Boarding An Amtrak Train: What You Need To Know - TWK (2023)

One thing that every Amtrak passenger should know is the process for boarding an Amtrak Train.

While this process can vary from station to station, the overall concept is the same. Boarding an Amtrak train can be fast and easy if you are ready and know what to expect, and it would be faster if everyone else knew too.

This article will cover a variety of experiences, such as boarding Amtrak regional, Acla, and long-distance trains.

While this article does not cover every train and station, it will give an excellent overview that you can adapt to your needs.

Grab a snack or tasty beverage and prepare to learn; I am glad you are here.

Before You Leave For The Station

Buy Your Tickets Before You Leave For The Station

There are a few things I would suggest you do before leaving for the station.

The first thing to do before leaving for your trip is to buy your tickets before your day of departure. You can buy them online, in the app, over the phone, or at staffed stations. This move is essential if you are departing from an unstaffed station.

Some staffed and unstaffed stations have ticket machines that you can use to make reservations or print out tickets.

Buying your tickets beforehand may give you a better price and peace of mind because you do not have to worry about getting to the station and having the train sold out.

This rule has a few exceptions, but it is not bad for beginner Amtrak travelers to follow.

Do not plan to buy tickets on the train. Most Amtrak trains do not allow you to purchase tickets on the train. If you board a full train without a purchased ticket, you could get let off at the next stop.

Verify Everything Is Right

A week or so before a trip, I log into my Amtrak account or app to verify my ticket info. I ensure nothing changes and everything is correct on my tickets, hotels, and schedule. Also, check for any service advisories.

Sometimes there are changes like departure times or rooms that you may have missed. If barcodes do not show up, call Amtrak as soon as possible. You could also call Amtrak to verify.

Don’t Forget To Check For Amtrak Service Advisories.

Research Your Stations

Many Amtrak stations, especially in small towns, are unstaffed.

Unstaffed stops could be a building to wait in or a platform. Either could be a flag stop.

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

There are also staffed stations along the system, especially in bigger cities. Some of these stations even have lounges.

Doing some research before you leave can save you from last-minute panics. This way, you know what to expect.

Suggested questions to research about your stations:

  • What services do they offer?
  • Can you park for as long as you need?
  • Do they have an indoor waiting area?
  • Can you check bags?
  • Are there bathrooms?
  • Other needs you may have.

Making a dry run is a great way to know the station. If you plan to depart from a staffed station, you can buy your tickets there; this way, you can become familiar with the station and ask questions to someone from that station.

How Early Should I Arrive At The Station?

While it is up to you when you arrive at the station, Amtrak suggests you arrive 30 minutes early if you do not check bags and 45-60 minutes if you do.

Take into account some time for traffic, paying for parking, and figuring out where to go. The train will likely not wait for you if you are late.

At some stations, the doors to the train close five minutes before departure, so keep that in mind.

Boarding an Amtrak train at some stations starts ten to twenty minutes before departure.

At other stations, as soon as the train arrives, people board, and when the scheduled time hits, the train leaves with or without you.

Check Your Trains Status Before You Leave

Before leaving for the station, check the status of your train.

You can use the Amtrak app, call Amtrak, or on a few third-party sites.

Amtrak offers an alert service that texts or emails you if the train is running late. You can sign up for this when you purchase your tickets or if you forget afterward.

Do I Need To Check In Like Airlines?

You do not need to check in 24 hours before with Amtrak, like when you fly. The only time you may need to check in is if you use a lounge, more on that later, or some station check to ensure you are where you need to be for your journey.

Getting Your Luggage Ready

Whether you carry on or check, all bags must have a tag with your name, phone, email address, or both.


Amtrak has a generous carry-on baggage policy allowing you two personal items and two suitcases up to 28,” and everything must weigh under fifty pounds.

Checked Bags

If your begging and ending stations must have checked bagged service, you can check bags on many Amtrak trains. The app and train indicate if you can check bags on your journey.

