Rail travel in the United StatesThe U.S. may be the land ofthe car, but it also one of thegreatest countries in theworld to be explored bypassenger train.
An Amtrak train in U.S , used for comfort travelling
There are a number of privateoperators who offer exclusive andluxurious packages on privatepassenger trains, but it is onboardthe trains of the state owned andsubsidized Amtrak that mosttourists and tavelrers experienceAmerica by rail.
Before setting out on a railroadadventure around America, it isworth understanding the precarioussituation in which Amtrak existstoday. Somewhere between being aprivate and a public company (all ofAmtraks preferential shares areowned by the U.S. Government)Amtrak has to provide both a publicservice and seek to remain profitableas a competitive mode of transport
When to travelThe peak periods for most railcompanies in North America issomewhere between April toSeptember, and the cost of railpasses and tickets will riseduring these periods to reflectthis.
If youre planning a visit to the U.S. and travel a lot by train, thespring and fall (autumn) periodsare likely to give you the bestcombination of lower ticket pricesand hours of daylight for viewingthe scenery from the train
Trains fill up much quicker inthe summer and aroundnational holidays, and coachclass passengers inparticular will have less roomto stretch out.
Timetables and brochuresAll the major rail operators in theU.S. have websites withinformation about timetables,routes and on-board facilities.However many passengers stillprefer to plan their trips usingprinted timetables.
Rail PassesIf you are planning more than onejourney on an Amtrak train, you maybe better off investing a rail pass,which allows unlimited rail travelwithin a certain period and area. Youshould, however, compare the cost ofindividual tickets when pricing andplanning your trip.
The USA Rail Pass. The travelpass divides the U.S. into zones,and the pass may be bought forone or more zones. Restrictionsapply. Americans can nowpurchase this pass, though Amtrakdid not publicize this change
The California Rail Pass . Thispass offers seven days of travelwithin any 21-day period on mostCalifornia trains.
Amtrak ticketsAmtrak tickets can be purchased in personfrom any staffed Amtrak station, over thephone ( 1-800-USA-RAIL in the U.S. andCanada) or on the internet . A number oftravel agencies that sell Amtrak tickets inother countries are listed on the Amtrakwebsite.
Discounts on Amtrak TicketsMany passengers are able to receive adiscount on the cost of the ticket. Discountsare available on travel tickets (but notaccommodation upgrades) to members ofthe following organizations: ● AAA (American Automobile Association) ● CAA (Canadian Automobile Association) ● NARP (National Association of Railroad Passengers)
DelaysUnfortunately delays are common onlong-distance Amtrak travel routes. Thisis because private railroads own thetracks used by Amtrak, and they aremore concerned about their own freighttrains than about Amtraks passengertrains