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15 Things To Know Before Taking The Train Across Canada

If taking the train across Canada isn’t on your bucket list, it totally should be! Seeing the entire country, from Halifax to Vancouver, by train is an unforgettable experience like no other. You will go to sleep in one province and time zone and wake up in a completely different part of Canada. The Canadian train is a wonderful way to slow travel across Canada and enjoy the scenery, cities, and people along the way. We have put together some things you should know about a trans-Canadian train journey so you are fully prepared for the epic you are about to experience!

Before you go, make sure to check out our Packing List For The Train Across Canada

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15 Things To Know Before Taking The Train Across Canada

#1: Via Rail is the only company to offer cross Canada train travel

Via Rail Canada is owned by the Canadian government and is the only company to offer train travel from one end of Canada to the other. If you are looking to travel between Halifax and Vancouver, you are going to have to book through Via Rail. Worried about only having one choice? Don’t be! Via Rail Canada has been operating for decades as the trusted name in train travel across Canada! When you take the Canadian train, you will be riding with Via Rail! 

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#2: The entire cross Canada train journey will take between 5-6 days, with no stops

Depending on the time of year you decide to take the train across Canada, the whole trip will take between 5-6 days. This is because you have to be sure that the Canadian train schedules match up with your connecting train! If you are riding on “The Canadian” which runs between Toronto and Vancouver, the trip will be four straight days if you don’t get off. If you want the true transcontinental experience and start in Halifax, you will take “The Ocean” to Montreal and then take a commuter train down to Toronto. If this sounds confusing, it really isn’t and Via Rail staff are just a phone call away to help with the planning.

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#3: Winter is the best time to take the train across Canada

You may be thinking that Canada in winter is a frozen tundra, but you are overreacting! We saw temperatures that ranged from 30-35*F in the mountains and 38-55*F everywhere else. During the winter, you can book a trans-continental train journey for much cheaper than high season and will enjoy huge benefits including less people to compete with for views on the train. Just make sure you pack your winter coat and a warm sweater for the train, you will want to be cozy! For more detailed information on what to pack, check out our post on 10 Things To Bring On The Cross Canada Train! 

If you are planning to stopover at some cities like we did, the cities will be free from loads of tourists and much cheaper as well. Most importantly, traveling by train across Canada during the winter actually gives you the best views of any season! Since many trees have shed their leaves, you can see through them and out to the landscapes beyond! If you traveled during the summer, the trees would have their leaves and you would be stuck in a “tree corridor.” Don’t forget to pack your camera for great photos! We love the Sony a6000 for an affordable camera that anyone can easily learn to operate! 

15 Things To Know Before Taking The Train Across Canada | Via Rail Train Trip Across Canada | What To Know About Via Rail Canada | How To See Canada By Train For Canada 150 | What To Do In Canada | Adventures In Canada By Train | Best Train Trips In Canada | How to travel across Canada By Train

15 Things To Know Before Taking The Train Across Canada | Via Rail Train Trip Across Canada | What To Know About Via Rail Canada | How To See Canada By Train For Canada 150 | What To Do In Canada | Adventures In Canada By Train | Best Train Trips In Canada | How to travel across Canada By Train

#4: Delays in the Via Rail schedule are a very real thing…plan accordingly

Because of our booking process [we booked over the phone and the HR representative was leaving for surgery and 5 weeks of recovery the day after we booked], we did not know that the Canadian train would experience serious delays during our journey. If we had known in advance and planned accordingly, the delays would have been no big deal. Since we had not, the delays had a big impact on a large part of our trip. To be fair to Via Rail, they do have disclaimers on their website that you should not book onward travel or activities the day your train arrives into your station. Delays are unlikely to happen every trip and our experience was extreme, but it is never bad to be prepared when taking the trans-Canada train. 

Our Via Rail train was from Toronto to Jasper left 5.5 hours late which resulted in us arriving in Jasper 3.5 hours late [considering time change]. The Canadian train from Jasper to Vancouver [we did a stopover] was a whopping 9 hours late which cost us an entire day of sightseeing. The moral of the story? If we had known about the possibility of delays in the Via Rail schedule, we would have simply added an extra day to our itinerary at each destination and would have expected delays at each stop. Then, if we arrived at a reasonable time, it would have been unexpected. If you are planning to travel across Canada on Via Rail, simply build one extra day into your itinerary at each stop and do not book any flights the day you arrive. You can keep abreast of on-time performance on Via Rail’s website. Don’t let delays keep you from taking the train across Canada, simply be prepared!

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#5: Passenger trains in Canada share the track with freight and do not have priority

The main reason for all the delays on the Canada train? On Canada rail, freight trains bring in more money than passenger trains do so they get priority on the track. The freight company also owns the train tracks so Via Rail trains must often head over to a side rail to wait while freight trains pass. Each train that passes may take up to 20-40 minutes because some freight trains in Canada can be 3 miles long! Since passenger trains in Canada are a lot shorter, they must wait on a side track until freight passes. It is pretty neat to see the giant freight trains pass your train and count how many cars make up the train. That is a great way to make this part of the train ride across Canada even more enjoyable! 

#6: Sleeping on the Canadian train is magically relaxing

We have slept in cars, on planes, and on cruise ships, but sleeping on the Canada train was something special and one of the best parts about taking the train trip across Canada. The sound of the Canada rail cars traveling over metal tracks coupled with the relaxing movement of the train rocked us to sleep in under five minutes each night. The motion of the the Canada train was perfect enough to feel completely relaxed without feeling anxious about constant movement. For an even more restful night, don’t forget to bring your sleep mask and earplugs for maximum comfort! Traveling by train across Canada made for some super restful nights!

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#7: Not stepping foot outside the Canada train for days on end is not a problem

You can get off the Canadian train at pretty much every stop if you want so not getting off for three straight days is totally on us! We are homebodies and it was winter so we didn’t mind hanging out on the train through Canada for over 72 hours. We got plenty of exercise trekking between all the Canadian train cars multiple times a day [these things can be long!] and loved being cozy inside at all the stops our train across Canada made! If you are considering taking Via Rail “The Canadian” train trip, choose your stops along the way or choose to ride the Toronto to Vancouver train the whole way! Whatever you chose, you Canada train experience will be memorable! 

