As promised, I am going to share my experience using the TR Pass in Taiwan. If you can read Chinese you can find more information here but their English website has little useful information on the TR Pass.
|Railway map of Taiwan|
What is the TR Pass?
The TR Pass is a train ticket issued by the Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA). You can buy the 5, 7 or 10 day ticket for NT599, NT799 and NT1098 respectively. With the pass it allows you unlimited rides on the TRA trains around Taiwan within the day count. Sounds intriguing doesn't it? But there are restrictions to the pass that make travelling a hassle.
|5 Day TR Pass|
Getting the TR Pass
Since I am a student from abroad in Taiwan, I can buy the TR Pass with a passport and an International Student Identity Card or with a passport and the Youth Travel Card. The Youth Travel Card is part of Taiwan's tourism promotion for the 15-30 age group. I got mine easily at Taipei Main Station by showing my passport and filling out a short form. You do not have to be a student to get the YTC.
|Youth Travel Card|
Using the pass
The TR Pass takes some planning to use because of the restrictions. You cannot take the Tze Chiang trains which are the fastest and sometimes most frequent types of trains. We had to go on very early train rides (at 5:00-6:00am) because the next train available could be at 3:00pm and we wouldn't want to waste day hours on the train.
|Tze Chiang train|
Another con of this pass is that there are no reserved seats. With the train restrictions you are allowed to ride the Chu Kang train and the local train. The Chu Kang train speed is between Tze Chiang and local train with rows of seats. Since the student pass has no reserved seats, you could be sitting in someone else's seat without knowing and often times someone will tap your shoulder for you to move. Sometimes there aren't any more seats left on the train and you will have to stand but the Chu Kang train doesn't have a standing area which is inconvenient. For long rides in the early morning you will want to sleep but cannot since you will have to change seats multiple times during the ride.
The local trains are the slowest and have benches on the side like in the metro. Those seats are first come first serve so you will not have to move but local trains can get very crowded at popular stops and times.
To get or not to get?
Although there were some inconveniences I was able to travel around the island from Hualien to Taichung to Kaohsiung with the 5 day TR Pass (read about my trip here and here). I wouldn't recommend buying more than 5 days though because trains sometimes are not the best ways to travel around Taiwan. Many bus companies offer direct buses from one city to the next which will save you time and are quite comfortable. If you don't mind playing the seat changing game or having to wake up early then use the TR Pass to save money! Also, pack light (preferably all in one backpack) because you will have to move seats often so make yourself more mobile.