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Amtrak is the largest passenger railroad service in America, offering daily intercity trains to 708 destinations across the contiguous United States, as well as several cities in Canada. Formally referred to as the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, Amtrak is a quasi-public corporation that receives a combination of state and federal subsidies but operates as a for-profit organization.
Amtrak was formed in 1971 as a result of the Rail Passenger Service Act that the U.S. Congress passed in 1970 in a bid to rescue the declining intercity passenger rail industry. The first train trip operated under the Amtrak brand took place on May 1, 1971. While the fledgling organization struggled to grow within the first several years of its formation, Amtrak continued to expand its operations as some of the remaining private railroads went out of business.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Amtrak continued to expand its network and invested in modernizing its fleet to better serve its passengers. However, the most prominent service upgrade did not come until the early 21st century, when Amtrak introduced the high-speed Acela service, providing long-awaited express trains along the Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington, D.C. Today, Amtrak’s railroad network covers 26373 routes across North America and the carrier runs an average of 27081 train trips every day.
Today, Amtrak’s network consists of more than 40 different regional train services. The most popular ones include the Northeast Regional, the Pacific Surfliner, the Downeaster, and the famous Coast Starlight. In addition to its train lines, Amtrak also offers a bus service called Thruway, which is provided throughout the U.S. as an extension of Amtrak’s network to destinations where rail service is not available.
Many Amtrak routes are famous for offering unique scenic views along the way, which further enhances the onboard experience. Take the Empire Builder for a one-of-a-kind journey through Glacier National Park, or hop aboard the Coast Starlight for a front-row view of America’s gorgeous Pacific coastline. If you are planning a trip for the fall, you might want to book a ticket for the Adirondack and witness firsthand some of the most gorgeous fall foliage in the U.S.
One of the main reasons why Amtrak continues to be among the preferred ways to travel between cities is the carrier’s high-quality onboard experience. Every Amtrak train comes equipped with comfortable seats boasting extra legroom, as well as four-seat areas with tables in the middle where you can face and interact with your fellow travel mates. In addition, each car has a freshly cleaned restroom, free WiFi and power outlets at every seat. On top of that, snack bars where you can purchase drinks or food during your journey are available aboard all Amtrak trains, and some even come equipped with an entire dining car.
Wanderu has been an official partner of Amtrak since 2015, making it super easy to search and compare all available Amtrak trips in one place. More importantly, you can always find and book the cheapest Amtrak tickets on Wanderu and we would never charge you any additional booking fees. If you are an Amtrak Guest Rewards member, make sure you enter your unique number and earn points for your trip.
Where can you travel on an Amtrak train?
As the most popular train service in the United States, Amtrak has trains running across every major region in the United States, including trains connecting American cities and Canadian cities. In fact, you could get from coast to coast, or even around the entire U.S. by Amtrak train. Amtrak has an especially strong presence on both the West Coast and the East Coast, with trains from LA to Seattle and Miami to New York. It also connects the Midwest to both coasts, with train stations in major cities like Chicago.
What is Amtrak's luggage policy?
Amtrak's luggage policy is fairly generous. Each passenger can bring two personal carry-on items, two carry-on bags, and two checked bags for free. Passengers may also check an additional two bags, for a fee of $20 each.
Here are some additional requirements to keep in mind:
Do Amtrak trains have WiFi?
Yes, Amtrak offers WiFi on their trains. Although most trips with Amtrak will have WiFi as advertised, some trains might not come equipped with WiFi and onboard WiFi can lose its connection in rural areas. We recommend you bring a book or download a movie just to play it safe. Amtrak WiFi is generally best used for surfing the web, checking emails and chatting with friends; you shouldn’t count on the WiFi to binge watch your favorite show.
Are there power outlets or USB plugs on the train?
Yes, there are power outlets onboard Amtrak trains. You can generally find one or two sockets per row of seats, so be a good traveller and check if your seat neighbor might want to charge up their devices as well. With the onboard power outlets, you can charge both a computer and USB devices with a USB power adapter that typically comes with most phones and tablets.
Since Amtrak might sometimes use replacement train vehicles, not all trips are guaranteed to have power points. We recommend to bring a power bank to charge your phone for all trips over 2 hours, just in case.
What is Amtrak's schedule?
Because Amtrak operates in so many different regions, the schedule varies widely depending on the route. Amtrak is actually divided into over 40 regional services, each with its own timetables. These regional services include the following popular routes:
Can you buy a train ticket at the station?
You can buy a train ticket at most large train stations, which are staffed with Amtrak ticket agents. If a ticket agent is not available, many stations provide a Quik-Trak Kiosk from which you can purchase a ticket directly.
If your nearest station is not big enough to sell tickets in-person, you can purchase online at Amtrak.com or via an online booking platform like Wanderu. Alternatively, Amtrak allows you to buy tickets over the phone 24 hours a day by calling 1-800-USA-RAIL.
Do you need an ID to get on the train?
Yes, Amtrak requires you to present an ID to an agent to be allowed to board the train. Make sure you have identification issued by a government agency that meets the carrier’s requirements. Alternative IDs, such as a college ID, won’t work.
Are there bathrooms on Amtrak trains?
Yes, there are bathrooms on Amtrak trains. The bathrooms are pretty basic and include a toilet, toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Most bathrooms don’t have running water. As you will be using a bathroom on a moving vehicle, please use caution and hold on to a rail at all times.
Are meals or beverages available?
Many Amtrak trains have diner cars with meal service for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Prices and selections vary between different routes; menus are updated regularly. Additionally, most trains will have various snacks and beverages available for purchase. Most passenger cars also have free water from a water dispenser.
Do you need to print your Amtrak ticket?
Amtrak does not require a printed ticket for boarding. Upon purchase, eTickets will be delivered as a PDF attached to your confirmation email. Simply pull up the eTicket on your mobile device and present a valid ID to the conductor when prompted. For more details, see our guide on how to read an Amtrak ticket.
Does Amtrak offer any premium features like extra legroom or movies?
Amtrak goes the extra distance to deliver premium features to its customers.
Do you find yourself squished in a regular seat or just love having extra room to sprawl out? Well you’re in luck as Amtrak offers extra legroom seating. Since there is no standard of what extra legroom is, the extra space you get may vary between train lines, but getting extra is always good.
With 27,081 Amtrak trips per day, there are a lot of great deals to uncover for the bargain hunter and Amtrak tickets start at just $3.17. Check out some of the latest and greatest deals snatched up by Wanderu users.
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