Chiayi City is the usual jumpoff point to Alishan National Forest Recreation Area. Although direct buses are available, the most popular way of getting there is by taking the Alishan Express train to Fenqihu (Fenchihu) then transfering to a bus to get to Alishan.

Why make a transfer? Because the Alishan Express train does not go directly to Alishan. It used to, but typhoons over the years have almost irreparably damaged a good section of the railway. For the past several years until recently, the train can only reach as far as Fenqihu, a small village one hour from Alishan. Today, the train can go farther to Shizilu Station, but Fenqihu remains the better stopover because of the activities and transportation options available.

Why choose the train-and-bus transfer than direct bus? Because Alishan Express proves that the journey can be as beautiful as the destination. It is not your ordinary train. In fact, the train is one of the main attractions in Alishan.

The old-world aesthetics of the train and the railway network creates a fantasy, like you’re traveling back in time. It is part of the bigger Alishan Forest Railway network, which was established in 1899 by the Japanese to transport logs and other supplies. Today, punctuated by over 50 tunnels and over 70 wooden bridges, the network is mostly used by tourists who are after a more-than-typical train ride. In addition, making a transfer breaks the otherwise uncomfortable and dizzying 2-hour bus journey.

In this post, we’ll share with you how to get from Chiayi to Alishan by train and bus. You’ll be taking the Alishan Express train from Chiayi to Fenqihu, then switch to a bus to get to Alishan. Here we go.

CHIAYI TO ALISHAN BY TRAIN & BUS

1. Book a train ticket online.

Visit the Alishan Forest Railway website at https://afrts.forest.gov.tw/.

Only one Alishan Express train runs from Chiayi on weekdays and two on weekends, which means it can only accommodate a very limited number of passengers. Thus, it’s best to make a reservation ahead of your trip.

The good news is, you can book a ticket on Alishan Forest Railway’s official ticketing website if your travel date is within the next 15 days. Here are the rates, schedule, and travel times.

CHIAYI TO FENQIHU

  • Departure times: 9:00 am daily; 9am and 9:30am Saturdays, Sundays, holidays
  • Travel time: 2 hours, 21 minutes.
  • Fare: TWD 384, adult; TWD 192, child.

We created a separate step-by-step guide here: HOW TO BOOK ALISHAN TRAIN ONLINE!

Pay for your ticket within the specified period, or else the booking will be automatically canceled. You can also do it on the official website if you have a credit card.

Don’t forget to take note of the reservation number. It will also be emailed to you.


2. Claim your reserved tickets at Chiayi Station.

Once you’re in Chiayi City, redeem your train tickets at the Alishan Express booth, located in front of the Chiayi Station building. It has a very small window, so it’s quite easy to miss.

At the booth, present your reservation number and the passport you used to make the reservation. After a quick check, the staff will hand you the actual ticket.

Note that there are two Chiayi train stations: TRA (Taiwan Railways Administration) and THSR (Taiwan High Speed Rail). They are 30 minutes apart. The Alishan Express uses the TRA station. Make sure you’re at the right station so you won’t miss your train.

The Alishan Express booth opens at 8:00 am, so you only have a one-hour window to claim the tickets. If you’re not spending the previous night in Chiayi, make sure you arrive at the station early.

Also, you may be approached by touts offering private rides to Alishan. They’re pretty persistent, but just tell them politely that you have already paid for your tickets or simply ignore them.


3. Board the train.

Once you have your ticket, wait for your train.

The Alishan Express boarding area is located on the rightmost end of the first platform, when you’re facing the rails. You’ll know you’re at the right place if you’re past the Police Station.

When the train arrives, make sure you’re getting in the right car. The ticket indicates your car number and seat number. Odd numbers are on one side of the aisle, even numbers on the other.

Travel time: 2 hours, 21 minutes.


4. Alight at Fenqihu Station.

Until recently, the Alishan Express train could only reach as far as Fenqihu Station, so the area surrounding it developed into a busy stopover. This little village has several dining and shopping establishments that can help you kill time since buses to Alishan are few and far between.

Most tourists spend their idle time having a bento box lunch locally called “tie lu bian dang“. It’s basically rice topped with meat (usually pork or chicken) and veggies. It’s typically served in a compact box, often cardboard, wood, and later in the ’60s, metal. Bento meals can be traced back to Japan. The Alishan Forest Railway network was built under the Japanese rule. The train was used primarily to transport logs, coal, and other supplies between villages. The railway system paved way for the rise of travel-friendly meals for the workers and passengers.

Of all the bento box restaurants here, the most popular seems to be served by Fenchihu Hotel. Just look for this guy.

They serve rice toppings with chicken drumstick or pork chop, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, cabbage, and egg in vintage metal lunch boxes. Don’t be discouraged if the place is packed. There is plenty of space downstairs!

If you have more time to burn, you might also want to check out the Fenchihu Train Garage, which has been transformed into a museum.


5. Catch the bus to Alishan.

The bus stop is located on the other side of the railway (NOT on the side of the restaurants and shops).