Stations With Self-Service Checked Baggage

Self-serve trainside checked baggage service is available to and from the following stationsonly: Charleston, WV; Cincinnati, OH; Columbus, WI; Crawfordsville, IN; Dyer, IN; Hammond, LA; Lafayette, IN; Meridian, MS; Mount Pleasant, IA; Rensselaer, IN; Texarkana, AR; Tuscaloosa, AL; Winona, MN.

Checking Your Bags Mid-route

I have an advanced Amtrak check-bag travel tip for you.

You can check bags mid-route. For example, if you travel from Sturtevant, WI, to DC, you must carry your bags onto the Hiawatha, but when you get to Chicago, you can check your bags there and grab them in DC.

(Video) 5 Things You Need To Know Before Riding Amtrak | Tips and Tricks

Boarding An Amtrak Train At Unstaffed Station

For unstaffed stations, check for signs with boarding instructions (there may not be any).

If there is only one platform at the station, things are more straightforward; wait behind the yellow line for the train to come. If there are two, check for signs.

A few unstaffed stations have announcements, such as Sturtevant Depot, where there are two tracks.

At this station, conductors or other Amtrak staff can remotely inform passengers the train is coming, what train track, or other announcements.

Whatever the case, prepare your belongings and tickets when you see the headlights because the train will arrive soon!

At flag stops, the train only stops if you purchased a ticket before the train’s arrival.

As The Train Pulls Up

Watch for your accommodations at unstaffed stations as the train rolls in.

For example, if you have a sleeper, those cars are usually on the front or end of the train, so if you did not see them as the train rolled in, walk towards the back.

There are two trains where the sleepers are on both ends. These trains split or come together somewhere along their route.

Those are the Lake Shore Limited and the Empire Builder. For those trains, the Boston (448/449) and Seattle (7/8) sleepers are often at the beginning, and the New York (48/49) and Portland 27/28) are on the tail.

After the train stops, conductors and staff will get you off the train, give instructions, and help you get in the right car.

Boarding An Amtrak Train At A Staffed Station

Where You Can Wait For Your Train

If you are at a staffed station, check for a lounge. You can use the lounge if you have reservations for a sleeping car, Acela First Class Passenger, and sometimes business class. (depending on the station).

If there is no lounge or you do not qualify to use one, there is a waiting area for you to wait.

Some larger stations like Chicago have a Great Hall and food courts to use as you wait for your train.

If you get to a staffed station early, you may be able to store your bags for a small fee. See the agent for more information.

In my experience, the cost has been between free and $10.

Verification & Checking Your Bags

Some smaller staffed stations like to verify that you are at the station at the right time for the train and on the travel date. I mainly experienced that in Omaha.

Reminder, if you want to check bags, the Amtrak rule is you must check your bag 45 minutes ahead of time.

(Video) #AmtrakHowTo Handle Baggage

Some stations may let this rule slide; it is best to assume they do not. Remember that both stations need to offer a check bag service.

As the train pulls up

When your travel time is close, ensure you can hear announcements or at least one person in your travel party if you are not a solo traveler.

It is also an excellent time to ensure everything is ready, meaning your belonging are together and your tickets are out.

When it is time to board the train, the staff will help you get to the right spot on the platform. If you are at the initial station, you could load early, especially if you are in a sleeper. This practice could happen at some of the longer stops.

Finally, Boarding An Amtrak Train

The train is here, and it is time to board, or is it? It is!

Before I get into this section, I want to emphasize something. And that point is to listen to what the staff is saying to understand the process. I often see people not listening to instructions and slowing the boarding process.

The key points to listen for from station staff are the train’s number plus the gate and track information. Additionally, listen to instructions on the position of your accommodations.

Long-distance Trains Coach Class

Walking to the train, look for the conductors and staff who will direct you to the right car.

Often coach passengers on long-distance trains receive a seat check or tag, which is the seat assignment.

Long-distance Trains Sleeping Accommodations

If you have sleeper accommodation, you are assigned a car and room after completing your reservation, so check your tickets.