#8: Only some Canadian trains have Wifi

“The Atlantic” and the corridor train in Canada that connects Montreal to Toronto both come equipped with Wifi in certain cars, but “The Canadian” [the longest Canada train you will be on] does not. The connection on our trains from Halifax and Montreal were great and it was nice to have access to the outside world. It would have been nice to have the option for Wifi on “The Canadian” but you won’t die without it and it’s a great way to detox digitally. If you plan to take the train ride across Canada, pack or download some books in case you want to read them.

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#9: You will find plenty to do and will rarely be bored on the Canadian train

In our entire 6 days of traveling by train across Canada, we can safely say that we were not bored one single time. The whole beauty of the train ride across Canada is getting to stare out the window and watch the world go by. We are an introvert/extrovert couple and the experience was delightful to both of us. Via Rail Canada has activities onboard such as wine and beer tasting, live music, discussions about what is going on outside and more.

There are also magazines and books and a constant supply of coffee, tea, and snacks. We also downloaded movies and watched them at night while relaxing on our bed. A Canadian train trip is truly an enjoyable and relaxing experience that you won’t soon forget! 

#10: Canada train food is actually very delicious

If you book a “sleeper plus” class ticket on “The Canadian” and “The Atlantic”, you will have access to three very yummy meals a day in the dining car when riding the Canadian train. For each meal, you are offered a soup or salad starter, a choice between a variety of entrees, and a choice of dessert. We were thrilled that there was a vegetarian entree offered with each and every meal for Victoria.

15 Things To Know Before Taking The Train Across Canada | Via Rail Train Trip Across Canada | What To Know About Via Rail Canada | How To See Canada By Train For Canada 150 | What To Do In Canada | Adventures In Canada By Train | Best Train Trips In Canada | How to travel across Canada By Train

The food you will eat during your time on the train through Canada is high quality and home cooked by Via Rail chefs in the kitchen. They have the ability to make minor substitutions since everything is cooked right in the dining car. During one of our delays, the only vegetarian food left on the Canadian train was a salad, so the chef cooked Victoria a delicious grilled cheese with soup and salad. We were really impressed by the flexibility and range of food offered on a train across Canada!

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#11: You can choose Canada train accommodations based on your budget

With a little saving, everyone should take the opportunity to take the train across Canada. Fortunately, Via Rail offers a bunch of options for each price point. If you are on an extreme budget, you can travel in economy class, but you will not receive meals and you have to sleep in your [comfy] seat. Looking for more room? You can book a “roomette” on the “Canadian” which is a cute semi-private bunk bed that lines the hallway in the sleeper car. The beds are huge and you have a curtain for privacy.

Alternatively, you can book a private cabin for one, two, or three, depending on your needs. Finally, if you are looking to go all-out, you can book the pricey Prestige Class which offers a full bed, unlimited liquor, a TV and more. Although it is expensive, prestige is already fully booked for the summer so it is quite a popular way to travel by train across Canada. We stayed in a cabin for two it was super roomy and comfortable for the journey! You can keep track of the lowest possible fares on this page! 

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A peek inside “Prestige” accommodations

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A “room for one” in daytime configuration

#12: The “Dome Car” offers the best view of Canada by train

The “Dome Car” was our favorite part of the Canada train and one of the best parts about traveling by train across Canada. It is equipped with very comfortable seating that elevates you above all the other train cars, giving you a 360 view of your journey. This car is by far the most popular so we suggest getting there early if you want to a good space [but don’t leave items to “save” your seat]. This car is perfect for photographers [or smartphone photographers] because you can see the entire train, what is ahead, what is above, and what is behind. These days, you can buy really affordable GoPros that make taking great videos and wide-angle photos easy for anyone! It is certainly one of the best parts of seeing Canada by train! 

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#13: You will meet a ton of new people on the train trip across Canada

Even if you are very introverted like Terrence, you are most likely going to meet a bunch of new people when riding the train across Canada. We met people from different parts of Canada, America, Australia, England, and Korea. Simply by virtue of sitting together and admiring the scenery, you will start to connect with or chat with others. People were intrigued by our camera which opened us to a lot of conversations making the train trip across Canada even more fulfilling! 

In addition, you may not always get to sit at a private table for meals. Since the cars are so small and there are a lot of people, you may be put with other groups to dine. Other diners can tell if you are open to talking or not but some will befriend you anyway. Out of all the meals we ate with others, there were only two where we didn’t chat with our meal partners very much. By the end of our train ride across Canada, we had given away every business card save one to all our new friends!

#14: You will travel through 5 time zones and getting used to a new one is super easy on the Trans Canada Train

If you choose the entire transcontinental train trip, you will pass through five time zones [Atlantic, Eastern, Central, Mountain, and Pacific] from Halifax all the way to Vancouver. Some people online seem to think that traveling losing time while your train is going forward will mess with your mind. It actually won’t and this is truly the best way to cross time-zones that we have experienced.

When traveling out west, we usually have a difficult time adjusting to the time zone. During our time on the Canadian train, we didn’t have a problem at all and our sleep was right on target the entire time! If this is something you are worrying about or considering, don’t fret! There is something about taking the train across Canada that makes time zones a lot easier to adjust to! If you think you may still have a hard time adjusting, we suggest taking some melatonin just in case. 

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#15: You won’t want to say goodbye to your Trans Canada train trip

You just rode a train across Canada which is something not many people get to do! When it comes time to pack up your belongings and say goodbye to the train and your journey, it is going to be really hard! The experience is so unique that you will instantly begin to miss the motion, the meals, the views, your accommodations, and more. We genuinely felt a little sad everytime we had to step off the Canadian train, but especially when we arrived in Vancouver and had to leave for good. Make sure to make the most of your travel so you can remember every detail about your time on the Canadian train! 

