Crossing the USA by train with Amtrak
 

Coast to coast by train across the USA:  This is the view from the dining-car as the most scenic train of all, the California Zephyr, rolls through a Colorado canyon.  You'd be crazy to fly! Courtesy Sue Smith

Click to see the journey in pictures

For hotels, I recommend hotelscombined.com.

 

Travelling by train in the USA

You'll see nothing of America at 35,000 feet, so come down to Earth and see the world class scenery from an Amtrak train across the United States.  The USA has an excellent rail network, and although it's only a skeleton network by European standards it'll take you to almost all the towns & cities a visitor wants to see.  It'll take you from coast to coast in comfort, by a variety of routes, at very affordable prices indeed.  Long-distance trains in the USA are operated by the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, better known as Amtrak, www.amtrak.com.  This page explains what you need to know to plan and book a memorable trip across America by train...

On this page...

  Train service in the USA, at a glance

  How to buy Amtrak tickets

  Crossing the USA by train, via Chicago.  Train times, fares, tickets.

  Crossing the USA by train, via New Orleans.  Times, fares, tickets.

  New York to Florida  Train times, fares, how to buy tickets.

  Boston-New York-Washington DC Northeast inter-city trains.

  New York to Montreal & Toronto trains to Canada.

  Other Amtrak routes

  What are Amtrak trains like?

  Amtrak's USA Railpass  How it works, how to buy one.

  Holidays & tours by train across the USA

  Hotels in the USA     Open Top Bus City Tours

  Flights to the USA   Europe to the USA by Queen Mary 2

Train services in the USA, at a glance...  Click for detailed map

This route map shows where Amtrak trains run.  Each of the very long-distance transcontinental routes shown in blue has one daily train, except for New York to Florida with 2 trains a day and the Sunset Limited (New Orleans-San Antonio-Los Angeles) which runs 3 times a week.  Important short distance routes (for example, Washington-New York-Boston or Los Angeles-San Diego) have regular intercity services and are shown in red.  It's easy to check Amtrak train times at www.amtrak.com, just use their online booking system.  Click here for a more detailed Amtrak route map.

Amtrak train route map of the USA

Sponsored links...

 New York Pass - one card, one price, free entry to all New York's major attractions.

 

Useful country information

Train operator in USA:

Amtrak, see www.amtrak.com for US train times, fares & online booking.

Trans-Atlantic sea travel:

 

See the Queen Mary 2 page.

USA rail pass:

 

Amtrak USA rail pass

Flights to USA:

Flights to USA      Travel to the USA by sea on Cunard's Queen Mary 2

Time zones:

New York:  GMT-5  Chicago:  GMT-6  Los Angeles:  GMT-8  Clocks go forward 1 hour from 2nd Sunday in March to 1st Sunday in November.

Currency:

 

£1 = approx $1.55  Check current exchange rates

Tourist information:

Each State has a tourist agency, see www.towd.com    Guidebooks   Dialling code +1

Hotels:

Scan multiple hotel providers to find cheapest hotel rates   Backpacker hostels in USA

Page last updated:

3 July 2014


Crossing the USA by train

 

Across the USA by train...

Coast to coast, 3,397 miles from New York to San Francisco in 3 days by train, a journey of a lifetime for as little as $218 (£140).  This video gives a taste of what you miss when you fly, it shows the scenery in Colorado's canyons from Amtrak's 'California Zephyr', perhaps the most scenic of their routes across the States.  A chance to chill out & experience America at ground level, yet it costs no more than a flight.  Coast to coast by train, in pictures

6-minute video of a journey on the California Zephyr...

The 3,000 mile journey across the United States by train is one of the world's greatest travel experiences.  It's easy, comfortable, safe, and an affordable alternative to flying.  Free route guides are available on board each train, telling you what to look out for from the window, and the scenery on many routes is world class. 

In a nutshell...

Which coast-to-coast train route should you choose?

Click here to see the coast-to-coast train journey in pictures...

Each of Amtrak's trans-continental routes has its own distinctive character, even if the trains themselves are the same.  But if you have a choice, one route stands out as the most spectacular for both scenery & historical significance.  This is the California Zephyr from Chicago to San Francisco, which you can take in connection with the Lake Shore Limited from New York or Boston to Chicago, or the Capitol Limited from Washington DC to Chicago.  The California Zephyr is one of world's greatest train journeys, and in around 48 hours you will cross the farmlands of Nebraska, scale the Rockies beyond Denver while you eat egg & bacon for breakfast in the diner, snake through rocky river valleys in Colorado and pass through the Sierra Nevada mountains to reach Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay area.  The route covers much of the very first historic trans-continental railroad route, and there's a commentary for the most significant section.  To give you an idea of what a coast to coast train ride is like on this route, see the California Zephyr page.  or for a snapshot of what it's like sipping a cocktail in the sightseer lounge on the California Zephyr as it passes through Colorado, click here.  However, all the trans-continental routes are scenic, and the Southwest Chief, for example, will take you from Chicago to Los Angeles over the famous Santa Fe railroad, alongside the equally famous Route 66, through Navajo Indian country, another amazing trip, with a chance to stop off at the Grand Canyon on the way.

Coast to coast by train via Chicago, westbound...

1. Take a daily train to Chicago

Lake Shore

Limited

 Lake Shore

Limited

Capitol

Limited

Cardinal

(Wed, Fri, Sun)

Train number:

49

 449

29

51

New York (Penn Station) depart

 15:45 day 1

 

 

06:45 day 1

Boston (South station) depart

|

 11:55 day 1

 

|

Washington DC (Union Station) depart

|

 |

 16:05 day 1

11:10 day 1

Chicago (Union Station) arrive

 09:45 day 2

 09:45 day 2

 08:45 day 2

10:05 day 2

--------------  change trains in Chicago & take whichever onward train you want ------------

2. Take a daily Superliner train from Chicago

Empire

Builder

 California

Zephyr

 Southwest

Chief

Texas

Eagle

Train number:

7

 5

3

21

Chicago (Union Station) depart

 14:15 day 2

 14:00 day 2

 15:00 day 2

 13:45 day 2

Minneapolis/St Paul arrive

 22:31 day 2

 |

 |

|

Portland arrive

 10:10 day 4

 |

 |

|

Seattle arrive

 10:25 day 4

 |

 |

 |

Dallas arrive

 

 |

 |

 11:30 day 3

San Antonio arrive

 

 |

 |

 21:55 day 3

Omaha arrive

 

