Your guide to Amtrak’s USA Rail Pass

In this sequence, Lonely Planet’s team of writers and editors solutions your journey difficulties and gives tips and hacks to assistance you program a trouble-totally free vacation. When an Amtrak problem arrived throughout the transom, we turned to Lonely Planet contributor (and big teach) supporter Lauren Keith.

Question: My excursion all over Europe with the Eurail Move was one of the best I’ve at any time taken. Is there something like this in the United States?

Lauren Keith: Hopping off and on trains, waking up to a new metropolis in the early morning, carrying your suitcase by way of stylish educate stations, conference new mates from across hostel bunk beds: using an extended train excursion in this fashion really is possible in the United States.

Modeled on the Eurail Move, which enables vacation about 33 European countries, Amtrak’s United states Rail Go could possibly get you across only a single worldwide border. But the practical experience can be just as different, intriguing and eye-opening as its European counterpart. 

The US could have the world’s major street network, positive – but using a auto-cost-free “road trip” throughout the state is a ticket to an unforgettable experience, and may possibly be the most European-design and style journey you can have on this side of the pond.

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I have just bought my 2nd Usa Rail Go, and I’m beginning to pack my bags for my upcoming Amtrak sojourn. In 2021, I took to the rails on a loop from Kansas Town, heading by means of St Louis, San Antonio, New Orleans, DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York Town and Boston. Here’s a swift dive into the nitty-gritty of the Amtrak pass and some of the concerns I was most usually requested about my journey.

What is Amtrak’s Usa Rail Pass?

The United states of america Rail Pass lets riders to go on 10 Amtrak “segments” inside a 30-day period for a set price. A phase isn’t normally the similar issue as a one-way journey – any time you get off the prepare is the stop of a section. A 1-way journey concerning Seattle and Denver, for example, consists of two segments since you have to modify trains.

Introduced in 1976, the Usa Rail Go in its recent form differs drastically from the Eurail Move, and even from preceding versions of by itself. As an alternative of regional limits, the full nation is now honest recreation, and the move is legitimate for a set 30 days, and only 30 times – travelers no extended have the alternative of deciding on extended or shorter durations.

When can I use the Amtrak Rail Move?

At the time you order the pass, you have to use it in just 120 times (about four months). Following the initial segment is traveled, the clock starts ticking, and you have 30 times to just take the other nine segments.

How a great deal does the United states Rail Go charge?

Amtrak sells the Usa Rail Pass for $499 at total rate – but it is been on sale for as small as $299 a pair instances in the final couple of a long time. And at this marketing value, every single section charges considerably less than $30, irrespective of size.

People sit in an observation train car looking out at the sunset on an Amtrak train, USA
You are going to want to shell out plenty of time seeking at the sights from an Amtrak observation car (just be geared up to slumber sitting up) © Jacob Boomsma / Shutterstock

What are the Usa Rail Go restrictions?

Though the Usa Rail Pass is pretty adaptable, it’s essential to know a several information ahead of obtaining just one.

With the pass, you need to travel in coach course. Company class and sleeper cabins (which are soon to be upgraded) are not an possibility, until you want to fork out for them outside of the pass at the heading charge. While Amtrak’s reclining seats are considerably outstanding to individuals of any airline’s economic system class (39 inches of legroom when compared with 28 inches when flying), they can be a obstacle to slumber in right away.

Travellers using the Usa Rail Pass are unable to ride the Car Coach (between Virginia and Florida), Acela trains (significant-pace trains in the Northeast) or Canadian routes that Amtrak operates with Through Rail Canada. However, these locations are even now available to pass holders on other (slower) routes.

Riders can journey concerning the same two stations only twice (two round-excursion journeys), so the move is best for travelers seeking to explore a larger sized location, or the full state. If you are searching to commute between metropolitan areas or take a look at friends or spouse and children in the similar location, opt for a Multi-Ride Move instead, which doesn’t have this restriction.

Though the Usa Rail Move doesn’t have any blackout dates, only a constrained variety of seats are saved for move holders on every single service – which indicates progress reservations are hugely recommended. It’s probable that some trains will be unavailable regrettably, the number of eligible seats isn’t demonstrated when searching the schedules. You have to reserve seats in advance, and it’s best to e book your journeys as soon as you know the place you want to go, even if you have not nailed down all the details. If you modify your brain, you can cancel and rebook any time ahead of the scheduled departure of the prepare, a super-versatile option.

An Amtrak Surfliner train passes a beach and the Pacific Ocean, California, USA
Amtrak routes snake out all in excess of the United States, which include along the Pacific Coastline in California © Trevor Fairbank / Shutterstock

Where by can I go on Amtrak’s United states of america Rail Move?

The state is your oyster. Amtrak’s routes roll throughout the US from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and from the Mexican border to stops in Canadian cities. Much more than 30 train strains crisscross the total nation on some 21,000 miles of tracks. Trains quit in 500 towns in 46 states, together with a handful of destinations in Canada.

How can I make the most of Amtrak’s Usa Rail Pass?

That all is dependent on you and your journey plans. You could sense the West Coast sun together the coastline in California just before cozying up in a bookshop amid the grays and greens of the Pacific Northwest. You could target on the East Coast’s significant-hitters, this kind of as DC, Philadelphia, New York and Boston. The bold could even cross the region from just about every route inside 30 days: east from Los Angeles to New Orleans, north from Miami to Maine, west from Chicago to Seattle, and south from Vancouver to San Diego, exactly where you can cross the border to Tijuana, Mexico, on foot. 

Despite the fact that the observation motor vehicle may possibly sound like the most effective way to soak up all the incredible variety of surroundings on an epic journey like that, I would not individually advise it – except if you’re confident you have packed a lot of treats and your body can tackle days without the need of absolutely lying down to snooze. The California Zephyr, one particular of the longest coach journeys in the entire world, usually takes 52 hours from California to Chicago, and which is assuming there aren’t any delays – a rarity.

Start off by on the lookout at Amtrak’s route map and selecting which stops are a priority. Bear in mind that you really do not always require to start off from your household metropolis: if you want to pack a lot more in, you could fly or just take a teach (with no working with your go) to a hub like New York, Chicago or DC that has several solutions for extended-distance routes.

An additional critical issue is timing. You have 30 times to use your move, and outdoors the Northeast, most routes run just the moment a day – or even as minimal as three times a 7 days, as is the scenario for the Sunset Restricted (Los Angeles to New Orleans). The little amount of services suggest that strange departure occasions are unavoidable. My 1st outings on Amtrak in 2008 left from a tiny-city station in Kansas with two daily departures: 2:45am heading south and 2:59am going north.

People in the grand waiting room at Union Station, Los Angeles, California, USA
Historic and superbly restored terminals like Los Angeles’ Union Station convey a little bit of grandeur back to American teach vacation © Kit Leong / Shutterstock

Which Amtrak routes are the most scenic?

Amtrak’s prolonged-distance trains are some of the most scenic journeys in the world. The Coastline Starlight is completely value a vacation, hugging the coast so closely between San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara that you seem to be to hover at the cliff edge, as if on a roller coaster. The California Zephyr will take in the widest wide variety of landscapes, from the snow-capped Sierra Nevadas to the salt flats of Nevada and Utah to countless bends close to the Rocky Mountains. 

Even quite a few of Amtrak’s stations are scenic. Los Angeles’ Union Station is an art-deco jewel with its own brewpub. Denver’s Union Station is house to an outstanding food corridor, and the coffered ceilings of Kansas City’s Union Station (do we see a naming development below?) are just as stunning as people in Chicago and Washington, DC.

Completely ready to just take a midnight coach to any place? See you on board.