Quick Tips For Taking This Train Trip Across Canada

Pack Light For The Cross Canada Train

When taking the train across Canada, make sure to pack light but comfortably. We have a packing list for your Canada train trip, but we want to ensure that you understand how small the cabins on Vai Rail trains may be unless you book prestige class. You want to have enough clothing to be comfortable in, but you also don’t want your clothing and bags to overrun your room on the train through Canada!  

Call Via Rail If You Have Any Questions Regarding Booking Your Train Ride Across Canada

Via Rail is very helpful in answering all of your questions. If you have not found the answer here, feel free to ask in the comments and we will do our best to answer your Canada train questions to the best of our ability. That being said, if you can’t find the answer anywhere online and want to make sure, it is a good idea to simply give Via Rail a call! They will help you out! You can call Via Rail here: 1 (888) 842-7245

Never Book Onward Travel The Day Your Cross Canada Train Arrives In Station

As detailed above, Via Rail must give priority to freight trains as Via Rail does not own the tracks for their train trips across Canada. As a result, you may experience delays that range from 20 minutes to 7-10 hours. Be prepared for potential delays by not booking any onward travel such as flights or long drives on the day your Via Rail train is due to arrive in the station. 

We also advise not to make any plans that are set in stone such as going to a birthday party or a specific hike. Make loose plans for the day you arrive at any station where you get off the Canadian train and be flexible as there very well may be delays. 

Delays On The Canadian From Toronto To Vancouver Will Always Be The Worst 

It is important to be aware that you may experience the worst delays when taking “The Canadian” route from Toronto To Vancouver by train. This part of the country is very popular with the freight trains, more than any other region in Canada. If you are taking the train from Halifax to Montreal or one of the other routes that Via Rail offers, you will be less likely in experiencing delays.

For our portion of our cross-Canada train trip that went through the Maritime provinces, we only experienced a few short delays whereas on “The Canadian” from Toronto To Vancouver, we experienced major delays as detailed above. Instead of fretting about delays, we recommend you look on the bright side and be happy that you are getting “free” extra time on to enjoy travel across Canada by train. If you prepare yourself for delays ahead of time with our tips, you should be smooth sailing! 

You Don’t Have To Spend A Fortune To Experience A Trans Canada Train Trip

Did you know that Via Rail has economy class? Although we did not personally take the train across Canada in economy class, we have heard from many readers that the Toronto to Vancouver train trip is still very worthwhile to take in economy class. During our time on the trans Canada train, we did see economy class and the seats looked very comfortable. Economy class Via Rail passengers have access to their own viewing car and an area where you can purchase food too. 

We have also been told that economy class on the train ride across Canada is a great place to make friends and meet new people from around the world! 

Via Rail Also Offers Luxury Train Trips Across Canada If You Want Pampering

In 2017, Via Rail introduced their Prestige Class. It was brand new when we took the cross Canada train, but we peeked into the rooms and took a few photos. Prestige Class sold out and entire season very quickly and it is easy to see why. The Prestige Class rooms are only on “The Canadian” which is the Toronto To Vancouver train trip and the rooms are huge and offer full-sized beds, picture windows, large bathrooms, and your very own dome viewing car for your class.

If you are looking for a luxury train trip in Canada, Prestige Class is perfect for you and after seeing the cabins in person, we highly recommend the experience! Sleeping in a full bed next to your partner while looking out as your trans-Canada train whizzes through the countryside? What could be better than that?! 

Be Aware That The Canadian Train Is Not Equipped With Wifi And Prepare Accordingly

This may sound redundant, but this cross Canada train journey does not come with wifi accessibility. No idea why other than possible budget restrictions, but it is slightly annoying but not the end of the world. Now you may be a more mature traveler reading this and thinking oh you young folks and your phones can barely go without wifi for 5 days but that isn’t the case! The majority of older travelers on our trans Canada train trip were very annoyed with the lack of wifi so we promise it just isn’t young people!

Instead, make sure to come to your train trip across Canada prepared with lots of reading materials and perhaps an ipad with some movies or books on tape downloaded. During the day, you will have plenty to see and do, but we found having a book and some movies for later at night after dinner was quite helpful and enjoyable. We recommend a Kindle E-Reader and a Kindle Unlimited subscription which gives you unlimited access to over 1 million titles! You can do a free trial of the Kindle Unlimited subscription and just cancel after your cross-Canada train trip which is exactly what we did ๐Ÿ˜‰ 

Is a Canadian train trip on your bucket list? Make sure to let us know if you decide to see Canada by train! Let’s chat in the comments.

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15 Things To Know Before Taking The Train Across Canada | Via Rail Train Trip Across Canada | What To Know About Via Rail Canada | How To See Canada By Train For Canada 150 | What To Do In Canada | Adventures In Canada By Train | Best Train Trips In Canada | How to travel across Canada By TrainPlease note: We were hosted by Via Rail for the purpose of this review. Our views are all our own and do not reflect those of Via Rail Canada. We were not paid to write this post. This post also contains affiliate links which means we may make a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase an Amazon product suggested by us. 

111 thoughts on “15 Things To Know Before Taking The Train Across Canada

      1. Todd Vince CD

        My wife and I will be taking the train car from Toronto to Vancouver summer of 2018. How far ahead should we book the trip if we want the sleeper car and meals.

        1. Mark Bartlett

          I would do it no later than early 2018 — that is a busy time of year and you will want to make sure to get the best accommodations you can.

      2. Mark Bartlett

        Everyone who travels this route MUST hear this song before they do … it so exemplifies this experience:

  1. Megan Indoe

    WOW! We have to do this! We have been wanting to travel through Canada and we have also been wanting to do an epic train ride. This combines both of those dreams. Those winter photos are incredible! Thanks for sharing, we will be doing this one day!

    1. Follow Me Away Post author

      Honestly, this is the ultimate way to see Canada! If you don’t want to do the whole trip, you can pick segments to do too! Have fun and let us know if you book ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Claudia

    Oh my to be honest I didnt even know this train existed in Canada but it seems like a very fun experience even as a family. Delays can always be a pain but as you said, if you are prepared you can always make the best out of the situation and learn how to work around it.

