from Kaohsiung to Hualien
This is how I travelled between the two cities. I liked that it was direct and inexpensive even though it was time consuming.
The train takes anywhere between 4.5 and 5.5 hours to travel from Kaohsiung to Hualien. It would be nice if there were a high speed train between the two cities and maybe there will be in the future, but, for now, this is the only train option.
You’ll want to take the Tze-Chiang Limited Express. It runs multiples times in the morning and once or twice in the evening. Tickets cost $NT648 or approximately $22USD.
Where do Train Depart Kaohsiung From?
Trains for Hualien leave from Kaohsiung Main Station right in the heart of Kaohsiung, so it is very convenient.
To get to Kaohsiung Main Station, you simply take the red Kaohsiung metro line to R11 (Kaohsiung Main Station). Kaohsiung Main Station is one stop away from Formosa Boulevard (R10/O5), which is the station where the two Kaohsiung metro lines intersect.
You’ll need to follow the signs to proper platform, but it is very easy to navigate! If you happen to get turned around in the station, there are maps on the walls for you to reference or you can ask an employee for assistance.
Where do Trains Arrive at in Hualien?
There is only one train station in Hualien, and every train going in or out of the city uses the station. This makes it really easy to make sure you’re getting off at the proper stop!
Hualien Station isn’t in the heart of the city, so if you’re accommodation isn’t within walking distance of the train station, be sure to know how you’re going to get from the train station to your accommodation.
You can either use the public bus system or take a taxi. The buses from Hualien Station to the heart of the city don’t run very frequently outside of peak times, so a taxi may be your best option.
Taxis are cheap and quick. There is a taxi stand right outside of Hualien Station, and there are always drivers waiting to drive you to your destination.
I, however, recommend staying near Hualien Station because that is where buses to and from Taroko National Park depart from.
I personally stayed at Meci Hotel and really enjoyed it!
Where to Purchase Train Tickets
It is quite easy to purchase a train ticket from Kaohsiung to Hualien! You can either purchase it online, through the app, or in person.
Purchasing Tickets Online
Train tickets can be purchased through the Taiwan Railways Administration website. The website is very user-friendly and has an English language options!
You simply put in your departure station, arrival station, and date of departure, and it pulls up all your train options. Once you select the train you want, you can select whether you prefer a window or isle seat.
To book your ticket, you need to pay by credit card and insert your passport number.
You can print your ticket, pick it up at a 7-11 (you’ll need your passport), at Kaohsiung Main Station, or use your phone as your ticket with the Taiwan Railways app.
Purchasing Tickets Through the App
You can easily purchase your train tickets through the Taiwan Railways app. You simply download the app (just search Taiwan Railways in your app store) and go through the same steps as purchasing online.
The best part of using the app is that your ticket is right on you phone, and you don’t need to worry about logging in or adding your booking reference to pull up your ticket.
This is how I personally book all my train tickets with Taiwan Rail. I love the convenience of it!
Purchasing Tickets in Person at Kaohsiung Main Station
The final way you can purchase a ticket from Kaohsiung to Hualien is by purchasing your ticket in person at Kaohsiung Main Station.
You can either purchase your ticket at a ticket booth manned by a person or at a ticket machine. This is the least convenient option because you have to physically attend at the station to get your ticket.
While it is slightly inconvenient, it is the best option for people who want to pay with cash rather than credit card.
Do You Need to Purchase Tickets in Advance?
The train from Kaohsiung to Hualien doesn’t normally sell out, so you don’t need to purchase your ticket too far in advance.
I suggest purchasing your ticket at least one day in advance. This ensures you get a ticket and gives you a good chance of getting your preferred seat (window or isle).
Advantages of Taking the Train from Kaohsiung to Hualien
- It is the most affordable option
- The train is direct, so you don’t have to worry about transferring
- You don’t have to purchase tickets too far in advance
- The trains are clean and comfortable
Disadvantages of Taking the Train from Kaohsiung to Hualien
- It is a long train ride
- There aren’t dedicated luggage racks, so you need to lift your bag overhead to store it on the overhead racks
Options 2: Flying from Kaohsiung to Hualien
The next option is to fly from Kaohsiung to Hualien. Mandarin Airlines has a direct flight between the two cities and is the best option when it comes to flying. There are other airlines that fly from Kaohsiung to Hualien, but they have long layovers.
The average cost of a one-way ticket from Kaohsiung to Hualien is about $100USD, so it isn’t cheap.