Walk to the car that matches your reservation; the car number is the four digits and by the door.

Often the car attendant will meet you at the door unless you are boarding late at night when a conductor may help you.

There is no need to push and shove to get to your car because it is reserved for you, and no one will take it.

Regional Trains

Some regional trains are open seating, meaning you can enter through any door and sit anywhere.

Occasionally conductors will assign you a car; sometimes, this is due to short platforms where not all doors will open.

If you are a business class passenger, look for that car or ask a conductor.


On Acela trains, when you book, you are assigned a car and a seat that you can change for free.

As you walk up, look for your car number, enter, and find your spot. Do not ignore your assigned seat, especially at tables, because some people picked those spots.

(Video) Beginners Guide To Amtrak | What You Need To Know

Tickets And Boarding An Amtrak Train

Eons ago, and as seen in every old movie with train travel, you see the conductor walk through the train with a paper punch and punch your tickets. If that is what you expect for your Amtrak journey, there will be some disappointment.

These days, conductors use an iPhone-type device with a scanner to scan your bar or QR code.

Depending on the number of segments, the same barcode could get scanned a few times along your trip.

When It Happens

Depending on how many people are boarding, the conductors may scan your tickets before or as you board, or they may wait till you board the train and are seated.

There has been a time or two when I was the only one boarding the train, and the conductor looked at me and asked Kevin? I said yup, and he hit the button, and that was that.

The conductor may consult your car attendant and lift your ticket manually if you are a sleeper car passenger. Meaning they may never scan your ticket.

Boarding An Amtrak Train Wrap-up

Following these few steps will make boarding an Amtrak train easier:

  • Be ready
  • Pack light
    • Make sure your luggage is in good shape!
    • Plastic shopping bags and garbage bags are not great for luggage.
  • Do research the stations you use to know what to expect.
  • Have your tickets ready on paper or electronically to make the boarding process quicker.
  • Listen to announcements if at a staffed station or unstaffed station with a PA system.
  • Keep an eye on the train’s status.
  • Don’t push and shove; the train will leave after all passengers are onboard.

Boarding Amtrak trains is not complex when you know what is happening and are ready to go.

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you found what you were looking for when boarding an Amtrak train.

Please check out my other article about riding Amtrak. If you found value in this information and want to ensure the site continues, help out here.

Safe Travels!


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(Video) Amtrak Tips And Tricks | Beginners Guide


What do I need to bring to board 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. Please speak to the conductor if you have questions about any other items.

How does Amtrak boarding work? ›

Boarding gates are usually posted 15 minutes prior to a train's departure. Many stations have monitors and signs that display the boarding gate locations for each train. At many stations, Amtrak customer service representatives will make announcements about boarding times and gate locations.

What do I need to know before Travelling by train? ›

The following 10 tips are some of the most commonly recommended to ensure a relaxing and enjoyable first-time rail journey!
  • BE COMFY. ...
Jul 26, 2020

Do you go through security check on Amtrak? ›

With due respect to passengers' privacy, the random and unannounced screening and inspection of passengers and their personal items is completed as quickly as possible - usually in less than a minute.

Can I bring my own snacks on Amtrak train? ›

Bringing Your Food Aboard

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.

Does Amtrak check your bags? ›

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

What is the process of boarding a train? ›

1) How do you board a train? In general, once one knows on which track a train will arrive, one goes to the adjacent platform and waits. When the train arrives, the doors will open and people who need to disembark will get off. Then you go through the open door and hop on the train.

Does Amtrak check bags before boarding? ›

Luggage must be checked at least 45 minutes prior to your train's scheduled train departure.

How early should I arrive at Amtrak? ›

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 can you not bring on a train? ›

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.

Can I bring a backpack on Amtrak? ›

Each passenger may bring two personal items, 25 lbs. (12 kg) and 14 x 11 x 7 inches each, and two carry-on items, 50 lbs. (23 kg) and 28 x 22 x 14 inches each, onboard. Make sure you have a tag with your name and address on the outside of all your bags.

