10 Tips for First-Time Train Travellers
First-Time Train Travellers can be a relaxing way to explore Canada. Here are some things to expect on your Canadian train trip.
Train travel can bring you surprises
Slow travel is growing in popularity as people realize that “getting there”, while not the best, can be the most rewarding part of any trip. This is especially true for trains.
VIA Rail Canada states that the beauty of long-distance trains is enhanced by taking time to enjoy the scenery and not being rushed.
Even a Canadian Insider such as Natalie Nicholls can be taken aback by the scene.
Nicholls states that traveling by train is like taking a behind the scenes look at Canada. “I was born in the prairies but didn’t find them very beautiful. This was due to my driving on the highway. The train allows you to take a break and enjoy the scenery that is not possible by car. This makes you feel more grateful.
Another surprise? A train journey across Canada is a great way to discover the quality of the food.
Nicholls said that the culinary team was exceptional and that all food was prepared fresh. It is amazing considering how little space they have. “I enjoyed lamb chops and Manitoba pickerel as well as menu delicacies tailored to the area we were touring through in Canada.
Know your train’s route
Most train journeys are one-way. It is possible to return to the same train station, but many prefer to fly one-way in order to get the unique rail experience.
Fresh Tracks Canada allows you to personalize your trip by adding days to places you like or removing days from stops you don’t want.
Make sure you take time to fully understand the options. Rail will transport visitors through the Canadian Rockies but not all the way. As most trains don’t run every day, it’s important that you stick to your scheduled route. You have a variety of options if you want to incorporate hotel stays along your route.
Decide if the train will be your sleeping place
The Rocky Mountaineer trains only allow passengers to board during the day, so that they can enjoy the breathtaking views across the Canadian Rockies. You will have two levels of service available when you book your hotel.
You will be able to sleep in a private cabin if you are taking an overnight train like VIA Rail’s The Canadian.
Nicholls suggests that people with small children or families start by taking short trips.
For your train journey, pack light
Attention heavy packers: A majority of sleeper trains allow only one carry-on-sized bag. However, you can choose to check the rest.
Lucy Fenn, Fresh Tracks Canada’s operations specialist, says “Pack strategically, don’t let that scare your you.” A small duffel bag, casual outfits, and slippers or hard-soled shoes are all you need. Be comfortable, you don’t need to dress up.
Pack layers and a sweater for the colder months. Also, since most cars have shared bathrooms, bring pyjamas to be seen while walking down the hall at night.
Train trips are fun with entertainment
Slow travel offers many relaxation opportunities. Because most of the trips don’t have wifi, entertainment is vital. Use the time to connect with tactile forms of play such as books, movies and games along the passages that you may not be paying attention to the scenery.
Nicholls states, “It is amazing how fast you can go through books if you have so many downtime.” Don’t forget to pack entertainment and download movies. Make sure you have items you like.
Learn about the culture or history of your train route
Enhance your travel experience with the addition of geographic history to your reading and viewing materials.
Fenn states that there are many books on trains and frontiersmen who have traveled across the country. “The railway has a very dark history. From the gold rush to its creation, some people love to learn about that sense.
The Rocky Mountaineer offers commentary aboard, giving insight into the history, culture, and geography of its routes.
Consider an upgrade for your train journey
- Even though single travelers are more likely to choose a cabin for themselves, it can sometimes be difficult to get in, especially at night.
- Nicholls states, “As a single traveler I found it very worthwhile to upgrade to a cabin for two.”
There are many other ways to personalize your journey. These include upgrading to VIA Rail Prestige Sleeper Class, which is available on The Canadian, or making arrangements to celebrate an occasion with the crew. You can make your trip unforgettable by arranging customized experiences.
Be social while on the train
It is an amazing part of rail travel to be able to meet other travelers.
Rail travel, unlike flight culture, which requires people to stay put in their seats for the duration of a trip, is more social than flying. Train travel involves multiple-day trips that involve travelers meeting in common areas and enjoying food in the dining cars before returning to their own private rooms. Even though the pandemic affected some aspects of rail travel’s social nature, it is still a great way to meet new people. So be curious and ask questions.
Be prepared to tip
While tipping is fashionable with personalized service, many travelers aren’t sure what to do for multi-day travels. A few guidelines can help.
Fenn suggests that travelers on VIA Rail should leave a few bucks at the table for every meal. For turn-down service, staff will need to move your cabin from seating into sleeping. It is a good idea for you to leave at least $15.
There are some VIA Rail trips that include staff changes at the mid-point. It’s better to express appreciation early than wait until the end.
Your Rocky Mountaineer package does not include gratuities for your hosts onboard. These hosts provide food and drink, and also offer information and storytelling along each rail route. You can either pay your gratuities with cash or credit cards at the end.
Keep updated with information on train travel
Travel has seen a shift from pandemics and foreign restrictions. Travel plans are often booked in advance so it is important to be up-to date on the most recent international advisories before you travel.
Fenn states, “The best thing to do is to keep your eyes open.” Fenn suggests that you bring extra sanitizer, several masks and creature comforts (e.g. essential oils to refresh your face, warm socks, and a new shirt to wear to dinner)
Travel insurance is essential for travelers who are planning to travel out of the country. Currency conversions and other important documents will also be required. A package will be sent to you by your travel advisor with all details.