Under the CN Tower, "The Canadian" trans-continental train waits to leave Toronto...

CN Tower, Toronto...  The gleaming stainless steel of The Canadian to Vancouver waits to leave Toronto, under the shadow of the famous CN Tower - CN standing for Canadian National Railways, of course!

 
 

Train travel in Canada...

Canadian long-distance trains are run by VIA Rail Canada, www.viarail.ca (click 'home' top right).  They're a great way to see the country, whether you travel on the inter-city trains between Toronto, Montréal and Québec, the Océan from Montréal  to Halifax or Canada's classic trans-continental train, The Canadian from Toronto to Winnipeg, Edmonton, Jasper & Vancouver.  As well as VIA Rail, there's the excellent Rocky Mountaineer through the Rockies between Vancouver & Banff, Calgary or Jasper.  This page explains routes, timetables, prices & what the trains are like.

Train times, fares & tickets for Canada...

  Map of train routes in Canada

  VIA Rail's Canadian, Toronto-Winnipeg-Edmonton-Jasper-Vancouver

  VIA Rail's Océan from Montreal to Halifax, Nova Scotia by train!

  VIA Rail inter-city trains between Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Québec

  Vancouver, Victoria, Seattle by bus, train or ferry

  Trains between Canada & USA  New York-Toronto/Montreal, Seattle-Vancouver

  Other Canadian train routes

  Railpasses for Canada

  How to travel from Europe to Canada by ship

  Hotels & accommodation in Canada

On other pages...

  The Rocky Mountaineer  Vancouver - Banff/Calgary/Jasper

  Whistler Mountaineer  Vancouver - Whistler

  Train travel in the USA

Interactive map:  Click a route for train times & fares...

Sponsored links...

 


Useful country information

Train operator in Canada:

VIA Rail, www.viarail.ca for train times, fares & online booking (click 'home' top right).

Other train operators:  Ontario Northland,  Rocky Mountaineer, Algoma Central

Railpasses:

Buy a Canadian railpass

Time:

Montreal/Toronto GMT-5, Halifax GMT-4, Vancouver GMT-8.  Clocks go forward 1 hour from 2nd Sunday in March to 1st Sunday in November.

Dialling code:

+1       Recommended guidebooks

Currency:

£1 = approx Can$1.70  Check current exchange rates

Hotels & flights:

Hotels in Canada    Find a flight to Canada   Hotel reviews, see www.tripadvisor.com

Tourist information:

www.canadatourism.com  Montréal: www.tourism-montreal.org   Toronto: www.city.toronto.on.ca   Vancouver: www.tourismvancouver.com  Québec: www.bonjourquebec.com  Nova Scotia: www.novascotia.com.

Page last updated:

8 July 2015.


VIA Rail's Canadian

Across Canada by train:  Toronto - Winnipeg - Edmonton - Jasper - Vancouver

The greatest train in Canada and one of the world's greatest train journeys, VIA Rail's Canadian runs 3 times a week in summer, twice a week in winter, linking Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Jasper National Park in the Rockies & Vancouver.  The whole journey takes 4 nights and the train consists of the original 1955-built stainless-steel coaches from the Canadian Pacific Railway's Canadian.  You can travel very affordably in Economy class in a reclining seat, or in Sleeper Plus class with a private sleeping-car room and restaurant car meals included.  And new from 2014, there are deluxe Prestige class sleepers too.  The journey originally took 3 nights, but in December 2008 VIA Rail changed the timetable to show their passengers more of the Rockies in daylight.  Today's Canadian takes the more northerly Canadian National route across Canada via Edmonton and Jasper completed in 1917, the only passenger train now remaining on the classic 1885 Canadian Pacific route through Calgary & Banff is the Rocky Mountaineer tourist train, which only runs between Calgary & Vancouver and only between March & November.

The Toronto-Vancouver 'Canadian' 'Park' car at the rear The Toronto to Vancouver 'Canadian'

The Park car brings up the rear of the Canadian...

The Canadian... Photos courtesy VIA Rail.

You can check times & fares for a specific date at www.viarail.ca.  Remember this train crosses 4 time zones, all times are local time!

 Toronto ► Winnipeg ► Vancouver

 

 Vancouver Winnipeg Toronto

Distance:

The Canadian

The Canadian

0 km

Toronto  depart:

22:00  (day 1)

Tue, Thur*, Sat

Vancouver  depart:

20:30  (day 1)

Tue, Fri, Sun*

1,943 km

Winnipeg  arrive:

08:00  (day 3)

Thur, Sat*, Mon

Kamloops North arr/dep

06:35  (day 2)

Wed, Sat, Mon*

Winnipeg  depart:

11:45  (day 3)

Thur, Sat*, Mon

Jasper  arrive:

16:00  (day 2)

Wed, Sat, Mon*

2,702 km

Saskatoon  arr/dep:

23:32  (day 3)

Thur, Sat*, Mon

Jasper  depart:

17:30 (day 2)

Wed, Sat, Mon*

3,221km

Edmonton  arrive:

