Travel

How does a trip from Toronto to Vancouver by VIA Rail look like?

  • Last Updated:
  • Aug 9th, 2021 3:33 pm
[OP]
Newbie
May 15, 2020
16 posts
24 upvotes

How does a trip from Toronto to Vancouver by VIA Rail look like?

I will soon travel from Toronto to Vancouver by VIA Rail train, and since it's going to be a long trip, I'd like to be more prepared for this trip.

I've got the Economy class ticket, since it was $2000 cheaper than the the other class available.
I know this question might sound dumb, but in terms of food, will food be available on the train to purchase?

I was looking at their menu for the Economy class and all I see is just snack! Do I have to eat chips all day for four days while on board? Grinning Face With Smiling Eyes

I have three luggage with me and I have to carry them with me all alone. Is there a trolley / baggage cart in Toronto's Union Station so that I could use to carry my baggage, or do I have to carry them all by hand?

How does the inside of the train look like? They didn't assign me a seat number when I purchased the ticket, so any suggestions on the seat that I should try to take?

I would appreciate if anyone could share their experience.
46 replies
Penalty Box
Nov 25, 2010
5288 posts
1803 upvotes
Abbottabad
Why not fly? Economy for 4 days is gonna be hell.
[OP]
Newbie
May 15, 2020
16 posts
24 upvotes
iamskyhigh wrote: Why not fly? Economy for 4 days is gonna be hell.
Because, I wanna enjoy the scenery maybe? :rolleyes:
Deal Fanatic
Mar 21, 2010
6350 posts
3329 upvotes
Toronto
How soon is soon? Right now, this trip is nothing like it was, up until recently it wasn't even running - I assume things are very cut back because of COVID. For example, because you're not going in a sleeper, you'll have to wear a mask the entire time.

Also:

The Dining car will be open to Sleeper Plus passengers for breakfast and dinner. A reservation system will be in place to allow and control access. Lunch will be provided in-cabin only and will have to be eaten in cabins. The menu and bar service have been modified.

A new at-seat food cart service will be offered in Economy class. The menu and bar service have been modified.


https://www.viarail.ca/en/explore-our-d ... r-canadian

Looks like you'll just have the cart snack service available to you, unless any of the station stops are long enough for you to grab something.
Deal Expert
Feb 7, 2017
20030 posts
17903 upvotes
Eastern Ontario
It’s one of those once in a lifetime experiences …
But not cheap
You’ll pay at least $ 500 CDN for a one way economy (seat only) ticket between Toronto and Vancouver or vice versa
Whereas one might find that price for a RETURN TICKET for a flight on a seat sale
(I recently found an incredible deal for $ 200 CDN on a seat sale to and from Vancouver )

The train is an adventure

Although if my goal was to truly see / experience Canada
My choice would be to make this trek by driving a car …
Or an RV.
That way you actually get to SEE a lot more

Cuz on the train… it’s far more passive … just looking out the window
And the trip continues around the clock … day & night (in the dark / when you are sleeping)

Plus there are so few actual stops where you can get out & explore *
Or even stretch your legs
If memory serves … there are short stops @ Jasper, Edmonton, & Winnipeg
But not really long enough to do anything / see the area

Honestly … this just is not the year to do this trip
There are just so many issues due to Covid
Be it the rotating lockdowns … this train has been not running far too often
(Example : Manitoba Border is essentially CLOSED right now to those who don’t reside there … so that’s thrown a wrench into the works )
And cuz of Covid many of the things that make The Canadian great … are not accessible
Like the Panoramic Domed Park & Skyline Cars
Local Entertainment onboard & activities
And just the ability to meet other travellers from all over the world
Be it by sitting together in coach seats, in the bar, or at dinner
ALL GONE CURRENTLY
https://www.viarail.ca/en/explore-our-d ... r-canadian

For more info on The Canadian … GOOGLE
Lots of folks have written blogs of their travels
There are also Reviews … so you can read what people liked & didn’t like
(Not Keeping to schedule is an often refrain… cuz in Canada Freight takes priority on the tracks over Pax Trains )

