Sun Moon Lake Pass: Is it Worth the Money?

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If you are going to Sun Moon Lake, one of the best places to visit in Taiwan, you can save some money by getting the Sun Moon Lake Pass, or “Sun Moon Lake Package.”

The Sun Moon Lake pass has many different options, including connections with Taichung, Alishan and the Xitou Monster Village. I’ll explain each of the passes below and exactly what they include and how to use them. In 2020, the Nantou government also added several “Sun Moon Lake E-Passes”. This is an exciting new development, as these E-passes can be purchased online, meaning you don’t have pick up paper vouchers. I’ll explain how to buy these new E-passes at the end of the article.

Originally I wrote this article because the government website and Nantou bus website explaining the Sun Moon Lake passes were awkwardly worded and extremely confusing about several points. Both websites have since been improved, and this page on the Sun Moon Lake website now even has a chart showing what’s included in each pass, how much you save for each one, and so on.

However, some parts are still a little confusing, so in this article I will provide a lot more details than you’ll find on those sites, and I’ll help you to answer these questions:

What’s included in the Sun Moon Lake Pass?
Where can I buy a Sun Moon Lake Pass?
Is the Sun Moon Lake Pass worth it?
Which Sun Moon Lake Pass should I get?

I’ve also updated this article to include the 2020 Sun Moon Lake Pass prices, which went up slightly at the beginning of this year.

 

Another great way to save money in Taiwan 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?

 

 

Boats at sunset on Sun Moon Lake
Ride one of these boats with the Sun Moon Lake Pass

 

If you want to avoid the transportation and ticket hassle, you can consider joining a Sun Moon Lake tour.

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, my recommended Taichung itinerary, and my detailed guide to planning your Taiwan trip.

 

The Sun Moon Lake Pass or "Sun Moon Lake Package" set of vouchers.
The Sun Moon Lake Pass

 

The Different Types of Sun Moon Lake Passes

Currently there are six types of Sun Moon Lake Pass, plus one new Sun Moon Lake High Speed Rail Pass. There are also four new Sun Moon Lake E-Passes, which are actually more convenient (because you can by them online and simply show a QR code) but they don’t have as many options. See the end of my article to learn about the Sun Moon Lake E-Passes.

 

NT$1160 Sun Moon Lake Pass

This is the most comprehensive Sun Moon Lake Pass. See the chart below to find everything that is included on this pass.

Even though the governement website is now clearer about the details, there’s still one point that’s a little confusing. On this page, it says:

“1. Taichung-Sun Moon Lake(One-Way Ticket)*1
2. 【Taichung-Puli】One-way ticket*1+【Puli-Sun Moon Lake】One-way ticket*1(=Taichung-Sun Moon Lake One-way ticket)”

What does that mean? Well, basically it means the pass includes a return bus trip from Taichung to Sun Moon Lake (one ticket from Taichung to SML, and one ticket from SML to Taichung). On one of those rides, you can stop at Puli on the way. You can stop in Puli on the way to SML, or on the way back to Taichung. It doesn’t matter which one. Just make sure you give the bus driver the appropriate ticket.

For “Puli”, you have the choice of stopping at one of the following, which are all actually between Puli and Sun Moon Lake, not in central Puli city: National Chi Nan University, Paper Dome, Dayan, or Antique Assam Tea Farm. The two stops I would consider are Paper Dome, a church made out of paper, and Antique Assam Tea Farm, where you can learn about and buy Sun Moon Lake’s famous black teas.

If you stop at one of these places between Puli and Sun Moon Lake, you can just get back on the next bus, so make sure you check the bus route and bus times.

And if you don’t want to stop at Puli, you don’t have to. Just ride the bus all the way.

 

So here’s what you get with the pass:

1. Taichung to Sun Moon Lake (or Sun Moon lake to Taichung) bus ticket. ($198 value)

2. Sun Moon Lake to Taichung or Taichung to Sun Moon Lake ticket with optional one-time stop in Puli. ($198 value)

3. Sun Moon Lake boat ticket, which includes thee rides: from Shuishe to Xuanguang, Xuanguang to Ita Thao, and Ita Thao back to Shuishe. You can take them starting at any of the stops, but only get three rides in total. ($300 value)

4. Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village ticket, including a return trip on the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway from near Ita Thao, to get to there. ($850 value). Note that if the cable car happens to be closed for maintenance or due to bad weather, you won’t get any money back, and the only way to access is the park is by taking the bus from Taichung to Sun Moon Lake (there’s no easy access from the lake). See all the maintenance days here. The cable car will be closed on these days.