06:22  (day 4)

Fri, Sun*, Tue

Edmonton  arrive:

23:00  (day 2)

Wed, Sat, Mon*

3,221km

Edmonton  depart:

07:37  (day 4)

Fri, Sun*, Tue

Edmonton  depart:

23:59  (day 2)

Wed, Sat, Mon*

3,600 km

Jasper  arrive:

13:00  (day 4)

Fri, Sun*, Tue

Saskatoon  arr/dep

09:25  (day 3)

Thu, Sun, Tue*

3,600 km

Jasper  depart:

14:30  (day 4)

Fri, Sun*, Tue

Winnipeg  arrive:

20:45  (day 3)

Thu, Sun, Tue*

4,052 km

Kamloops North arr/dep:

23:44  (day 4)

Fri, Sun*, Tue

Winnipeg  depart:

22:30  (day 3)

Thu, Sun, Tue*

4,466 km

Vancouver  arrive:

09:42  (day 5)

Sat, Mon*, Wed

Toronto  arrive:

09:30 (day 5)

Sat, Tue, Thur*

* IMPORTANT:  The thrice-weekly Canadian was cut back to running only twice a week in winter in 2012.  The Thursday departure from Montreal only runs between 5 May & 15 October 2015.  The Sunday departure from Vancouver only runs between 1 May & 11 October 2015.

 How much does it cost?

 

Economy Class -

reclining seat

Sleeper Plus Class -

'section' sleeper

Sleeper Plus Class -

roomette or bedroom

 Toronto to Vancouver, one-way per person:

Can$434 to Can$596

Can$955 to Can$1,541

Can$1,440 to Can$2,324

 The fare varies by time of year, higher from June to October, lower Jan-May & Nov-Dec.

 Just go to  www.viarail.ca to check fares for your date of travel in your chosen class.

Buy tickets online...

Buy an InterRail pass online and explore Europe by train!Buy tickets for the "Canadian"

Buy tickets by phone...

Can you stop off on the way? 

Have your trip professionally arranged...

What is the train like?   Which accommodation to choose?

1. Economy class = reclining seats...

In Economy Class (formerly Comfort Class) you have a comfortable reclining seat and access to the Economy Class Skyline car with its coffee shop, lounge and vista dome.  All seats have a power outlet and you can buy a blanket & pillow set from the Skyline car if you haven't brought your own.  Sleeping in a seat may not be as comfortable as having a proper sleeper, but the seats recline to around 40 degrees, have loads of legroom and adjustable leg rests.  An Economy class seat costs a fraction of the price of Sleeper Plus class, and with a coffee shop, lounge area and observation dome, the facilities in Economy class are still excellent.  It's an experience streets ahead of a mere flight, and vastly more comfortable than bus travel.

Economy coach class seats on the 'Canadian'   Dining car on the 'Canadian'

Economy Class seating.  Seats have a generous recline and fold-out leg-rests...

Skyline car with economy class lounge, coffee shop & observation dome.

The Skyline coffee shop on the Canadian   Skyline dome on the Canadian'

Coffee shop in the Skyline car serving meals, snacks & drinks...  Courtesy VIA Rail.

Observation dome in the Skyline car.  You can use these seats on a first come, first served basis. Courtesy VIA Rail

2. Sleeper Plus class = sleepers with meals included...

This is the main sleeper option, formerly called Silver & Blue class and then briefly Sleeper Touring Class.  I expect they'll rename it again next week.  In Sleeper Plus class you have your own sleeping-berth in either an open-plan section or a single-berth roomette or a 2-berth bedroom, the fare includes all meals in the elegant Sleeper Plus restaurant car, and you can use the famous Park observation-lounge car at the rear of the train with its complimentary tea & coffee.  You can also use the business class lounge at Toronto Union Station.  There are several different types of sleeper, all with hot showers at the end of the corridor.  This plan of a typical Manor class sleeping-car will help you make sense of the different types.

Sleeping-car layout...

This plan shows the layout of a Manor class sleeping-car, the most common type used on VIA Rail's Toronto to Vancouver Canadian...

  Layout of a Manor class sleeping-car on VIA Rail's Toronto-Vancouver train

Sections, the cheapest type of sleeper...

Described on the VIA Rail website as upper berth and lower berth but more traditionally called sections, these are the cheapest type of sleeper.  Sections are not enclosed compartments, but open-plan seats arranged in pairs facing each other each side of the aisle, see the photo below left.  The person with the slightly more expensive lower berth gets the seat facing forward during the day.  At night, the two seats pull together and bedding is placed on them to form the lower berth, and an upper berth folds out from the wall with curtains fitted to each bunk for privacy, see the photo below right.  There's a shower & toilets at the end of the corridor.  If you've seen Marilyn Monroe in Some Like it Hot, then you'll have seen sections - the girl band travels from Chicago to Florida in a sleeping-car with sections.  Bring your own Marilyn...

