Amtrak Guide: How to Buy an Amtrak Ticket Plus Insider Tips (2023)

Whether you want to book one of several cross-country trips on Amtrak trains or simply a short ride on the train from Orlando, Florida to Charleston, North Carolina, the process to buy an Amtrak train ticket is easy.

Generally, there are three different ways to purchase your ticket. This article covers all three ticketing options plus some insider tips I’ve learned over the years.

Amtrak Guide: How to Buy an Amtrak Ticket Plus Insider Tips (1)

How to Buy an Amtrak Ticket

There are basically three ways to reserve and buy an Amtrak ticket. It all depends on your comfort level and patience. For me, I do a combination of the first two ways. Then I’m fairly knowledgeable and know what I should ask and confirm with the Amtrak reservation agent, by calling 1-800-USA-RAIL.

Buy an Amtrak Ticket Online

Probably the easiest way is to buy your Amtrak ticket online, especially if you know exactly where your intended train stations are located.

Go to Then type in the two cities that you want to travel from and to, the date of travel and then press Find Trains.

Amtrak Guide: How to Buy an Amtrak Ticket Plus Insider Tips (2)

What appears next is a list of several train schedules (routes) to choose, that will get you to your destination as quickly as possible. From here, you can then select the type of coach seat and ticket fare you’d like or choose a sleeping accommodation.

INSIDER TIP: Before you click Find Trains, click on the arrow below Traveler – Adult. Here you’ll find several discounted fares offered: Senior, Passenger with Disability, Companion (to assist), Rail Passengers Association, Military (Active) and Military (Veteran). Be sure to get any discount to which you are entitled.

(Video) Amtrak Tips And Tricks | Beginners Guide

There is also a space on the lower left corner of the booking box where you can enter a discount or promo code.

After you buy your Amtrak ticket online, you will receive an email containing your e-ticket. This will have a bar code on it. Save the email.

The person at the train station will scan the bar code when you check in. Once you board the train, the conductor will also ask to see the email with your e-ticket.

You can either print the ticket or save it on your phone and the conductor will scan it from the email.

Amtrak Guide: How to Buy an Amtrak Ticket Plus Insider Tips (3)

Buy an Amtrak Ticket Over the Phone

This is my preferred way to buy my Amtrak tickets. Why? Because I usually have a couple of questions to ask the agent, plus I want to choose my sleeping compartment.

To book your train over the phone, call 1-800-USA-RAIL or 1-800-872-7245. Here’s where it gets least for me.

When the automated voice of “Julie” answers, you should reply, “Agent.” That’s it. Nothing else. The voice will ask two more questions. Only reply, “Agent” to each question. Nothing more.

There’s rarely any hold-time, so within a few seconds or maybe a minute, you’ll have a real, live person to help you plan your trip.

(Video) How To Buy An Amtrak Train Ticket Online | Step by Step Tutorial

And if you happen to get what I like to call an “old timer” (that’s what long-time reservation agents call themselves, too) he or she will know all the ins and outs of booking an Amtrak trip.

Phone lines are open 24 hours, seven days a week and holidays, too.

Buy Your Ticket with Amtrak Guest Reward Points

First, you have to join Amtrak Guest Rewards points program. Either “earn” points from Amtrak trips, through Amtrak’s Guest Rewards shopping links or buy points when there’s a good bonus points reward program in progress.

If you look at this same photo above, you’ll see the option to select book with points. It’s right next to Find Trains.

Enter all the usual travel parameters and instead of the button for Dollars, tick the Points button. The next screen will tell you how many points you need for that route.

You can add sleeping accommodations, too.

Then you can compare and decide which to use; points or dollars. It’s also possible to purchase additional points online and then apply them to your new reservation.

Call the Amtrak Guest Rewards desk (or ask to be transferred if you call general reservations). Someone there can walk you through your purchase and new train reservation.

(Video) #AmtrakHowTo: Beginner's Guide to Train Travel

Amtrak Guide: How to Buy an Amtrak Ticket Plus Insider Tips (4)

What you can’t do is buy an Amtrak ticket online using points if it’s more than one route. For example, Orlando to Washington to Chicago is two routes.

To use Amtrak Guest Reward Points, you’d have to buy each segment separately.

If this is too daunting, call Amtrak Guest Rewards at 1-800-307-5000 and speak with a real person who can then combine two routes to buy with points.

READ MORE: Across America aboard Amtrak California Zephyr

Book with Amtrak Vacations

The third way, and one I haven’t tried but know the company, is Amtrak Vacations. This is an independent travel agency that has a contract with the government to sell Amtrak.