Also there are plenty of videos about The Canadian
Including a whole episode on Mighty Trains (2016) done by the Discovery Channel Canada

* NOTE - The Canadian runs every few days. So it is possible to book your ticket in segments. Where you get off at one of the major stops enroute (like Winnipeg … when MB isn’t in lockdown) … and then catch the next train when it comes thru a few days later
[OP]
Newbie
May 15, 2020
16 posts
24 upvotes
PointsHubby wrote: It’s one of those once in a lifetime experiences …
But not cheap
You’ll pay at least $ 500 CDN for a one way economy (seat only) ticket between Toronto and Vancouver or vice versa
Whereas one might find that price for a RETURN TICKET for a flight on a seat sale
(I recently found an incredible deal for $ 200 CDN on a seat sale to and from Vancouver )

The train is an adventure

Although if my goal was to truly see / experience Canada
My choice would be to make this trek by driving a car …
Or an RV.
That way you actually get to SEE a lot more

Cuz on the train… it’s far more passive … just looking out the window
And the trip continues around the clock … day & night (in the dark / when you are sleeping)

Plus there are so few actual stops where you can get out & explore *
Or even stretch your legs
If memory serves … there are short stops @ Jasper, Edmonton, & Winnipeg
But not really long enough to do anything / see the area

Honestly … this just is not the year to do this trip
There are just so many issues due to Covid
Be it the rotating lockdowns … this train has been not running far too often
(Example : Manitoba Border is essentially CLOSED right now to those who don’t reside there … so that’s thrown a wrench into the works )
And cuz of Covid many of the things that make The Canadian great … are not accessible
Like the Panoramic Domed Park & Skyline Cars
Local Entertainment onboard & activities
And just the ability to meet other travellers from all over the world
Be it by sitting together in coach seats, in the bar, or at dinner
ALL GONE CURRENTLY
https://www.viarail.ca/en/explore-our-d ... r-canadian

For more info on The Canadian … GOOGLE
Lots of folks have written blogs of their travels
There are also Reviews … so you can read what people liked & didn’t like
(Not Keeping to schedule is an often refrain… cuz in Canada Freight takes priority on the tracks over Pax Trains )

Also there are plenty of videos about The Canadian
Including a whole episode on Mighty Trains (2016) done by the Discovery Channel Canada

* NOTE - The Canadian runs every few days. So it is possible to book your ticket in segments. Where you get off at one of the major stops enroute (like Winnipeg … when MB isn’t in lockdown) … and then catch the next train when it comes thru a few days later
Thank you for the information,

I don't think the Economy class was that expensive, as it was $354 including tax. Even If pay $200 for food, it'll become ~$550, which is a reasonable cost for a 4-day trip by train in my opinion.

BTW, do you know if cellphone data work on the train to access the Internet?
Deal Expert
Feb 7, 2017
20030 posts
17903 upvotes
Eastern Ontario
DuttyH75671 wrote: Thank you for the information,

I don't think the Economy class was that expensive, as it was $354 including tax. Even If pay $200 for food, it'll become ~$550, which is a reasonable cost for a 4-day trip by train in my opinion.

BTW, do you know if cellphone data work on the train to access the Internet?
Economy Class … comes in 3 levels
(Much like airfare Economy comes in multi levels)

Escape - Economy - Economy Plus (lowest to highest fares)
With Escape being Non Refundable, and with limited Exchangeable options (higher added costs)
Thru to Economy Plus … thats totally flexible and FULLY Refundable / Exchangeable
(See COMPARE OUR ADVANTAGES when looking at the Ticket Booking Tab and Fare Categories )

Here’s a link to more info from Via on The Canadian
https://www.viarail.ca/sites/all/files/ ... is_WEB.pdf

And another for Wifi service = https://www.viarail.ca/en/fares-and-packages/getaways