Sections in daytime mode   Dining car on the 'Canadian'

Above left, open-plan 'section' seating.  Courtesy of James ChuangAbove right, the same area at night converts to upper & lower berths, each berth with a curtain for privacy.  Courtesy of VIA Rail.

Roomettes, a small enclosed compartment for one person...

A step up in price from a section is a roomette or bedroom, described on the VIA Rail website as a cabin for 1 and cabin for 2.  These are fully-enclosed lockable compartments.  The price per person is the same whether you use a roomette or bedroom, if you are travelling alone you will be allocated a roomette.  This is a very compact single room, just big enough for a large seat with plenty of legroom, and a leg-rest with a toilet bowl hidden underneath.  There is a small washbasin in the corner.  At night, a bed folds down from behind the seat, taking up almost all of the roomette, as you can see below right.  The compartment door locks securely, and there's a shower at the end of the corridor in each sleeping-car.

Single-bed roomette on VIA Rail's 'Canadian', in night mode   A single-bed roomette on the 'Canadian' from Toronto to Vancouver  

Above centre, This photo was taken standing in the central corridor looking through the doorway into the roomette.  It accurately shows the floor space in a roomette in daytime mode.  The toilet is under the padded legrest.   Above left, at  night the bed folds down and takes up most of the compartment - you need to raise it to use the toilet! Above right, the foot of the bed tapers slightly to fit a washbasin in the corner.   Photos courtesy of  James Chuang & VIA Rail Canada.

Bedrooms, an enclosed compartment for two people...

Also a step up from a section, a bedroom is an enclosed lockable compartment for two people.  Your sleeper attendant converts it from seats by day to an upper & lower berth at night.  There's a washbasin and small enclosed toilet inside each bedroom, and there's a shower at the end of the sleeping-car corridor.  There are a very limited number of bedrooms for 3 people.

Bedroom on the Toronto-Vancouver Canadian, in day mode   A bedroom on the Canadian, in night mode   Washbasin & toilet in a bedroom on the Toronto-Vancouver train

Day mode...

 

Night mode...

 

The washbasin & toilet. Photos courtesy of VIA Rail.

3. Prestige class = deluxe sleepers with double bed

VIA Rail introduced a new luxury class on the Canadian in 2014, called Prestige class, being formally launched in 2015 (online booking will be available from March 2015).  Prestige Passengers get a spacious sleeper compartment with double bed, en suite toilet & shower, flat-screen TV with video selection, complimentary mini-bar and an extra-large window.  The bed converts to sofa seats for day use.  Prestige passengers get access to the same restaurant and Park car lounges as Sleeper Plus passengers, with meals included and priority booking over Sleeper Plus passengers for restaurant sittings.  Two Prestige class sleeper compartments are housed in a rebuilt Park car at the very rear of the train, and there are 6 more Prestige compartments in a completely-rebuilt 'Chateau' class sleeping-car.  At the time of writing, Prestige class is not available on all departures, but in the longer term it may be.

Prestige sleeper on the Canadian, day mode Prestige class sleeper from Toronto to Vancouver

Prestige class sleeper, day mode.  Courtesy VIA Rail

Prestige sleeper, night mode. Courtesy VIA Rail.

The restaurant car...

Meals are included in the fare for Sleeper Plus & Prestige passengers, although drinks are extra.  Only sleeper passengers can access the sleeper class restaurant car, Economy class passengers have to use the coffee shop in their Skyline car.

Dining car on the 'Canadian'   Food on board VIA Rail's 'Canadian'

Dining-car...

The food..Photo courtesy of VIA Rail

The Park car:  Observation lounge & vista dome...

Sleeper Plus & Prestige passengers have exclusive access to the Park car at the very rear of the train.  18 Park cars were built in 1955 by the Canadian Pacific Railway, all named after famous Canadian national parks.  One Park car is always attached to the back of the Canadian.  It's the Canadian's signature car, the place to socialise - on busy summer departures there may be wine tastings or musicians playing here.  The Park car features (1) the Bullet Lounge at the very rear, with a view back along the track, (2) a raised vista dome with seating, and (3) the Mural Lounge underneath the dome (it also features several sleeper compartments including on some departures a wheelchair-accessible 2-berth sleeper).  All lounge and dome seats are available to all sleeper passengers on a first-come, first-served basis, and complimentary tea & coffee is always available here.  I have to say I never had a problem finding a seat in either area, but that no doubt varies from time to time and trip to trip!  One or two Park cars have already been rebuilt with Prestige class sleeper compartments and luxuriously refurbished lounges and dome, these photos shown an un-rebuilt car.  In summer, an additional Skyline lounge/coffee shop/dome car may also be added to the sleeper part of the train to give extra lounge and dome space for Sleeper Plus passengers.

The Canadian's 'Park' car.  
Wine tasting in the dome car of the 'Canadian' train from Toronto to Vancouver

The Park observation-lounge-dome car car...

 
The Canadian's Park car 'bullet lounge'  

The Park car's bullet lounge...