 22:55 day 2

 |

 |

Denver arrive

 

 07:15 day 3

 |

 |

Salt Lake City arrive

 

 23:05 day 3

 |

 |

Sacramento arrive

 

 14:13 day 4

 |

 |

Emeryville (for Oakland & San Francisco) arrive by train

 

 16:10 day 4

 |

 |

San Francisco (Ferry building) arrive by Amtrak bus*

 

 17:05 day 4*

 |

 |

Kansas City arrive

 

 

 22:11 day 2

 |

Albuquerque arrive

 

 

 15:55 day 3

 |

Flagstaff (for Grand Canyon by bus) arrive

 

 

 20:51 day 3

 |

Williams Junction (for Grand Canyon Railway) arrive

 

 

 21:33 day 3

 |

Los Angeles arrive

 

 

 08:15 day 4

 05:35 day 5 **

* The California Zephyr terminates in Emeryville and a connecting Amtrak Thruway bus transfers passengers across the Bay Bridge to the Ferry Building in downtown San Francisco. Amtrak has a 'station' at San Francisco Ferry Building, and tickets can be booked through to (and luggage checked through to) San Francisco Ferry Building as if it was a rail station.

** The Chicago-Los Angles portion only runs 3 times a week, departing Chicago on Tuesdays, Fridays & Sundays. Daily Chicago-San Antonio.

Use these times as a guide, always check current times & fares at www.amtrak.com as they change from time to time.

Coast to coast by train via Chicago, eastbound...

1. Take a daily Superliner train to Chicago.

Empire

Builder

California

Zephyr

 Southwest

Chief

Texas

Eagle

Train number:

8/28

 6

4

22

Los Angeles depart

 

 

 18:15 day 1

 22:00 day 0 ***

Williams (for Grand Canyon Railway) depart

 

 

 03:50 day 2

 |

Flagstaff (for Grand Canyon by bus) depart

 

 

 04:41 day 2

 |

Albuquerque depart

 

 

 12:10 day 2

 |

Kansas City depart

 

 

 07:43 day 3

 |

San Francisco (Ferry Building) depart by Amtrak bus*

 

   07:50 day 1 *

 |

 |

Emeryville (for Oakland & San Francisco) depart by train

 

 09:10 day 1

 |

 |

Sacramento depart

 

 11:09 day 1

 |

 |

Salt Lake City depart

 

 03:30 day 2

 |

 |

Denver depart

 

 19:10 day 2

 |

 |

Omaha depart

 

 05:14 day 3

 |

 |

San Antonio depart

 

 |

 |

 07:00 day 2

Dallas depart

 

 |

 |

 15:40 day 2

Seattle depart

 16:40 day 1

 |

 |

 |

Portland depart

 16:45 day 1

 |

 |

 |

Minneapolis/St Paul depart

 07:50 day 3

 |

 |

 |

Chicago (Union Station) arrive

 15:55 day 3

 14:50 day 3

 15:15 day 3

 13:52 day 3

-----------  change trains in Chicago & take whichever onward train you want  -----------

2. Take a daily train east from Chicago.

Capitol

Limited

Lake Shore

Limited

Lake Shore

Limited

Cardinal

(Tue, Thur, Sat)

Train number:

30

 448

48

50

Chicago (Union Station) depart

 18:40 day 3

 21:30 day 3

 21:30 day 3

 17:45 day 3

Washington DC arrive

 13:10 day 4

 |

 |

17:55 day 4

Boston arrive

 

 21:10 day 4

 |

 |

New York (Penn Station) arrive

 

 

 18:25 day 4

 21:45 day 4

* The California Zephyr starts in Emeryville.  An Amtrak Thruway bus transfers passengers from the Ferry Building in downtown San Francisco across the Bay Bridge to Emeryville.  Tickets can be booked through from (and luggage checked in at) the Amtrak station at San Francisco Ferry Building as if it was a rail station.

*** The Los Angles to Chicago portion only runs 3 times a week, leaving LA on Wednesdays, Fridays & Sundays.  Daily San Antonio-Chicago.

Use these times as a guide, always check current times & fares at www.amtrak.com as they change from time to time.

Facilities on each train...

Cardinal:

 

New York & Washington DC - Chicago via Indianapolis, 3 times a week. (one night).  Amfleet reclining seats, Viewliner sleeping-car.  A slower train than the Lake Shore Limited, and it only runs 3 times a week.  No full diner, only a cafe car.  But a useful alternative through great scenery if the Lake Shore is full.

Capitol Limited:

 

Washington DC - Chicago daily (764 miles, one night).  Superliner train with reclining seats, observation-lounge, sleeping-cars & dining-car.

California Zephyr:

 

Chicago-San Francisco daily (2,438 miles, two nights).  Superliner train with reclining seats, sightseer lounge car, sleeping-cars & dining-car.  This train is one of the great train rides of the world, and if you are planning a coast-to-coast trip, this is the best route to take.  It climbs through the Rockies between Denver & Salt Lake City, and through the Sierra Nevada between Reno and the Bay Area.  Illustrated account of a journey on the California Zephyr.

Empire Builder:

 

Chicago - Seattle/Portland (2,206 miles Chicago-Seattle, two nights).  Superliner train with reclining seats, sightseer lounge car, sleeping-cars & dining-car.  This train winds its way past Glacier National Park and through the mountains of Washington state.

Lake Shore Limited:   

 

New York - Chicago daily (959 miles, one night), with through cars Boston - Chicago daily.  Amfleet reclining seats, Viewliner sleeping-cars, Amfleet lounge-café (Boston-Chicago) & heritage dining-car (New York-Chicago).  This train takes the scenic route up the Hudson River out of New York, with the train tracks running right alongside the river, past Storm King Mountain and West Point Military Academy.  Try and get a seat on the left-hand side of the train out of New York, right-hand side heading to New York.  The Boston-Chicago & New York-Chicago sections are coupled together between Albany & Chicago.  Illustrated account of a journey on the Lake Shore Limited.