NOTE - Overall prices may be a bit lower on their website right now
As they like everyone else in the Travel Industry are just trying to hang on during Covid
(Also as noted on the website … you WILL NOT BE GETTING THE FULL CANADIAN EXPERIENCE at this time … like no Paroramic Domed Cars etc)
Also train fares are like airfare … as availability goes down … prices go up
Fares listed now are definitely lower than the norm
[OP]
Newbie
May 15, 2020
16 posts
24 upvotes
PointsHubby wrote: Economy Class … comes in 3 levels
(Much like airfare Economy comes in multi levels)

Escape - Economy - Economy Plus (lowest to highest fares)
With Escape being Non Refundable, and with limited Exchangeable options (higher added costs)
Thru to Economy Plus … thats totally flexible and FULLY Refundable / Exchangeable
(See COMPARE OUR ADVANTAGES when looking at the Ticket Booking Tab and Fare Categories )

Here’s a link to more info from Via on The Canadian
https://www.viarail.ca/sites/all/files/ ... is_WEB.pdf

And another for Wifi service = https://www.viarail.ca/en/fares-and-packages/getaways

NOTE - Overall prices may be a bit lower on their website right now
As they like everyone else in the Travel Industry are just trying to hang on during Covid
(Also as noted on the website … you WILL NOT BE GETTING THE FULL CANADIAN EXPERIENCE at this time … like no Paroramic Domed Cars etc)
Also train fares are like airfare … as availability goes down … prices go up
Fares listed now are definitely lower than the norm
I read on their website that the Canadian train does not have wi-fi, so I'm wondering whether my own cellphone's data will work or not.
Deal Fanatic
Mar 21, 2010
6350 posts
3329 upvotes
Toronto
DuttyH75671 wrote: I read on their website that the Canadian train does not have wi-fi, so I'm wondering whether my own cellphone's data will work or not.
Depends on your carrier. Expect it not to for large portions of the trip, as you will not be in populated areas.

Check the schedule - there are usually significant stops (a few hours) at Winnipeg, Edmonton and Jasper, where you should have time to find a hot meal somewhere. There are others with shorter stops of 30 minutes to an hour where you could grab a coffee and maybe run for some groceries. Check with the train crew before you leave the station as they may change e.g., they could shorten stops if the train is delayed.
Deal Expert
User avatar
Jun 12, 2007
17156 posts
5571 upvotes
London
DuttyH75671 wrote: I read on their website that the Canadian train does not have wi-fi, so I'm wondering whether my own cellphone's data will work or not.
Likely not when you get into the mountains of AB / BC where it would be very spotty. It's already spotty from a car and likely is much worse in a train

I would rather fly into Calgary, rent a car and spend 4 days in the Banff / Lake Louise / Jasper corridor which is one of the crown jewels for sightseeing in Canada. It's much nicer to stop and enjoy those sights rather than have them fly past on the train
[OP]
Newbie
May 15, 2020
16 posts
24 upvotes
l69norm wrote: Likely not when you get into the mountains of AB / BC where it would be very spotty. It's already spotty from a car and likely is much worse in a train

I would rather fly into Calgary, rent a car and spend 4 days in the Banff / Lake Louise / Jasper corridor which is one of the crown jewels for sightseeing in Canada. It's much nicer to stop and enjoy those sights rather than have them fly past on the train
Thanks,

So I should download a lot of stuff on my laptop/cellphone so that I won't die of boredom while on board! Grinning Face With Smiling Eyes

This is not really a vacation trip for me. I'm moving permanently from Toronto to BC, so I thought to myself I might not get a chance of traveling this journey by train ever again, that's why I've decided to go by train instead of flight. If it was for vacation purpose, I would have waited until they start running their full services on train again, or maybe plan it to go to Banff as you said.

I wanted to move last month, but due to Covid I delayed my trip for one month. Even with all the shortcomings and drop in their services due to Covid, I still think traveling by train would be more interesting than just getting a flight ticket and reach BC in half a day! So I just don't wanna miss the opportunity of a train travel!
Deal Fanatic
Feb 15, 2006
8988 posts
3575 upvotes
Toronto
Did that train trip long ago. Awful. Wouldn't do it again. It's NOT a way to see the Rockies, only lots of trees blocking the way most of the time.

ON is big, it takes half of the time just to get out of ON. There's virtually little or nothing to see in the Prairies.

