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Top 5 tips for Train Travel in America

See America by Rail
See America by Rail

UPDATED: 24th October 2017

Discover our top 5 tips for train travel in America. Train travel in America is one of the most scenic, comfortable and affordable ways to travel around the United States. Reach almost every part of the continent on Americas rail network,  Amtrak. Here are our top five tips for getting the most out of your USA rail adventure.


1. Rail pass vs point-to-point tickets:  Which is ideal for you?

Mount Whitney -Sierra Nevada
Mount Whitney -Sierra Nevada


Point-to-point tickets are tickets brought individually and take you from Point A to Point B. They can be bought at the train station you are departing from or you can purchase point-to-point tickets online. This is often the more affordable option. With over 500 stations in the network, there is sure to be a fare to your chosen destination.

It is also more convenient if you need to reserve your seats in advance. Amtrak train services can often be booked 11 months in advance and must be pre-booked. Find your American train tickets, today.



Buy US point-to-point train tickets if you are taking a single journey or have a pre-planned fixed-itinerary trip around America. If you intend to take a several long-distance or spontaneous trips around America or need flexibility in your train travel itinerary, then a USA rail pass could be the best choice for you (especially for the East side of America).


If you are keen to buy a rail pass for America, the product you are after is called the USA rail pass. There are three types of America rail passes to choose from. The right rail pass for you will depend on the number of cities you want to see:

One city to city pair equals a segment  


8 Segments over 15 days

USA Rail Pass

12 Segments over 30 days

USA Rail Pass

18 Segments over 45 days

USA Rail Pass


America by Rail -Adirondack Route
America by Rail -Adirondack Route


When choosing your rail pass you just need to know how many cities you want to visit and the number of travel days for your United States adventure itinerary. Don't forget to book seat reservations (these are free of charge). If you can it's a good idea to book them a few days in advance (especially during peak times).

It's important to remember that rail passes have a fixed price no matter what journey you choose to use it for. In contrast, point-to-point prices vary greatly in price. The price you end up paying for a single journey ticket could be quite cheap or extremely expensive, depending on;

  • the distance you travel.
  • the city you visit
  • when you purchase them (book in advance or on the day you travel).

If you'd like to learn more about USA Rail passes, visit our Rail pass or train tickets page which has lots of helpful advice from our rail experts.

2. First class or Second class? Do I splash out or go for the cheaper option?

The price difference between first class and second class America rail travel is quite different to the economy and business/first class air tickets. However, the difference in terms of service and comfort often makes the added expense worth it.

In 1st class, the seats often recline and you have more space for luggage. 1st class has fewer seats per car making the experience calm and quiet as there tend to be more business and adult passengers. On some high-speed trains, the price of a 1st Class ticket includes a meal.

2nd class train tickets are less expensive, but the trade-off is that you have a lot less space, as there are more seats per car.

For trips greater than 2 hours, you should definitely consider booking in first class. If you intend to book your rail travel once in America, first class is usually easier to book as the majority of Americans travel second class. However, you should always pre-book your seat reservations in advance if you know your travel dates, especially in high season.


3. Plan your American rail journey

USA Rail Map
USA Rail Map

Make sure you print out any tickets or confirmation emails needed (online bookings) and bring them with you on the day of travel.

  • Check how long it takes to get to the station.
  • Work out how you are going to arrive at the station the day before so you dont end up being late on the day of your journey.
  • Get to the station early on the day of your journey so you can truly enjoy your trip and have enough time to carry out all of the important steps listed below.


4. Using your ticket

Most routes offer electronic tickets that you can print at home and use it to board the train. In certain cases, you will receive an e-ticket voucher that needs to be exchanged prior to boarding. Please allow extra time to do this - we recommend at least one hour.

Sector tickets can be picked up at self-service Quick-Trak kiosks (any day/time prior to travel) or at any ticket office located at all major Amtrak stations- just use your credit card to activate the kiosk and enter your 6 digit e-ticket voucher reservation number. YOUR CREDIT CARD WILL NOT BE CHARGED. The Quick-Trak Kiosk will print your tickets.

Rail Passes can only be picked up at any staffed Amtrak Station, and the pickup location must be advised at time of booking. You need to validate your USA Rail Pass within 6 months from the date of issue.

Locate the right platform

Acela Express


There are a few places in America where platform numbers are published in their train schedules. In most cities, you can only find out which platform your train is leaving from once you arrive at the station. It may sound like the simplest thing to do but when you arrive at the station you can sometimes discover that the platform your train is leaving from is quite a walk or run (depending on how much time you have) from the entrance to the station.

No one wants to miss their train simply because they couldn't find the platform. So make sure you allow yourself enough time to do so. Platform numbers generally come up on the departures board half an hour prior to departure.


5. Enjoy your journey

Now that you have done all your planning and considered everything you need to know to have the ultimate American rail adventure, sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. Get ready to see stunning scenery and meet some interesting people along the way.

Who knows, you might even make some new friends and travel partners! If you are looking for more train travel information head to the helpful USA by rail section of our website.  Enjoy your travels!


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