AmtrakAmtrak Tips

Riding Amtrak For The First Time: 12 Things You Need To Know

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If you are planning on riding Amtrak for the first time, there are a few things you should know before you board. This list will help your trip be smoother and more enjoyable, as you won’t be caught off guard by some of the thing that happen aboard an Amtrak train.

Can You Smoke on Amtrak

Smoking is not allowed on any Amtrak trains in any part of the train. If you smoke, you can do so at a fresh air break. Trains make fresh air break stops about every 4 hours where passengers can get off and smoke. These stops last about 15 minutes and provide enough time to smoke and stretch your legs. Passengers cannot get off at shorter non designated stops.

Is There a Microwave on Amtrak

There is not a microwave available for passenger use on Amtrak. If you bring food with you to eat on the train you will not be able to warm it up no matter if you are in coach class or the sleeper cars. There is also no way to warm up water to make drinks. If you would like a hot drink or hot food you can purchase that at the cafe.

What Should I Pack For The Train

Pack light. You should have a bag of snacks and other necessities like toiletries and a change of clothes if you are riding overnight. You should also have a backpack or bag for valuables that you keep with you all the time. We’ve compiled a list of 20 must have items for your next Amtrak trip. Large bags can be checked or stored on the luggage racks.

Amtrak Luggage Racks
Amtrak Luggage Racks

Where Is the Food Cart on Amtrak

The Cafe car which serves food to all passengers on Amtrak is located in the middle of the train between the sleeper cars and coach class. On Superliner trains the cafe is located on the bottom level of the observation car. Food from the cafe car can be eaten in the observation car at nice big tables, in your seat in coach, or in your sleeper car room.

Amtrak Cafe Car
Amtrak Cafe Car on a Viewliner

Is Amtrak Ever Early

Amtrak trains can arrive early but it is rare for them to do so. They cannot depart stations early, so if a train gets ahead of schedule by a few minutes, it will be back on schedule after the next station. Unlike planes that don’t stop, the constant stops of the train factor in to the on time record being poor.

How Much Should You Tip On Amtrak

The standard tip in the dining car on Amtrak is $2-3 per person per meal. We usually leave $5 after each meal on the table. In the dining car we tip after each meal instead of at the end of the trip because there can be more than one person working in the car. The usual tip for a room attendant is $5-10 per person per night and is tipped all at once at the end of the trip.

Tips are not mandatory and you are not required to leave them. We would estimate around half of the passengers in the sleeper cars give a tip after the trip.

Do Amtrak Sleeper Car Rooms Lock

Amtrak sleeper car rooms can be locked from the inside but not from the outside. While you are in your room you’ll be able to lock the room. When you leave your room to go to the bathroom or to the dining car, the door will close, but you will not be able to lock it.

Do Amtrak Doors Lock
Amtrak Sleeper Car Door Cannot Be Locked From Outside
Do Amtrak Doors Lock
Amtrak Sleeper Car Door Can Be Locked From Inside

Is There A Weight Limit On The Amtrak Upper Bunk

We get asked this question quite a bit, so we asked a few Amtrak employees. There is not a weight limit on the Amtrak upper bunk bed. In our own personal testing of the beds, these seem really sturdy, and we would not be concerned about the weight on them. For being on a train, the beds are more solid than we thought they would be.

Amtrak Upper Bunk Weight Limit
The Upper Bunk is Very Sturdy

Will The Train Run Out of Food If It Is Delayed

Amtrak trains have extra food on board in case of emergency, so if your train is delayed, Amtrak will not run out of food. In fact, they have extra menu items that you wouldn’t otherwise get. On a recent delayed trip of the California Zephyr we were served an extra meal and were given the choice to have beef stew. The train could run out of things like rolls and salads if they are late by too much.

Amtrak Food
Beef Stew on the California Zephyr

What Happens If You Fall Asleep on Amtrak

If you fall asleep on Amtrak and your destination is coming up, an Amtrak conductor will wake you up. When you board the train the conductor will put a destination ticket above your seat to let them know which stop you are getting off at. If you are asleep when that stop happens, this ticket will help them know who needs to wake up to get off.

You should never switch seats without also moving the ticket above your head that lets them know when you need to get off.

Do Amtrak Trains Have Air Conditioning

All Amtrak trains are air conditioned. The air temperature is controlled by staff and in coach you will have no control over the temperature. In sleeper cars there are air temperature knobs to turn the air colder or warmer. In our experience though, these controls don’t do very much to change the temperature. The more effective way to adjust your comfort level is to turn the vents to either face you or be away from you. If the vents do not move on your train, you can place something between you and them to divert the cold air.

Amtrak Air Conditioning
Viewliner II Air Vents

Can You Make Phone Calls On Amtrak

Phone calls are allowed on Amtrak both in coach and sleeper cars. The only place you cannot make phone calls is in the quiet car. Phone calls should not be made anywhere with the speaker phone activated. During parts of your trip you might lose cell service if you are traveling across the country. Once the train leaves cities and isn’t near a highway you will lose service. You should always think about those sleeping around you and keep calls as quiet as possible.

Amtrak Quiet Car
Amtrak Quiet Car

Robert Marmion
Rob is married to Allie and together they have been traveling the world for the past 2 years. Rob is one of the most published photographers in the world, having published over 750,000 images in the last 15 years. He enjoys doing landscape and astrophotography while on the road.