USA and Canada

Staff member: Oudavanh // Trip date: Apr 2008


LAX Airport

LAX Airport to Los Angeles Union Station is about a 30min drive by car.
You can also catch the Metro rail from LAX to Aviation/LAX metro station which is on the Green line.

Los Angeles Union Station

This station is huge, as it is also where you can catch the metro rail around LA.
The Amtrak ticket office is located down the back of the station (there are signs that will point you in the right direction). We collected our tickets from the ticket office. There are also the self-service ticketing machines where you can print out your tickets or you can go the ticket office and someone will help you there.

You can collect your tickets early before your actual train travel begins which we did. ID is required when you collect your tickets, which they will check and you will also need to sign each ticket that you receive.

Union Station has a seating area, cafes, a newsstand, Amtrak information booth and general enquires booth. There are also plenty of security guards around the station.

We purchased our return tickets easily for our trip from LA to Fresno at the Amtrak ticket office, as I hadn't booked this prior to leaving.

Los Angeles - Fresno via Bakersfield.

Los Angeles - Bakersfield.
After we purchased our tickets for this trip, we checked our luggage in at the Amtrak ticket office. The ticket officer will weigh your luggage and will give you the luggage tags which you need to show when you get to your final destination when collecting your luggage. Your luggage will be checked through to your final destination.

This part of the trip was by bus. It wasn't the Greyhound bus, instead it was another bus service that Amtrak also operates called Coach America. There is no allocated seating, so you just take a seat anywhere.

The bus terminal is located outside the station. There are signs that will show you where to go. There were 5 buses waiting to depart which were all going to Bakersfield. It didn't matter which bus you got on even though there is a bus number on your ticket as they were all going to the same place.

Bakersfield - Fresno
This trip was by train. The train will wait for the buses to arrive from LA.
This was a 2 level train. The 1st level was for seniors and people with disabilities. There were signs on the train indicating this. So we moved up to the 2nd level. Again there is no allocated seating, so you just sit anywhere.

There is lounge car on board where you can purchase snacks and beverages, also a trolley car will come round where you can buy food from your seat. Types of food they sold where sandwiches, hamburgers, hot dogs, potato chips - typical American fast food. They also sell alcohol on board too! Train was also non-smoking.

The configuration of the train is 4 seats facing each-other with a table in between or just 2 seats together.
There were also power points available too and over head lockers for hand luggage.

 

A train officer will come around and collect your tickets. They will write down where you are getting off and will put the tag above your seat. Before you arrive at your stop, they will come around again and take the tag away and remind you that your stop is coming up.

Metro Rail in LA.

Their metro rail system is color-coded. For a metro day pass, it will cost you USD5.00 and you can use it on any of the color-coded rail lines. There are ticket machines where you can purchase your metro tickets, just like what we have here in Australia.

Los Angeles - Las Vegas **Greyhound bus**

The bus departs from the same bus terminal where we went from LA to Bakersfield.
Again they don't go by the bus numbers. Instead there will be a sign on the bus window saying Las Vegas. Also there will be train officers that will tell this is the bus to Vegas.
We didn't need to check our luggage in for this trip so we just loaded our suitcases into the trunk of the bus. The bus driver will take your tickets before you board.

The bus terminal at LA Union Station

Las Vegas Greyhound Terminal
About 15 minutes drive from the strip.
Facilities they have are rest rooms, vending machines and information about what to do in Vegas.

Miami - Orlando ** Silver Meteor **

The train was a single level train. They have airline type seating, with reclining seats. There is also a lounge car and snack bar on board.

This train was heading to New York so they also had a sleeping car. You weren't allowed to wonder to the sleeping cars unless you had a ticket.

There wasn't much scenery during this trip. Mostly people just travel on Amtrak to get from A to B. A lot of the locals use Amtrak.

Orlando - Washington ** Silver Meteor **

This was the over night train that we did. It was the same train that we took from Miami.

We were booked in the Viewliner Roomette. It was small and will fit maximum 2 adults. There is no room for a 3rd person even if it is a child traveling.

We checked our luggage in at Orlando train station and just bought our carry on bags onto the train.

We boarded the carriage number that was on our ticket. You also have a room number on your ticket and the train officer will tell you which way to go to find your room. There are locks on the doors and pull down curtains for privacy.

All carriages have big picture windows, so if someone asks for a cabin with a picture window, just tell them they all have them.

During the day, you have seats, and at night they are turned into bunks with an upper and lower berth. Separate showers are located the hall.

Meals are included if you have booked roomette or a bedroom. The sleeping car attendant will come around each cabin to ask what time you would like to have dinner. There are 3 choices - 5.45pm, 7pm or 8.45pm. You can't just walk into the dining car and have a meal whenever you want. If you are hungry, there is lounge car where you can purchase snacks. Only the main course and beverages are complimentary. If you want to have an appetizer you will need to pay this for yourself.

Orange juice and coffee is complimentary in the morning. They have machines where you can get them as it is self service.

Washington - New York ** Acela Express **

Washington Union Station.
Located in the financial district, this station is very huge and busy. It has restaurants (casual and fine dining), shops, cafes, newsstands, basically it was like a shopping centre.

They also have car rental services, money exchange and red cap services (Amtrak officers who help with your luggage).

Taxi services are available outside the station.

We travelled in business class on the Acela express. It is a very fast train, like a TGV in France. They don't have check-in facilities for the Acela. So you just bring your luggage onboard the train. There are luggage storage areas at the end of each carriage and also overhead compartments. If you do want to check in your luggage, you can however it will be checked onto another train service and will leave at a different time.

Again there is no allocated seating, so you just take a seat anywhere in the class that you have booked.

As the Acela express trains are designed for business travelers, they don't allow you use your mobile phones. There are signs on the train that say this too. If you do need to use your phone, then you will have to move to the end of the carriage and use it there.
Also you have to keep your conversations very quiet as there are people working on their lap tops.

I wouldn't recommend this train to families that are travelling young children.

New York - Niagara Falls (Canadian side) **Maple Leaf**

New York Penn Station
Located underneath Madison Square Garden, it is also busy station. They have cafes, fast food outlets, shops etc.

The trip from New York to Niagara Falls was a very long one. At Penn station, you have to check in at the Canadian check in counter. They will check your passport and stamp your ticket. You don't check in your luggage as you just bring them on board the train.

The train stops at the US border which is Niagara Falls, NY. US customs officers will come on board and check passports and ask all passengers a few questions. This took about 30mins.

At the next stop which is Niagara Falls, ON, the Canadian customs officers come on board and they also check everyone's passports and ask a lot of questions. You also need to complete the Canadian arrival cards which they collect. This took about 1 hour. They don't let anyone off the train until everyone has been cleared by customs.

The train has a lounge car where you can buy snacks and drinks.

If anyone asks which side of the falls is nicer, the American side (American Falls) or the Canadian side (Horseshoe Falls), I would recommend they book to the Canadian side.
The falls on the Canadian side are spectacular. Also you can see the American Falls on the Canadian side.

Niagara Falls Station
This station is very small. You are able to collect your VIA rail tickets before your travel date which we did. There are no lockers at this station.

Niagara Falls - Toronto **VIA RAIL**

Our train arrived 30mins early so we were able to board our train early. There is no check in facilities, so again you just store your luggage in the luggage area. Same procedure as Amtrak, an officer will come on board and check your tickets. Announcements are also made (in English and French) during the trip to advise passengers which station was coming up next.

The layout of the train is the same as an Amtrak train. However this train didn't have a lounge/dining car on board, so you had to bring your own snacks and drinks.
It also carried comfort class (2nd class) seats only.

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