The Taiwan High Speed Rail has trains that can reach speeds of 330km/hour. This is my favorite way to travel between the big cities on the west coast of Taiwan. It's comfortable, safe, efficient, and one of the best ways to appreciate the Taiwanese countryside - especially on a clear, sunny day.
The high speed train runs from Nangang, just north of Taipei City, and goes all the way down south to Kaohsiung (Zuoying). It stops in Banqiao, Taoyuan, Hsinchu, Miaoli, Taichung, Changhua, Chiayi, Yunlin, and Tainan. I believe that no journey to Taiwan is complete without traveling by HSR.
If you are a tourist traveling around Taiwan, you will surely find the following information helpful about HSR stations:
In Taipei, you can get on a High Speed Train at Taipei Main Station in the old part of the city. It is easy to get there using the Taipei Metro (MRT). The name of the MRT station is Taipei Main Station.
Other High Speed Rail stations in Taiwan are pretty far outside the cities (except Banqiao) which means you'll have to spend extra time on shuttle buses or money on taxis (around 200NT$).
To get to Taoyuan International Airport by High Speed Train, you have to get off at Taoyuan Station, and then take a shuttle bus (35NT$) to the airport. Depending on the traffic situation, the drive between Taoyuan Airport and Taoyuan HSR Station takes about 15 minutes.
All the High Speed Rail stations in Taiwan have visitor information counters where friendly English-speaking staff can help you if you need travel information, free Taiwan maps or some help to find your way around the station, or where to catch a bus or rent a car.
The following fares are for non-reserved seats / reserved / business class in NT$:
Taipei to Nangang: 10 minutes; 35/40/205$
Taipei to Banqiao: 10 minutes; 35/40/205$
Taipei to Taoyuan: 20 minutes; 155/160/350$
Taipei to Hsinchu: 35 minutes; 280/290/510$
Taipei to Miaoli: 45 minutes; 415/430/680$
Taipei to Taichung: 55 minutes; 675/700/1000$
Taipei to Changhua: 1h,15m; 795/820/1140$
Taipei to Yunlin: 1h, 25m; 900/930/1280$
Taipei to Chiayi: 1h, 30m; 1045/1080/1455$
Taipei to Tainan: 1h, 45m; 1305/1350/1780$
Taipei to Kaohsiung Zuoying: 2 hours; 1445/1490/1950$
You can buy Taiwan HSR tickets at the stations, Family Marts convenient stores, or online. You need to provide your passport number and a phone number to purchase your HSR ticket over the internet.
I always buy mine right at the stations. I find it very straightforward. You can get your ticket either at vending machines, or counters. Both cash and credit cards are accepted.
When you put your ticket into the machine to go to your platform, make sure to take it back as you'll need it to exit at your final destination.
I have bought tickets 5 minutes before the departure time on many occasions, even during rush hour, and I've always managed to get a seat, so I don't think you should worry too much about reserving a seat in advance, except during holidays.
Taiwan High Speed Rail Trains leave every 20 minutes
in both directions.
That's what your ticket will look like. On it, you can see the date, train number, point of origin, destination, time of departure and arrival, car #, seat #, and price. Keep your ticket, you will need it at destination to exit the station.
Finding your platform to get on the right train couldn't be more simple - the directions are clearly written in English. Just look for the sign NORTH or SOUTH.
The electronic boards (picture below) help travelers get on the right train. They show you the trains numbers, destination, and departure time.
If you want to save time and get to your seat as fast as possible, take a look at the numbers on the ground at the HSR platform, they show the car number and which train door is closest to your seat number. Note that the train number and destination are written in red above the window, so you can double-check you're not getting on the wrong high-speed train.