Ten Tips for First-Time Train Travellers

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Written By DanielHaldeman

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Ten Tips for First-Time Train Travellers

Train Travellers offers an unhurried way to experience Canada, whether you’re searching for a more serene journey or have been hoping to tour in a sleeper vehicle.

Here are some of the things to look forward to during your train ride in Canada.

Train travel offers plenty of surprises, making it a wonderful experience for all travelers.

Slow travel is becoming more and more popular as people realize how enjoyable the “getting there” part of a vacation can be. This sentiment is especially true for those traveling by train.

VIA Rail Canada emphasizes the value of taking time out on long distance routes to admire the scenery in a relaxed way, which is what makes travelling by train so special.”

Even Canadian Insiders such as Natalie Nicholls (sales manager at Fresh Tracks Canada) can be moved by the beauty of the landscape.

Nicholls comments, “Traveling by train is like getting a behind-the-scenes glimpse at Canada.” As someone from the prairies myself, she doesn’t find them particularly picturesque – that was due to me driving on the highway! On a train you can relax and take in sights not accessible by cars – making you feel truly thankful.”

Surprise! Another delightful discovery on train trips across Canada? The exceptional quality of food served.

Nicholls was particularly impressed by the culinary team and how fresh everything was prepared – particularly impressive considering how small their kitchen was. I enjoyed lamb chops, Manitoba pickerel, and other delicacies from the region while visiting.

Be informed about the route taken by your train.

Many train trips offer the unique experience of one-way travel. While return trips are possible, many rail passengers prefer to experience the adventure that a one-way trip offers and return trips provide an added layer of excitement and relaxation.

Fresh Tracks Canada gives you the flexibility to tailor your trip according to your individual preferences and needs. You can add days at destinations you’d like to visit or delete stops you don’t like.

It is essential to educate yourself about your options when travelling the Canadian Rockies by rail. Visitors will travel into and through the area but not around, so be sure to adhere to a schedule as trains don’t run every day. Furthermore, there are plenty of hotel stays available if you wish to include them in your journey.

Decide whether you will sleep on the train or in a hotel room.

Rocky Mountaineer passengers only travel on the train during daylight hours to take in the breathtaking views of Canada’s Rockies. Your hotel choice has two service levels available to choose from – elite or classic.

On VIA Rail’s The Canadian overnight train, you can enjoy a private sleeping area.

Nicholls suggests starting with shorter trips to see if you enjoy spending a night or two on the train before signing up for an extended journey.

Take a light bag to save time on the train.

Be wary of heavy packers: Most sleeper trains only allow one bag per passenger. You can check the rest at check-in.

Lucy Fenn, operations specialist at Fresh Tracks Canada, recommends “pack strategically but don’t let that intimidate you.” All you need is a small duffel bag and comfortable clothing – comfort is all that matters; don’t feel the need to dress up.”

Layers and a sweater are ideal for cold weather. If your vehicle has shared bathrooms, be sure to bring along some pyjamas that won’t get noticed as you pass down the hall at night.

Enjoy entertainment during your train journey!

Slow travel offers many chances for relaxation. It is especially important to entertain yourself during these journeys since most won’t have access to internet. You can use these passages as opportunities to re-connect with tactile forms like books or movies, even if you aren’t focused on taking in the scenery.

Nicholls emphasizes, “It’s amazing how quickly you can read books when there’s so much downtime.” Don’t overpack entertainment; download movies and have plenty of choices for when you feel compelled to pick something from.

Experience the culture and history of your train route as you journey along it.

Traveling can be made more interesting and memorable by connecting your reading or viewing material to the geographic history of a region.

Fenn remarked, “There are many great books about trains and frontiersmen traveling across America.” She went on to explain that the history of railroading – from its inception to the gold rush – has been relatively dark, so many people enjoy learning about its sense of adventure.”

The Rocky Mountaineer offers commentary while you ride, providing unique perspectives into the history and culture of its routes.

Consider Upgradeting for Your Train Trip

  • Single travelers often opt for a cabin that is just them, but it may be hard to locate an available spot, particularly at night.
  • Nicholls notes, “As a solo traveler I felt it was worth the upgrade when it came time to upgrade to a cabin with two people for comfort.”

You can further personalize your trip by upgrading to VIA Rail’s Prestige Sleeper Class (available through The Canadian) or making arrangements with the crew to celebrate special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries. For an unforgettable journey, consider custom experiences.

Socializing on the train is a great idea

Traveling by rail offers travelers an excellent chance to make new acquaintances and expand their social circle.

Contrary to flight culture, which often keeps passengers seated, rail travel often involves mixing and mingling in common areas and enjoying meals in dining cars before retiring to their cabins. While rail travel has changed over time, it remains an excellent opportunity for travelers to connect socially.


Personalized service and tipping are always in style. But many travelers struggle to determine what’s appropriate for multi-day trips. Here are a few guidelines to follow:

Fenn recommends that you set aside at least a few dollars for each meal when traveling by VIA Rail. It’s also wise to leave $15 extra in case you need to switch your cabin from sitting to sleeping.

Many VIA Rail trips feature staff changes at midpoint. If you have a great experience with crew members, be sure to thank them before the journey concludes.

Gratuities for your Rocky Mountaineer hosts are not included in your package. They will serve you meals and beverages along the way, while providing information and storytelling along the way. At the end of your journey, you can pay them either by credit or cash.

Stay informed with the most up-to-date info about train travel.

Travel has undergone drastic changes due to pandemics and new restrictions abroad, so it’s essential for travelers to stay abreast of international advisories. Many trips are booked months in advance, making it important to stay informed on any potential delays.

Fenn emphasizes the importance of being aware and staying alert. To stay safe and comfortable when dining out, bring extra sanitizer, masks, essential oils for refreshing your mask or warm socks and shirts to wear during dinner.

When planning a trip outside your home country, be sure to purchase travelers insurance and obtain currency conversions from your travel advisor. They will provide you with all the necessary information in one package.

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