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The official Sun Moon Lake pass website has changed several times since I first wrote this article. The pass prices and what’s included on each one have changed a lot. In 2024, I’ve done a big rewrite of this article to reflect the most recent changes. The website is quite a bit better than it used to be, but you might still have questions.
The Sun Moon Lake Pass has many different options, including connections with Taichung, Alishan and Xitou Monster Village. In this article, I’ll try to provide additional information to help you make sense of the official pass website and how these passes work. I’ll cover:
- What’s included in each of the Sun Moon Lake Passed?
- What does each of those items really mean?
- Where can I buy a Sun Moon Lake Pass?
- Is the Sun Moon Lake Pass worth the money?
- Which Sun Moon Lake Pass should I get?
Another great way to save money during your Taiwan travels is by using Klook to book all kinds of services online, such as HSR tickets, restaurants, WiFi devices, and more. If you sign up for Klook with this link, you’ll get NT$100 off your first booking.
Also see my related article: Taipei Unlimited Fun Pass: Is it Worth the Money?
If you are staying in Taichung before or after visiting Sun Moon Lake, make sure to also check out my article on the best day trips from Taichung, including Sun Moon Lake of course, and my recommended Taichung itinerary.
Table of Contents
Sun Moon Lake Pass Introduction
The main purpose of the Sun Moon Lake pass is to compile several things you will probably be paying for when visiting Sun Moon Lake (including items like the bus from Taichung, bus and boat rides around the lake, Sun Moon Lake Ropeway (cable car), bike rentals, and more.
Currently there are 9 types of Sun Moon Lake pass listed on the official SML Pass website. Their website now has a handy table which makes it very easy to see what is and what is not included on each pass. I’ll describe each of those passes below.
If you are traveling to Sun Moon Lake with kids (see my guide to visiting Taiwan with kids), your kids don’t need a pass. Under 6 are free for everything, while ages 6-11 are half price for most things (note that they only get a small discount for the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway though). Therefore, it will be cheaper to just pay for things for the kids as you go.
For seniors, 2 out of the 9 Sun Moon Lake passes are for you!
Did you know there is also a Cingjing Farm pass? Read about it here.
Are these Passes Worth the Money & Trouble?
The whole point of the Sun Moon Lake pass should be to simplify things. However, in my person opinion, the passes actually complicate things.
First, you have to figure out all your Sun Moon Lake plans. Then, you have to study the different passes and figure out which one is best for you. Next, you have to do a bunch of math do figure out if the pass will even save you enough money to be worth the trouble (spoiler: you’ll save a little bit of money, but not much, and only if you do all the things included on your pass). Last but not least, you have to actually buy the pass once in Taiwan.
In my original version of this article, when there only 6 passes, I actually did all the math for every pass to figure out how much they saved. The most expensive pass save you TWD 450 (actually not bad!), while cheaper ones only saved you about TWD 50. And if you didn’t do every item on the pass, the pass could even cost more than just paying for things individually.
What’s the Alternative?
If you decide not to bother with the Sun Moon Lake Pass, you can just visit the lake as normal and pay for each thing on its own or book it on Klook.
For the Taichung to Sun Moon Lake bus, you can just swipe your EasyCard or buy return tickets on Klook. At busy times, the line can get super long, so it’s best to book your Sun Moon Lake bus tickets online in advance. For boats across the lake, just pay per ride (TWD 100) or buy them on Klook. For the bus around the lake, just swipe EasyCard.
For the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway (cable car), just pay at the cable car station or book your tickets on Klook, with option to add bike rental and boat ticket. For Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village tickets, again you can buy on the spot or on Klook, with option to add the cable car ride to get there. For bike rentals, there are tons of shops when you get there.
What’s Included on the SML Pass?
The above table from here on the official site (visit the site for a clearer image) shows all 9 passes on the left, who they suggest each pass for, the price, and exactly what’s included on each pass. Here are the 13 possible things included on the passes, with a few notes about each one:
- Taichung to Sun Moon Lake (Nantou Bus): This is a return ticket from Taichung (Taichung Gancheng Station or HSR station) to Sun Moon Lake and back. The bus schedule is here. Bus seats are first-come-first-served, even with the pass.
- Special Edition iPass card: This is an iPass card (similar to an EasyCard) which you’ll use to swipe on to the above bus)
- Sun Moon Lake Boat Ticket: This gives you three rides on the boar – Shuishe (the main village at SML) to Xuanguang Temple, Xuanguang Temple to Ita Thao, and Ita Thao back to Shuishe)
- Sun Moon Lake Cable Car (Round-trip ticket): A ride from the lakeside up to the top and back down. Note: it doesn’t include the second cable car, which goes from the top of the mountain down the other side to Formosable Aboriginal Culture Village)
- Sun Moon Lake Round-the-Lake Bus: A one day pass for this bus. If you stay two days, you’ll have to choose which day to use it. Also note: the bus doesn’t go all the way around the lake, only about halfway around.
- Bike Rental Voucher: Only the Bike pass includes this, with the choice of 6 bike shops.