Photo courtesy of James Chuang

 

Wine tasting in the Park car's dome...

Photo courtesy of James Chuang

The journey...

Today's Canadian takes the more northerly Canadian National Railway (CN) route across Canada via Edmonton and Jasper, opened in 1917.  The original 1955 Canadian was operated by the Canadian Pacific Railway and would have taken the CPR's own more southerly route across Canada via Calgary and Banff, opened in 1885 as Canada's first trans-continental railway and arguably the more scenic of these two competing routes.  If you want to experience the original 1885 Canadian Pacific route today, you can only do so between Calgary and Vancouver, and only on the the Rocky Mountaineer tourist train running March to November.  You'll find a brief overview of the history of the CN and CP routes across Canada here.

Pyramid Falls, seen from the train   Scenery from the train

Lakes and forests between Toronto & Winnipeg.

  Scenery in the Rockies from the 'Canadian's dome car.

Pyramid Falls, a local landmark seen from the train on the run to Vancouver...

 

The view from the Dome.  In the Rockies, looking forward from the front seats in the dome.

Pacific Central train station, Vancouver   VIA Rail's Canadian from Vancouver to Toronto, at Vancouver

Journey's end:  Vancouver's Pacific Central station.

 

The Canadian in the platform at Vancouver.


Watch the video - Canada by train

It's a PR video, of course, but it gives you a good idea of a train journey right across Canada, from Vancouver to Toronto on the Canadian with observation domes, lounges, diner & sleepers, then by inter-city train from Toronto to Montreal, and finally Montreal to Halifax on the Ocean...

 

Canada's trans-continental trains:  A brief history...

There were (and are) two competing trans-continental rail routes across Canada.  The Canadian Pacific Railway opened the first trans-continental line across Canada in 1885, running from Montreal/Toronto to Vancouver via Winnipeg, Calgary and Banff.  Instead of taking the easiest route through the Rockies via the Yellowhead pass, political tension with the United States led them to take a more difficult (and scenic) southerly route through the Kicking Horse pass.  The second and later line, built around 1917 by the Canadian Northern Railway (nationalised in 1921 as Canadian National Railways or 'CN', as in the CN Tower), runs from Montreal/Toronto to Vancouver to the north of the CPR route, via Winnipeg, Edmonton, Jasper and the easier Yellowhead pass. 

VIA Rail was formed in 1978 as a government corporation to take over the passenger trains from these two private companies, which now only run freight trains.  Initially, VIA Rail continued to run both the Canadian Pacific's Canadian and the Canadian National's Super-Continental daily on each of these two trans-continental routes, with the rolling stock getting progressively older and less reliable.  However, in 1990, this was reduced to one train, the present-day Canadian, running from Toronto to Vancouver 3 times a week via the Canadian National route through Winnipeg, Edmonton and Jasper.  VIA Rail lacked the funds to buy new cars, so they completely rebuilt and upgraded the original stainless steel streamliner coaches built in 1955 for the Canadian Pacific's Canadian, making this train a real classic in its own right as well as transportation from A to B, albeit from a historical perspective running on the 'wrong' company's route. 

There are now no regular passenger services on the original 1885 Canadian Pacific route from Toronto to Vancouver through Calgary or Banff, apart from the excellent Rocky Mountaineer which runs between Calgary, Banff & Vancouver, 3 times a week April-October.



VIA Rail's Océan

 Montreal ► Halifax

 

 

 Halifax ► Montreal

Distance:

 The Océan

 The Océan

0 km

 Montreal  depart:

18:55

Wednesday, Friday, Sunday

 Halifax  depart:

12:00

Wednesday, Friday, Sunday

1,352 km

 Halifax  arrive:

17:35

Next day

 Montreal  arrive:

09:15

Next day

The Océan used to run daily except Tuesdays, but it was cut back to run just 3 times a week in October 2012.

The Océan has Economy class reclining seats, Sleeper class & Sleeper Plus class sleeping-cars, restaurant car, coffee shop and lounge.  The Sleeper Plus fare includes meals in the restaurant car, Sleeper class & Economy class passengers can also use the restaurant but must pay for meals separately.  The train includes a 1955-vintage stainless-steel observation dome-lounge car at the back, known as a 'Park' car as they are all named after Canadian parks, like the one attached to the rear of the Canadian.  The Park car dome & lounges are reserved exclusively for Sleeper & Sleeper Plus passengers, but in the summer tourist season only Sleeper Plus class passengers may use them.

All departures of the Océan normally use modern air-conditioned sleeping-cars and reclining seat cars built in the UK for the abortive Channel Tunnel night trains, and now marketed by VIA Rail as Renaissance cars.  See www.viarail.ca (click 'home' top right) for more information, including fares and online booking.  The sleepers are the same whether you go Sleeper or Sleeper Plus, all sleeper compartments have 2 berths (upper and lower) and convert to seats for daytime use.  Some compartments have an en suite toilet and shower, others just have a washbasin with toilets at the end of the corridor, and you can book sleepers of either type in either Sleeper or Sleeper Plus.