5. ‘Round-the-lake’ single day bus voucher. The bus doesn’t actually go all the way around the lake. It starts in Shuishe, then goes to the major sites like Wenwu Temple, Nine Frogs Stack, Sun Moon Lake Ropeway, Ita Thao, Ci En Pagoda, and Xuanguang Temple/Wharf. It goes about half way around the lake. ($80 value)

6. One-way bus ticket from Shuishe to Xiangshan Visitor’s Center on the Western side of the lake. You have to pay for the way back. (Why?) ($25 value)

TOTAL VALUE: $1651

 

Is this Sun Moon Lake Pass worth it?

If you use all of your vouchers, then you save NT$481. Not too bad!!

However, here are a few things to consider:

If you are only going to take the boat around the lake, you may not need to take the round-the-lake bus. However, since some of the best sights at Sun Moon Lake, like Wenwu Temple and Ci En Pagoda, are only accessible by bus, it’s pretty nice to be able to use both boats and buses. Moreover, if you visit SML for two days, it’s pretty awesome that you could use the boat tickets one day, and use the bus pass the other day.

If you plan to ride a bike or rent a scooter to drive around the lake, you may not use either ticket, but the pass would still save you a little money if you used everything else.

Do you really plan to enter the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village? If you don’t, then this pass isn’t worth the money.

We went to the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village, and we didn’t think it was worth the money (see my full article on Sun Moon Lake for the reasons). But if you love amusement parks, want to see staged aboriginal performances, or want to see cherry blossoms in season, then you may love Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village.

If you only care about the views from the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway (cable car) but don’t want to enter the theme park, then choose the $790 pass below.

Why do they include a one-way ticket to Xiangshan Visitor’s Center? This is a pretty cool building on the western side of Sun Moon Lake, but it’s far away from all the other Sun Moon Lake sights on the eastern side of the lake, so only make the trip out there if you are really interested in this building and some views from the less touristy side of the lake. Otherwise, you probably won’t use this voucher. And if you do use it, you still have to pay $25 more to get back to Shuishe, because they only include a one-way ticket.

If you are traveling to Sun Moon Lake with kids, your kids don’t need a pass. Under 6 are free for everything, while ages 6-11 are mostly half price for everything (note that they only get a small discount for the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway though).  

 

NT$790 Sun Moon Lake Pass

This pass is exactly the same as the above pass, except it doesn’t include entrance to the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Center. You still get tickets to take a ride up and down on the Sun Moon Ropeway ($300 value) and enjoy the views of Sun Moon Lake, as well as round-trip bus ticket from Taichung, boat tickets, one-day bus pass, and bus ride to Xiangshan.

Since I personally don’t think Formosan Aboriginal Village is worth the money, I think this is the best choice. But you only save $301 if you use all the vouchers. And if you don’t use the boat voucher? You only save $1 LOL! But even then, the pass is still kind of worth it for the convenience, because using a pass is easier than buying tickets for everything.

 

NT$460 Sun Moon Lake Pass

This choice is the same as the above one, but doesn’t include the bus to and from Taichung and the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Park ticket. So basically, with this pass you get round-the-lake boat tickets, Sun Moon Lake cable car ride, round-the-lake bus ticket for one day, and the one-way bus ticket to Xiangshan.

Choose this Sun Moon Lake if you don’t need to take the bus to/from Taichung (for example, you are catching a direct bus from Taipei to Sun Moon Lake) and you don’t care about entering the theme park.

You will save $245 is you use all the vouchers, but you will actually lose money if you don’t take the boat rides ($300 value).