    1. Follow Me Away Post author

      Yes! There were a lot of families with small children on the train too and the kids LOVED it! Yep, making the best of the situation is easy when you are a little prepared ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Brooke

    Love that there are options for different budgets! The food looks tasty and the view look absolutely surreal!! Thanks for sharing this awesome adventure guys!!

  4. Geezer Mike

    Would the scenery be as good going from the west to east? Looks like a super get a way.

    Y’all are living a dream, enjoy it while your young then do it again when you get old. Blessings to ya.

    1. Follow Me Away Post author

      Yes!!! The scenery is just as great going the other way! Via Rail makes sure to go through the prettiest areas in the daylight ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Pete

    Wow!

    I had no idea that Canada had such an awesome way to experience their country from coast to coast. It looks like the winter is a great time to travel the train, and enjoy that great country.

    Thanks for the info!

    Pete

  6. Samantha Elisabeth

    This looks amazing! I still find train travel to be a little romantic, especially with the thought of riding through landscape after landscape of winter wonderlands. I’m hoping to see more of Canada this year, and it’d be perfect to go from Toronto to Vancouver, where I have friends in each city. Definitely bookmarking for future use.

    Also you guys are too cute!

  7. Emmalene

    This is a great post! Just planning our Canada trip to celebrate a “big” birthday later on in the year and a train journey is definitely on the cards, even if just between Vancouver and Jasper. Bookmarking for future reference!

    1. Follow Me Away Post author

      Yes! That is the great thing about Via Rail….you can choose how long/short you want to travel!

  8. Rick Harvey

    We traveled up from NZ to cross Canada by Via Rail train from Vancouver to Halifax in 2014. it was the most awesome trip imaginable! We overnighted in Toronto to go and see the Cirque du Soleil production of Kurios, then carried on to Halifax where we stayed a week. It was the most awesom trip ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Terry

    You quoted the train “the Atlantic” between Halifax & Montreal under #2. The train is referred to as “The Ocean” & not “The Atlantic”. Also you mention the portion between Montreal & Toronto is a “Commuter Train”. It’s not a Commuter train it’s rather VIA’s Corridor service. Also the bunks you mentioned in the hallway with a curtain they are refereed to as “Upper” & “Lower” berths.

  10. Carolyn

    My mother and I took the Canadian a few years ago when there was a super deal. She was a senior so got an even better deal. One tip is to consider travelling from Vancouver to Toronto instead of the other direction. It doesn’t fill up as quickly so we were able to get the dates we wanted. We opted for a couple of stop overs (no extra charge) so stayed in Edmonton and Winnipeg until the next train came in a few days.

    The food is wonderful and so are the views. This was on my bucket list but went right back on it after the trip. I want to go in every season.

  11. Michel Boudreau

    Should a super great expรฉrirence. But there a few error in the articles.

    1. The Atlantic is discontinued since the 90. I I beleive you met The Ocean wish is still in service 3 time per week.

    2. You dont take a commuter from Montrรฉal to Toronto. Commuter train only run into the communauty around major city and not run by Via rail. You want to take a Via rail intercity train wish do run Montrรฉal Toronto.

    3. It is true that you want to plan you trip carefully, The Ocean dont arrive in Montrรฉal in a good enouff time to transfer to the intercity train to catch the Canadian on that same day wish the canadian run 2 time peer week. The only way to make it is to Leave Halifax a Friday. arrive in montrรฉal on saturday 45min waiting time for the departure of the Toronto train arriving same day you must wait 6 hours for the Canadian departure

    4. Once again the Atlantic is not in service for many. It the Ocean that have the Wifi.

    All of this because the Ocean was cut 6 to 3 time per week. and the Canadian off peck season was cut 3 to 2 time per week. And are Government are not investing enouff for a better Passager rail system into are country.

    Dont take me wrong I love the train and would love to find time and budget to travel from my town to Vancouver one day.

    But people in Canada should complaint to there MP to get are Government investing back into Via rail for new modern equipement and restore many service that was cut. Like the Super Continental at one time the Canadian was on CP rail and the Super continental on Cn rail. imagine taking one to go to Vancouvert and the other to come Back. Imagine arriving in Montreal and Toronto and you dont have to wait hour or day for the Vancouver connnection.

    To all are MP and PM Trudeau please make Via rail create again

    1. Follow Me Away Post author

      Yes!! Thank you for your feedback! And we would love to see the MP and PM invest in Via Rail again too ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Sue

    My hubby and I did the trip on The Canadian last May. When I read out your article he accused me of writing it – we completely agree with your summary. Only thing you didn’t comment on are the fabulous staff. We can’t wait to do it again – and yes, in winter next time!

      1. Steve

        Clista:

        We stayed in Prestige Class. It was a wonderfully comfortable queen size bed with Italian bed linens, down duvet, and lots of down pillows. However, the way the bed is made up, one person is on the “inside” against the cabin wall and the other is on the “aisle” side. Means the inside person has to climb over or around the other to get up in the middle of the night. But, on balance, we’d do Prestige Class again in a heartbeat. FYI, in regular sleeper class, the beds are singles.

      1. Follow Me Away Post author

        We would suggest bringing a light one as Canada can be a bit chilly even in May! Depending on if you are doing a stopover anywehre and where you are from and how well you handle the cold ๐Ÿ˜‰

  13. Doug Corrigan

    FYI, the Halifax – Montreal train is called “The Ocean”, not the Atlantic.

    The Atlantic was a different train route that was discontinued well over 25 years ago.

  14. Keith Osmond

    As I have a pass, I frequently travel in the econo version of the journey between Winnipeg and Vancouver. Why not? It’s free you say. Well….l have stopped doing this for many reasons, the main one being how uncomfortable it is for me (6ft high) and the extreme delays. I have been delayed over 20 hours. The toilets stop working frequently, and the equpipment, which is circa 1950, is starting to show its age. West jet works for me.

  15. Tanya Bartram

    Not long now for us. We are traveling from jasper to Toronto super excited. We have a cabin as we do like some private time. This is our present to us for 25 years of marriage.