Fares & how to buy tickets...

On board the train to Halifax...

These are the cars that were built for the abortive NightStar service from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Bristol & Cardiff to Paris, and London to Amsterdam & Frankfurt.  Now sold to VIA Rail Canada and branded Renaissance cars, they link Montreal with Halifax...  All photos courtesy of VIA Rail.

2-berth sleeper on the train to Halifax   VIA Rail's train from Montreal to Halifax

2-berth sleeper in a renaissance car.

 

Renaissance cars on the Océan...

Cafe car on the Montreal to Halifax train   Restaurant car on the Montreal to Halifax train   Reclining seats on the Ocean to Halifax   Reclining seats on the Montreal to Halifax train

Cafe car...

 

Restaurant car...

 

Reclining seats, note raised floor...


VIA Rail inter-city trains

Toronto to Montréal by train in 4 hours 40 minutes, centre to centre...

VIA Rail's fast modern inter-city trains link Toronto, Ottawa & Montréal.  Montréal to Toronto takes as little as 4 hours 40 minutes city centre to city centre.  Please check train times for your date of travel at www.viarail.ca

 Toronto ► Montreal

 Days of running:

Mon-Sat

daily

daily

daily

Mon-Fri, Sun

Fri & Sun

 Toronto (Union Station) depart

06:40

09:25

11:30

15:15

17:00

18:00

 Montreal (Central station) arrive

11:55

14:23

16:52

20:12

21:32

22:49

 Montreal ► Toronto

 Days of running:

Mon-Sat

daily

daily

daily

Mon-Fri, Sun

Sun & Fri

 Montreal (Central station) depart

06:45

10:10

11:50

15:40

17:00

18:30

 Toronto (Union Station) arrive

11:39

15:35

16:44

20:34

21:34

23:23

Montréal to Québec by train in only 3 hours, centre to centre...

From Montréal to Québec, air-conditioned trains run several times daily, taking around 3 hours.  Check times, fares & book online at www.viarail.ca.

 Montreal ► Quebec

 

 Quebec ► Montreal

 Days of running:

Mon-Fri

daily

daily

Mon-Fri

daily

 Days of running:

Mon-Fri

daily

daily

Mon-Fri

daily

 Montreal Central station depart

06:15

09:00

13:00

16:10

18:15

 Quebec depart

05:35

07:45

12:45

15:00

17:45

 Quebec arrive

09:24

12:19

16:22

19:27

21:35

 Montreal Central station arrive

08:32

11:04

15:52

18:13

21:00

Montreal to Ottawa, Toronto to Ottawa:  See www.viarail.ca

Montreal to Ottawa takes 1 hour 50 minutes.  Toronto to Ottawa takes about 4 hours 20 minutes.

How to check fares & buy tickets...

Montréal to Toronto starts at around Can$78 if you book in advance or Can$152 regular flexible fare.  Montreal to Quebec costs around Can$47 if you book in advance.  Toronto to Ottawa starts at Can$78, regular fare Can$140.  Montreal to Ottawa fares start at Can$35, regular fare Can$61.  The best way to buy tickets is online direct from VIA Rail at www.viarail.ca, just click the button below.

Buy an InterRail pass online and explore Europe by train!Buy VIA Rail tickets

On board Canada's inter-city trains...

Why not treat yourself to Business class (formerly Club class)?  It can be as little as Can$50 to upgrade from VIA's Economy class to Business class, which means you can use the business lounges in Toronto and Montreal, and on board the train you get a 3-course airline-style hot meal, complimentary wine and aperitifs.

Train leaving Toronto Union station   Complimentary meal in VIA Rail business class

A train to Montreal leaving Toronto...

 

Business class meal & wine...

Business class on Montreal-Toronto train   Economy class on Montreal to Toronto train

Business class seats...

 

Economy class seats...

VIA Rail's business lounge at Toronto Union station   Toronto Union Station interior

Business class lounge at Toronto...  This & other photos in this section courtesy VIA Rail.

 

Toronto's magnificent Union Station...

Photo courtesy James Chuang


Vancouver, Victoria, Seattle

  VIA Rail's 'Malahat' train from Victoria to Nanaimo & Cortenay
 

VIA Rail's Malahat, just arrived at Victoria on Vancouver Island.  This service is currently suspended Photo courtesy of James Chuang.

Vancouver to Victoria by bus & ferry...

If you're going to Vancouver, don't miss a trip to the British Columbia provincial capital Victoria, on Vancouver Island.  Regular buses link Vancouver with Victoria in about 3½ hours, going on board a ferry to reach the Island. 

Vancouver to Seattle by train...

Two daily articulated Spanish-designed Talgo trains link Seattle with Vancouver, one morning, one evening.  For details, see www.amtrakcascades.com  or www.amtrak.com

You can also travel between Vancouver and Seattle via Victoria, using bus to Victoria (www.pacificcoach.com), then the fast ferry to Seattle (www.victoriaclipper.com).

