There are quite a few ways to travel from Taichung City (West coast), to Hualien City (East coast). Over the past 20 years, I have journeyed between those two cities over 50 times. I can definitely show you how to get there by train, bus, car, scooter, or plane.
What’s the most convenient way to get from Taichung to Hualien?
Puyuma Train from Taichung to Hualien
By far the smoothest way to travel to Hualien from Taichung is to take the direct Puyuma Express Train (Pǔyōumǎ – 普悠瑪). Travel time can be as short as 3 hours, 55 minutes, and cost a mere 815NT$. You board in Taichung, and you get to Hualien without having to transfer in Taipei.
Taichung to Hualien by HSR and normal TRA train
Another option is to take the HSR (High-Speed Train) from Taichung to Taipei, then take a normal train to Hualien. This option is more expensive and actually takes longer, considering you have to transfer at Taipei Main Station. Cost of Taichung to Taipei by HSR is 700NT$ and takes about 1 hour. Normal trains from Taipei to Hualien cost from 330NT$ to 430NT$.
The Puyuma is the fastest of all normal TRA trains in Taiwan. It is advisable to book online first, as these train tickets disappear fast, especially during holidays and weekends. The best way to book TRA trains in Taiwan is through the app 台鐵訂票通, or directly on the Taiwan Railway Administration website.
Taichung to Hualien by Car
There are two ways to drive to Hualien from Taichung City.
The most obvious one is to take Highway #1 or #3 to Taipei, then take Highway #5 to Yilan, then head south along the mountainous road #9. The distance for this trip is 310kms and takes around 4 hours and half.
Taichung to Hualien via Central Mountain Range
The other option, through the mountains, is more of an adventure, but it is highly rewarding in scenery. This way is shorter in terms of distance (220kms), but it takes longer, which is more or less 6 hours if you drive non-stop. I recommend you break the trip in at least two or three days, and spend some time in the beautiful Central Mountain Range.
From Taichung, you first take Freeway #3 south, then around Wufeng you take Freeway #6 East all the way to the end of the road in Puli. From there, you start climbing into the heart of the Central Mountain Range, on provincial highway #14. The further you drive, the steeper the road gets, and the nicer the vistas become. Midway between Taichung and Hualien, you reach Hehuanshan, one of Taiwan’s best destinations for hiking and landscape photography.
Once you pass Hehuanshan, you start descending into Taroko Gorge, where you can observe thousand-meter-high marble cliffs. The road gets narrow at some points, the drops on the sides can be challenging for people who suffer from vertigo. There are some long, dark tunnels with little visibility. It’s an adventure! It’s one of my favorite roads in Taiwan. It makes for a road trip that you won’t ever forget – guaranteed!
Taichung to Hualien by Scooter / Motorbike
This is even more of an adventure than driving a car. Riding through the Central Mountain Range shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s something that you should only attempt if you are comfortable on two wheels. I don’t advise doing this road trip if you don’t have experience riding a scooter or motorbike.
Bring warm clothes and rain gear, as the weather can turn nasty, windy, and cold any time of the year, without warning. Have a proper helmet with a visor, gloves, and make sure you have enough gas to cross the highest pass at Wuling. You don’t want to get stuck in the middle of the “Taiwanese Alps” with an empty gas tank. I’ve been in that situation, and it’s just not cool.
As for the itinerary, it is the same as the drive explained above in the section “Taichung to Hualien via Central Mountain Range”, except that you cannot take Freeway #3 and #6 to Puli. Instead, you can get to Puli by riding under provincial highway #63, to Caotun, then take #14 to Puli.
Taichung to Hualien by Bus
If you want to make it super cheap, you could take the bus from Taichung to Taipei. The cheapest bus ride is 260NT$ with Kuo-Kuang Bus Company.
The only bus that travels from Taipei to Hualien leaves from Nangang, which is kind of inconvenient. The bus ride from Taipei to Hualien can take up to 3 hours depending on traffic conditions. Tickets cost 290NT$ during the week and 320NT$ on weekends.
Taichung to Hualien by Plane
Mandarin Airlines flies from Taichung to Hualien. A one-way ticket costs around 1700NT$. Schedule is Departure: 19:20 – Arrival: 20:20. Travel time is only 1 hour. The main problem with this option is that Taichung Airport is super far from the city center, and it takes about 40 minutes by taxi and the ride is about 500NT$.