How do you travel on a train for the first time? ›

How to book a train ticket in India?
  1. Approach your nearest railway station and ask for the reservation form.
  2. Fill out the passenger details in the railway form like name, age, gender, berth preference)
  3. After you have filled out the details of the way, you need to submit it at the railway counter along with the payment.
May 27, 2022

What are the password requirements for Amtrak? ›

Clicking it pops up a whole new window that says helpful things about how the new password should be constructed, including that it must be over 8 characters, not include my Email address, include numbers or special characters.

Can you sit anywhere on Amtrak? ›

Can I choose a specific seat? Not while you're making a reservation. Your seat will be automatically assigned when you complete your reservation. You may change your assigned seat at any time after your booking is complete using interactive seat maps on the Amtrak app or on

Can you bring two backpacks 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.

What food can I bring on Amtrak? ›

7 essential things to pack for your Amtrak trip
  • Salty snacks like nuts, chips, crackers, pretzels.
  • Cereal (especially the kind that is easy to eat without milk like Chex or Cheerios)
  • Protein: Cheese sticks, jerky, beef or turkey snack sticks or bites, peanut butter, hummus, edamame.
Jul 25, 2018

Where do you put suitcases on a train? ›

Luggage should be stored in the overhead luggage racks, under the seats and in the luggage compartments throughout the train. On some longer distance trains, it may be possible to store luggage in a separate area of the train.

Is a purse a personal item on 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.

Can you bring alcohol on Amtrak? ›

We serve alcoholic beverages onboard trains in most Dining, Lounge, and Café Cars. You may bring aboard your own private stock of alcoholic beverages subject to the following limitations: You may consume private stock alcoholic beverages only in Sleeping Car accommodations for which you have a valid ticket.

How is boarding done? ›

Check-in at the Airport

Officials at the counter will check the required documents to verify your identity. After verification, you will be issued a boarding pass which will have all the details of your travel like Flight number, seat number, scheduled departure time of the flight.

How long does boarding process last? ›

Most flights start boarding 30 - 50 minutes before scheduled departure, but the exact time depends on your destination and plane. Boarding ends 15 minutes before departure. If you're not on board, we may reassign your seat to another passenger. You will not be allowed to board once the doors close.

What is the order of boarding? ›

Passengers that check in first get on the plane first. The boarding groups are A, B and C — with each passenger assigned a number somewhere in that group. When the gate agent calls your group number, you find your place in line. Business Select tickets will get to board first (they are always A 1-15).

How long do trains take to pass? ›

If the train is traveling 50 to 60 MPH, it takes about a minute to clear a crossing. At 30 MPH, it takes about two minutes to clear a crossing. Trains have the right-of-way because they cannot quickly stop for a motorist at crossings or for trespassers on the tracks.

What is priority boarding on Amtrak? ›

Seniors, families with small children, active military, disabled in wheelchairs or walkers, and business class have boarding priority on Amtrak. In the larger stations, they will reserve a separate waiting room with more seating available.

Are there bathrooms on Amtrak trains? ›

If you want to get up and stretch your legs, there's plenty of room to walk around, with restrooms conveniently located in every car. On shorter train journeys, Amtrak's Coach Class seats provide a comfortable place to relax and enjoy the view.

What happens if you miss your Amtrak connection? ›

If Amtrak misses a connection, they will put you up in a hotel. But there's no guarantee you'll be able to get the same accommodation on the next train. Some here will call Amtrak from the late train and try to secure a room on the next days train if they know they're going to miss their connection.

Does Amtrak leave early? ›

any train that arrives early into a station to receive passengers can depart early if it is notated to reflect as such in the timetable.

Can you bring toothpaste on a train? ›

Each passenger is limited to one quart-size bag of liquids, gels and aerosols. Common travel items that must comply with the 3-1-1 liquids rule include toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, mouthwash and lotion.

What should I wear on Amtrak? ›

Wear Comfortable Clothing

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.