Southwest Chief:

 

Chicago - Los Angeles (2,256 miles, two nights).  Superliner train with reclining seats, sightseer lounge car, sleeping-cars & dining-car.  This train mostly travels via the Santa Fe railroad, once used by the famous Chicago-Los Angeles 'Super Chief', the film stars' favourite.  It will take you through Apache Canyon and right through Navajo Indian country, with a live commentary from an Indian guide over the train's public address for the relevant section of line.  The train serves Flagstaff which is one hour by connecting bus from the Grand Canyon, with day tours available, and Williams, for the Grand Canyon Railway.

Texas Eagle:

 

Runs daily Chicago - Dallas - San Antonio, but only three times a week between Chicago & Los Angeles (westbound from Chicago on Tuesdays, Thursdays & Sundays, eastbound from LA on Wednesdays, Fridays & Sundays).  Superliner train with reclining seats, sightseer lounge car, sleeping-cars & dining-car.  2,728 miles Chicago-LA.

What are the trains like?

Click here to see what the trains are actually like inside & out, and to understand the sleeping-car, lounge & dining facilities.

Order an Amtrak USA rail timetable or brochure...

You can order an Amtrak national system timetable and/or an Amtrak brochure, sent to any country.  Order at www.amtrak.com/order-contact-amtrak-publications.

How much does it cost?

One-way fares:

Basic fare for

a reclining seat

(per person):

Supplement for a

roomette

(per 2-bed room):

Supplement for a

bedroom

(per 2-bed room):

New York - Los Angeles, San Francisco or Seattle

$218

$490 - $890

$800 - $1450

New York - Chicago

$99

$200 - $460

$550 - $940

Chicago - Los Angeles, San Francisco or Seattle

$156

$305 - $610

$620 - $950

3,000 miles coast-to-coast overland for as little at $218 (£140) has to be one of the world's greatest travel bargains!  Railpass options.

Round trip fares are twice the one-way fare.  Children 2-15 (inclusive) travel at reduced fare, children under 2 travel free (limit one child under 2 per adult).

There is a discount (15% of base fare) for seniors aged over 62.  The discount applies to the base fare but not to sleeper supplements.

For sleeper travel, you add one sleeper supplement for the whole room to the reclining seat fare for each passenger.  Sleeper supplements are per room per journey, not per person, so you pay just one supplement for the room whether two of you occupy it or just one, in addition to a basic coach fare (or railpass) for each passenger.  Sleeper supplements vary enormously by season and in accordance with demand, which is why a range is shown.  The sleeper supplements include all meals in the dining car, morning tea or coffee and fruit juice and various other first class privileges.  Roomettes are very small 1- or 2-berth rooms, bedrooms are larger 2-berth rooms with en suite shower and toilet.

Can I stop off on the way?

Yes of course, but if you want to stop off you'll need to buy separate tickets for each leg.  To book a coast to coast trip with stopovers at any cities you want, simply look for the 'Multi-City' link at top right of the booking form on www.amtrak.com.  This allows you to book a trip with up to 4 segments, and of course you can book additional segments as separate bookings.  However, if you buy a through ticket at the cheapest price between an East Coast city such as New York and a West Coast city such as Los Angeles, then no, you cannot stop off, you must travel direct on your assigned trains.  Although the several hours between trains in Chicago is often time enough to climb the Sears Tower (now owned by the Willis corporation, see www.theskydeck.com) and get great views over the city, it's only 5 minutes walk from Chicago Union Station!  As you can see from the fares table above, separate tickets New York to Chicago and Chicago-Los Angeles (so you can stop off in Chicago) work out about $35 more expensive than a New York to Los Angeles through ticket.

Stopping off at the Grand Canyon:  See the Grand Canyon section

  Amtrak self-servive ticket machine  
 

Amtrak's Quik-Trak self-service ticket machines:  You simply pass the barcode on your booking printout under the machine's scanner.  It will ask you to confirm the journey , then simply click 'print' to print your tickets.  However, Amtrak has now introduced e-tickets, and with these you can go straight to the train.

 

Luggage...

All the trains shown here offer checked baggage.  All passengers (both coach & sleeper) are entitled to check in up to 2 large items of luggage free of charge, plus an additional 2 large items for $20 each.  Maximum 50lbs (23Kg) per item, maximum total linear dimension (length + height + width) = 75".  Oversize bags (up to a total linear dimension of 100") $20 per bag.  A name and address label must be attached to each item.  Hand luggage is limited to two items per passenger, maximum 50lbs (23Kg) per item, dimensions 28" x 22" x 14".  See www.amtrak.com/baggage-policy.

You can check bags through to your final destination, so for example if you have a New York to San Francisco ticket you can check your bags in at New York Penn station all the way to San Francisco Ferry Building.  They will be transferred for you from train to train in Chicago and from train to bus at Emeryville, leaving you free of it until you arrive.

How to buy Amtrak tickets online...

How to buy Amtrak tickets by phone...

Tailor-made tours across the States by train...

Using a USA railpass...

A USA Railpass is available covering the whole Amtrak network or just parts of it, see advice on USA Railpasses here.

View from the train, as the California Zephyr snakes along the Colorado canyons Amtrak's California Zephyr, arrived 10 minutes early at Emeryville

The view from the train as the California Zephyr snakes along those Colorado canyons...

The California Zephyr, just arrived in Emeryville after its 2,438-mile run from Chicago, 10 minutes ahead of schedule.

Coast to coast by Amtrak, in pictures...

See an illustrated account of a train ride from New York to San Francisco on Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited and California Zephyr.


Coast to Coast via New Orleans

This is the Southern route, a whole different flavour from the transcontinental routes via Chicago.  Crossing the States via New Orleans takes 4 nights coast to coast, making it slower than the more usual transcontinental route via Chicago, as you need to spend a night in New Orleans - but a stopover down south is hardly a burden!  For a taste of the deep south, this is the way to go...