 

NT$680 Sun Moon Lake Bike Pass

Here’s an interesting choice. You get the return bus ticket from Taichung, round-the-lake bus ticket and one-way bus ticket to Xiangshan, boat tickets, and a 1, 2, or 3-hour bike rental (depending on the quality of bike: Giant, Merida, or Suong-Meeng). The rental stations are in Shuishe, plus one Merida station in Xiangshan. If you plan to do cycling around Sun Moon Lake in summer, beware that summer in Taiwan can be extremely hot, so you should wear proper gear and protection.

There’s no Sun Moon Lake Ropeway ticket or Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village.

I can’t confirm this, but I think you need to pay an extra NT$100 to take a bike on a boat. It would kind of be a waste of your bike rental time anyways. If you know the answer, please leave a comment at the end!

An ID card is required for bike rental. If you don’t need the bus tickets, or want to have your bike for longer and take it on the boats, you can consider this bike and eco-friendly boat pass or bike, boat, and Sun Moon Lake Ropeway pass on Klook, both of which are great deals.

 

$450 Sun Moon Lake to Alishan Pass

The main tourist trail through the forest of giant cypress trees in Alishan National Scenic Area, Taiwan
Alishan National Forest Recreation Area

 

If you are planning to visit Alishan after Sun Moon Lake, this bus pass only includes a one-way bus ticket from Taichung to Sun Moon Lake and a one-way bus ticket from Sun Moon Lake to Alishan, saving you about NT$73 in total.

I THINK you can go in either direction, even though the wording on the page seems like you have to do SML lake first. Please confirm this before you buy the ticket if you want to visit Alishan first. Also, this pass doesn’t include your ticket from Alishan to wherever you go next (see more info on Alishan transportation in my getting to Alishan article.  

This pass is valid for 5 days from the day you start using it. Also note that if the bus from SML to Alishan doesn’t run due to poor weather, you won’t get your money back.

This pass is barely worth the trouble. Only get it if you plan to visit SML and Alishan, you don’t care about all the options on the other passes, and you are traveling on a tight budget so you really want to save a tiny bit of money.

 

$630 Sun Moon Lake to Xitou Pass

Xitou Monster Village
Xitou Monster Village

 

If you are planning to visit the Xitou Forest Recreation Area (including Xitou Monster Village), this bus-only pass includes the bus from Taichung to Sun Moon Lake, Sun Moon Lake to Xitou, and Xitou back to Taichung, and it seems like you go can in either direction (Sun Moon Lake first or Xitou first).

The entrance to Xitou Nature Education Area is included (though only went to Monster Village when we went, which is free to visit). So altogether, this pass can save you NT$232. But if you don’t user the Xitou Education Area voucher, which costs NT$200, you only save $32. 

 

Where to Buy Sun Moon Lake Passes and How to Use Them

You can buy all the passes from the iBon machine in any 7-Eleven. Make sure to read the instructions carefully, as most Sun Moon Lake Passes need to be redeemed at a Nantou Bus Window.

You can also buy Sun Moon Lake Passes from the Nantou Bus Window at Gancheng Railway Station in Taichung or Taichung High Speed Rail Station (1F exit 5). Only the $460 pass can be purchased at the Nantou Bus Window at Sun Moon Lake. See the chart of where you can buy each pass at the bottom of this page.

If you are taking the High Sped Rail to Taichung, you can get a discounted Taipei to Taichung HSR ticket on Klook. 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!    

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.

Sun Moon Lake E-Passes

The Nantou government has finally introduced Sun Moon Lake E-Passes. Unlike regular Sun Moon Lake passes, these ones can be purchases online (see the links below), and you don’t have to redeem them or pick up paper tickets. You just follow the online instructions and redeem the QR code when you arrive Sun Moon Lake. Great!

The Sun Moon Lake E-Pass webpage is new and still seems to have some problems (no surprise there), like I can’t see some parts in English even when I choose the English setting. But basically, here are the four passes currently available:

  1. Sun Moon Lake E-Pass Basic Ticket ($450): Round-the-lake boat tickets, one-day round-the-lake bus tickets, and Sun Moon Lake Ropeway ticket ($680 value)
  2. Sun Moon Lake E-Pass LOHAS ticket ($670): Round-trip bus ticket from Taichung, round-the-lake boat ticket, bike rental, and round-the-lake bus ticket ($966 value)
  3. Sun Moon Lake E-Pass Convenient Travel Ticket ($780): Round-trip bus ticket from Taichung, round-the-lake boat ticket, Sun Moon Lake Ropeway ticket, round-the-lake bus ticket ($1066 value)
  4. Sun Moon Lake E Pass Theme Park Ticket ($1150): Round-trip bus ticket from Taichung, round-the-lake boat ticket, Formosan Aboriginal Park and cable car ticket, round-the-lake bus ticket ($1616 value)

 

Riding a boat, one of the most popular things to do at Sun Moon Lake
See you soon, Sun Moon Lake!