It's better than a bus (but Greyhound is gone), but it'll be several boring days. But you can say you've done this adventure, then tell others why they shouldn't do it.
Member
May 27, 2012
287 posts
115 upvotes
Whitehorse, YT
i drove from toronto to whitehorse, yt
once in a lifetime experience...employer paid for depreciation, gas, hotel stays and meals

it would be more time and more $ but if u can really enjoy it if you have a van to sleep in or afford hotel stays airbnb
Deal Fanatic
Jan 12, 2005
5013 posts
1618 upvotes
Mississauga
Not much to see between Toronto and Winnipeg. Imagine being stuck in a room full of people that don't take a shower for four days and just eating TV dinner. Are you moving? Why are you brining 3 suitcases with you?
Deal Addict
User avatar
Aug 3, 2006
4725 posts
1361 upvotes
You can buy meals in economy class but not all trains offer this.
Seats are assigned. This might be currently suspended due to the pandemic.
You have to leave your luggage at the designated space on the train. This may be a safety concern if bringing so much.
Cellular signal is dependent on where you are, not that you're on a train. You can look up coverage maps with the wireless providers.
Wi-fi isn't available on the route you're taking.

You're sitting in an economy seat for potentially 96 hours. That's going to be a very painful experience.
How are you going to sleep?
There are toilets on board but how are you going to shower?

This would be a fun trip if in business class or with a sleeper cabin.
Deal Fanatic
Feb 4, 2010
5461 posts
4488 upvotes
OP already bought the ticket (he's not deciding) so why not give them actual advice they can use given the limitations of train travel instead of all the reasons why they shouldn't go by train? How's that helpful?

I generally always pack my own food (because I don't want to pay overpriced crap food) COVID or not. On a train this will be even easier. I would suggest for the first couple of days to bring sandwiches, salads or veggie sticks, fruits, instant oatmeal, hard boiled egg, canned tuna with a peel off lids etc. Buy the last few meals. I would suggest buying a small soft-shell collapsible cooler - pack it with frozen water bottles that way you having drinking water (preferably reusable water bottles).

Other things to consider: ear plugs, eye mask, pillow, charging cable, download movies/music ahead of time, bring a book, wipes (in lieu of a shower).

OP I would take all the negative posts with a grain of salt because whether you will have a good time or not is mostly dependent on your attitude. Focus on the positive aspects of travelling by train instead of temporary inconveniences. I've done some rough travelling and I don't regret any of it, had interesting experiences, met people, etc.
Sr. Member
Mar 8, 2004
666 posts
441 upvotes
Kanata
For someone who loves train travel, I would enjoy every minute even the boring parts. My parents did it as something they just always wanted to do.
[OP]
Newbie
May 15, 2020
16 posts
24 upvotes
GateGuardian wrote: Are you moving? Why are you brining 3 suitcases with you?
Sorry I didn't get your question.

I'm moving so why am I bringing 3 suitcases with me?
Deal Addict
User avatar
Dec 18, 2007
4541 posts
492 upvotes
DuttyH75671 wrote:
Thank you for the information,

I don't think the Economy class was that expensive, as it was $354 including tax. Even If pay $200 for food, it'll become ~$550, which is a reasonable cost for a 4-day trip by train in my opinion.

BTW, do you know if cellphone data work on the train to access the Internet?
It's very reasonable.
Short of a banana republic/AI type of trip, there are few places you can get transportation and 4 nights accommodation with a 4000km+ trip.
Get a deal on a seat sale, and it's an even better value!
DuttyH75671 wrote:
I read on their website that the Canadian train does not have wi-fi, so I'm wondering whether my own cellphone's data will work or not.
They do at the stations, but there's going to be a ton of dead zones.
DuttyH75671 wrote:
Thanks,

So I should download a lot of stuff on my laptop/cellphone so that I won't die of boredom while on board! Grinning Face With Smiling Eyes

This is not really a vacation trip for me. I'm moving permanently from Toronto to BC, so I thought to myself I might not get a chance of traveling this journey by train ever again, that's why I've decided to go by train instead of flight. If it was for vacation purpose, I would have waited until they start running their full services on train again, or maybe plan it to go to Banff as you said.