- Sun Moon Lake to Xiangshan (one-way bus ticket): This is for a bus ride from Shuishe to Xiangshan Visitor’s Center on the western side of the lake, which the round-the-lake-bus doesn’t go to. This center is a little out of the way, so not many visitors go there. It’s probably the least used item on the pass. And why do they only include a one-way ticket? I guess you still have to pay to get back to Shuishe.
- Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village (including cable car ticket): Only one pass gives you entrance to the famous theme park at SML. It includes a one-way cable car ticket. So you can only ride from the lake to Formosan Village, or Formosan VIllage back to the lake. Note: all buses from Taichung to SML stop at Formosan Village just before arriving at Sun Moon Lake.
- Other Passes: One pass includes onward bus ticket from Sun Moon Lake to Checheng, while another includes onward bus ticket from Sun Moon Lake to Alishan. Neither of these included the bus ride from Taichung.
- Merchandise Exchange Couple: The Checheng Pass includes two coupons for two shops in Checheng. Other passes may come with coupons too – they aren’t shown on the table, but they are mentioned in the pass details below, so I’m not sure.
- Xitou Nature Education Area Admission: There used to be a Xitou pass for visitors to Sun Moon Lake + Xitou Monster Village / Nature Education Area, but I don’t think they have it anymore.
- Add on NT$590 Sun Moon Lake Tourist Shuttle Pass For Discounts of NT$20: I honestly don’t even know what this is.
The 9 Different Sun Moon Lake Passes
To make things nice and complicated, the local tourism board gives you no less than 9 different pass choices. Here they are, with some notes to help you decide. I didn’t include the shopping coupons, but all the passes seem to include them.
|1. Round Trip Ticket
|Taichung to SML return bus ticket
|Provided on an iPass card. Normal fare if you swipe EasyCard is 338 (Taichung Station) or 292 (Taichung HSR Station)
|2. SML Water, Land, and Air Pass
|boat ticket, cable car, round-the-lake bus, bus to Xiangshan
|3. SML Taiwan Tourist Shuttle Pass
|Taichung to SML bus, boat ticket, cable car, round-the-lake bus, bus to Xiangshan
|4. SML Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village
|Taichung to SML bus, boat ticket, cable car, round-the-lake bus, bus to Xiangshan
|The most complete pass.
|5. SML Bike Pass
|Taichung to SML bus, boat ticket, bike rental, round-the-lake bus, bus to Xiangshan
|6 bike shops to choose from.
|6. SML Alishan 5-Day Pass
|Taichung to SML bus (one-way) and SML to Alishan bus (one-way)
|Optional add-on with bad translation. It means that if you buy this pass, you can also buy Pass #1 above for 570 ($20 discount). Valid for 5 days.
|7. SML Checheng Tourist Shuttle Package
|SML to Checheng bus (one-day pass), boat ticket, round-the-lake bus, coupons for Checheng
|See things to do in Checheng here.
|8. SML Pass for the Elderly
|Boat, cable car, round-the-lake bus, bus to Xiangshan
|Taiwanese elderly only (lame!)
|9. SML Pass for the Elderly
|Taichung to SML bus (return, allowed to make one stop in Puli), boat, cable car, round-the-lake bus, bus to Xiangshan
Where to Buy Sun Moon Lake Passes
You can buy all the Sun Moon Lake Passes from the Nantou Bus Window at Gancheng Station here in Taichung (where the Taichung to SML bus starts) or the Nantou Bus Counter at Taichung High Speed Rail Station (1F exit 5).
Some of the passes can be purchased at iBon machines in any 7-Eleven (Mandarin interface only, will still need to exchange the voucher for the physical ticket at the Nantou Bus window/counter) or a few other locations. See the pick up options below each pass on the official site.
If you are taking the High Sped Rail to Taichung, you can get a discounted Taipei to Taichung HSR ticket on Klook (see how it works here). It is also possible to arrange a private car from Taipei or Taichung to Sun Moon Lake.
Click this link to sign up for Klook and get NT100 off your first booking!
How to Use the Sun Moon Lake Pass
After you buy the Sun Moon Lake pass, you have to use it within 15 days. There is no reservation for seats on the bus. You just line up and wait. When you get on the bus, give the driver the voucher you want to use (voucher #1 to Sun Moon lake, or #2 to Puli + Sun Moon Lake). If you are planning to stop in Puli, you should tell the driver which stop you want.
Arriving at Shuishe (Sun Moon Lake), a person will be waiting there to trade your boat voucher for a boat ticket. Then you can go to the Shuishe pier for the boat, go rent your bike, or take a bus around the lake (departing from the same spot, just go to the other side of the road).
When you take the boat, you don’t need to budget much time for Xuanguang Wharf. There’s a wharf, a famous tea egg stall, some paths, and a temple. You might consider taking a bus from there to Ci En Pagoda, which is not too far away.
You will probably spend more time at Ita Shao, where there is a bigger wharf, a village with lots of shops and food stalls, a great night market, the Thao Aboriginal Performance Center, and the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway is a 15-minute walk away. Ita Shao is also my favorite place to stay on Sun Moon Lake. See my Sun Moon Lake Guide for my favorite hotels in Ita Thao.
I hope this information was using in answer your question, “Should I get a Sun Moon Lake Pass?” Please see my other pages on Sun Moon Lake for planning your trip!