  16. Michael Alexander

    I’ve wanted to ride the Canadian for 10 years but seeing as how I’m on a fixed income I couldn’t afford it but now that I have a reloadable gift card I can keep adding and adding money to it until I have enough to go to the west coast I’m thinking of going to Edmonton for a leafs vs oilers game I’m picking there cause my cousin lives in Calgary but the train doesn’t go there so I’ll have to give him my arrival and departure times so we can spend time with each other once I get enough on my card I’ll save my money and buy the tickets the following hockey season!

  17. Karen Harvey

    I have been fortunate to have travelled from Vancouver during winter to Kingston and West in mid-spring. The lower berth I had going East was perfect. Going West my only complaint was the shower wall was right across from me so no view across from me. My most recent train trip to Jasper and back was in Economy – definitely off season, less expensive and fewer people. However, the 12 hour delay was ridiculous. We did get some free meals – often there is not room in the dining car for Economy class to buy a meal – although by the last supper the choice was sparse. I think everyone should travel on Via at least once. I am already planning my next trip.

    1. Follow Me Away Post author

      Delays are never fun but we are glad it all worked out and you are already planning your next trip!

  18. Julia

    The train from Halifax to Montreal is actually called “The Ocean” and started service in 1904.

    Yes, it’s a perfect trip. Look for sales! It’s more affordable that way!

  19. AJ

    The train DOES stop, and you can get off and stretch your legs, although not for very long. There are longer stops at Winnipeg, Edmonton and Jasper, depending on the train’s on-time performance.

  20. Tom Box

    You have a lot of good information here. I agree with about 90% of what you say. But you have a few factual errors and some debatable opinions. I hope you won’t take it amiss if I focus on those things.

    #1. I agree.

    #2. The Atlantic was a Halifax-Montreal train that ran via Saint John and Sherbrooke. It was cancelled in 1994. The remaining Halifax-Montreal train, on a different route via Campbellton and Ste-Foy, is called the Ocean.

    #3. Winter travel has its advantages, but the days are very short. In December in Edmonton, the sun is above the horizon for less than 8 hours, so much of your trip will be in darkness. So you need to weigh the pluses and minuses for when to travel.

    #4. You’re right that you need to expect delays. But you say “If you are planning to travel across Canada on Via Rail, simply build one extra day into your itinerary at each stop…” Unfortunately, that’s not possible, since both the Ocean and the Canadian only run 2 or 3 days a week, and you have to work around that schedule.

    #5. I could nitpick about some of the technical details, but this is basically correct, and important to keep in mind.

    #6. I’m glad you slept well, but not everybody reacts the same way. I love long-distance train travel, and I’ve spent over 200 nights on trains, but I usually don’t sleep very well. For me, the nighttime part of the trip is just something to be endured for the pleasure of the daytime part. I find that earplugs are a big help for sleeping, as the cars usually have something that creaks and rattles.

    #7. You’re kidding yourself if you think walking between cars on the train is good exercise. The Canadian makes a 20-30 min stop for servicing about three times a day, and I find that a brisk walk up and down the station platform during those stops is very helpful. There are longer stops in Winnipeg and Jasper, where you may have time to explore the town a little (or maybe not, if the train is running late).

    #8. Sometimes the wifi works well on the Ocean and corridor trains, sometimes not. Don’t count on it being available.

    #9. Totally agree.

    #10. I agree, the food is generally excellent. Only the Canadian has an on-board chef. The Ocean does not, so variations from the usual menu with no advance notice may not be possible. If you have special dietary needs, you should contact VIA in advance of your trip so see if they can accommodate you.

    #11. A roomette is the former name for what is now called a cabin for one. The “cute semi-private bunk bed” that you describe was formerly called an open section. VIA now just calls them upper and lower berths.

    #12. I agree that the dome cars are great. Readers should be aware that the Ocean has only one dome car, only open to sleeping car passengers, not coach (economy) passengers. The Canadian has at least two domes, one of them open to all, including coach passengers.

    #13-15. Totally agree.

    1. Follow Me Away Post author

      Hey Tom! Thanks so much for your response! We had been meaning to change it to “The Ocean” but were on another trip with no wifi ๐Ÿ˜‰ Very good comments and love how you commented on each point. Interesting to hear you dont sleep as well…we love white noise for sleeping so creaking isn’t a problem!

    1. Follow Me Away Post author

      You can book on Via Rail’s website or by calling them! We linked to their site many times in our post so just click on one of the links to find it ๐Ÿ™‚

  21. Kira Tippenhauer

    Hi Victoria and Terrence!

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us all! I’ve been on the fence between doing a trip via train across the US with Amtrak vs. doing it across Canada with Via Rail. Have you done a trip like this one in the US by any chance (perhaps from D.C. to LA)? If not, do you know anybody who have done the two and would be kind enough to share their thoughts?

    You also mentioned that “People were intrigued by your camera…” What camera did you use for these stunning photographs!? I hope you don’t mind sharing.

    I’ve always said I’d do this trip “when I grow up” and you made me realize that hey, why not now? And if not now, then when? So glad I stumbled upon your post and thank you for inspiring me! Sending all the good vibes you way…

    xoK

  22. Kira Tippenhauer

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us all! I’ve been on the fence between doing a trip via train across the US with Amtrak vs. doing it across Canada with Via Rail. Have you done a trip like this one in the US by any chance (perhaps from D.C. to LA)? If not, do you know anybody who have done the two and would be kind enough to share their thoughts?

    You also mentioned that “People were intrigued by your camera…” What camera did you use for the photos on this post? Those are some beautiful pictures! I hope you don’t mind sharing.

    I’ve always said I’d do this trip “when I grow up” and you made me realize that hey, why not now? And if not now, then when? So glad I stumbled upon your post and thank you for inspiring me! Sending all the good vibes you way.

    1. Follow Me Away Post author

      Hi Kira!