Victoria to Seattle by fast ferry...

There is a daily fast catamaran service between Victoria and Seattle.

Vancouver Island train service:  Victoria-Nanaimo-Courtenay The Malahat

Railcar service. Used to run daily, 225 km,  leaving Victoria 08:00 Mon-Sat, 10:00 Sundays, returning in the afternoon.  See www.viarail.ca.  However, this service has been suspended for several years now due to the condition of the track, check with www.viarail.ca to see if it has resumed.  It may do so at some point, there's hope...


Trains from the USA to Canada

New York to Toronto or Montreal by train...

Two excellent trains link New York with Montreal & Toronto every day, with inexpensive fares, comfortable reclining seats, a café car & great scenery along the Hudson River Valley, a day well spent, highly recommended.  They are run by Amtrak, jointly with VIA Rail in the case of the train to Toronto.  The New York-Toronto train is the Maple Leaf with coach class & business class.  The New York-Montreal train is the Adirondack, with coach class.  Both trains have comfortable air-conditioned reclining seats and a café car accepting US$ but not Can$.  Both trains travel right along the scenic Hudson River valley all the way from New York to Albany, with superb views of the river, including West Point Military Academy, Bannerman's Island and Storm King Mountain.  As its name suggests, the Montreal train also heads through the scenic Adirondack Mountains.  Passports are checked at the US/Canadian border, there is no check-in as such in New York, Toronto or Montreal, you just need to arrive at the station in time to collect your tickets and board the train.  There are also trains linking Vancouver with Seattle, see the section above.

 New York ► Montreal & Toronto  

 

                 

 Toronto & Montreal ► New York  

 

Daily

 Daily

 

Daily

 Daily

Train name: 

Maple Leaf

 Adirondack

Train name: 

Adirondack

 Maple Leaf

 New York (Penn Station) depart

07:15

08:15

 Montreal depart

09:30 

 Niagara Falls USA  

16:33

|

 Toronto (union Station) depart

|

08:30

 Toronto (Union Station) arrive

19:37

|

 Niagara Falls USA 

|

12:30

 Montreal arrive

19:10

 New York (Penn Station) arrive

20:35

22:05

Fares:  New York-Montreal costs $63.  New York to Toronto costs $114.

How to buy tickets:  For one-way or return journeys starting in New York, you can check times & fares and buy your ticket online at www.amtrak.com.  After booking and paying online you print off a confirmation with a bar-code.  At New York Penn station before departure you simply swipe the barcode under the scanner of any Amtrak self-service machine and it will print your tickets.  For one-way or return journeys starting in Toronto, you can book tickets online at www.viarail.ca.  The VIA Rail booking system may make it look like two trains, but is is in fact just one direct train.

Luggage on trains without checked baggage:  These trains don't have checked baggage, you simply take your luggage with you onto the train and put it on the racks just as you would on any European train.  As long as you don't have more than two bags per person, there is no problem taking normal sized long-haul suitcases or backpacks or roll-alongs on board these trains.  However, in theory Amtrak's carry-on baggage size restrictions apply, which are seemingly written on the assumption that your 'big' bags can be checked in.  If enforced, this would mean you couldn't use these trains with anything bigger than a briefcase.  I'm pleased to say that in practice Amtrak do not enforce their own carry-on size limits on trains without checked baggage, as long as you don't exceed two bags per person - and no-one will measure your bags anyway.  Ideally, Amtrak would avoid creating unnecessary worry by creating a proper baggage policy which recognises this, for trains without checked baggage, but so far they merely refrain from applying their own carry-on policy where it is unworkable.

Amtrak trains:  Amfleet seats Amtrak trains:  Amfleet coaches

Reclining seats in Coach Class, as used on the Maple Leaf train from New York to Toronto...

Amfleet cars, as used on the daily Maple Leaf from New York's Penn Station along the scenic Hudson River valley to Toronto's Union Station.

A scenic ride along the Hudson River Valley, from New York to Canada...

Both the Maple Leaf & Adirondack head out of New York's Penn Station towards Albany along the scenic Hudson River Valley, with the rails often right next to the river.  Look out for West Point Military Academy on the far bank, Storm King Mountain (pictured above left) and Bannerman's Island.  Enjoy breakfast from the cafe car, then in the afternoon perhaps a half-bottle of wine or 'Sam Adams' Boston beer.  At Albany, the train swings west and crosses the Hudson river with great views of the State Capitol from the bridge.  On the train to Montreal, you'll also pass through the highly-scenic Adirondack mountains;  On the Maple Leaf to Toronto, you'll call at Niagara Falls, and although you can't see them from the train, why not stop off there for 24 hours en route?  Either way, relax, forget about airport & airline hassle and simply enjoy the journey!  The best views are on the left-hand side of the train heading north from New York, right-hand side heading south from Canada.  However, on the Adirondack you'll get views of Lake Champlain on the right of the train going north to Montreal, left heading south from Montreal.