Different from a “regular” travel agency, they only sell Amtrak and are truly experts in putting together package train deals.

If you have a complicated reservation with lots of stops along the way, it might help to contact them or at least to get their price.

READ NEXT: Guide to Amtrak Sleeping Accommodations

(Video) The Don'ts of Amtrak Train Travel in the US

BONUS! Tips and Tricks to Book an Amtrak Ticket

I’ve been riding Amtrak since before it was Amtrak (1971). Along the way, I’ve gotten a little smarter and hope these train booking tips are helpful.

  • Let’s say you decide to phone Amtrak to make your reservation. If for some reason you don’t feel confident in the person who answers, you can either: ask for a supervisor or politely hang up and call back. It’s worth it. This only happens when a new person is not properly trained for reservations.
  • If you’re taking the train on particularly scenic routes and you have a sleeping compartment, ask the train reservation person to tell you your accommodation location. For example, on the California Zephyr going west from Chicago, you want your sleeping compartment on the side of the Colorado River, so be on the left side going westbound.
  • If you are in coach and for example traveling north or south on the Coast Starlight or Amtrak Cascades from Seattle, WA to Portland, OR, ask the station agent to reserve your seat on the water side.
  • On the Superliner (double-decker) train, Deluxe Bedroom E is smaller than the others and getting into the bathroom is a little tricky. See the diagram below. Bedroom E is the one at the end of the car. Also, you can sometimes hear the door to the next car open and close.Amtrak Guide: How to Buy an Amtrak Ticket Plus Insider Tips (5)
  • You may not want roomette 1 or 2 on the upstair on a Superliner. Those two rooms, though convenient to the coffee maker station and stairs, are right next to or across from the upstairs bathroom. It might be possible to hear people during the night using the facility.

Buying an Amtrak ticket doesn’t have to be complicated. While there are several options to buy the ticket, it’s a short learning curve until you’re a pro. Enjoy the journey!

Want more Amtrak travel inspiration? Check out these articles!

  • Complete Guide to Plan Amtrak Train Trips
  • Train Report: Amtrak Coast Starlight from Los Angeles to Seattle
  • Best Tips and Advice for Amtrak Sleeping Car Passengers
Amtrak Guide: How to Buy an Amtrak Ticket Plus Insider Tips (6)

Sherry Laskin

I’m the editor and creator of, a solo traveler cruising the world on waves and wheels, collecting recipes along the way. I hope my articles and photos entertain, advise and inspire you to travel the world without flying. Take a breath…stop for a local meal and a glass of wine along the way.

(Video) Amtrak Roomette, Bedrooms, and Seat Compared


What is the best way to book train tickets? ›

MakeMyTrip is the leading portal for booking IRCTC train tickets online which is offering the most convenient ways to book train tickets, check train schedule, train availability, and view live train status. IRCTC has been the most used website for train tickets booking.

What are the most comfortable seats on Amtrak? ›

Coach Seats

These seats are larger and more comfortable than seats on an airplane, recline and have a power outlet, reading light and tray. Plus, there are no middle seats. There are only two coach seats together then the aisle and two more coach seats.

Should I bring a blanket on Amtrak? ›

Any luggage you bring on board needs to be in your custody, stored in overhead racks, under seats, or in designated baggage areas. Travel necessities like pillows, blankets, computer cases or medical devices are allowed. The great news is those do not count toward your two-bag limit!

How does Amtrak seating work? ›

Your seat will be automatically assigned when you complete your reservation. You may change your assigned seat and choose a different seat at any time after your booking is complete by viewing your reservation in the Amtrak app or on There is no fee to change your seat.

Is it better to purchase your ticket at the station or on the train? ›

To secure the best available fare, passengers should purchase tickets prior to boarding the train.

Is it cheaper to buy a ticket at the station or online? ›

The ticket counter staff will be able to help you choose the best ticket for your journey and advise on any discounts you may be eligible for, but you're likely to get the same rates online too. Booking online is often easier and quicker to do in a hurry, and there's rarely any difference in the price at all.

Where is the safest place to sit on an Amtrak train? ›

"The safest spot in a train, during an accident, is the center of the train," said Mann, who was the principal author of the Federal Railway Safety Act in 1970. "Because if there is a front-end collision or a rear-end collision, the damages will be greater at those locations.