The flight is only an hour. But when you factor in getting to Kaohsiung Airport, going through security, waiting for your flight, flight time, and getting from Hualien Airport to Hualien, it really isn’t any faster than the train.
How to Get to Kaohsiung Airport
It is quite easy to get from Kaohsiung Airport from anywhere in Kaohsiung.
You simply take the red metro line to R3 and get off right at the airport. It really doesn’t get any easier than that!
How to Get to Hualien from Hualien Airport
It is a little bit more work getting to Hualien from the airport, but it is still fairly easy. It simply takes a bit more time and planning.
There is a public bus that runs from Hualien Airport into the city. It runs every 30 to 40 minutes from 8:40am to 6:10pm. This is a bit problematic for people who are arriving outside those hours.
The bus drops you off at Hualien Station, and you have to find your way to your accommodation from there.
You can also take a taxi from the airport to where you’re staying. I would recommend this rather than taking the bus.
Taxis are readily available at the airport, and you just need to follow the signs to the taxi stand. A taxi into Hualien will cost you between $10USD and $15USD, so it is pretty affordable- especially if you’re with a group of people.
Do You Need to Purchase Tickets in Advance?
I would recommend purchasing plane tickets from Kaohsiung to Hualien a few days in advance to ensure you get a seat on the flight you want.
Flights between the cities don’t normally sell out, and you can often purchase a last-minute ticket with no issue. I wouldn’t personally risk it just in case tickets are sold out during peak season.
Advantages of Flying from Kaohsiung to Hualien
- It is relatively easy to get to and from the airports
- You get a checked bag included in your ticket price, so you don’t have to worry about lifting a heavy bag overhead
- There is less sitting time, which may be beneficial for people who have mobility issues or can’t sit for long periods of time
Disadvantages of Flying from Kaohsiung to Hualien
- It is expensive
- When you factor in everything involved in flying, it isn’t any quicker than the train
- You have to fly with one specific company to get direct flight, so you can’t shop around for the best price
Option 3: Driving from Kaohsiung to Hualien
The final option is to drive from Kaohsiung to Hualien. I’ve never personally done this because I travel alone and hate driving.
Driving is a great option for people who are comfortable driving. It gives you the ability to set your own schedule, and you get to see a lot more than on the train or plane.
You can stop anywhere along the way that seems interesting and really personalize the journey.
Kaohsiung and Hualien are about 350km apart, and the drive takes approximately 5 hours depending on traffic.
Practical Information if You Decide to Drive
- You need an International Driver Permit (IDP) to drive in Taiwan as a tourist
- Be sure you’re selecting a convenient pick-up and drop-off location when renting your car or bike online
- Consider renting a pocket wifi device to use for GPS
Advantages of Driving from Kaohsiung to Hualien
- You can personalize the trip
- You can travel from Kaohsiung to Hualien on your schedule rather than a train or plane schedule
- It allows you to see more of Taiwan
- It may be the cheapest option if you have a large group of people
Disadvantages of Driving from Kaohsiung to Hualien
- The travel time is highly dependant on traffic
- You have the most opportunity to get lost while driving compared to the train or flying
- It is potentially the most expensive option if you’re travelling alone or as a couple
I personally think the train is the best way to get from Kaohsiung to Hualien. It is the most convenient because it leaves from the centre of Kaohsiung and is the least expensive.
It takes about the same amount of time to get to Hualien from Kaohsiung no matter what transportation method you take, so I think taking the least expensive option is the way to go. Plus I love trains!
Kaohsiung and Hualien are two cities I would highly recommend visiting while in Taiwan. It makes sense to go from one city to the next rather than back to Taipei because they are both in southern Taiwan.
It is unfortunate that there isn’t a high speed train between the two cities, but that shouldn’t stop you from making the trip from Kaohsiung to Hualien.
The local, slow train is a great option to get between the two cities. While it might not be a super quick way to travel, the scenery outside your window is beautiful, the seat are comfortable, and you can walk around and stretch.
Flying is probably a last resort and not high on most people’s list of travel methods between Kaohsiung and Hualien. It is expensive and basically consumes the same amount of time as the train.
Driving from Kaohsiung to Hualien is a great option for people who want to go off the beaten path and see some of the less visited places in Taiwan. Driving, of course, comes with its own limitations and challenges. But it is a great option for people who want to road trip through Taiwan.
In the end, all three transportation methods have their pros and cons, and it really comes down to your personal travel style. You can’t go wrong with any transportation method you choose, and you’ll make it from Kaohsiung to Hualien no matter what.