Storm King Mountain on the Hudson River valley, seen from the train from New York to Toronto or Montreal   Scenery along the Hudson River between New York & Toronto or Montreal by train

Storm King Mountain, seen from the train...

 

The trains roll along the Hudson River...

Bannerman's Island, seen from the New York to Chicago train.   West Point Academy, see from Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited New York to Chicago train

Ruined house on Bannerman's island...

 

West Point Military Academy from the train...


 


The Rocky Mountaineer

  Rocky Mountaineer Gold Leaf class
 

Rocky Mountaineer:  A seat in a Gold Leaf double-deck dome car aboard the Rocky Mountaineer is about the best place there is to see Canada's Rocky Mountain scenery...

Rocky Mountaineer trains run regularly from mid-April to mid-October on the following routes:

See the Rocky Mountaineer page...

The Whistler Mountaineer

Vancouver - Whistler


Other trains in Canada

  VIA Rail's 'Skeena' seen soon after leaving Jasper
 

VIA Rail's Skeena.  Note the Park lounge-observation-dome car at the rear, and the two panorama seating cars immediately ahead of it.  These now run in the Canadian between Edmonton & Vancouver.

Jasper - Prince George - Prince Rupert:  The Skeena

Runs 3 times a week, departing Wednesdays, Fridays, Sundays from both Jasper & Prince Rupert.  It's an amazingly scenic 2-day journey, the train stopping overnight at Prince George so you see it all in daylight (you will need to book a hotel separately, it's not included in the fare).  Economy class seating is available all year round, 'Touring' class seating is available mid-June to late September.  There's a 'Park' lounge-observation-dome car attached at the rear, for all passengers off-season, only for Touring class passengers in peak season (June-Sept).  For times, fares & online booking, see www.viarail.ca.

Winnipeg to Churchill:  The Hudson Bay

Runs 3 times a week, to the land where the polar bears live.  See www.viarail.ca.

Montreal to Gaspé:  The Chaleur

Runs 3 times a week, attached to the Ocean for part of its journey.  see www.viarail.ca.  Problems with the track are affecting this route at the moment, probably now extending beyond summer 2012, check the current situation at www.viarail.ca.

Toronto-North Cochrane-Moosonee (Ontario  Northland)

Long-distance train service due north out of Toronto, run by Ontario Northland, see www.ontc.on.ca.  This route was at risk of closure in 2012.  Their Toronto to Cochrane route closed from 28 September 2012 with replacement by bus, but it now seems that the Cochrane to Moosonee route will continue.  Please check the current situation at www.ontc.on.ca.

Hearst - Oba - Sault Ste Marie (Algoma Central)

Three times a week year-round scheduled train service plus canyon tour trains, run by Algoma Central, see www.algomacentralrailway.com.  Oba is served by VIA Rail's Toronto-Vancouver Canadian, see www.viarail.ca for connecting train times between Toronto or Vancouver and Oba.


Railpasses for Canada

Rail passes discontinued...

CanRail passes for unlimited travel on VIA Rail were discontinued in 2014.  Although VIA Rail offer BizPak or 6 Pak offers for 6 to 10 multiple trips in the Windsor-Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal-Quebec corridor, most visitors should simply book point to point tickets at www.viarail.ca, booking in advance for discounts, as with airline tickets.


Travel from Europe to Canada by ship...

There are no regular direct passenger ships from the UK to Canada.  However, Cunard's superb Queen Mary 2 sails from Southampton to New York roughly once a month between April & November, occasionally twice a month, taking seven nights, see the 'Atlantic ferry' page for details.  Once in New York, there are excellent daily trains to both Toronto and Montreal, see the USA to Canada section above.  Alternatively, there are regular freight ships between Europe & North America which carry a limited number of passengers.


Holidays by train across Canada...

  Railbookers.com

020 3327 0761 (UK)

1-888-829-4775 (USA)

1300 971 526 (Aus)

0800 002 034 (NZ)

  Great Rail Journeys

01904 527120 (UK)

  Raildiscoveries

01904 730727

Tailor-made tours with www.railbookers.com...

Train travel specialists www.Railbookers.com can arrange tailor-made holidays to Canada including flights, hotels and a trip on the Canadian right across Canada, from around £2,200 per person.  They know their stuff, look after their clients well and get a lot of repeat business.

In the UK call 020 3327 0761, www.railbookers.com

In the USA & Canada call toll-free 1-888-829-4775 or see website.

In Australia call toll-free 1300 971 526, www.railbookers.com.au.  NZ call toll-free 0800 002 034 or see website.

Escorted group tours with Great Rail Journeys, www.greatrail.com...

UK rail-based tour operator Great Rail Journeys offers a classic Canada coast-to-coast tour from around £3,600 per person, with a range of departure dates every year.  The tour includes:

It's an escorted tour with fellow travellers and a professional tour guide.  Great Rail Journeys also offer rail-based holidays to other countries.  Check the tour details online, then call 01904 527120 to book or use the Great Rail Journeys online booking form.  Seat61 receives some commission to help support the site if you book your holiday through this link or phone number, so please mention seat 61 when you book.

