Top Tips for Travelling the USA by Train

Top Tips for Travelling the USA by Train

When planning a trip around the USA, taking the train may not be a travellers first choice and in some areas of the world taking the train should probably be voided. However travelling the USA by train is a must for any intrepid traveller, as it provides all passengers with a look into parts of the USA that can be missed when taking the plane to your desired destination. Our featured writer Michelle Murphy has shared some of her experiences and her best tips perfect if you are thinking about using trains to get around the USA...


Operators & Popular Routes

Amtrak the national railway service for America provides an excellent service, its range of services, trains and routes provides something for all travellers. There are a wide variety of trains and services available throughout the USA and into Canada. It is possible to reach almost everywhere in the USA via train thanks to the hundreds of routes offered by Amtrak. Not only does it include routes throughout the USA but some routes also cross into Canada.

As with crossing any international border there are certain regulations to be followed. All trains and passengers are subject to being searched upon crossing the border. Most European travellers can cross into Canada for travel and transit without visas providing they have a form of identification and their travel plans ready for inspection at the border. Before boarding a train into Canada international travellers are advised to arrive at least an hour before the train to be processed by border protections services.


Facilities & Luggage

Onboard the trains amenities and services include outlets, wifi, service carriages, sleeping rooms, quiet rooms, dining carriages along with the recent added advantage of carrying bicycles onboard. All these services are available throughout the majority of the fleet, however there are a few shorter distance services where they are restricted to certain carriages.

Depending on the station and the type of service, for those travelling longer distance some stations offer checked baggage but it is advisable to check with the station services before hand. Carry on luggage is restricted to one item per person, with the size of baggage being roughly the size of a standard large suitcase. On less popular services or trains which aren't fully booked there is some leniency with the carry on restrictions but it is at the travellers own risk.



For those looking for longer distance travels, there is a wide range of accommodations available from a reclining seat to a bedroom suit sleeping up to 4 adults comfortably. These trips are alternatives to flying across the country and with that travellers can expect to be treated by some of the most picturesque and beautiful views and sites that North America has to offer.



Long Distance Scenic Journeys

For an example of what awaits travellers on long distance travellers on long distance service, the California Zephyr takes you from the heart of the Rockies, through the snow topped Sierra Nevadas as it travels from Chicago to the bay of San Francisco. Or for those travellers looking to see the heart of the south there is the Southwest Chief which takes you down the Mississippi from Chicago down to New Orleans, which will truly introduce travellers so some outstanding views, culture and people. The view above can be found travelling by train from Baltimore to Philadelphia. 


Types of Tickets & Cost

While pricing can sometimes be a little on the pricey side for late bookings, it is advisable to make a reservation as early as possible. If travel plans require a lot of train journeys its best to invest in one of the travel passes. There are passes for different lengths of time with prices for both adults and children. Passes range from $449 for an adult for 15days to $879 for an adult for 45 days. Multi ride tickets are also available on some routes within a set amount of time, are available in monthly, ten-ride and six-ride options. In order to determine if these tickets are accepted on your route Amtrak website provides a search option in which it is possible to input the departure and arrivals stations;

Along with multi-ride tickets Amtrak offers smart fares, with special discount on certain trains throughout the country. These tickets are subject to availability and prices can change multiple days throughout the day, therefore early reservations are advisable. Amtrak is popular with commuters and therefore has affordable passes and can be ideal mode of transport for day trips. Similar to the smart fares the prices can vary from route to route and can vary depending on the time of year as well.


Buying Tickets

Tickets can be purchased online in advance or from ticket booths on the day, but early booking is advisable as prices can get quite high at certain times of the year. With an online booking there is the option to have the e-ticket emailed with the option to print it or show it on a smartphone, alternatively if can be saved to the Amtrak app and shown the the conductor before entering the train and while onboard. Follow this link to get the app on your smart phone;


Advantages of Train Travel

There are many advantages to taking a train, as opposed to flying. As a traveller you are in a country to experience the culture, meet the locals and experience life. This can be done by opting to take the train and it is definitely a good idea to do this on a trip to America as it offers a wide range of routes, options and types of journeys. Not only that but you will become acquainted with some locals and often pick up advice on places to visit to really get the most out of your visit.


By Michelle Murphy



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