Traveling by Train in Canada: 5 Tips for First-Timers

Travelling by train in Canada, mark-koch-KiRlN3jjVNU-unsplash
Travelling by train in Canada, mark-koch-KiRlN3jjVNU-unsplash

Travelling by train in Canada is an exhilarating experience. The country’s vast and varied wilderness is stunning to observe from your train window. Knowing that you are travelling on ViaRail, Canada’s reputable rail transportation, the ride itself should be relaxing and something to look forward to, especially if you’re a first-time train traveller. You can make your train ride even easier when you’re prepared, whether for a simple day trip or for a longer vacation. Here are the top tips to help you travel as smoothly as possible.  

Travelling by train in Canada, mark-koch-KiRlN3jjVNU-unsplash
Travelling by train in Canada, mark-koch-KiRlN3jjVNU-unsplash

Reserve Your Seat

Taking the train from Toronto to Montreal or anywhere through VIA Rail can be comfortable, but more so if you have made your reservations. On some routes, passengers in the same class can choose where to sit.

If you’re travelling by group, you can reserve a group seat with a bigger table space. That can be beneficial if you’ve brought along mobile devices. Business class passengers can also book the seats they want. VIA Rail will email you the boarding pass that includes the bar code to secure your preferred seat on an eligible train. 

Pack Mindfully

Travelling by train means you will have to be mindful when packing your bags. Most people prefer to pack lightly for convenience, but you also have to keep in mind weight limits. VIA Rail allows up to two 50 lb (23 kg) bags with a linear dimension of 62 inches (158 centimetres) of checked luggage onboard the train. Some trains have luggage compartments to make travelling easier for passengers. You should figure out in advance what you absolutely need to bring and pack your clothing to maximize your space. 

If you’re travelling by train with a child, there are additional rules concerning what kind of luggage you can bring. Parents bringing a baby or toddler up to two years old can bring only carry-on luggage. If the parent has paid for a seat for their child, they can bring checked baggage.  

VIA Rail also has rules for bringing sizeable outdoor gear such as bicycles and skis. If you plan to bring any of these items, you must inform VIA Rail within 48 hours. If you need clarification on whether your gear counts as large outdoor equipment, call them to confirm.  

Bring Your Own Snacks

If you’re like me and eat frequently, you will be happy to know that you can bring your own snacks on the train since meals are not included in Economy class. You will be able to buy affordable sandwiches onboard. If you’re travelling business class, your meals will be included. Business class meals include an appetizer, main course, bread, dessert, a glass of wine and warm beverages. Mains always include a vegetarian pasta option.

You’ll also be happy to know that VIA Rail will cater to your nutritional and dietary needs, but you should call them to first to check on the availability of certain foods. The leniency is towards those with specific dietary restrictions, but you can also benefit as a budget traveller. When buying snacks or meals, you will be able to use cash or a credit card.

Learn About Overnight Accommodations

Travelling cross-country doesn’t have to be boring and uncomfortable. One of the best features of travelling by train is seeing spectacular scenery, such as the Canadian Rockies. And when you’re inside any of VIA Rail’s sleeping classes, it’s a journey you’ll look forward to any time.  

Choose from three types of accommodation: Economy, Sleeper Plus, and Prestige. 

The Economy class has plush seats that recline and built-in foldable trays. They have plenty of legroom so that you can be comfortable throughout your trip. You can bring your own pillows and blankets, but you may also use the ones onboard. 

Sleeper Plus allows passengers to travel in sleeper cabins. You can choose from semi-private berth, sleeper cabin for one, sleeper cabin for two, and sleeper cabin suite depending on whether you are a solo passenger or travelling as a group. Sleeper cabins have blankets, pillows, and bedding, while the last three sleeper options have their own washroom.  

For luxury boarding, the Prestige class includes:

  • A full-size bed
  • A flat-screen TV
  • A fully stocked minibar
  • A restroom with a shower 

Your choice will depend on how much privacy and space you want. 

Keep The Schedule In Mind

VIA Rail has a downloadable app to buy a train ticket and help you manage your travelling schedule by automatically logging in to your calendar. To ensure that you’re on schedule, it’s recommended that you arrive 30 minutes before your time of departure. If you don’t yet have your ticket, you should arrive at least an hour before your departure time.

First-time train travellers have a few things to learn before travelling in Canada. Hopefully, the above tips will help you bring what you need. You definitely want your first time travelling by train to be satisfying. The more you travel via train, the more comfortable you’ll become and before you know it, you’ll be a seasoned train traveller.  


  1. I so want to take a trip by train. We are talking about the Polar Express here in Arizona over Christmas, but we’ll see how it goes.

  2. I always wanted to travel long distance on overnight trains and such. These are great tips for when I do, and maybe I’ll try in Canada too.

  3. Thanks for the tips. I am going to download the app. I think that will be better than trying to find everything on line.

  4. This is so much fun and I love the idea of train rides! I am a huge fan of road trip s ia a car but I thinnk a train ride would be a blast and I so want to visit Canada!

  5. Sounds like this would be a really great way to travel and see the sights. We haven’t been to Canada in a while and it would be unique to travel like this.

  6. Lots of great information about travelling by train. Definitely a big help especially to the first-time traveller in Canada! Thanks for sharing this!

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