What should I bring on a train ticket? ›

What to pack for a train trip?
  • 1) Ticket and related documents.
  • 2) Water bottle.
  • 3) Mobile charger and power bank.
  • 4) Food.
  • 5) Hygiene essentials.
  • 6) Safety locks.
  • 7) Inflatable Travel Pillow.
  • 8) A Pair of earphones.
Jul 21, 2020

What are the rules for train luggage? ›

Trunks, suitcase and boxes having outside measurement of 100 cms. x 60 cms x 25 cms (length x breadth x height) will be allowed to be carried in the passenger compartments as personal luggage.

Does Amtrak provide blankets? ›

Some coach passengers also bring pillows, as the pillows Amtrak hands out in coach are quite small. Sleeping car passengers are furnished with a full set of blankets and pillows, so don't need to worry about it.

Do you start with train cards in Ticket to Ride? ›

Ticket to Ride: The Card Game

Players start with 1 locomotive card and 7 other random train cards in their hands. Players are also dealt 6 destination tickets of which they must keep at least 1. The destination tickets have 1 to 5 colored dots which match the colors of the train cards.

Do you have to start your own train first? ›

even if you haven't started on your own train.

In fact, many people have won the game without every playing on their own train. This leads us into the discussion of how many tiles you need to answer a double ....

Is ID required for train travel? ›

However he shall have to carry and show one of following identity card of any of the passengers in original while travelling. The following photo identity cards are considered valid. Passport. Voter photo identity card issued by Election Commission of India.

Do Amtrak rooms lock? ›

You can lock the door when you are inside the roomette, but you cannot lock it from the outside, so avoid leaving valuables in the roomette when you are not there. Bedrooms offer larger private accommodations at an extra cost. The only non-private seating on Amtrak trains is coach seating.

How do you know if a passenger has boarded the train? ›

You can check passenger name online only at IRCTC Next Generation eTicketing System site and that too only if you have booked the ticket thru IRCTC. If you are using IRCTC site or any other site / mobile app to check PNR status passenger name will not appear.

Can I bring my vape on Amtrak? ›

No one may smoke anything in any area on trains, on Thruway services, in stations or in any other location where smoking is prohibited. This includes: Electronic smoking devices, such as electronic cigarettes.

Is there anything you can't bring on Amtrak? ›

Black powder, percussion caps or any ammunition used with a matchlock, flintlock, percussion-cap ignition system or similar type are never permitted; this includes self-loaded, gunpowder-based modern ammunition. *Amtrak accepts no liability for theft or damage for any items brought onboard.

How early should you arrive for Amtrak? ›

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).

Can you sit wherever you want on Amtrak? ›

Can I choose a specific seat? Not while you're making a reservation. Your seat will be automatically assigned when you complete your reservation. You may change your assigned seat at any time after your booking is complete using interactive seat maps on the Amtrak app or on

What kind of food can you get on Amtrak? ›

Flexible dining
  • 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.

What items are not allowed on a train? ›

According to its list of 'Prohibited Items,' Amtrak contraband includes:
  • Animals, including "comfort" animals. ...
  • Archery equipment. ...
  • Batteries with acid that can spill or leak. ...
  • Canisters, tanks or other devices containing propellants. ...
  • Corrosive or dangerous chemicals or materials. ...
  • Firearms or ammunition.
Jul 1, 2021

Where do you put your suitcase on Amtrak? ›

The "Carry-On" bags you can store in a luggage rack area on the lower level, in the overhead racks above your seat, and smaller items under your seat.

Will Amtrak wait for you? ›

These stops happen every 3-4 hours on average. All passengers are allowed to get off the train and walk around, but you are not supposed to leave the platform. If you have left the platform area and the all aboard is sounded, the train will not wait for you.

Is Amtrak slower than driving? ›

Passenger trains generally have faster top speed limits than automobiles. On the well maintained lines in America, top speed is usually 79 or 80 mph. There are some lines out west, I've heard, that have speed limits of 90 mph. Where the car beats the train is in average speed.


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3. What To Expect At An Amtrak Train Station
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