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World Travel, 1st stop USA...advice on travel. Amtrak?

Travel Forums North America World Travel, 1st stop USA...advice on travel. Amtrak?

1. Posted by AdamSenior (First Time Poster 1 posts) 7y

HI all, Me and my freind are in our last year at Leeds University.

We plan on traveling the world...with our 1st destination USA..Landing in NYC on the 5th of Aug, with a flight leaving from LA to fiji 5/6 weeks later.

Im new to this so i was after some advice on travel options, I am 23 with a full UK driving licence so i understand that Autodriveaway may be an option, i just dont want to have to rely on this to get around.

When booking the flights with sta travel they suggested a pass with amtrak, and the 12 segment 30 day looks intaresting, though from further reading the 12 segments seem like they wont last very long if we plan on seeing allot of the usa.

We plan on spending 5/6 weeks in the USA so any tips on travel options would be Super.

Hope to hear from some experienced travellers soon.x

:)

2. Posted by aj_mckay (Budding Member 19 posts) 7y

Hi there.

My girlfriend and I plan to do something very similar to what you're describing. We're going to New York at the beginning of September and have 6 weeks to get to Los Angeles for our flight out to Fiji.

We're planning to purchase Amtrak passes but we'll be getting the 45 day / 18 segment ones. As I understand it, a segment is a 'journey' between one place and another so that should allow us to get to up to 18 different cities on our way.

I realise that we may need to use more than one 'segment' to get from one place to another but hopefully that won't be a problem.

Maybe other people on here who have experience will be able to offer both you and me some advice on this Amtrak deal and what's best to do...?

3. Posted by Daawgon (Travel Guru 1992 posts) 7y

The problem with Amtrak is that the system is very spotty with coverage quite good in the Northeast and Midwest, but rather terrible in the West. Amtrak is no match for the wonderful European trains - Amtrak is old equipment, often dirty, terrible and expensive food, and the trains are always late with the exception of the Northeastern region. America is a nation of highways and airports - trains have long been neglected to the point where the entire system needs to be redrawn and rebuilt. Train stations here do not have the services found in European stations - you'll be lucky if you can find a city bus near any of our train stations. I feel very sorry for those tourists who do not speak English, because they will certainly never find anyone at any bus or train depot in the States that knows anything other than English and/or Spanish.

4. Posted by aj_mckay (Budding Member 19 posts) 7y

Quoting Daawgon

The problem with Amtrak is that the system is very spotty with coverage quite good in the Northeast and Midwest, but rather terrible in the West. Amtrak is no match for the wonderful European trains - Amtrak is old equipment, often dirty, terrible and expensive food, and the trains are always late with the exception of the Northeastern region. America is a nation of highways and airports - trains have long been neglected to the point where the entire system needs to be redrawn and rebuilt. Train stations here do not have the services found in European stations - you'll be lucky if you can find a city bus near any of our train stations. I feel very sorry for those tourists who do not speak English, because they will certainly never find anyone at any bus or train depot in the States that knows anything other than English and/or Spanish.

Thanks for your input. Unfortunatley due to both me and my girlfriend being only 24 it would be extremely expensive for us to rent a car and air travel would also be too expensive. We thought the Rail option would be a good compromise between the two allowing us to see some of the countryside as we travel through it. We're not too worried about the condition or timeliness of the trains (as long as its not ridiculously bad!) as we're doing this quite leisurely and won't have deadlines to meet. We realise it may be challenging at times but that's part of the appeal in a way!

5. Posted by rbyslipahs (Respected Member 349 posts) 7y

Adam, I'm going to forward you the e-mail that I just sent aj_mckay! I thought it was the same person posting, to be honest.

The main thing to keep in mind with Amtrak is that they frequently run behind because they share a track system with the freight liners and will often have to hold up as another train passes. I haven't known them to depart before another train arrives if there are connections being made, but always check ahead. The conductors are very helpful.

ETA: I'm not sure if there is a price difference with STA (possibly cheaper) but Amtrak also has an 18-segment, 45-day pass. To maximize it, double check your route against number of connections and how it flows geographically. In other words, try to reduce any backtracking.

To check out national parks along the routes, check the National Park website. Amtrak also has a few lines, like the Southwest Chief and Sunset Limited, that offer services called the Trails and Rails, where a national park ranger rides on board to give information. The Southwest Chief essentially follows the Santa Fe Trail, and the Sunset Limited offers connecting shuttle service to Big Bend National Park in southwest Texas.

[ Edit: Edited on 01-Jun-2009, at 10:18 by rbyslipahs ]

6. Posted by rob_harvs (Budding Member 20 posts) 7y

hey, i kinda did this trip in reverse with my girlfriend, flying from fiji to LA then out of DC. We used quite alot of different options...in california we hired a car (after ditching LA for San Diego) from san diego and drove out to vegas and the canyon then dropped it off in san fran. It can be expensive but if you book it far enough in advance you can get a good deal. STA can quote you a price too. It worked out to be less than using greyhound to get to the places we wanted to see, plus you get the added freedom of your own transport.
We did actually take the amtrak surf liner from LA to SD which was fine, around the same price and travelling time as the greyhound bus.
Southwest airlines are cheap for california and surrounding states, we flew from san fran to seattle for around £30...pretty last minute too. We had to fork out quite a bit for a flight in canada coast to coast but we didn't have the time to drive it.
On the east coast the amtrak is much better than on the west but its so damn expensive! NYC to DC on amtrak was going to be about $120 each...where as the Megabus was $15! we used the greyhound and the megabus for all our travelling on the east coast.

Hope this helps a bit!

7. Posted by aj_mckay (Budding Member 19 posts) 7y

Rob: Cheers for your input, it all helps!

We're planning to get the Amtrak rail pass which works out to be about £460 for 45 days' worth of travelling with up to 18 stops.

I hadn't realised the internal flights could be so cheap so that's an interesting point I'll bear in mind. We might end up hiring a car for the odd day or two to get to a couple of places that are slightly off the main Amtrak lines. We're both under 25 though so it is more expensive unfortunately

8. Posted by rbyslipahs (Respected Member 349 posts) 7y

As long as you book more than seven or fourteen days in advance, Southwest Airlines does have very reasonable regional one-way rates. Nothing like what you'd see with EasyJet or Ryanair, but good all the same. Megabus is fantastic, but not widely available. The earlier in advance that you do your booking, the cheaper the rate is. I've had friends who have gone from St. Louis to Chicago for $5. Most of the routes are centered around Chicago.

ETA: When booking on Southwest, the best rates are purchased at least fourteen days in advance or seven days in advance. After that, prices really make it not worthwhile, even for regional travel. With Megabus, you really have to book it more than several weeks in advance in order to get a rate under $40 or $50.

[ Edit: Edited on 02-Jun-2009, at 10:13 by rbyslipahs ]