What to Expect on Your Amtrak Trip
Three ways to get the information you need. As with airlines,
Amtrak charges more for last-minute reservations and for travel at peak
periods. Save money by booking well in advance.
- On the
internet: go to www.amtrak.com and
enter your starting point, desired starting timeand date and your
destination. Amtrak will find the
train which best meets your criteria. It will also show whether upgrades,
such as business class or sleeper space is available and also the fare.
- By calling 800-USA-RAIL. You’ll
talk to “Julie,” Amtrak’s automated voice recognition system. If it’s your
first time, you can say the word “agent” and you’ll be transferred to a
real, live person who can answer any question about train travel.
- Go to your nearest staffed Amtrak station.
Amtrak ticket agents are very helpful and knowledgeable. You can also use QuikTrak machines to buy tickets at certain unstaffed stations.
Use the AmSnag tool to compare fares (including sleeper accommodation charges) for a given itinerary over a range of consecutive dates, not to exceed 30 consecutive days.
Plus, don't forget that NARP members save 10% on most Amtrak rail fares, as long as reservations are made at least three days in advance of departure.
Buying your ticket.
You can buy your ticket over the Internet. When you do, you will be given a
reservation to print out which contains a number and a barcode. If you order by
phone, you will be given a reservation number, and if you give the agent your email address a confirmation with barcode will be emailed to you. Simply take the reservation
number to the nearest station with either an agent or a Quik-Trak machine.
picking up your ticket from an agent, simply give the agent your
reservation number, and the agent will print out your ticket. You will be
asked to provide identification (including your NARP membership card, if you booked your reservation using the NARP discount) and to sign the upper left corner of the
you make your reservations more than a week in advance, you can have the
tickets mailed to you. This service is free of charge if you are departing from an unstaffed station, or a station whose ticket office will be closed at the time your train is scheduled to depart (your ticket will be sent via US Mail), but if you are departing from a staffed station, express ticket delivery (via FedEx) will cost $15.00.
- If you make your reservation less than a week in advance and are departing from an unstaffed station, give your reservation number to the conductor when you board and he or she will process your payment on board (cash or credit/debit card accepted).
picking up your ticket from a Quik-Trak machine, scan the barcode as shown below,review the reservation information of the screen, and after you are sure everything is correct, touch
“Print.” It will print
out your tickets, which you will need to sign in the upper left corner.
If you don’t have a bar code, just dip in your credit card or Amtrak Guest Rewards card and type in your reservation number (or select the reservation from a list of reservations made under your name). You will not be charged a second time.
At the station. We
advise arriving about 30 minutes prior to departure. At very large or busy
stations, you should arrive an hour before departure. At all staffed stations,
an announcement will be made when the train is about to arrive or before
boarding begins. Once on the boarding platform, train crew members will be at
the doors of the cars, and will advise you as to which car to board. Different cars
are used for various destinations, and for Businessor Sleeper class.
Settling in on the
train. In coaches, there is usually
a storage space for bags in one end of the car, or you can put your bags in the
overhead racks. The conductor will come through the car collecting tickets; and
will then put a seat check card above your seat. If you leave your seat, leave
the seat check so that others will know that your seat is taken.
Underway on the
train. Sit back and enjoy the ride. Some coach seats have fold-out leg
rests, which allow you to stretch out. Almost all coach seats will recline,
allowing you to set it to your comfort level. There are also reading lamps
overhead, and electric outlets for each seat so that you don’t have to run down
the batteries on electronic devices. Once the conductor has taken your ticket,
you are free to move about the train.
Checked baggage. Most staffed stations offer checked baggage service. You can check up to three bags weighing 50 pounds or less each free of charge from your origin to your destination (including transfers at connection points), as long as both are staffed stations offering baggage service. Charges apply if you check more than 3 bags or one or more bags is over 50 pounds. Be sure to check your bag more than 30 minutes prior to departure, or else it may not make it onto your train. Allow up to 30 minutes at your arrival station for your bags to be brought to the baggage claim area (at many stations, you will simply claim your bag from the agent on the platform). Unlike airlines, you will need to have your claim check (small white square card with the 3-letter code of the arrival station printed on it) to claim your bag(s) at the arrival station, so be sure to keep it with you during your trip.
Boxed bicycles can be checked as baggage. Bike boxes are available for sale at all stations with checked baggage. You are responsible for disassembling your bicycle so that it fits in the box and for reassembling it after your trip. Some corridor trains allow unboxed bicycles to be carried aboard for a $5 fee. Firearms are accepted as checked baggage, as long as 48 hours notice is given (via telephone or in person to the agent at the departure station) and you fill out a declaration form. Pets are not allowed on any Amtrak train, including as baggage, except for registered service animals.
Food. Most trains have a cafe which
can turn out a wide variety of hot and cold sandwiches, snacks and drinks. On
trains with double-deck Superliner equipment, the café is located on the lower
level of the lounge car, which is distinctive due to the windows which curve up
into the ceiling.
Trains which travel overnight have a dining car. The diner
is a full-service restaurant on wheels, with sit-down table dining. Having
“dinner in the diner” is one of the real pleasures of train travel. If you are
a sleeping car passenger, the cost of your meals (except alcohol) is included.
Take advantage of the diner- dining car meals are far superior to airline food!
Tipping is customarily the same as
in a restaurant - if you are a sleeping car passenger with meals included in
your fare, it is customary to tip for the full value of your meal.
Sleepers. There is usually a baggage storage area at
one end of single-level cars, or on the lower level of double-decker cars.
Smart travelers usually pack one small bag with items such as a toiletries,
prescriptions and a change of clothes which they keep in their room. All rooms
have doors with curtains for privacy. Sleepers are divided into roomettes
(small, economy rooms similar to economy cabins on a cruise ship) and bedrooms
both types have two beds. There will be a toilet and washstand in a separate
room down the hall. There will also be a room equipped with a shower and
dressing rooms- ask your attendant for the location. Roomettes have
electrical outlets, reading lamps and individual temperature controls. The
attendant will convert your room from day use (seats) to night use (beds) when you ask.
Bedrooms are larger than roomettes and have toilet and shower
facilities enclosed in a part of your room.Family bedrooms can sleep up to four in a single room. Handicapped rooms are fully wheel-chair
accessible with shower and toilet facilities in the room. On all sleepers, the
car attendant will have fresh coffee and several types of juices ready when you
get up in the morning. Dining car meals are included in the cost of your sleeper fare.Tipping: It
is customary to tip your sleeping car attendant about $5.00 per night for good service.
conductor will announce your stop in advance. Check around your seat to make
sure you haven’t left anything behind; cell phone chargers are the most
frequent items left behind. Not all doors open at most stations, so look for a uniformed crew member to be standing at the nearest open door.