 

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!

 

32 thoughts on “Sun Moon Lake Pass: Is it Worth the Money?”

  1. Just one more hearsay, as of May 2019, my hotel host also said that taking a bike with you on a boat requires to pay an additional 100NTD fee. I cannot confirm however if it is 100NTD more per trip, or 100NTD more per day, nor how do you pay this additional fee.
    Also, the boat voucher is seemingly valid for only one boat company called MaTou, and you can only board their boat on their dedicated pier. Their employees all wear uniform in the colors of Taiwan flag, and some of their boats have a horse figure on them.

    Reply
    • Hi Stacey,
      ‬You can board Tourist Shuttle bus A to Sun Moon Lake at Gancheng Station‭, ‬Taichung Station‭, ‬Daqing Station‭, ‬Taichung Airport‭, ‬or‭ ‬Taichung HSR Station‭ and it takes about 90 minutes. Here is the schedule: https://www.ntbus.com.tw/tour-sml.html

      Reply
  2. Great post, so helpful! Do you happen to know, if I buy the 730 Pass, must I use the Taichung-SML and SML-Taichung transportation in the same day? I was hoping to stay in SML overnight so I need the transport back to Taichung the day after I use the rest of the pass.

    Reply
  3. Hi, for the boat and bus passes, they are only valid for one day? So if I stay there over two days, I can let them know which day I would like to use the boat vouchers and which day to use the bus pass? Thanks!

    Reply
    • I’m not sure exactly how long they are valid for, but I’m pretty certain that it will be fine for you to use one part on one day, and then next part 1 or 2 days later, as this is what many travelers usually do. But just ask them to be sure when you buy the pass. Good luck!

      Reply
  4. Hi Nick, Great post and it was very helpful. I am planning the below itinerary, is it practically possible to finish sun moon lake and Alishan as per the below itinerary. More sightseeing is in Alishan or Sun moon lake. Pls advise

    2nd Nov–reaching Taipei
    Going to Kaohsiung staying one night
    3rd nov–leaving for Alishan around noon time via Chiayi station and then bus
    6th nov–I want to go to Sunmoon lake
    7th nov–afternoon i will leave to Taipei

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Hi Santosh,
      Your first day going all the way to Kaohsiung for only one night seems rushed. You won’t have much time to see many things there. Is there some reason you want to do that? If you have 4 days for Alishan and Sun Moon Lake, why did you plan 3 days Alishan but only 1 for Sun Moon Lake? I would suggest maybe you can have two days for each, but 3 days seems too much for Alishan (unless you want to spend one night on a tea farm or Fenqihu, then it’s OK). I hope this helps!

      Reply
  5. Hi…is it possible to ride the ropeway without availing of the SML boat ride? Any idea how much would a roundtrip gondola ride cost? I plan to be there nxt wk and i want the ropeway only.

    Reply
    • Yes, you can! Just show up at the ropeway station, and a return ride is NTD300. If you pay for a ticket to the Formosan Aboriginal Village Theme park, then the cable car ride to go there is free.

      Reply
    • Hi Arianne, you can buy the pass from the iBon machine in any 7-11, the Nantou bus window at Gancheng Train Station in Taichung, or the Taichung HSR station (1F exit 5).

      Reply
  6. Thanks, Nick!

    And also, we only have limited time allotted for SML and Formosan since we are heading to Kaohsiung the same day. We wanted to see Wenwu Temple and Formosan Waterpark. What do you think is the best package for us that includes shuttle service from Taichung HSR to SML and back and forth? Thanks again.

