Dear reader: This article contains links to products and services that I may be compensated for, at no extra cost to you.
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. While this should be good news, their website sucks and is only in Mandarin. I’l explain and link to these passes at the end of the article.
Originally I wrote this article because the official site explaining the Sun Moon Lake pass is confusing and full of bad English. It has been improved sightly since I first wrote this article, but it still isn’t great.
In this article, I will provide a clear description of the Sun Moon Lake and 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 updated this article in early 2023 to reflect the increase in Sun Moon Lake pass prices.
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.
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 (available for purchase on 7-Eleven ibon machines only, and only includes HSR ticket plus round-trip bus ticket from Taichung to SML).
There are also four new Sun Moon Lake E-Passes, which should more convenient (because you can by them online and simply show a QR code) but their website sucks and is in Mandarin only. See the end of my article to learn about the Sun Moon Lake E-Passes.
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).
For seniors, there are two pass options with additional discounts. One is a version of the $890 pass described below, but you get it for 590. The second is the a version of the $560 pass described below, but you get it for $410.
NT$1250 Sun Moon Lake Pass
This is the most comprehensive Sun Moon Lake Pass. See the orange box below to find everything that is included on this pass.
Even though the official website is now clearer about the details, there’s still one point that’s a little confusing. 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.
And if you don’t want to stop at Puli, you don’t have to. Just ride the bus all the way.
What you get with the pass:
1. Taichung to Sun Moon Lake (0r SML to Taichung) one-way bus ticket, no stop allowed. ($203 value)
2. Sun Moon Lake to Taichung (or Taichung to SML) return ticket with optional stop in Puli. ($203 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, or cheaper on Klook)
4. Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village ticket, including a return trip on the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway from near Ita Thao, to get to there. Note that if the cable car happens to be closed for maintenance or due to bad weather, you won’t get any money back. ($900 value, or cheaper on Klook).
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: $1711
Is this Sun Moon Lake Pass worth it?
If you use all of your vouchers, according to my calculation, then you save NT$461. 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 ride the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway (Cable Car) and 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 $890 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, for some strange reason.
NT$890 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.
If you want to ride the cable car, but don’t care about entering Formosan Aboriginal Culture Center, this pass is for you. But you only save $221 with this pass, if you use all the vouchers.
And if you don’t use the boat vouchers? Then you will actually lose money by buying this pass, so don’t d0 it.
NT$560 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, or you are going somewhere else after SML, like Cingjing Farm) and you don’t care about entering the theme park.
You will save $145 is you use all the vouchers, but you will actually lose money if you don’t take the boat rides.
NT$740 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 with this deal.
An ID card is required for bike rental. If you don’t need the bus tickets, or want to have your bike for longer, forget about the SML pass and go for this deal on Klook instead, which includes cable car, boat tickets, and a full day bike rental. Then you can even take your bike on the boat to cross the lake.
Alternatively, just rent a bike on your own when you get there and buy boat tickets individually.
$450 Sun Moon Lake to Alishan Pass
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
Where to Buy Sun Moon Lake Passes
You can buy Sun Moon Lake passes from iBon machines in 7-Elevens around Taiwan. 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 $560 pass can be purchased at the Nantou Bus Window at Sun Moon Lake or at Puli Bus Station.
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!
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.
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. Good idea!
However, the Sun Moon Lake E-Pass webpage is crap. Just like many government-run websites in Taiwan, they keep changing their URLs, so it’s hard for me to link to the correct page. Last time I checked, these were the main options, but they were only listed in Mandarin. If that’s still the case, you might just have to forget about them and get a regular hard copy Sun Moon Lake pass.
- Sun Moon Lake E-Pass Basic Ticket ($550): Round-the-lake boat tickets, one-day round-the-lake bus tickets, and Sun Moon Lake Ropeway ticket ($680 value)
- Sun Moon Lake E-Pass LOHAS ticket ($730): Round-trip bus ticket from Taichung, round-the-lake boat ticket, bike rental, and round-the-lake bus ticket ($966 value)
- Sun Moon Lake E-Pass Convenient Travel Ticket ($880): Round-trip bus ticket from Taichung, round-the-lake boat ticket, Sun Moon Lake Ropeway ticket, round-the-lake bus ticket ($1066 value)
- Sun Moon Lake E Pass Theme Park Ticket ($1240): 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)
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!