Rail Discoveries, www.raildiscoveries.com, 01904 730 727...

Rail Discoveries offers train-based escorted tours to the Canadian Rockies & Vancouver.  Check details & prices at www.raildiscoveries.com and book online or call 01904 730 727.


Guidebooks & Timetables

Trans-Canada Rail GuideLonely Plant Canada - click to buy onlineRough Guide to CanadaRecommended guidebooks...

I strongly recommend investing in a decent guidebook.  It may seem an unnecessary expense, but it's a tiny fraction of what you're spending on your whole trip.  You will see so much more, and know so much more about what you're looking at, if you have a decent guidebook.  For the independent traveller this means either the Lonely Planet or the Rough Guide.  Both guidebooks provide the same excellent level of practical information and historical background.

Buy Lonely Planet Canada from Amazon.co.uk 

Buy Rough Guide to Canada from Amazon.co.uk

Or if you live in the USA, buy from Amazon.com...

Alternatively, you can download just the chapters or areas you need in .PDF format from the Lonely Planet Website, from around £2.99 or US$4.95 a chapter.

The Trans-Canada Rail Guide...

Trailblazer's Trans-Canada Rail Guide is well worth buying if you're planning a trans-Canada train trip.  It will help you plan your journey, has city information for all the major cities served by VIA & Rocky Mountaineer, and best of all it includes mile-by-mile lineside route guides showing what to see from the train on all the main VIA Rail & Rocky Mountaineer services.  Buy online from Amazon.co.uk.


Hotels & accommodation in Canada

 

◄◄ Hotel search & price comparison.

www.hotelscombined.com checks all the main hotel booking sites at once to find the widest choice of hotels & the cheapest seller.  It was named as the World's Leading Hotel Comparison Site at the World Travel Awards 2013 and I highly recommend it, both to find hotels in even the smallest places and to check that another retailer isn't selling your hotel for less!

www.booking.com is my favourite booking site.  It's really clear and you can usually book with free cancellation and so confirm your accommodation at no risk months before train booking opens.

Other hotel sites worth trying...

Backpacker hostels: www.hostelbookers.com...

Homestays in Canada & the USA: www.homestay.com...


Flights to Canada...

Finding the cheapest flight...

Overland travel by train around Canada is an essential part of the experience, so once there, don't cheat and fly, stay on the ground!  But a long-haul flight might be unavoidable to reach Canada in the first place.  Try the Skyscanner system to find the cheapest airline...

1)  Check flight prices at www.opodo.com...

2)  Use Skyscanner to compare flight prices & routes worldwide across 600 airlines...

skyscanner generic 728x90

3)  Lounge passes...

Make the airport experience a little more bearable with a VIP lounge pass, it's not as expensive as you think, see www.loungepass.com


Travel insurance & health card...

 

 

Columbus direct travel insurance

Take out decent travel insurance, it's essential...

Never travel overseas without travel insurance from a reliable insurer, with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover.  It should also cover cancellation and loss of cash and belongings, up to a sensible limit.  An annual multi-trip policy is usually cheaper than several single-trip policies even for just 2 or 3 trips a year, I have an annual policy myself.  Here are some suggested insurers.  Seat61 gets a small commission if you buy through these links.

In the UK, try Columbus Direct or use Confused.com to compare prices & policies from many different insurers.

If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65 (no age limit), see www.JustTravelCover.com.

        If you live in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland or the EU, try Columbus Direct's other websites.

  If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

Carry a spare credit card, designed for foreign travel with no currency exchange loading & low or no ATM fees...

It costs nothing to take out an extra credit card.  If you keep it in a different part of your luggage so you're not left stranded if your wallet gets stolen, this is a form of extra travel insurance in itself.  In addition, some credit cards are significantly better for overseas travel than others.  Martin Lewis's www.moneysavingexpert.com/travel/cheap-travel-money explains which UK credit cards have the lowest currency exchange commission loadings when you buy something overseas, and the lowest cash withdrawal fees when you use an ATM abroad.  Taking this advice can save you quite a lot on each trip compared to using your normal high-street bank credit card!

You can avoid ATM charges and expensive exchange rates with a Caxton FX euro currency Visa Card, or their multi-currency 'Global Traveller' Visa Card, see www.caxtonfx.com for info.

Get an international SIM card to save on mobile data and phone calls...

Mobile phones can cost a fortune to use abroad, and if you're not careful you can return home to find a huge bill.  Consider buying a global pre-paid SIM card for your mobile phone from www.Go-Sim.com, which can slash costs by up to 85%.  Go-Sim cuts call costs in 175 countries worldwide, and you can receive incoming calls and texts for free in 75 countries.  It's pay-as-you-go, so no nasty bills when you get home.  It also allows cheap data access for laptops & PDAs.  A Go-Sim account and any credit on it doesn't expire if it's not used between trips, unlike some others, so a Go-Sim phone number becomes your 'global phone number' for life.

 


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