Is it better to sit on the upper or lower level on Amtrak? ›

The best place to sit in Amtrak Coach Class is on the upper level. It's all about the view on the upper level. This is the biggest advantage of sitting in the upper level. You can also move from car to car more freely as there is access from each car on the upper level.

Do you have to wear shoes on Amtrak? ›

Watch your step moving from car to car while the train is in motion, as the vestibules can be slippery. Be sure to step over the gap between the train and platform. Leave personal food items and baggage at your seat. Wear shoes at all times and use caution when wearing shoes without rubber soles.

How should I dress for Amtrak? ›

Wear comfortable clothes

We're not talking full-on pajamas, but breathable, stretchy clothing will make your ride more enjoyable. If you choose to have dinner in our awesome dining car, the dress code is still casual. Feel free to wear jeans and a T-shirt or take it old school and wear a dinner jacket.

Where do your bags go on Amtrak? ›

Storing Items

Carry-on and personal items must be kept with you, stored in overhead racks, under seats or designated baggage areas. Most buses have baggage storage bins under the bus floor, and the bus driver will assist you.

Do you just sit anywhere on Amtrak? ›

You get to pick your seat because there are no seat assignments, and there are no middle seats. SCORE! There are two outlets at every seat pair.

Should you sit on an assigned train seat? ›

Some trains such as the high-speed TGV or overnight trains, will always require a seat reservation. Having a seat reservation not only determines where you will be sitting on the train but also binds you to a particular train. Tickets for these trains will always be sold with a reservation.

Which seating is best in train? ›

Generally lower one is preferable. If you want to lye down most of the time during the journey, you should opt for the upper one. In 3 tier, there will be a middle berth in between upper and lower.

How can I reduce my train ticket prices? ›

  1. Book in advance. An old tip, but still the best. ...
  2. Travel off-peak. Hours vary by train company but think of it as the rush hour (or two) in the morning and late afternoon. ...
  3. Split your ticket. ...
  4. Check if two singles are cheaper than a return. ...
  5. Get a season ticket. ...
  6. Get a railcard. ...
  7. Earn cashback or points. ...
  8. Don't pay a booking fee.

How can I make my train ticket cheaper? ›

  1. Book Early to Get Cheap Tickets. ...
  2. Travel at Off-Peak Rather Than Peak Times. ...
  3. Compare the Price of Single and Return Tickets. ...
  4. Save Money When Travelling as a Group by Booking Together. ...
  5. Be Flexible About When You Travel. ...
  6. Use a 16-25 or 26-30 Railcard, Even When You're Older. ...
  7. Avoid Paying Booking and Credit Card Fees.

Should I buy Amtrak tickets in advance? ›

Reserve Early. The earlier you book your tickets, the more likely you are to get the lowest fare available for the dates you want on the routes along your journey. You may book your travel up to 11 months in advance.

How much in advance should I buy train tickets? ›

Advance train tickets are usually the cheapest way to travel by train, and generally go on sale 12 weeks before your date of travel. You'll need to travel on the train you're booked on, but you'll get a cheaper price by foregoing flexible travel times.

Do train tickets get cheaper closer to the day? ›

Generally, train fares go up in price, right up until the day you travel. So, one secret to finding cheap train tickets is booking Advance tickets.

Do ticket prices go down last minute? ›

Timing plays an important part. Specifically, plane tickets usually don't get cheaper closer to the departure date. Instead, flights tend to be the most inexpensive when you book between four months and three weeks before your departure date. According to, you can expect rates to go up after that period.

Is it better to sit facing forward or backward on a train? ›

Cars in the front of the train are usually more steady feeling than the cars near the end. The optimal seat to prevent motion sickness is a seat in the middle of one of the first train cars. Be sure to choose a forward-facing seat, and if you're riding a double-decker train, stay on the bottom level.

How early should you arrive for Amtrak train? ›

Arriving at the Station

Plan to arrive at the station at least 30 minutes before your train is scheduled to depart (Auto Train passengers should arrive at the station at least two hours prior to departure).

What happens if I fall asleep on Amtrak? ›

What happens if you fall asleep on Amtrak? The conductor will place a destination ticket in the holder above your seat. He will usually remind you within 30 minutes of your stop. If you are asleep, he will awaken you.

Can I bring food on Amtrak? ›

You may bring your own food and beverages onboard for consumption at your seat or private Sleeping Car accommodations. However, you can only consume food and beverages purchased in Dining and Lounge Cars in those cars. Personal food and beverages are allowed in the upper level of Superliner Sightseer Lounges.