      Thanks so much for your response! There is no time like the present to travel North America by train! We know folks who have done Amtrack but it certainly isn’t the same thing as Via Rail. If you are looking for economy, they are both similar. If you are looking for an actual place to lay down, Via rail is the way to go. They even offer budget options that are more expensive than economy but cheaper than a larger room where you have a private bunk to sleep in and still get to eat in the amazing dining car. Amtrack only offers seats. We use a Sony A99 camera for our photos and smartphones too ๐Ÿ˜€

      1. CiCi Murphy

        We are experienced Amtrak travelers, and you are wrong about “Amtrak only offers seats”.

        https://www.amtrak.com/onboard-the-train-sleeping-accommodations

        We have always booked the bedroom as my husband is 6’6″ and the roomettes are too small. We are considering our first via-rail trip. Do any of the sleepers have a private bath as the bedrooms on Amtrak? Is there anywhere on the ViaRail website that explains what the sleeping accommodations are like? I’ve looked at some of the information and can’t seem to find it. Also, one other post mentioned that you can get off at intermediate stops with no increase in price. Is that true? We have traveled all the major long distance Amtrak routes and would recommend the Zephyr, which is the Chicago, IL to San Francisco, CA route. It goes through the Rockies and is gorgeous.

        1. Mark Bartlett

          CiCi,

          Yes it is true. There might be some seasonal restrictions i.e., perhaps in the busier times (summer/fall) … just give them a call and ask. I think there is a restriction around how long the stopover can be, but I believe it was quite a bit of time (1-2 weeks). Most who were doing it got off the train for a few days in Jasper.

          The sleeping accommodations range from 1) seats to 2) berths with curtains to 3) private rooms with 2 bunk beds and a private toilet to 4) the Prestige car. If you buy the private room or the prestige, all the meals are included.

          Hope that helps.

        2. Follow Me Away Post author

          Hello Cici!

          First off, thanks for the correction regarding Amtrack! We did not know! Second, here is the link to the accommodations on Via Rail http://www.viarail.ca/en/explore-our-destinations/trains/rockies-and-pacific/toronto-vancouver-canadian/classes-and-services as Mark said above! Yes, you are able to stopover, but again, as Mark said, it is always a good idea to give them a ring if you want to stopover for a long time. We loved stopping over in Jasper and highly recommend it!

    2. Rick Harvey

      We did Amtrak from New York overnight to Chicago; then Chicagoe down to new Orleans. AMtrak was great – but no where near as good as our Via Rail Experience

  23. Nisha Jha

    This is a treasure trove of information on Canadian Railway. I am hooked already. It is quite good to note vegetarian dish being served on the train. On the whole this is worth a try at least once.

  24. Kendall Carter

    We just traveled the Canadian Toronto to Vancouver. It is the best experience ever. We loved every bit of it. The scenery was stunning food was first class and we made lots of new friends from all over the world. This must be on everybody’s bucket list.

    1. Cathy

      Hello ๐Ÿ™‚
      Did you get off and visit at all? How does it work please ?
      Been dresming of going out west from Montreal .
      Wondering if we could hop on and hop off as we go ๐Ÿค”

      1. Follow Me Away Post author

        Yes! We got off in Jasper for 3 days! You are able to plan free stopovers at any of the stops along the way! The best is to call Via Rail and ask all the questions you need! They are quite helpful ๐Ÿ™‚

  25. Sharon MacLeod

    I’m so glad I came across this article. My husband and I are going on the Canadian from Toronto to Vancouver in less than 3 weeks. We cannot wait, and your article has really whet our appetite even more! We are going onto Saskatoon a couple of days after arriving in Vancouver so it really will be a trip of a lifetime. (It’s actually a late honeymoon trip, we got married in March this year).

    1. Follow Me Away Post author

      First of all, congrats on married life! Second of all, this trip is the perfect thing for a honeymoon! The little train cars are so romantic and you are just going to love it!

  26. Mark Bartlett

    Hi

    We had the pleasure of being on the same trip as Victoria and Terrence at the same time — I can assure you their account is very good. Had many lovely conversations with them and enjoyed their company. One thing I am not sure they mentioned is, you can arrange to disembark at certain locations, stay a few days and resume your trip on the next passing train with no extra charge. Something I wish would have known. Many got off at Jasper and stayed there for 3 days and them picked up the next train.

    It was a pleasure meeting you Terrence and Victoria — good that you are making your lives an adventure!

    1. Follow Me Away Post author

      Hi Mark!! Thankk you so much for commenting! Good to hear from you! We kind of touched on that in another article but not as much as we should! Hope all is well with you!

      1. Micaela Uru

        Hello T & V! I am planning on taking the Canadian this July, I will be back in Canada after ten years. I use to live on the Vancouver Island and now I am going back to visit friends. I will be flying to Toronto and flying back home from Vancouver because I want to visit friends in Toroto as well. Could you tell me or share the link about the dropping off in some cities? I think it would make the experience even better for me!

  27. April

    Definitely on my list of things to do. I love travel by train. I’ve been across the whole US on Amtrak, and would do it again in a heart beat, even though it’s usually 8 hours late getting to California. I can only imagine how much more beautiful it would be to go sea to sea in Canada. I expect delays in train travel. I’m envious of you folks who have already made the trip.

  28. Jasmine

    Hi there, your blog is fantastic and extremely helpful. My husband and I are looking at doing the train ride in October.
    I was just hoping you could clarify something for us as we are having difficulty finding the answer on the ViaRail website – if you purchase the Canadian from Toronto to Vancouver, do you have the option of getting off at each stop for an extended period of time, say 1-2 nights, and then pick the train back up?
    Any assistance is much appreciated and thanks again for the fantastic blog.

    1. Follow Me Away Post author

      Hello Jasmine! Congrats on deciding to do the train! We would suggest calling Via Rail! They are very helpful and will be able to answer evey question you have! Yes, you are able to get off at each stop for a longer period of time, but it all depends on when the next train comes! We had to wait 3 days for the next train from Jasper, but that was winter so the October schedule may be different! Just call Via Rail for the best assistance! Good luck and have fun!