    Reply
    • Hi again,
      If you read through this article, you will find the all the details about what is included in each pass. The 1100 NT is the only one that includes Formosan Aboriginal Culture Park tickets, so that should be the best for you. But you can go through the list of exactly what is included, add up the items you will actually use, and see if it’s worth the money. For example, if you just plan to take the bus to the cable car and Wenwu temple (and not the boat), then the pass may only just barely save you some money (only a tiny bit, almost not even worth the trouble). But if you plan to take boat + bus + cable car/Formosan park + bus to and from Taichung, it will still save you some money.

      I’ve been to the park, but I didn’t enter the waterpark section, so I’m not 100% sure if that is included in the park entrance fee, or you need to pay extra for that. The park is quite large and the two cable car rides to get there take a while, so make sure you schedule enough time for this.

      Let me know if you have more questions!

      Reply
  7. Hi Nick,

    This is very informative and useful for my coming trip next week. Thus, as I’ll be travelling for a 1 day trip from Taipei to Taichung, is it worth the journey if I just do the SML tour by bike & skip the boat hopping as I’m planning to visit Taichung city centre right after the SML tour ie. Rainbow Village. Btw, I’ll be taking the return trip by HSR from Taipei.
    Thanks in advance! 🙂

    Reply
    • That sounds like an extremely long, busy day, but it is still possible if you really want to do it. If you are just taking a return bus from Taichung to SML, and only riding a bike there, then you don’t need to bother getting a SML pass. They are only worth it if you plan to do most of the activities included in the passes (boats, cable car, etc).

      Reply
  8. Hi Nick! I feel extremely blessed to have chanced upon your website. Whatever information I need is all here and you’re doing a wonderful job detailing every single thing! I can’t thank you enough.

    I would like to take on your suggestion of staying at Ita Thao for a night. My plan is to buy one of the passes above that will bring me from Taichung to SML, with my luggage, and upon arriving at Shuishe, I will then proceed to check-in or deposit my luggage at a minsu or hostel in Ita Thao. To do so, I probably will have to take the boat or the shuttle bus, right? Only after that will I head back to Shuishe to start exploring SML by bike/scooter, clockwise, from Shuishe.

    I’m wondering if the passes above allow for unlimited boat and bus rides for the 2 days I will be there? You mentioned specific directions for the boat so I’m considering the options I have. I tried to find the information but can’t seem to find anything on this. What would you suggest? Thank you so much!

    Reply
    • Hi Moses, and that you for your comment and positive feedback!
      My understanding is that that yes, the ticket allows for unlimited rides on buses around the lake.
      For the boats, I’m not 100% clear, but I *think* it means 1 time going around the lake (once from Shuishe to Ita Thao, once from Ita Thao to Xuanguang, and once from Xuangguang back to Shuishe). My guess is that they will give you three vouchers to cover these three rides, and I also guess that you can go in either clockwise or counterclockwise direction. I’m sorry that I can’t 100% confirm that though!
      My suggestion is that, as you say, when you arrive you’ll need to get to Ita Thao to deposit your luggage. So why not use your first boat ride: Shuishe to Ita Thao, drop your luggage, then use the next two boat rides (Ita Thao to Xuanguang to Shuishe), then at the end, use the bus to return to your hotel in Ita Thao. But please ask when you first get your tickets to confirm about this. Please also let me know how it goes after your trip so I can know in the future too. Thanks a lot!

      Reply
  9. Hey Nick, great article! Should be very useful in helping me get to/from Sun Moon Lake.

    I’m getting a dead link in your 3rd paragraph, starting, “I’m writing this article…” for the Nantou website.

    I think this link is good:

    https://www.ntbus.com.tw/en-sml.html

    Thanks again

    Reply
  10. Hi nick! Thanks fro your informative blog. I would like to ask a question. Does the SML Pass that costs NT$790 include cable car ride abd a roundtrip bus ticket from Taichung to SML? Am I right in understanding it? Thanks in advance for your kind response .

    Reply
    • Hi Angela,
      Yes, with the $790 pass you get round trip bus trip from Taichung, boat voucher, cable car ride, round the lake bus pass for one day, and one-way ticket to Xiangshan. There’s a useful chart on this page showing what is included for each pass:
      http://www.sunmoonlaketrip.net/en/package.aspx#ticket01
      Hope this helps!
      -Nick

      Reply

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