Coast to coast via New Orleans, westbound

 

Coast to coast via New Orleans, eastbound

 1. Take the Crescent to New Orleans, daily 

Crescent

 1. Sunset Limited.  Runs Wed, Fri, Sun only

Sunset

Limited

New York (Penn Station) depart

 14:15 day 1

Los Angeles depart

22:00 day 1

Washington DC depart

 18:30 day 1

El Paso depart

15:35 day 2

Atlanta arrive/depart

 08:13 day 2

San Antonio depart

06:25 day 2

New Orleans arrive

 19:32 day 2

Houston depart

12:10 day 3

-----  change trains & stay overnight in New Orleans  ----

New Orleans arrive

21:40 day 3

 2. Sunset Limited.  Runs Mon, Wed, Sat only

Sunset

Limited

-------  change trains & stay overnight in New Orleans ------

New Orleans depart

 09:00 day 3

 2. Take the Crescent, runs daily

Crescent

Houston arrive

 18:18 day 3

New Orleans depart

07:00 day 4

San Antonio arrive

 00:05 day 4

Atlanta arrive/depart

20:04 day 4

El Paso arrive

 13:22 day 4

Washington DC arrive

09:53 day 5

Los Angeles arrive

 05:35 day 5

New York (Penn Station) arrive

13:46  day 5

The Crescent:

 

New York-New Orleans daily (1,377 miles, one night).  Amfleet reclining seats, Viewliner sleeping-cars, Amfleet lounge-café & heritage dining-car.

The Sunset Limited:    

 

Runs 3 times a week.  New Orleans - Los Angeles 1,995 miles, 2 nights.  Superliner train with reclining seats, sightseer lounge car, sleeping-cars & dining-car.

How much does it cost?

Normal one-way fare:

Basic fare for

a reclining seat

(per person):

Supplement for a

roomette

(per 2-bed room):

Supplement for a

bedroom

(per 2-bed room):

New York - New Orleans

$184

$195 - $360

$335 - $700

New Orleans - Los Angeles

$156

$301 - $600

$617 - $940

Round trip fares are twice the one-way fare.  Children 2-15 (inclusive) travel at reduced fare, children under 2 travel free (limit one child under 2 per adult).

There is a discount (15% of base fare) for seniors aged over 62.  The discount applies to the base fare but not to sleeper supplements.

For sleeper travel, you add one sleeper supplement for the whole room to the reclining seat fare for each passenger.  Sleeper supplements are per room per journey, not per person, so you pay just one supplement for the room whether two of you occupy it or just one, in addition to a basic coach fare (or railpass) for each passenger.  Sleeper supplements vary enormously by season and in accordance with demand, which is why a range is shown.  The sleeper supplements include all meals in the dining car, morning tea or coffee and fruit juice and various other first class privileges.  Roomettes are very small 1- or 2-berth rooms, bedrooms are larger 2-berth rooms with en suite shower and toilet.

Luggage arrangements Railpass options.   Can I stop off?  See the advice in the section above.

How to buy tickets...

Using a USA railpass...

A USA Railpass is available covering the whole Amtrak network or just parts of it, see advice on USA Railpasses here.


New York to Florida

Introducing Amtrak's Silver Service from New York & Washington DC to Orlando, Tampa & Miami...

 New York ► Florida

 

 Florida ► New York 

Runs every day...

Silver

Star

Silver

Meteor

Runs every day...

Silver

Meteor

Silver

Star

Train number:

91

97

Train number

98

92

New York

depart (day 1)

11:02

15:15

Miami

depart (day 1)

 08:40

11:50

Washington DC

depart (day 1)

15:00

19:30

Ft Lauderdale

depart (day 1)

 09:20

12:30

Jacksonville

arrive (day2)

06:55

09:23

Tampa

depart (day 1)

|

17:17

Orlando

arrive (day 2)

10:31

13:10

Orlando

depart (day 1)

 13:57

19:24

Tampa

arrive (day 2)

12:45

|

Jacksonville

depart

 17:33

22:57

Ft Lauderdale

arrive (day 2)

17:12

18:02

Washington DC

arrive (day 2)

 07:46

15:14

Miami

arrive (day 2)

18:05

18:55

New York

arrive (day 2)

 11:36

19:16

Facilities on board...

Silver Meteor:  Amfleet reclining seatsViewliner sleeping-carheritage dining-car.

Silver Star:  Amfleet reclining seatsViewliner sleeping-carheritage dining-car.

Luggage arrangements.

How much does it cost?

Normal one-way fare:

Basic fare for

a reclining seat

(per person):

Supplement for a

'roomette'

(per 2-bed room):

Supplement for a

'bedroom'

(per 2-bed room):

New York - Miami

$122

$202 - $350

$498-$750

Round trip fares are twice the one-way fare.  Children 2-15 (inclusive) travel at reduced fare, children under 2 travel free (limit one child under 2 per adult).

For sleeper travel, you add one sleeper supplement for the whole room to the reclining seat fare for each passenger.  Sleeper supplements are per room per journey, not per person, so you pay just one supplement for the room whether two of you occupy it or just one, in addition to a basic coach fare (or railpass) for each passenger.  Sleeper supplements vary enormously by season and in accordance with demand, which is why a range is shown.  The sleeper supplements include all meals in the dining car, morning tea or coffee and fruit juice and various other first class privileges.  Roomettes are very small 1- or 2-berth rooms, bedrooms are larger 2-berth rooms with en suite shower and toilet.

How to buy tickets...

Using a USA railpass...

A USA Railpass is available covering the whole Amtrak network or just parts of it, see advice on USA Railpasses here.


Boston - New York - Washington DC

A fast and frequent inter-city service links Boston, New York, Newark, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington DC.  New York to Washington takes as little as 2 hours 48 minutes, New York to Boston just 3 hours 30 minutes.  There are two types of train: Acela Express 150mph high-speed trains with 1st class & business class (premium fares apply) and regular trains with coach class and (in most cases) business class.  There are also services from Boston to Portland (Maine) and from Philadelphia to Harrisburg. See www.amtrak.com for times, fares and online booking.

Fares...

Normal one-way fare:

Coach class:

Business class:

First class:

New York - Washington DC (normal train)

$73-$143 ($49 weekends)

$111-$180

-

New York - Washington DC (Acela Express)

-

$135-$225

$237-$327

New York - Boston (normal train)

$64-$124 ($49 weekends)

$96-$156

-

New York - Boston (Acela Express)

-

$95-$158

$166-$229

Fares vary like air fare, with cheaper fares available the further ahead you book.  Round trip fares are twice the one-way fare.  Children 2-15 (inclusive) travel at reduced fare (except on Acela Express where there is no discount for children on weekdays), children under 2 travel free (limit one child under 2 per adult).

