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Founded in 1971, Amtrak is by far the most popular train company in the United States. Connecting 732 cities by rail with over 16,000 routes, Amtrak trains make an average of 23,571 trips per day and 329,992 trips per month. Given its expansive coverage, Amtrak's prices vary greatly; tickets start from as low as $1.00 for local train trips to as high as $741.50 for certain cross-country treks.
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.
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:
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:
As the primary rail service in the United States, Amtrak has a few different train types:
With the ability to go up to 150 miles per hour, the Acela is the highest-speed train in the U.S. (In Europe, Eurostar and Deutsche Bahn ICE trains go up to 186 mph.)
The Acela operates routes between Boston, New Haven, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., and provides a more premium experience than Amtrak’s other offerings, with conference tables, improved WiFi and fewer stops for a faster trip.
Regional trains are dispersed on routes throughout the country, such as the Northeast Regional.
These trains go up to 125 mph and tend to have more stops, some of which are in smaller towns. Regional trains are typically more affordable than the Acela.
On long-distance trains, you can choose sleeping accommodations as an “add-on.” These train cars can either be one-level (known as a Viewliner) or two-level (known as a Superliner), and come in various layouts—some of which include private bathrooms and showers. The biggest size of room is a Bedroom Suite, which fits four adults, has two in-room toilets and two in-room showers.
Whether you have an assigned seat or are free to sit anywhere can depend on your type of ticket. There are four levels of seating options on Amtrak trains: Unreserved Coach, Reserved Coach, Business Class and First Class.
Unreserved Coach — These tickets are only available on some short-distance routes, in which tickets may be sold in excess of the train’s seating capacity. That means you can sit anywhere you want, but are not guaranteed a seat. If the train is full, you may have to stand.
Reserved Coach — On a Reserved Coach train, the number of tickets sold matches the capacity of the train. That means you are guaranteed a place to sit, and can take any open seat on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Business Class — These tickets reserve you a space in a dedicated “Business Class” train car, with features that include extra legroom and free non-alcoholic drinks. In Business Class, you are free to sit in any open seat on a first-come, first-serve basis.
First Class — First Class tickets are only available on the Acela train, which runs between Boston, New Haven, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. This is the only type of Amtrak ticket for which you are assigned a dedicated seat. You are free to change your seat at any time after your reservation is complete.
Amtrak offers various discounts and promotions that allow passengers to save money on train travel. Below are some of the deals you can expect.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The change and cancellation policy for an Amtrak ticket varies based on the type of fare. To pursue a refund, call 1-800-USA-RAIL or begin the process online at Amtrak.com. Below, find each type of fare and the policy associated with it.
Saver Fares are the cheapest type of ticket, deeply discounted from the regular rate. These fares generally require you to buy in advance.
Refunds: Saver Fares are eligible for a full refund within the first 24 hours of purchase. After 24 hours the tickets are nonrefundable, but you may receive an eVoucher for 75% of the original amount.
Change Fee: None.
Value Fares are tickets bought at the regular, undiscounted price.
Refunds: Value Fares are eligible for a full refund up to eight days out from departure. If canceled within eight days of departure, you will be charged a 25% cancellation fee on either cash back or an eVoucher.
Change Fee: None.
Business Fares are for business-class seats located in a dedicated section of the train.
Refunds: Business fares are eligible for a full refund or eVoucher up until the time of departure.
Change Fee: None.
Acela First Class fares cover the premium, first-class cabin of Acela trains.
Refunds: Acela First Class fares are eligible for a full refund or eVoucher up until the time of departure.
Change Fee: None.
Sleeper rooms and roomettes are available to book for most long-distance routes.
Refunds: Sleeper Accommodations are eligible for a full refund within the first 24 hours of purchase. If canceled up to 15 days out from departure, you will be charged a 25% cancellation fee on cash back. Within 15 days of departure, you are no longer eligible for a refund, but can receive an eVoucher for 75% of the original amount.
Change Fee: None.
With 23,571 Amtrak trips per day, there are a lot of great deals to uncover for the bargain hunter and Amtrak tickets start at just $1.00. Check out some of the latest and greatest deals snatched up by Wanderu users.
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