Skip Navigation

Rail Across Canada

Travel Forums North America Rail Across Canada

Last Post This thread is marked as being about Canada
1. Posted by simonficti (Budding Member 2 posts) 7y Star this if you like it!


I'm looking to get some advice on whether I'm completely insane or not. I live in Vancouver and want to visit my Dad just after Christmas this year. The flights between Vancouver to Halifax are always a little expensive. This, coupled with the fact I am pretty vocal about climate change and the damage of flying, has urged me to put my money where my mouth is an train it across the country to see him.

Financially this appears to make sense, as it's over $1000 to fly and roughly half that for a VIA rail pass to get across Canada. I will be out of work at the time so travelling days won't be a problem. And as an added bonus, it means I could stop in Toronto to visit a few friends and take in the city. Plus, I've always wanted to do this trip as it sounds pretty breathtaking.

So, my only real issue with this is that it's a return trip. Is it realistically possible to do a return train trip across Canada without having cabin fever set in? Is it a case of once you've seen the amazing beauty that is the Canadian countryside, a return trip is fairly dull? Or is it just a case of twice the enjoyment?

Also, to anyone who's ever made this trip, what sort of people and age group would I find on the train? I'm in my mid 20's, and although I don't have a problem with not being around other mid-20 year olds, I do have vision of there only being retired people.

2. Posted by Amie L. (Budding Member 45 posts) 7y Star this if you like it!

What about flying one way and training the other? There might be some sweet sales between now and then. Like Via's 60 percent off sales etc. Or flying part-way like Van to TO then train TO to Halifax. It has to be a four day trip by train right? Or more?

You can expect a total variety of people on the train. I encountered people from all ages, from all over who were all super-friendly. I had AMAZING conversations with strangers on the train. And there is definitely different areas to walk to and hang out in on the train. It is a nice slow pace on the train. Really relaxing. If you stop over in TO it might be okay. I did Winnipeg to Vancouver. It was an overnight to Jasper - we stayed in Jasperfor vacation - and then another 20 hours or so to Vancouver. I could see doing several nights in a row on the trip could be tiring. You have to sleep in your seats (you can stretch out into two seats) etc.

Good luck.

3. Posted by bluewaav (Inactive 627 posts) 7y Star this if you like it!

Hey simonficti,

So you're worried that you would be bored on a train for four days? Well, think about it this way. You would be travelling through the majestic Rocky Mountains, then I guess you'll have to pay your dues and cross the flat and not-so-interesting Prairies, but then you get to the interesting Canadian Shield, and from there to the spectacular Maritimes. It actually sounds like a pretty incredible trip, and I can understand why you have wanted to do this for quite a while. But, remember, you won't be spending the entire time with your eyes glued to the scenery, beautiful or boring, but you will be having conversations with all kinds of people, Canadians and non-Canadians, of all ages and backgrounds. I'll tell you one thing. When I take a trip, it is not so much the places that I see that leave an impression on me as the people I meet. You really can't judge a trip across Canada in a train as boring until you have done it, and found it boring. I'm pretty sure that you won't though, as long as you aren't the antisocial, leave-me-alone, don't-talk-to-me type. If you are open and friendly, you are bound to meet like-minded people on your trip, and it could be an enriching trip, at least I think so.

Bon voyage, no matter which mode of transportation you choose.


4. Posted by flyingbob (Inactive 842 posts) 7y Star this if you like it!

I think what #2 says is an excellent option. Fly one way and train the other - or a bit here and a bit there.
I've done both and to be honest, the train was long and very slow. Canada doesn't have any fast trains compared to Europe and once out of B.C. and Alberta, it starts to get very flat and rather repetitive. However, I met many characters en-route and struck up some great conversations. I'm still in touch with some of the people I met too.
However, the plane did it quickly and allowed much more time to get out and about on my own two feet.
My choice?.. Do some of both.

5. Posted by madpoet (Respected Member 415 posts) 7y Star this if you like it!

Another option would be to take VIA to Halifax, and back as far as Toronto, then take Amtrak through the northern U.S., back to Vancouver via Seattle. It would be slightly different scenery, going back (although you'd still cross the boring prairies).

6. Posted by flyingbob (Inactive 842 posts) 7y Star this if you like it!

I really enjoyed the hospitality in Manitoba and Saskatchewan - but aren't those two provinces just hundreds and then hundreds more miles of the very biggest region of absolutely nothing going on, that you've ever seen?

7. Posted by jambo101 (Respected Member 414 posts) 7y Star this if you like it!

I'm sure if you keep checking the prices for Airline fares you could eventually get something much cheaper than your quoted price.I recently bought a return airfare for my daughter from Montreal to Los Angeles, prices for a one way ticket ranged from a low of $189 to a high of $1384, seems the prices change very often,ended up getting her a return ticket for $659 took a week of continually checking but it paid off in the end.. Crossing Canada in late December does not lend itself to being the most scenic of times so flying will take care of the enormous distance in about 7 hours each way rather than 5 days each way on the train which leaves more time to spend with Dad eh.

[ Edit: Edited on 26-Jun-2010, at 12:57 by jambo101 ]

8. Posted by tdhunter (Budding Member 2 posts) 7y Star this if you like it!

Buddy, considering your requirement I would suggest you a train ride. Its certainly more interesting with all the natural beauty around you and the fun doesnt get over in a matter of hrs. Since ur really vocal abt climate change and ill effects of flying, train would be the best for you.

9. Posted by simonficti (Budding Member 2 posts) 7y Star this if you like it!

Thanks for all the advice people, some good suggestions. I think I might brave it and try a return train journey. The worst that could happen is I will get bored on the return leg and will have plenty of time to catch up on some reading :)

10. Posted by DaveinMD (Full Member 199 posts) 7y Star this if you like it!

My dad lives in Vancouver as well and he's taken this train trip a number of times, but then again he loves trains. You really should consider it, for the Spiral Tunnel alone.