Luggage limits on Washington-New York-Boston trains:  These inter-city 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.  However, as all baggage therefore becomes 'carry on', in theory Amtrak's somewhat restrictive carry-on baggage size restrictions apply.  I'm pleased to say that as long as you don't have more than two bags per person, Amtrak do not seem to enforce these carry-on size limits on these trains and no-one will measure your bags anyway, so there is no problem taking normal sized long-haul suitcases or backpacks or roll-alongs on board, even if the size exceeds the theoretical limit for carry-on bags.  So don't worry!

How to buy tickets...

Introducing Acela Express, Amtrak's high-speed train...

Acela Express travels at up to 150mph, and has first class & business class.  There's no coach class, and premium fares apply, with no discounts for children on weekdays.

Amtrak's high-speed Acela Express train   Business class seats on Amtrak's Acela Express

Acela Express, Amtrak's 150mph business train...

 

Business class seats on board an Acela Express...

Northeast Regional trains...

Cheaper but slower than Acela Express, with coach class & business class between Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore & Washington DC.

Amtrak trains:  Seats in an Amfleet car Amtrak Northeast Regional train at Boston

Coach class seats in an Amfleet car as used on  Northeast Regional trains...

Northeast Regional train composed of 'Amfleet' cars about to leave Boston South station for New York & Washington DC...


Other Amtrak routes...

New York - Niagara Falls

Three daily trains link New York via Albany with Niagara Falls.  Journey time is a leisurely 8 hours 30 minutes, a relaxing journey along the Hudson River Valley out of New York, past Storm King Mountain and West Point Military Academy, a very scenic route, highly recommended.  See www.amtrak.com for times, fares and online booking.

New York - Toronto, Montreal (Canada)

A daily train called the Maple Leaf links New York with Toronto via Niagara Falls, and another daily train called the Adirondack links New York with Montreal via the scenic Adirondack mountains.  Both trains travel along the Hudson River Valley out of New York, past Storm King Mountain and West Point Military Academy, a very scenic route, highly recommended.  See the Train travel in Canada page for train times.

Chicago - Memphis - New Orleans

Amtrak's daily City of New Orleans links these cities, with Superliner seats, sleeping-cars, sightseer lounge and dining-car.  For times, fares and online booking, see www.amtrak.com.

Intercity trains in California

Regular trains link Los Angeles, Anaheim (for Disneyland), and San Diego.  Regular trains link San Francisco (Oakland) with Sacramento, Bakersfield and San Jose.  A daily train links Los Angeles with San Francisco (Oakland).  See www.amtrak.com or www.amtrakcalifornia.com for times, fares and online booking.

Seattle - Portland - Oakland (San Francisco) - Los Angeles

Amtrak's daily Coast Starlight links these cities, with Superliner seats, sleeping-cars, sightseer lounge and dining-car.  For times, fares and online booking, see www.amtrak.com.  On the Coast Starlight, sleeper passengers can access the exclusive Pacific Parlour Car, which has a comfortable lounge with armchairs, tables, and its own host serving drinks and snacks.

Seattle - Portland - Vancouver

Amtrak runs an inter-city service between these cities, see www.amtrakcascades.com - Some of these services use European-design Talgo trains.


 


What are Amtrak trains like?

Short distance trains come in various types, all with comfortable air-conditioned seating and often with a café car.  On the Boston-New York-Washington DC route, there is now the premium fare, 150mph Acela Express high speed train, based on French TGV technology, but running on conventional tracks.

(1)  Long distance trains in the east...             Long-distance trains in the west

Long-distance trains east of Chicago (such as the New York-Chicago Lake Shore Limited, the New York to Florida Silver Star & Silver Meteor or the New York to New Orleans Crescent, but not the Washington to Chicago Capitol Limited) have Viewliner sleeping-cars, Amfleet reclining seat cars, an Amfleet lounge car serving snacks and drinks, and a heritage dining car serving full meals at very reasonable prices.  If you have paid for a sleeper, meals in the dining-car are included in the fare.

Amfleet reclining seats...

These distinctive stainless-steel coaches have comfortable reclining seats with loads of legroom, drop-down tables & 120v power sockets for laptops & mobiles.  Drinking water is available in each coach.  Unlike in Europe, your reservation does not secure a specific seat in a specific coach, you can sit where you like once on board.  An attendant looks after each seats car, and will place a 'seat ticket' above your seat to indicate that the seat is taken.

Amtrak trains:  Amfleet coaches on the New York to Chicago 'Lake Shore Limited' Amtrak trains:  Reclining seats on the New York to Chicago 'Lake Shore Limited'

Amfleet cars.  This is the New York to Chicago Lake Shore Limited at its service stop in Albany, after a scenic run down the Hudson river valley.  It'll reach Chicago's impressive Union Station next morning.

Reclining seats on long-distance Amfleet cars.  There's loads of legroom, 120v power sockets for laptops & mobiles, drop-down tables.

Heritage dining car...

All the most important Amtrak long-distance trains have a dining-car.  These stainless-steel dining-cars date from the 1950s, but they have been fully refurbished inside.  The dining-car is open to all passengers, both coach class & sleeper.  Meals are included for sleeper passengers (although drinks are extra), but must be paid for by coach class passengers.  There are usually several sittings for dinner, for example at 5pm, 5.15pm, 7pm or 8pm in the case of the New York to Chicago Lake Shore Limited.  The dining-car manager will come down the train (starting with the sleepers) to take dinner reservations for your chosen sitting.  Note that couples and singles won't get a whole 4-seat restaurant table to themselves, you'll normally be seated with other passengers, a great chance to meet people even if you're travelling solo.  The food is surprisingly good:  The herb-roast chicken & rice (around $15) was a good choice, and for breakfast next morning a cooked breakfast of eggs, bacon & potatoes (around $9 including fruit juice & coffee) hits the spot.  A domestic beer costs around $5, premium beer $6, a half bottle of very good Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot costs around $14.  There is also a children's menu.  Credit cards are accepted.  You can find sample menus on the Amtrak website www.amtrak.com, click 'plan' then look for 'meal & dining options.

Amtrak trains:  Dining car on the New York to Chicago 'Lake Shore Limited' Chicken and rice dinner in the diner on Amtrak

Heritage dining car.  The restaurant car on the New York to Chicago Lake Shore Limited, serving dinner & breakfast.  .  This stainless-steel 'heritage' dining car dates from the 1950s, refurbished to modern standards.