  29. Sujatha

    Thanks for the great post. We are excited to take the trip next week on The Canadian. Couple of questions. We are all vegetarian. Do we have to let them know our food preference days in advance? Is there no WiFi on this train at all? I couldn’t figure it out from their website. My kids won’t be happy without WiFi. Thanks in advance.

    1. Follow Me Away Post author

      Nope! No wifi at all ๐Ÿ™ Sometimes you can get a bit of phone service when passing towns but there is no Wifi. We feel like this is something Via Rail needs to consider upgrading on as a lot of guests find wifi very important. There is a vegetarian option included on the menu for each and every meal which is amazing! You don’t have to call ahead at all and the meals were quite delicious!

  30. Diane Shank

    Making this trip in November 18, 2017. We are so looking forward to it.
    It will be our first train trip for both of us.

  31. ReadandShare

    Great article and helpful comments! May I ask a “practical” question? For those of you who have taken Via, what’s the ‘customary range’ for tipping – the room attendant? And the restaurant server? Assume typically pleasant service. Thanks.

  32. My Global Attitude

    Brilliant article ! I’m moving to Toronto this winter and plan to take this train during Spring. Do you perhaps think Spring is any good, with all the rain?

    Can’t be more excited ๐Ÿ™‚

    Carolina | Myglobalattitude.com

    1. Follow Me Away Post author

      Hey Carolina! We loved toronto and think the train would be just amazing in the spring! Even if it rained a little it is so magical to get to ride the train through the rain…very romantic! Have so much fun and good luck!

  33. Mary

    We are going in winter 2018 for a month. Am so glad I stumbled upon this page. Just what we wanted to do. Get on and off the train and stay for a night or two in a hotel and do some sightseeing. Could you please tell me the stops so I can do some research on what to do in every stop. We will start in Toronto and last stop will be Vancouver to ski. Thank you so much.

    1. Mark Bartlett

      Hi Mary — the best thing to do is to contact VIA and let them know when you are going so they can confirm where you will be able to get off for a visit. I imagine it changes with the time of year. In March when we went you could get off at Winnipeg and Jasper. The train will likely leave late from Toronto because the freight trains have priority over VIA and they can be sitting on a spur for a while as the freights go by … so keep that in mind. Our train was 6 hours late leaving. If you are connecting in Vancouver, leave a full 24 hours for the connections. We had a great time and met lots of wonderful people from all corners of the planet – literally!

  34. Rhonda Taylor

    Thanks for sharing this information. It was very helpful. I still have a couple of questions, though.

    My husband smokes and I didn’t see any information on the train’s smoking policies. Is there designated smoking areas available, smoking bedrooms, etc?

    Is it possible to make the trip a round trip experience or do you need to arrange other transportation back to where you started?

    1. Follow Me Away Post author

      Hello Rhonda! There is no smoking at all onboard the train. That being said, your husband will be able to step outside during the train stops to take a smoke break. This is what the staff did during our trip and it is open to passengers too. You can certainly take the train round trip if you want to but the fare will just be more expensive than if you took it one way!

      1. Ron

        Victoria and Terrence,
        Excelente!
        Have you considered doing the Trans Siberian Railway from St. Petersburg to Beijing? You guys do an amazing job so I would be
        very interested in seeing that post. Thanks

    1. Follow Me Away Post author

      Hey Kris!!

      They have actually been known to be seen on The Canadian! Of course it depends on the weather and how bright an area is but it has happened in the past! Good luck!

  35. Tenyka

    Hey,

    Thanks for the information, it was just the extras we needed to know before our trip. Just wondering how the baggage allowance works in sleeper class on the Canadian? I imagine if there are 3 of us in one cabin there will not be much room for all our bags? And things aren’t clear about weight limit or if they have to be checked and not in our cabins?

    Thanks in advance ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Follow Me Away Post author

      You will not have much room in the cabin so we recommend checking your luggage and bringing a small backpack for your clothes! Have fun!

  36. John Prideaux

    Have already booked for Aug 2018, in celebration of our 50th wedding anniv, looking forward to the trip. TOR – VC, inland passage cruise, then back to TOR so we’ll have VIA both ways. Round trip on AMTRAK Boston MA to TOR and back will be included. With buffer days included, we’ll make it a 26 day vakay……….CAN”T WAIT!

  37. CJ

    Great information and article thank you.
    I am thinking of taking the Via Rail from Toronto to Vancouver either summer 2018 or 2019 (depending how quickly I can save). I will be flying over from the UK.
    Is it something that you would recommend for a solo female traveller and did you both feel safe with adequate security etc? Were the staff patient and courteous as I would probably ask them lots of questions being that I am quite anxious?

    I’m still a bit confused regarding the baggage allowance. So I could take for example a 20kg pack which would need to be checked into the luggage compartment for the duration of the trip and then take a smaller pack into the cabin, or could I have it all with me?

    Sorry for all the questions, any help and advice is appreciated.

    1. Follow Me Away Post author

      Oh gosh YES!!! The Train Across Canada is PERFECT for solo female travelers…maybe even more so than couples because couples have to sleep in bunk beds. The trains are 100% safe and the staff is so kind and helpful! We ask a lot of questions too and they are just happy to chat with you and talk to you because the train is long for them too and they are working not having fun like the rest of us! The rooms are TEENY TINY so you woudln’t want to bring a lot of baggage. We each had a carry on size luggage and a backpack and although it fit into the room it was quite large! I highly recommend packing something a bit smaller to use while you are riding the train! Have so much fun!!

    2. MARK BARTLET

      100% safe for a single female — no issues at all. Staff are courteous and are helpful, but at points they are quite busy, so you have to pick your time. Rooms are small, so I’d suggest bring on the train what you need for 4 days and pack the rest away in baggage. Depending on the package you choose, all meals are included and they are quite good.

      Some things to remember — VIA rents the rail tracks so has to give way to CN freight trains at certain spur points. This can delay the train – so, leave a full 24 hours if you are making a connection at the other end. You might not need it, but it allows for these delays and gives you a chance to poke around for a day – lots to see.