I wanted to move last month, but due to Covid I delayed my trip for one month. Even with all the shortcomings and drop in their services due to Covid, I still think traveling by train would be more interesting than just getting a flight ticket and reach BC in half a day! So I just don't wanna miss the opportunity of a train travel!
There's a reason that the Canadian is considered one of the must-do train routes by enthusiasts.
I'm considering doing the same route, but in a sleeper car. Maybe later this year, so we'll see.

And yes, it'll certainly be more interesting as well.

I say do it if you have the time.
Mulder and Scully wrote: You can buy meals in economy class but not all trains offer this.
Seats are assigned. This might be currently suspended due to the pandemic.
You have to leave your luggage at the designated space on the train. This may be a safety concern if bringing so much.
Cellular signal is dependent on where you are, not that you're on a train. You can look up coverage maps with the wireless providers.
Wi-fi isn't available on the route you're taking.

You're sitting in an economy seat for potentially 96 hours. That's going to be a very painful experience.
How are you going to sleep?
There are toilets on board but how are you going to shower?

This would be a fun trip if in business class or with a sleeper cabin.
There is no business class on the Canadian. It's seater class(economy) and the next class up is a bunk.
Assuming they're the same seats that one takes from Toronto to Halifax, the seats recline a good chunk and they're comfy.

I believe you only have limited access to your luggage at certain stations and you can't just walk back there whenever, but the VIA website will have more info on that.
I think that the Dome car is also only available to certain classes, but don't quote me on that. Check the website.

OP- I think you should do it.
If you have the time, (plus both shots by then) and there are little to no restrictions in service, you should do it up. I think a lot of people here don't get that train travel is about the journey and going slow, not rushing to your destination asap.
If you get the chance though, try to upgrade though. You'll be a lot more well rested and comfy. I've seen great last min. deals as well. (pre-covid of course)
Don't forget that the higher tiers (well did) include your meals and the from what I've read on train review sites, the food is very good.

I'm hoping I get to do it as well myself, if not this year, maybe next year.

Go for the bougie Prestige class! Hehe
But the website shows a lot of things are cancelled including the dome car.
Last edited by IceBlueShoes on Jun 14th, 2021 6:37 pm, edited 2 times in total.
[OP]
Newbie
May 15, 2020
16 posts
24 upvotes
hierophant wrote: OP already bought the ticket (he's not deciding) so why not give them actual advice they can use given the limitations of train travel instead of all the reasons why they shouldn't go by train? How's that helpful?

I generally always pack my own food (because I don't want to pay overpriced crap food) COVID or not. On a train this will be even easier. I would suggest for the first couple of days to bring sandwiches, salads or veggie sticks, fruits, instant oatmeal, hard boiled egg, canned tuna with a peel off lids etc. Buy the last few meals. I would suggest buying a small soft-shell collapsible cooler - pack it with frozen water bottles that way you having drinking water (preferably reusable water bottles).

Other things to consider: ear plugs, eye mask, pillow, charging cable, download movies/music ahead of time, bring a book, wipes (in lieu of a shower).

OP I would take all the negative posts with a grain of salt because whether you will have a good time or not is mostly dependent on your attitude. Focus on the positive aspects of travelling by train instead of temporary inconveniences. I've done some rough travelling and I don't regret any of it, had interesting experiences, met people, etc.
Thanks!

I can still cancel my ticket and get a flight ticket instead, but I don't have such intention, at least at the moment!

That's a good advice to take some light food with me! I don't think that I'll pack a lot of foods, probably some dry fruits and chocolate. And maybe a small pack of bread and Nutella!

Regarding the negative comments, well, I appreciate people sharing any negative experience that they've had. It's always useful to know what you should expect in your travel.

Though, as you mentioned, some negative comments makes me think as if a 4-day trip by train is going to make me hate my life! Grinning Face With Smiling Eyes But I don't think that no shower and no comfortable sleep for 4 day is going to kill me!

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