The food on Amtrak isn't bad at all.  The cooked breakfast is good.  You can wash dinner down with a half bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot...

Viewliner sleeping-cars...

Long-distance trains in the East have Viewliner sleeping cars.  The distinctive double row of windows on these cars makes them light & airy during the day, and gives both upper & lower berths a window for star-gazing at night.  Travelling by Amtrak sleeper is a real treat.  All sleeper passengers get complimentary meals in the dining car,  and a 'coffee station' provides complimentary tea/coffee & fruit juice throughout the journey.  You return from dinner in the diner to find you bed made up for the night by the sleeper attendant.  A hot shower is available at the end of the corridor if you're travelling in a roomette, or en suite if you are travelling in a bedroom.  All necessary bedding, soap and towels are provided.  However, sleeper travel isn't cheap.  In Europe you can pay a small supplement for a berth in a shared couchette or sleeper compartment.  In the US, you have to pay for the whole room whether there are two of you or just one.  To give you a rough idea, some sample sleeper supplements are shown in the fares section above.  Viewliner sleeping-cars have:

Viewliner roomette (daytime mode). Amtrak Viewliner sleeping-car on the New York to Chicago 'Lake Shore Limited'

Viewliner Roomette, in daytime mode.  This photo shows the size of the room.  Two comfy seats...

Viewliner sleeping-car with its distinctive double row of windows.  Light & airy, even the upper berths get a window!

Amtrak Viewliner bedroom, in daytime mode Amtrak Viewliner Roomette, showing sink and toilet   Amtrak Viewliner roomette, showing upper & lower berths

Viewliner Bedroom, in daytime mode.  Sofa, armchair, sink, and private shower & toilet.  Much more space than a roomette, but twice the price...

Viewliner Roomette showing the toilet lid open  & the drop-down sink folded out.  All of life's necessities in a very small space!

 

Viewliner Roomette in night-time mode. The door to the central corridor is on the right.

(2)  Long distance trains in the west...             Long-distance trains in the East

Introducing Amtrak's double-deck Superliner trains...

Long-distance trains between Chicago & Los Angeles/San Francisco/Seattle/Portland, also the New Orleans-Los Angeles Sunset Limited, Seattle-Los Angeles Coast Starlight and Washington DC-Chicago Capitol Limited use impressive double-deck Superliner cars.  Superliner trains have coach class reclining seats, sleeping-cars, a dining car & an observation-lounge car.  A route guide is available free on these trains, telling you want to look out for along the way.  Watch a video guide to Amtrak Superliner trains.

Superliner reclining seats...

Coach class reclining seats are spacious with lots of legroom, comparable with business class on an airliner.  Don't worry if you can't afford a sleeper, these seats recline to about 40 degrees, and are quite easy to sleep in, in fact if there is any train in the world where I wouldn't much mind not having a sleeper, Amtrak trains are the ones I'd choose.  There are 120v power sockets for laptops & mobiles at each seat, and drinking water is available in each coach.  Unlike in Europe, your reservation does not secure a specific seat in a specific coach, you can sit where you like once on board.  An attendant looks after each seats car, and will place a 'seat ticket' above your seat to indicate that the seat is taken.  You can either bring a blanket or buy an Amtrak blanket from the lounge car.  Panorama photo of Superliner coach class.

Amtrak Superliner train Amtrak Superliner trains:  reclining seats

Superliner cars...  Even in coach class these double-deck cars are spacious and comfortable.  This is the California Zephyr from Chicago to Oakland (San Francisco), at a station stop at Galesburg.

Superliner coach class reclining seats on the upper deck, showing just how much legroom & recline you get!  There are 110v power sockets at every seat.  See panorama photo

Superliner Sightseer Lounge car

On the upper deck is an observation lounge with armchairs & tables and huge windows for sightseeing.  On the lower deck is a cafe selling drinks & snacks.  All passengers can use the lounge car, whether they are travelling in coach class or in the sleepers.  You end up spending most of your day here, watching America unfold in front of you!   Seats are available on a first-come, first served basis, but it's not usually too difficult to find a seat or two free.  However, they do fill up for the most scenic sections of the journey!  See panorama of a Superliner lounge car.

Inside the Superliner lounge  Photo courtesy of Sue Smith    Inside the Superliner lounge  Photo courtesy of Sue Smith

Superliner Sightseer lounge car.  Pictured above left, passengers look out of the lounge car's huge windows as Amtrak's California Zephyr from Chicago to San Francisco crosses the Mississippi river, and so enters America's Wild West...  You see it all from Amtrak, but nothing from 35,000 feet!  Panorama photo of a Superliner lounge car.

Superliner dining car...

Like the lounge car, the dining-car is open to all passengers, both coach class & sleeper, for breakfast, lunch & dinner.  Meals are included in the fare if you have a sleeper (although drinks are extra), but must be paid for if you're in coach.  However, the food isn't expensive, so treat yourself.  All the tables in a Superliner dining-car are on the top deck for great views while you eat - the kitchens are downstairs.  In the sleepers, the dining-car manager comes down the train asking each passenger which sitting for lunch or dinner they'd like, and issuing table reservations.  An announcement is made at the start of each sitting.  In coach, a steward may also come down the car asking if you'd like to reserve a seat for lunch or dinner, or you can simply go along to the diner at meal times and ask if a table is free.  If one isn't available, they may take your name and announce when your table is ready over the p.a.  Note that couples and singles don't get a whole 4-seater restaurant table to themselves, you'll normally be seated with other passengers. This is a great chance to meet people, even if you're travelling solo.  Panorama photo of Superliner dining-car.

What's the food like?  The food is surprisingly good:  The Angus Steak Burger (around $8) is great for lunch, for dinner the herb-roast chicken & rice ($14) is good and the garlic butter marinated New York Strip Steak (around $24) is excellent.  A beer costs around $5, a half bottle of very good Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot costs around $14.  For breakfast next morning a freshly-cooked breakfast of eggs, bacon & potatoes ($9 including croissant, fruit juice & coffee) hits the spot.  There is also a children's menu.  Credit cards are accepted.  You can find sample menus on the Amtrak website www.amtrak.com, click 'plan' then look for 'meal & dining options'.

Amtrak Superliner trains:  reclining seats Amtrak Superliner lounge car

The Garlic-Marinated New York steak...  Not bad!