      Also – and this is important — you are allowed to disembark the train at certain locations and get back on several DAYS later at no extra charge. This allows one to stay at a place on the route and then just pick up a few days later where they left off. Jasper is a place I’d suggest you do that … gorgeous spot with lots of wildlife … we were were sharing the tracks with a huge herd of elk when we arrived.

      If you have never been to Western Canada, it can be overwhelming in is vastness, beauty and appeal … while there are many gorgeous spots on this planet, Western Canada has to be one of them.

      Finally — listen to Gordon Lightfoot’s Canadian Railroad Trilogy (You Tube it) to get a sense of what the railroad meant to Canada … he sings it best!

      Enjoy your trip!

  38. Maeve

    I just came across your post (great by the way!) and wanted to offer my encouragement to the budget traveler.

    I found riding in coach absolutely comfortable and a great way to socialize and make friends for the journey. I took The Canadian this past June and had two seats to spread out in all the way Vancouver to Toronto. I met plenty of Canadians and travelers from Germany, France, England, Australia, Japan, China, and Denmark (I was the sole American). The train car camaraderie was great! There were even a number of people in their 50s and 60s who did the whole trip in seats.

    And ultimately you’ll spend most of your time in the veiwing car anyway!

  39. chanden

    Just booked our VIA rail Vancouver to Toronto June 10, 2018. Before that Alaska cruise from Anchorage to Vancouver. i am so excited. loved reading your blog. tons of useful information. thank you. Blessing to you both. happy travelling.

    1. Follow Me Away Post author

      Wow!! Your trips sound amazing! have so much fun on both the cruise and the train! Thank you for your kind words ๐Ÿ™‚

  40. John Heartfield

    We are travelling from Toronto to Jasper in late May on the Canadian then train again up to Prince Rupert to see the Grizzly bears!!

    As Brits we are never sure of tipping rules when travelling. What should we expect to pay on the Canadian – we are travelling in Prestige class to Jasper.

    One of our dreams to do this trip

    John

    1. Follow Me Away Post author

      How fun!! We suggest talking to Via Rail representatives as we did not travel in prestige class so aren’t sure about their tipping policy. It wasn’t like a cruise where they made it apparent that you had to tip by placing little envelopes around either!

    2. MARK BARTLETT

      You will have a great trip — Canada is a huge country and many from Europe do not appreciate that it takes longer to fly from one end to the other than from England to Canada.

      In any event, on another trip, we went to see the Grizzly bears at Prince Rupert and it was great. The males will not let you get very close, but the females are not as shy. I assume you are going to the Khutzeymateen Provincial Park … an amazing place. On our way up to the reserve (we went by a very small boat up the Khutzeymateen River), we ran into a pod of Killer whales … they were so close, I could reach out and touch them … one of the most amazing experiences of my life. They played around our boat as we putted our way up the river.

      You are about to embark on one of the most amazing experiences you could ever have … I live in Canada and it still boggles my mind — the beauty is stunning.

      Enjoy!

      1. John Heartfield

        We are very excited about the trip – taking in niagara and Vancouver as well. We are staying at the Khutzeymateen Wilderness Lodge for three night. May be a bit early for the whales but should be plenty of grizzlys!!

    3. Steve Harper

      We traveled from Jasper to Toronto in Prestige Class; pricey but worth every dime. The cabin was a dream and the crews were wonderful. The suggested tip in Canadian Dollars in cash is C$10 per night per person to the cabin attendants. We tipped more because they took VERY good care of us โ€” late morning continental breakfasts in our cabin or in the Park Car bar area, laying out late night nightcaps for our room before they went off duty at 11:00 p.m. when we were watching a movie, etc. Note that the crews change in Winnipeg, so youโ€™ll need to tip the Toronto to Winnipeg crew before they leave the train and the Winnipeg to Jasper crew just before you leave the train. Meals are included and the menus donโ€™t list prices. The suggested tip was C$2-3 per person for breakfast and lunch and C$5-7 per person for dinner. Because Prestige Class includes any beverages, including wine, I figured our meals would have been more expensive than regular sleeper class. We never had breakfast in the dining car, thanks to the wonderful Prestige Class cabin attendants. However for the two of us at lunch I tipped C$10 each day and for dinner I tipped C$20 each day. For our entire trip I had taken a supply of small envelopes with small cards like are used by florists to identify the giver of a bouquet. I discretely passed out the tips in the envelopes. For the Prestige Class cabin attendants, we wrote a brief note of thanks on one of the cards and included it in the envelopes. When we arrived in Toronto, they had staff waiting for us to take our luggage and take us across to the Royal York Hotel. In Jasper, I would expect they will have a golf cart ready to take you to the station if you need/want it. When we left Jasper, the train was 26 cars long (yes, 4/10th of a mile) and virtually sold out. They took us by golf cart from the station to the Park Car where our cabin was located โ€” way down the street.

  41. John Heartfield

    Thank you very much for the detailed response. It will really help and you have suggested some nice additional touches. The UK is still not really a tipping country other than in London so the international โ€œrulesโ€ are interesting – someone should write a book on it!! Thanks again John

  42. kathy

    Thinking of doing this trip alone in 19. I need to stick to a tight budget but was hoping to stop off at several places en route. Can I use VIA rail 10 passes to do this ?

  43. Pierre Lesscure

    I’m disabled and normally use a walker. How wide are the isles and easy is it to get around? I heard there is access to a narrow wheelchair on board? Sounds like the train makes enough stops during the day that that will be the best time to move between cars for me. We are booked May 1st Toronto to Vancouver.

  44. Mark Bartlett

    I would not rely on train stops to use as the only periods to move in the train — there are VERY long periods when the train does not stop. If there is a narrow wheelchair, I would suggest that you make sure that it is available for you. The hall passages in the train are narrow and I am not even sure that a regular walker is narrow enough — might want to check with VIA about that. Also – there is a lot of lateral movement in the train she is up to full speed and it can make walking, even for able-bodied, challenging. I hope I am not being too negative, I just want to make sure that you are fully prepared to have the best time that you can!

  45. Pingback: Best North American Rail Trips | North American Travel Blog

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