How to Read Your Amtrak Ticket

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email
Photo of the Amtrak Acela passing through the Northeast Corridor.
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email

That’s the ticket: You just booked a trip on Amtrak!

Clearly you took the Quad City DJ’s seriously when they told you to “come on, ride the train, hey, ride it” (woo woo).

Terrific travel awaits you — many Amtrak routes pass through scenic terrain not easily accessible by car or on foot. With Amtrak, your opportunities for adventure are endless: The biggest passenger train service in the U.S., Amtrak serves more than 500 destinations in 46 states. And of course, the best place to find deals on train travel is Wanderu.

When that ticket arrives in your inbox (attached as a PDF), you may have some questions: Do I need to print it? Can I switch to a later train? Where can I find my seat number?

In the following guide, we provide answers to all your most pressing Amtrak inquiries.

Do I have to print my Amtrak ticket?

Whether or not you have to print your ticket depends on the type of Amtrak trip purchased. Some Amtrak trips (especially for Amtrak Thruway routes, which consist of segments by bus, shuttle or ferry) may require a printed ticket.

For regular train trips, however, printing your ticket is not usually required. As long as the PDF of your ticket says “eTicket” at the top, you can simply open the digital attachment on your mobile device and show the barcode to the conductor when boarding.

How do I read my Amtrak ticket?

Fortunately, Amtrak tickets are pretty straightforward when it comes to communicating the necessary information. Even so, here’s a sample ticket below in which we’ve called out some of the most important fields.

A sample Amtrak ticket with callouts highlighted in blue.

Callouts:

1. Here, in the top corner, is where you can see whether or not you have an eTicket. If you have an eTicket, you can simply pull up the PDF on your phone to show to the train conductor.

2. This is the QR code that the conductor will scan in order to verify your ticket. If you print your ticket, be careful not to bend or crinkle the QR code.

3. Your reservation number is most useful for customer service purposes. If you contact Amtrak customer service at 1 (800) 872-7245 for any reason, such as to cancel or change your ticket, you’ll be asked to provide your reservation number. You can also use this number to modify or cancel your trip on the Amtrak website.

4. This section displays the abbreviation for your station of origin (BOS for Boston) and your station of arrival (NYP for New York Penn), as well as the type of ticket (One-Way).

5. In this box you’ll find your train number (2151), which you can use to check the train’s status on Amtrak.com. The train number will appear on a screen at the station prior to departure, letting you know the train’s status and what platform to go to for boarding. This section also indicates the name of the route (Acela Express), and the date for which your ticket is valid (June 21, 2019).

6. Here you’ll find the full name of your station of origin (Boston [South Station]) and your arrival station (New York [Penn Station]). Take careful note, as some cities have more than one Amtrak station. In this section, you can also see the type of seat you’ve purchased. Note that all Amtrak tickets purchased on Wanderu are first-come, first-serve.

7. Somewhat self-explanatory, this section details your time of departure (4:55 AM) and your time of arrival (8:50 AM). If your trip contains any transfers, an additional row will be listed beneath this one with information for your other route, including train number, dates, station information and departure/arrival times.

8.Your own name will be listed here, along with the names of any additional passengers included on your ticket. If you made a reservation for other passengers in addition to yourself, this single ticket can be shown to the conductor to verify everyone in your group. This section also describes the type of fare (Adult). As of this writing, Wanderu is only able to process standard Adult tickets. If you need to purchase a Child or Senior fare, we recommend contacting Amtrak directly.

9. Wanderu accepts Amtrak Guest Rewards so that you can earn points when traveling by train. If you entered your Guest Rewards number during checkout, it will appear here.

10. This final section consists of the terms and conditions of your ticket, along with information like the amount and size of luggage you’re able to bring on the train.  

Where is my seat number?

While reviewing your Amtrak ticket, you may notice that nowhere on the ticket is an exact seat number listed. That’s because most of the Amtrak tickets sold on Wanderu operate on a first-come, first-serve basis. While the ticket reserves you a spot on the train, it does not reserve you a specific spot. We recommend arriving early at the train station so you can be among the first in line to board, ensuring you a seat of your own choosing.

How can I cancel my Amtrak trip?

To cancel your reservation, visit Amtrak.com and click the “Modify Trip” button at the top right-hand corner of the page. Enter your reservation number and either your email address or phone number, then click “Find Trip.” From there, click the “Cancel Trip” button and follow the prompts to complete your cancellation. Alternatively, you can call Amtrak directly at 1-800-872-7245.

Specific cancellation policies can vary depending on the type of ticket. As a general rule, Amtrak stipulates that you cancel at least one hour before your train’s departure time in order to get a refund or voucher. Visit this Amtrak page to learn more.

How much does it cost to change your Amtrak ticket?

It’s free to alter the day or time of your Amtrak reservation. Simply visit Amtrak.com and click the “Modify Trip” button at the top right-hand corner of the page. Enter your reservation number and either your email address or phone number, then click “Find Trip.” From there you can update the reservation as needed.

Note that policies regarding ticket changes vary, and that limitations, exclusions and additional fees may apply. Ticket changes must be made before the train from the original booking has departed.

How many Amtrak points for a free ticket?

Travel redemptions from Amtrak Guest Rewards to more than 500 destinations start at just 800 points. In order to redeem your points, you must book your tickets through Amtrak.com and choose “Points” instead of “Dollars” at the booking stage.

You can accrue Amtrak Guest Rewards points by traveling with Wanderu. Just enter your Guest Rewards number in the designated field at checkout.

How early should I arrive at the train station?

Amtrak recommends arriving at the station between 30 and 45 minutes prior to your scheduled departure.

How much luggage can I take on Amtrak?

Two personal items and two carry-on bags are included in every Amtrak ticket.

Amtrak’s luggage policy stipulates that each passenger can bring two personal items with dimensions 14 x 11 x 7 inches (36 x 28 x 18 centimeters) at a max of 25 pounds (11.34 kilograms) each, as well as two carry-on bags with dimensions 28 x 22 x 14 inches (71 x 56 x 36 centimeters) at a max of 50 pounds (22.68 kilograms) each.

In addition, each passenger can travel with up to four total suitcases. The first two are free, and can either be carried on board in designated luggage areas or checked-in to the train’s luggage compartment. (Note that not all Amtrak trains and stations are equipped to handle checked bags, so ensure in advance that your train and stations of departure/arrival accept checked baggage.) On trains that allow checked baggage, you may bring a third and fourth suitcase at the price of $20 per additional bag.

Weight limit for suitcases is 50 pounds (23 kilograms), and dimensions should not exceed 75 linear inches (190.5 linear centimeters). Linear dimensions are calculated by adding length + width + height.

Now that we’ve answered all your burning Amtrak questions, your train trip is full steam ahead! Worry less about logistics and enjoy the laid-back leisure of a long-distance rail ride.

Or, if you’re still just thinking about a potential Amtrak adventure, consider buying tickets through Wanderu — the simplest way to book bus and train travel across North America and Europe.

If you’re in need of some destination inspiration, check out these five routes perfect for peeping fall foliage, or review our Alexander Hamilton tour down the East Coast based on sites featured in the hit Broadway musical.

Like what you read?
Spread the word:

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email
About the author
Tyler Moss

Tyler Moss

Tyler Moss has danced on tables at Oktoberfest and petted alpacas in the Andes. He prefers to eat at restaurants where the menu is in a language he can’t understand, and likes bars where the lighting is dim and the drafts are cheap. His writing has been published by Condé Nast Traveler, The Atlantic, New York, Outside, Atlas Obscura, Playboy and other fine venues.