Superliner dining-car set for lunch.

Superliner sleeping-cars...

Travelling by Amtrak sleeper is a real treat.  All sleeper passengers get complimentary breakfast, lunch & dinner in the dining car,  and each sleeping-car has a 'coffee station' with complimentary tea/coffee and fruit juice available throughout the journey.  You return from dinner in the diner to find you bed made up for the night by the sleeper attendant.  All necessary bedding, soap and towels are provided.  Superliner sleeping-cars are double-deck, with 10 very compact 2-berth roomettes and 4 larger 2-berth bedrooms on the upper deck, whilst the lower deck has another 4 roomettes, 1 family bedroom & 1 special accessible bedroom.  The bedrooms have a private shower & toilet, for roomette passengers there are toilets on both upper and lower decks, and a hot shower on the lower deck.  The gangways to the adjacent cars are on the upper deck.  However, sleeper travel isn't cheap.  In Europe you can pay a small supplement for a berth in a shared couchette or sleeper compartment.  In the US, you have to pay for the whole room whether there are two of you or just one.  To give you a rough idea, some sample sleeper supplements are shown in the fares section above.  Superliner sleeping-cars offer:

Amtrak Superliner sleeper   Amtrak Superliner bedroom   Amtrak Superliner bedroom en suite shower & toilet

Superliner sleeping-car...

 

Superliner Bedroom...

 

...with shower & WC.

Amtrak Superliner roomette   Amtrak Superliner family bedroom

Superliner Roomette... The photo shows its size, it's just big enough for two comfy seats facing each other.  At night, the seats pull together to form the lower berth, which takes up most of the room, and the upper berth folds out from the wall above the window.  Washrooms, toilet & a hot shower are just along the corridor.  See panorama photo.

 

Family Bedroom, in daytime mode... It takes up the full width of the car at one end of the lower deck, and has a sofa and jump seat that becomes 2 adult & 2 child berths at night.  Toilets & a shower are nearby.

Video guide:  What's it like on board an Amtrak Superliner train?


The Grand Canyon connection...

There are two main ways to reach the Grand Canyon as part of a transcontinental train trip.  One is to get off Amtrak's Chief at Flagstaff Arizona, and use a bus to and from the Canyon, journey time 1 hour 45 minutes each way.  The other, more interesting way, is to get off the Chief at Williams and use the historic Grand Canyon Railway to and from the Canyon, journey time 2 hours each way.

Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon by bus...

Scheduled buses link Flagstaff's Amtrak station (which also incorporates the excellent local Visitor Centre) with the Grand Canyon's South Rim, with an 8am bus departure from Flagstaff conveniently connecting out of Amtrak's Chief from Los Angeles arriving at the Grand canyon around 1 hour 45 minutes later.  A bus returns from the Grand Canyon at 6.15pm (also at 4.15pm from March to October), arriving back in Flagstaff 1 hour 45 minutes or so later.  It can easily be done as a day trip, returning to Flagstaff in time for the evening Chief to Los Angeles, although you can of course choose to stay overnight at the hotels at the Grand Canyon.  For bus times, see www.arizonashuttle.com/flagstaff-schedule.  The bus fare is around $28 each way.

Grand Canyon Tours from Flagstaff:  Alternatively, take a tour.  A company called The Grand Canyon Store www.grandcanyonjeeps.com offers 1-day tours from both Flagstaff & Williams to the Grand Canyon, including the Grand Canyon Tour to the Grand Canyon Village & South Rim, and the more extensive Inner Canyon Tour that actually takes you to the Colorado River at the bottom of the canyon, not merely to the South Rim as with other tours and the scheduled bus - not surprisingly the Inner Canyon Tour is their most popular!  They also do a tour from Flagstaff to the South Rim using the Grand Canyon Railway, see the section below.

Williams to the Grand Canyon on the Grand Canyon Railway...

The more interesting way to reach the Canyon is on the Grand Canyon Railway from Williams to the Canyon's South Rim.  One option is to get off the Amtrak Chief at Williams.  The Amtrak station at Williams is William Junction, a halt in the woods some 3 miles from downtown Williams, but a Grand Canyon Railway shuttle bus meets all Amtrak trains and transfers passengers to/from the original Williams railway station in downtown Williams.  Williams is a pleasant town with plenty of motels, shops & diners. From Williams station, the Grand Canyon Railway runs a daily morning train some 65 miles over the Santa Fe's historic railway to the Grand Canyon South Rim station in the Grand Canyon Village, right on the edge of the Canyon's South Rim.  The train returns in the afternoon, arriving in time to have dinner then catch the shuttle bus to Williams Junction for  Amtrak's Chief onwards to Los Angeles.  The Amtrak reservation system at www.amtrak.com will actually let you buy through tickets between Los Angeles and Grand Canyon in either direction, although it refuses to book through tickets between New York or Chicago and Grand Canyon as this involves an overnight stay in Williams.  But you can book your Amtrak trains at www.amtrak.com then book the Grand Canyon train at the GCR official website, www.thetrain.com.  Alternatively, you may find it more convenient to use Flagstaff as your base, getting on and off the Chief there, as the arrival time from LA is less early, and the station is in the city centre with all the city amenities, hotels, restaurants to hand. A company called The Grand Canyon Store (www.grandcanyonjeeps.com) offers 1-day tours from Flagstaff by tour bus to Williams to pick up the Grand Canyon train to the South Rim, you can book this tour here.

 Williams ► Grand Canyon

 

 Grand Canyon ► Williams

 Train runs daily

 

 Train runs daily

 

 Williams, AZ depart (downtown station)

09:30

 Grand Canyon (South Rim station) depart

15:30

 Grand Canyon (South Rim station) arrive

11:45

 Williams, AZ (downtown station) arrive

17:45

 Fares

 Return fare, per person

Coach

class

First

class

Observation

dome

Luxury

parlour

 Williams to Grand Canyon & back:

$49

$140

$170

$190

The fare includes entry to the Wild West show at Williams station in the hour before departure, and some Wild West entertainment on board!

Grand Central Railway train from the Grand Canyon to Williams View of the Grand Canyon, easily reached by train!

Grand Canyon railway station, with the afternoon Grand Central Railway train to Williams boarding passengers...

The Grand Canyon.  This is the view from the south rim, just 3 minutes walk from the station.


