as a high speed rail fan, i couldn’t give up the chance to try out Taiwan’s system, even if only for a short 19-minute ride between Taipei Main Station and Taoyuan. i took the bus from the airport to the city, and it’s arguably an easier method since you don’t have to transfer, but i just had to try out THSR.
online tickets & the 35% early bird discount
i bought my ticket online a little over three weeks before my trip and discovered there is an early bird discount of a limited number of seats for 35% off. if you have a no-foreign-transaction-fee credit card, this is a good way to go if you can commit to taking a specific train. if i understand the terms and conditions correctly, if you change your ticket you will need to make up the price difference to full price.
with the 35% off, i paid NT$110 (about $3.72 US) for the trip from Taipei Main Station to Taoyuan. note that you must then pay NT$30 for the bus ride from the Taoyuan HSR station to the airport (see below for details). each part of the journey (train and bus) takes about 20 minutes.
i opted to get my tickets via the T-Express mobile app (available for all major platforms). i wasn’t sure how to use it, but it’s actually pretty easy.
when you sign in to the application on your phone your ticket(s) will show up. touch the trip you’re taking to display the QR code (second app image above), and place it on the reader at the HSR turnstiles. the gate will open and you can proceed to the waiting area. you do NOT need an active internet connection, but make sure you have enough battery to display the barcode when you enter the HSR area again when you leave at your destination station (place the same barcode on the exit turnstile reader).
it’s only two stops from Taipei Main Station to Taoyuan and you get a seat assignment when you purchase your ticket (in my case, it was Car 5, Seat 5-E, which was a window). unfortunately there are no power plugs on the train (at least at my seat) but the longest ride from one end of the system to the other is only 2 hours total.
according to wikipedia, top speed is 179 mph and my GPS speedometer app i have on my phone said we hit around 155 mph (~200 km/h) between Banqiao and Taoyuan.
getting from Taoyuan Station to TPE
when you emerge to ground level you will see check-in counters for EVA and China Airlines. right outside is the bus station. the first stand is for bus 705 which runs directly to the airport. departures range from every 5 minutes to every 20 minutes, says the sign, but when i was there the buses basically departed when they were full (= continuously). again, the ticket is NT$30; buy from the man at the stand.
buses stop at Terminal 1 and then Terminal 2. there is a chart on the bus that tells you which airlines are at which terminal, but China Airlines is at 1 and EVA is at 2 if that helps you.