Does Amtrak have free water? ›

50+ Year Amtrak Rider

Yes, Potable Water is Available in the Coaches but as you say putting a Flavor Additive in it helps overcome the less than Thrilling Taste! In Sleepining Cars Bottled Water is Avaialble for Free and if you Eat in the Diner Meals include Coffee,Tea,Milk or Water!

Which is most comfortable class in train? ›

The sleeper class is suitable for travelers who are on a tight budget, or who want to mingle with local folks. If you want to have a more comfortable train journey, AC 3-tier class is a better option.

What are prohibited items on Amtrak? ›

The following items are prohibited onboard the train: non-service animals, firearms and ammunition, hover boards, corrosive or dangerous chemicals and materials, incendiaries, martial arts and self-defense items, archery equipment, devices containing propellants, sharp objects, and similar items.

What should I pack for lunch on a train? ›

Just don't forget some baby wipes to keep hands clean and mop up any spills.
  • Veg Sticks. ...
  • Fruit Segments. ...
  • Sandwiches and Wraps. ...
  • Bite-Sized Fruit. ...
  • Dried Fruit. ...
  • Nuts and Seeds. ...
  • Rice cakes. ...
  • Cheese.
24 Jul 2019

What are Amtrak complimentary meals like? ›

A menu with hot, ready-to-serve choices for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. A wide selection of wine, beer, and spirits (the first one is on us), plus unlimited soft drinks throughout the journey. Complimentary room service provided by the Sleeping Car attendant.

Do they search your bags on Amtrak? ›

Yes. Your bags are subject to search at any time you are airside (inside the secured area).

Should you tip your Amtrak attendant? ›

General Guidelines: Tipping is NOT required, but is considered correct for the service crew personnel on the train. Recommendations: Snack bar attendant: roughly 10%. Dining car: 15% of menu prices (sleeping car passengers may want to note this when ordering their meals).

Is it usually cold on Amtrak? ›

For the most enjoyable experience, especially during a long-distance journey, you'll want to wear clothing that is super comfortable, along with warm socks. Oftentimes, the train cars can get cold, even if you're not seated by the doors that connect the cars together.

Does a backpack count as a personal item Amtrak? ›

Each passenger may bring onboard two pieces of carry-on luggage (this includes bicycles), plus two personal items, including small bags, backpacks, laptops, and purses.

Are the seats comfortable on Amtrak? ›

This is why an unforgettable trip on an Amtrak® train goes hand in hand with high comfort. All the carriages in the train are air-conditioned, seats are comfortable and positioned so that each passenger has a leg rest and far more space than on the plane - and also can freely throughout the train.

How many free bags do you get on Amtrak? ›

You + Two Bags = No Extra Charge

Unlike many transportation options, traveling with Amtrak is twice as nice with our generous baggage policy. When you travel with us, you can carry-on two free pieces of luggage. Each item should not exceed 50 lbs. (23 kg) and needs to be 28 x 22 x 14 inches in size.

Does a purse count as a carry-on? ›

Technically, any piece of luggage that you “carry on” to an airplane is a carry-on bag. Most airlines allow one piece of carry-on luggage or “hand baggage” that can fit in the overhead bin, plus a “personal item” (a smaller purse, computer bag, diaper bag, small backpack, etc.

Do you have to pay to check a bag on Amtrak? ›

Each traveler can check up to 4 bags (2 free and 2 at $20 per bag). Size/weight limitations apply.

Do you get to keep the blanket on Amtrak? ›

Some items are allowed in addition to your two bags

Travel necessities like pillows, blankets, computer cases or medical devices are allowed. The great news is those do not count toward your two-bag limit!

Is it rude to talk on the phone on Amtrak? ›

Talk on the Phone on Amtrak

Don't talk on your cell phone for extended periods while sitting in your seat. And by extended periods, I mean more than 2 or 3 minutes. No one wants to hear your personal stories.

Where is the safest part of a train to sit? ›

Sit in the center-most train car

When choosing a seat on a train, try to get one in the center-most car, or one of the central cars. This will put you as far as possible from the most common points of issue for collisions or derailment, namely the front and end of the train.

How do you know where to sit on Amtrak? ›

Your seat will be automatically assigned when you complete your reservation. You may change your assigned seat and choose a different seat at any time after your booking is complete by viewing your reservation in the Amtrak app or on

Can I sit in first class if the train is full? ›

Only if the train guard opens first class for second class passengers. Otherwise you must pay the surcharge to travel in first class. One of the main advantages of first class that is worth the extra money to some passengers is that it is not as likely to be full as second class.

