A classic Canadian train journey is full of history, scenery and quintessential Canuck culture.
But with the trip spanning more than 2,700 miles, planning a seamless trans-Canada train vacation is no simple task.
I spoke to Canada travel expert Katherine Foxcroft at Canadian Train Vacations (which has booked over 15,000 Canadian train vacations over the past 25 years) about how you can make the most of your Canada train vacation.
She had a lot of helpful things to say about planning the perfect Cross-Canada odyssey. Here are some of the insider tips she had to offer:
How Much of Canada Can I See in One Trip?
Canada is the second largest country in the world. If you’re aiming to see it all from coast to coast in one trip, it is possible to travel cross country by train in two weeks. You’d simply have to book a ride on the overnight sleeper train Via Rail Canadian.
However, you won’t have much time to stop and look around. (You’ll see most of the scenery through the train window.)
“For those who want to get off and explore along the way,” says Katherine, “we’d recommend around at least 20 days to see all of Canada, or a couple of weeks to explore some of Eastern Canada, and the Rockies.”
If you have a shorter vacation, it might be better to choose one region of Canada (such as the West Coast, The Rockies or the Maritimes) and really immerse yourself in it.
When you narrow it down to a specific region you’ll have more time to get off the train, walk around and really see your destination up close. (After all, there’s so much to see and do in every province… so you don’t want to rush it!)
Which Part of Canada Should I Visit?
Here’s one of the most difficult Canada conundrums – if you have to choose only one part of the True North Strong and Free to visit, which one should it be?
Katherine says there is no right answer – it depends on your interests. She has met travelers who are fascinated with the First Nations cultures of British Columbia, those who dream of hiking to glacial lakes in the Albertan Rockies, or those who want to embrace the unique cultures of Canada’s big cities such as Toronto and Montreal. So the key is to ask yourself – what aspect of Canada most intrigues you?
It might help to think about the types of experiences you want to have during your trip. If you love history, you’ll want to explore the East Coast and Quebec, where some of Canada’s earliest settlements can be found. If you crave stunning mountain scenery, a ride on the Rocky Mountaineer from Vancouver To Banff is an absolute must.
Do some research into the festivals, museums and attractions you want to visit, then plan a train journey that hits your top highlights. Canadian train journeys are much more flexible than you might think. You can add in stops at different cities along the route, as well as tours, excursions and other activities.
Katherine recommends talking to someone who understands the logistics of how the trains fit together, and what the distances and travel times are. This can really help when figuring out how to make connections between different trains and ensuring your logistics are smooth.
Which Level of Service Should I Choose?
The various trains in Canada offer a range of service levels, from simple economy class seats to luxurious and spacious private cabins.
So, I asked Katherine to share the insider scoop on which level of service offers the best value on each train.
|Train:||Which Level of Service is Best?|
|The Rocky Mountaineer||The highlight of this journey is the stunning scenery, so opt for GoldLeaf service as this will give you access to the spectacular views from the upper dome cars.|
|The Canadian Train||Choose Sleeper Plus and get your own private cabin on this cross- country route. You’ll have the best of both worlds – the social atmosphere of the dining car and dome car, plus a quiet place of your own to sleep.|
|The Corridor Train||Business Class offers the best value when traveling on this Ontario/Quebec route. You’ll enjoy priority service at the train stations and you’ll be treated to drinks and food.|
|The Ocean Train||On this East Coast train, you’ll enjoy the best value service in Sleeper Plus Class. (Be sure to wake up early and watch the sun come up as the train glides through Chaleur Bay.)|
What’s It Like to Sleep on a Train?
Wondering what to expect on an overnight train?
“The first night is a little strange,” Katherine explains, “listening to the sounds of the train, and feeling it go up and down hills and mountains.”
However, that strangeness quickly fades and the experience becomes cozy and familiar.
“You get to know the people in your car really well. It’s super relaxing to meander from the lounge cars, dining cars, dome cars, and your cabin.”
Life on the train is incredibly relaxing – a chance to sit back and watch the stunning scenery go by – dense forests, mirror-like lakes, craggy peaks that fill the horizon. Many passengers say they bring a book along with them thinking that they will get some reading done, only to leave the book untouched on their lap as they gaze in awe out the window.
In addition to the hypnotic scenery, sleeping on the train means your every need will be taken care of. Katherine says one of the most surprising things that travelers on train trips across Canada discover is how high-quality the service is.
The staff are incredibly attentive and will bring you snacks, make up your cabin and help you with anything you might need. Plus, on many of the trips they will host activities such as local wine tastings and live music performances, as well as entertain you with tales about Canadian history.
When you add in the fun of mingling with other passengers onboard, the Canadian train experience is unlike anything else in the world.
We are happy to present this collaborative post to offer valuable information to our readers.