Here’s the schedule of the Fenqihu-Alishan bus.

  • 11:30 am (Bus 7322)
  • 12:50 pm (Bus 7322)
  • 02:00 pm (Bus 7302)

Travel time: 1 hour
Fare: TWD 98 (adult), TWD 49 (concession, child), but the driver doesn’t give change so we paid TWD 100 per pax


6. Pay the entrance fee.

The bus will drop you off at the Alishan Bus Terminal, situated outside the forest recreation area. Inside the terminal building, you’ll find ticket machines where you can purchase tickets. Here are the admission rates:

  • TWD 300 – if you’re arriving by car
  • TWD 150 – if arriving by public transportation
  • TWD 10 – for children 3-6 years old
  • FREE – for people with disabilities + 1 companion, and children 2 yo and below

Once you have the tickets, you can enter the park through the massive gate. You won’t miss it.

The area is quite small. Past the main gate, one of the main structures that you’ll see is the Alishan Train Station, which is where you need to be when it’s time to explore the area. The station is perched atop the hill, facing the village. Farther down is the hotel area, where most accommodations can be found.


7. Drop by Alishan Train Station.

Before you proceed to your hotel, we recommend that you make a stop at the Alishan TRAIN Station (Forest Railway Alishan Railway Station). Two reasons:

  • To get more information about the area. Grab some maps or brochures.
  • To purchase tickets for tomorrow’s sunrise train journey. Alishan is most famous for its sunrise. It’s best to secure your tickets early.

Some hotels also sell sunrise tickets.


TOP HOTELS IN ALISHAN

Lodging options in Alishan are quite limited. They’re usually much more expensive than accommodations in other parts of Taiwan. Some hotels also don’t have elevators, so make sure you express your preference for a lower level if you’re not fit. Check in time is usually between 3pm and 4pm.

Here are the top properties on Agoda, as scored by their customers.

Alishan Shermuh Hotel

TOP HOTELS IN CHIAYI

Whether you want plenty of lead time to catch the Alishan Express train or you simply want to explore, consider spending a night in Chiayi City. Here are the top hotels and hostels as ranked by Agoda users.

Search for more Chiayi Hotels!


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Do you have the schedule of the direct bus to Alishan?

You can find the Chiayi-Alishan direct bus schedule here.

You can catch the bus at either the Chiayi Daya Bus Station or Chiayi TRA Station.


Which Chiayi Train Station does the Alishan Express use: TRA or THSR?

TRA.

There are two train stations in Chiayi City: TRA (Taiwan Railways Administration) and THSR (Taiwan High Speed Rail). They are 30 minutes apart, so you need to make sure you’re at the right station or you might miss your train.

The Alishan Express departs from the TRA Station.


How much is the Alishan Express train ticket?

Chiayi to Fenqihu: TWD 384, adult; TWD 192, discounted
Chiayi to Shizilu: TWD 459, adult; TWD 230, discounted

Only the following are eligible for concession / half-price discount:

  • Passenger aged 65 or up and has a Taiwan (ROC) ID Card
  • Passenger who has disability card with 1 companion
  • Passenger aged 6-11
  • Passengers who are 115cm tall but under the age of 6 can ride for FREE.

How long is the journey from Chiayi to Alishan?

Here are the travel times of Alishan Express:

Chiayi to Fenqihu 2 hours, 21 minutes.
Chiayi to Shizilu: 3 hours

From Fenqihu, it takes 1 full hour to travel by bus to Alishan. However, we encourage that you spend some time in Fenqihu, even just to eat or check out the museum.

In our experience, we booked the 9am Alishan Express train, had lunch in Fenqihu, boarded the 12:50pm bus to Alishan, and arrived at our hotel at around 2:30pm. Total travel time (including lunch and waits) is 5 hours 30 minutes.


Why can’t I choose other dates when booking Alishan Express train?

The system allows booking dates within the next 15 days only. If your trip is scheduled beyond that, you’ll have to wait for your target date to open.


Can I choose seats on Alishan Express train?

In our experience, NO. We were assigned random seats.

However, if you’re a group, the system tries to assign seats that are next or close to each other, provided there’s availability. If available seats are scarce at the time of booking, you might be assigned separate seats.

The seat numbering system is pretty weird. All even numbers are on one side of the aisle and the odd numbers on the other. If seats you got are #10 and #12, they’re beside each other.


Are there lockers at Chiayi Station?

YES, you can find it next to the Family Mart convenience store. Rate is TWD 50 per 3 hours.

If you have heavy luggage but you’re only staying overnight in Alishan, you might want to consider leaving your bags at the Baggage Room at the leftmost end of the terminal (if you’re facing the rails). Fee is TWD 70 per bag per 24 hours.

But make sure that it’ll be open when it’s time to claim your bags. Operating hours are from 8:30am-12pm, 1pm-5pm. Otherwise, you may use the more expensive lockers, tucked near Family Mart.


Are there lockers at Fenqihu Station?

YES. There are 48 lockers available at Fenqihu Station.

Rate is TWD 50 per 3 hours.



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Yoshke Dimen
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