Is upper or lower on train better? ›

The best place to sit in Amtrak Coach Class is on the upper level. It's all about the view on the upper level. This is the biggest advantage of sitting in the upper level. You can also move from car to car more freely as there is access from each car on the upper level.

Can I sit in any seat in train? ›

Even if there are no reservations, your ticket is still valid. You can sit in any empty, unreserved seat.

Can a couple sleep on same seat in train? ›

Yes, I have travelled in 1A coach of Indian Railways a lot of times but the best experience I had in Dibrugarh Rajdhani Express (20506) from New Delhi to Varanasi Junction.

Which train booking app is best? ›

List of Best Apps for Train Booking Online in India :
  • IRCTC Rail Connect.
  • Paytm.
  • Goibibo.
  • MakeMyTrip.
  • RailYatri.
  • Cleartrip.
  • IXIGO.
  • UTS App.
22 Jul 2022

How can I save money when booking train tickets? ›

You can wisely save the money on online train ticket booking. Here are some smart tips for booking tickets and saving money.
  1. Book Ticket in Advance. ...
  2. Split Your Booking. ...
  3. Look for Cashback Offers. ...
  4. Use IRCTC Payment Card. ...
  5. Avail Senior Citizen Discount Quota. ...
  6. Choose to Travel in Sleeper Class. ...
  7. Get Online Food at a Low Cost.
30 Apr 2022

Which app gives best discount on train tickets? ›

Flat Rs 75 OFF On Train Ticket Bookings

Verified on 11/11/2022 . Railyatri is offering flat Rs 75 discount on your train tickets. Use GRAB75 promo code to get the discount on minimum booking value of Rs 500. Book using offers from HappySale and get huge discounts on your online train ticket bookings.

Which class is best for traveling in train? ›

First Class A/C (1A) is the highest rail travel class and is not available on all trains. It offers air-conditioned cubicles in two-bed and four-bed formats with closing doors. There usually is only one 1A bogie (carriage) on a train.

Which app is best for ticket? ›

Ticketing Software
  • Tix. 4.8. (151) A leading provider of online and box office ticketing. ...
  • Blackbaud Altru. 4.0. (36) ...
  • AudienceView Professional. 4.6. (40) ...
  • TryBooking. 4.7. Event ticketing, bookings and registrations platform. ...
  • Purplepass Ticketing. 4.9. (175) ...
  • Brushfire. 4.7. (133) ...
  • ThunderTix. 4.7. (209) ...
  • Accelevents. 4.7. (134)

Are train tickets cheaper if you book them in advance? ›

Advance tickets are usually the cheapest way to travel by train, and generally go on sale 12 weeks before your date of travel. You have to travel on the train you're booked on, but you get a much cheaper price by foregoing flexible travel times. Full details on Advance tickets can be found here.

Do train tickets get cheaper closer to the time? ›

Cheap train tickets are usually released by train operators in advance of the journey. Normally, this is around 12 weeks in advance, as the timetable for any particular day is normally confirmed 12 weeks in advance.

How many days before should I book a train? ›

A passenger seeking reservation of berth or seats should purchase tickets from the Railway Reservation Offices/Authorised Travel Agency only. Advance reservations are made generally up to 120 days in advance for all classes and all trains.

How many hours before we should book train tickets? ›

The requests for reservation at the reservation counters are accepted up to 4 hours before the scheduled departure of the train, after which, the reservation will be done at the current counters at the stations up to one hour before the scheduled departure of the train and thereafter by the Ticket Collector/Conductor ...

How many days before we should book tickets in train? ›

You can reserve your ticket 60 days in advance, excluding the date of journey at the train originating station. At intermediate stations where the train arrives the following day, reservation can be done 61 days in advance. In the case of some intercity day express trains, the advance reservation period is less.

How do you avoid paying a fare difference? ›

Here's the secret to avoid paying an airline change fee
  1. Make use of the 24-hour window. ...
  2. Make same-day changes. ...
  3. Buy flexible fare or refundable tickets. ...
  4. Get travel insurance. ...
  5. Don't show up for the flight. ...
  6. Watch out for any changes to your flight. ...
  7. Book two one way tickets. ...
  8. Fly Southwest or Alaska Airlines.
24 Jan 2017

What times do ticket inspectors work? ›

During a regular day, inspectors are most common during hours of 6am to 6pm. They are most active between rush hours (9-11am and 3-5pm). Weekends feature inspectors with regular consistency throughout the day.


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