USA rail passes

See America with an Amtrak USA Railpass...

One of the best ways to see America is with an Amtrak USA rail pass, just be aware of its limitations before you invest in one.

Reservations, upgrades & quotas...

How to buy an Amtrak Railpass...


Holidays & tours by train across America

  Railbookers.com

020 3327 0761 (UK)

1-800-408-3280 (USA)

1300 971 526 (Aus)

0800 002 034 (NZ)

  Great rail Journeys

01904 527 120

Tailor-made tours, coast to coast by train across the USA with www.railbookers.com...

Rail specialist Railbookers can arrange a holiday by train for you across the United States on Amtrak, starting any date you like, to your own specification with hotels and train reservations all made for you, hassle-free.  For example, a 10-night trip from Chicago to New Orleans and on to Los Angeles starts at around £1,249 per person for two people, including hotels and roomette sleepers with all meals on the train, but excluding flights.  They know what they're doing, and take good care of their clients, and I have no hesitation in recommending them.

  UK call 020 3327 0761, www.railbookers.com

Call toll-free 1-800-408-3280 or www.us.railbookers.com.

  Australia call toll-free 1300 971 526, www.railbookers.com.au

  New Zealand call toll-free 0800 002 034 or see website.

Coast-to-coast escorted tour with www.greatrail.com, 01904 527 120.

If you fancy going coast-to-coast across the United States or Canada by train, but would rather do this as part of an all-inclusive organised tour with other travellers and a guide, UK-based company Great Rail Journeys (www.greatrail.com) offers 5-star rail-based holidays from about £2,500 per person.  They also offer rail-based holidays to other countries.  Check the holiday details online, then call 01904 527120 to book or use their online booking form.  Seat61 gets some commission to help support the site if you book your holiday through this link and phone number.


Guidebooks

Rough Guide to USA - buy online at Amazon.co.ukLonely Planet USA - buy online at Amazon.co.ukLonely Planet USA - buy online at Amazon.co.ukLonely Planet USA - buy online at Amazon.co.ukTo get the most from a visit to the USA, you'll need a good guidebook.  For the independent traveller, I think this means either the Lonely Planet or the Rough Guide.  I personally prefer the layout of the Lonely Planet, but others prefer the Rough Guide.  Both guidebooks provide the same excellent level of practical information and historical background.  You won't regret buying one of these..!  Seat61 gets a small commission if you buy through these links.  For a specific guide to train travel around the States,  buy a copy of John Pitt's USA by Rail, or see www.usa-by-rail.com, or try Jim Loomis's All Aboard.

Click the images to buy at Amazon.co.uk or 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.


City Tours by Open Top Bus

City Sightseeing Open Top Bus TourBuy a ticket for the hop-on, hop-off Open Top Bus...

City Sightseeing's red-and-yellow open top tour buses are now a familiar site in 100 major cities on 6 continents.  They do a hop-on, hop-off tour bus ticket for New York, Washington DC, Hollywood & Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Antonio & Hawaii.  I find their bus tours a good way to orientate yourself in a city, returning to explore in more depth later.  It's also less wearing on the feet, especially with kids!

Buy your tour tickets online before you go, redeemable on any day you like within 3 months of buying it, see www.city-sightseeing.com.


 


Hotels & accommodation in the USA

 

◄◄ 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.

Tripadvisor hotel reviews...

www.tripadvisor.com is a good place to find independent travellers' reviews of the main hotels.  It also has the low-down on all the sights & attractions too.

Backpacker hostels in the USA...

www.hostelbookers.com:  If you're on a tight budget, don't forget about backpacker hostels.  Hostelbookers offers online booking of cheap private rooms or dorm beds in backpacker hostels in many places across the States at rock-bottom prices.

Personal recommendations...

Washington DC:  Phoenix Park Hotel.  A great choice, directly across the road from Union Station so handy for arrivals and departures by train, with an excellent Irish Pub doing great food & Irish beer on the premises, and just 2 minutes walk from the capitol.  From around $154 for a double.

Los Angeles:  Hotel Queen Mary.  This has got to be of the most fascinating places to stay, anywhere.  If you go to Los Angeles, consider making the Hotel Queen Mary your base to explore the Los Angeles - Hollywood - Disneyland area.  The original Queen Mary of 1936 has been permanently moored at Long Beach in California since the late 1960s, some 25 miles from Los Angeles Union Station (about a $90 taxi ride), and it's undoubtedly the most wonderful place to stay in LA.  The hotel consists of most of the original first class cabins on board the Queen Mary, and there are plenty of restaurants and bars available on board, too.  Hotel guests can more or less wander the ship at will, and even sign up for ghost hunts at night on board (and yes, from my own experience there is something going on on that beautiful ship!).  Wood panelled art deco interiors have been preserved, although a few modern items have been installed such as televisions, and (as we worked out from a historic deck plan) in some cases two of the Queen Mary's original cabins have been knocked into one hotel suite by turning one of the en suite bathrooms into a connecting corridor.  She is one of the most atmospheric places I have ever stayed.

Hotel Queen Mary, Long Beach, California   A hotel room (cabin!) on Hotel Queen Mary

The Queen Mary at Long Beach, California...

 

Cabin 401 in Hotel Queen Mary


Flights to the USA

1)  Check flight prices with Virgin Atlantic...

You can't beat trains for travel around the USA.  But if you need a flight to get there in the first place, try the excellent Virgin Atlantic Airlines from London to New York, they're great on both price and (above all) service.

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

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

skyscanner generic 728x90

4)  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

 

 

Columbus direct travel insurance

Get 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 (up to a limit) and belongings.  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're resident in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland or the EU, try Columbus Direct's other websites.

  If you're resident in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

Get 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...

Mobile phones can cost a fortune to use abroad, and if you're not careful you can return home to find some huge bills waiting for you.  I've known people run up a £1,000 bill in data charges just by leaving their iPhone connected during a simple trip to Europe.  However, if you buy a global SIM card for your mobile phone from a company such as www.Go-Sim.com you can slash the cost by up to 85% and limit any damage to the amount you have pre-paid.  It 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 works for laptop or PDA data access.  A Go-Sim account and any credit on it doesn't expire if it's not between trips, unlike some others, so a Go-Sim phone number becomes your 'global phone number' for life.

 


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