Sun Moon Lake Pass: Is it Worth the Money? (updated 2024)

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If you are going to Sun Moon Lake in gorgeous Nantou county, one of the best places to visit in Taiwan, you can save a little money by getting a Sun Moon Lake Pass.

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?

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

If you want to avoid figuring out these passes and transportation to Sun Moon Lake, you can consider joining one of these recommended Sun Moon Lake tours instead.

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.

Sun Moon Lake Pass Introduction

The Sun Moon Lake Pass or "Sun Moon Lake Package" set of vouchers.
Example of a Sun Moon Lake Pass which includes 6 different things.

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?

A table showing 9 different Sun Moon Lake passes and what activities are included on each one.
The 9 SML passes and what’s included on each one

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Special Edition iPass card: This is an iPass card (similar to an EasyCard) which you’ll use to swipe on to the above bus)
  3. 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)
  4. 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)
  5. 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.
  6. Bike Rental Voucher: Only the Bike pass includes this, with the choice of 6 bike shops.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.

Pass NamePriceIncludesNotes
1. Round Trip Ticket280Taichung to SML return bus ticketProvided 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 Pass590boat ticket, cable car, round-the-lake bus, bus to Xiangshan
3. SML Taiwan Tourist Shuttle Pass870Taichung to SML bus, boat ticket, cable car, round-the-lake bus, bus to Xiangshan
4. SML Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village1180Taichung to SML bus, boat ticket, cable car, round-the-lake bus, bus to XiangshanThe most complete pass.
5. SML Bike Pass710Taichung to SML bus, boat ticket, bike rental, round-the-lake bus, bus to Xiangshan6 bike shops to choose from.
6. SML Alishan 5-Day Pass450Taichung 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 Package430SML to Checheng bus (one-day pass), boat ticket, round-the-lake bus, coupons for ChechengSee things to do in Checheng here.
8. SML Pass for the Elderly490Boat, cable car, round-the-lake bus, bus to XiangshanTaiwanese elderly only (lame!)
9. SML Pass for the Elderly650Taichung to SML bus (return, allowed to make one stop in Puli), boat, cable car, round-the-lake bus, bus to XiangshanAs above.

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.

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!

48 thoughts on “Sun Moon Lake Pass: Is it Worth the Money? (updated 2024)”

      • Hello Nick

        Thanks for this article. The boat ride ticket whether bought as a Pass or by itself as a round-trip boat ride (3 stops), is the ticket valid for 1 day use or is it valid for 2 days/3 days?

        Thanks again.

        Reply
        • I’m not 100% sure, but I think if you get it as part of the SML pass, you can get your three rides, even if different days. Klook also sells a day pass with unlimited rides, but only for 1 day. The pass costs 300 regular price, but often cheaper on Klook, like right now it is 179. You can also buy your rides individually at SML for 100 each ride.

          Reply
  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
  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. 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
  10. Thanks for the detail posts. It’s helped a lot. However, the prices for the E-passes have significantly changed. You should update it. Happy spiritual travels!

    Reply
  11. Hi! Do you know, by chance, if the SML voucher/pass is only valid for use on the day it was purchased or is it still ok to use until the validity date? We bought the 550$ pass, but only used the boat ticket, so we were wondering if we could still give it away to others who would like to go SML. Thanks in advance

    Reply
  12. Hi there,

    You’ve put together an amazing collection of information. Can’t imagine how long that took. Thank you!

    Am I reading the websites correctly that the E-Passes are no longer available?

    Reply
  13. Hi Nick,

    I am planning a trip to Taiwan this year end and I will be heading to Alishan first (spending 2 nights there) before taking the Yuanlin bus service 6739 that heads directly to Sun Moon Lake, where I will be spending another 2 nights before heading to Taichung.

    While in SML, I am hoping besides covering all the places that you mentioned in the other post about things to do in SML, I would have time to make a trip to Xitou Monster village – do you think I would have enough time to cover them all?

    Also, would you be able to advise the most direct way to get to Taichung from SML? Is there a direct bus and how much would it cost for adult/child?

    Your blogs have been amazingly helpful in helping me plan for my trip! It is really comprehensive, and you did an awesome job!

    Reply
  14. Dear Nick, I will be in NOvember in Taiwan and planning to go to Alishan. I want to see amazing sunset & sunrise & have some walk. But it seems to be difficult to find a hotel for the day period, when it`s planned. Can you advice another spot in Taiwan, where I can have similiar expierence ?
    PS: Sun Moon Lake and Taroko are already in my schedule.

    Reply
    • I recommend Taipingshan. It’s very similar to Alishan but not so popular among foreign tourists. But Taipingshan also has very limited hotels, just the official government-run accommodation up there. You can search the Taipingshan official site for info about how to book it.

      Reply
  15. Hi Nick
    I am planning 2 nights in SML Reading your other post, I decided to stay the night in Itathao.
    The plan is to buy the NT870 pass, which will give me the Taichung-SML return bus tickets, SML boat vouchers, round the lake bus and cable car (return). Will use the boat voucher to first get to Itathao from Shuishe for the hotel to check-in. Then finish off the remaining boat trips for the day. On the second day, to use the cable car and round the lake bus voucher.
    I still need a boat ride to transfer back to Shuishe on check-out day to take the bus back to Taichung. Can I just get a single boat ride ticket? Or you have better suggestion on how to better utilize the pass? Thank you in advance.

    Reply
    • Yes, you can buy a boat ticket on the spot for TWD 100. Also please check the latest info about the SML passes. I have not updated this article since the beginning of 2023 (I’m going to do a 2024 update soon). It seems that the pass prices and what each one includes have totally changed in the last year.

      Reply
  16. Hello!

    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.

    I believe the bus pass from Sun Moon Lake to Alishan includes the bus ride from Taichung to Sun Moon Lake as well 🙂

    Reply

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