United States - Coast to coast by train

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Joel Fulleda

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

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  • And Amtrak trains
  • L’USA Rail Pass
  • The most spectacular itineraries
  • Coast to coast alternativi

Travel in the United States from coast to coast is an adventure on the road that many have had the opportunity to try or would like to experience, sooner or later.

Who has never dreamed of traveling thousands of kilometers aboard a car, perhaps whizzing on the legendary one Route 66? Of course, the distances to be covered are immense and it's not all sunshine and roses.

The cheaper and more restful alternative is an adventurous one coast to coast in treno. This is a less practical and obvious solution that still allows you to explore cities and enchanted places.

No country in the world has had such a close relationship with railways like the United States. The rails made it possible to unite the territories from east to west and from north to south. Today we tend to prefer the plane to travel the major routes, but the train for Americans still has a special place in the heart.

For tourists, the train may be the best option to avoid hiring a car and driving for hours. In short, no navigators, stops for petrol and mechanical unexpected events!

Traveling by train is perfect for saving on the final expense and you will almost feel like you are living one cruise on the tracks.

The American railway network is truly immense and there are many possible itineraries for all tastes. Let's see together like traveling coast to coast by train and what are the most scenic and unforgettable routes.

Route 66: cost and itinerary

And Amtrak trains

To avoid traffic and stress, there is no more comfortable experience than traveling by train through the most beautiful places in the United States.

You will travel thanks to the Amtrak company, the country's official railway network, which allows you to reach remote and often inaccessible areas on four wheels.

The transport company was founded in 1971 by the American Congress and its name comes from the merger of the words America and track, meaning rail. The Amtrak connects 46 federal states safely and punctually and crosses over 500 cities, along more than 33.000 kilometers.

Amtrak trains are very clean, technological and offer the main services. There are scenic lounge carriages which include restaurants and bar areas for eating.

Before booking your train ticket, it is important to know that there are three different categories. The Coach Class is the cheapest type and offers travelers a reclining chair with footrest and coffee table with light. There are 4 public toilets in this area.

For greater comfort there is the Superliner Roomette, a compartment with two reclining armchairs that become a bed. There is also an additional foldaway bed, four showers and four toilets.

Finally, you can choose the Superliner Bedroom, three-person compartment that includes a two-seater sofa and a reclining chair. Only in this case are there a private toilet, shower and sink.

As for the average costs, the basic Coach Class fare is around 200 euros, but you only pay for the seat, without food and additional services. Costs go up to over 700 euros for those who want a Superliner Roomette or Superliner Bedroom ticket.

L’USA Rail Pass

For those who have to make a coast to coast there is also the possibility to buy theUSA Rail Pass, very similar to the European Interrail and is useful for planning a tailor-made itinerary. There are three options available:

  • 15 days (including 8 segments)
  • 30 days (including 12 segments)
  • 45 days (including 18 segments)

A segment simply means a journey where you get on and off the train, i.e. a single stop along the way.

With the pass you can carry out more stops, leaving after visiting a city for a couple of days. The price is halved for children from 2 to 15 years old while it is free for those under 2 years old.

Regarding the USA Rail Pass, it is important to specify that it is not a ticket, but it is the pass with which to book the single tickets that will take you to one of the two American coasts.

The first thing to do is book online the document and collect it at the Amtrak counter at the departure station. Subsequently, it will be possible to individually select tickets for each stage.

Finally, remember that the USA Rail Pass allows you to travel in Coach Class, that is the economic one. Despite this, on some trains it is still possible to upgrade to the two top classes by paying a surcharge.

The most spectacular itineraries

For a true coast to coast by train it is necessary plan each stage of the journey in advance. First, you have to decide which coast to start from, or whether to go from east to west or vice versa. Generally many prefer to move away from East coast to get on West Coast.

Once you have decided which coast to start from, at this point you can establish the exact starting point, as well as the destination of arrival.

One of the most popular routes is the one that travels of New York San Francisco as it exactly cuts the United States in half in a straight line. With Amtrak, there are no direct trains connecting the Big Apple with California. Therefore, you will have to arm yourself with patience and change several convoys in the minimum span of 3 4-days.

The shortest route should go something like this:

New York > Chicago
Chicago > Denver
Denver > San Francisco

The intermediate stops may vary slightly between Chicago and Denver, but the itinerary will be more or less this. Who wants to live a coast to coast flexible and open to change you can use the USA Rail Pass, so you can travel on and off trains over a longer period of time.

However, if you find yourself in a point on the east coast other than New York, you can easily change the trip, perhaps starting from New Orleans, Philadelphia, Washington or Miami to reach Seattle, Portland, Sacramento and San Diego.

Coast to coast alternativi

If, on the other hand, you prefer a less traditional or shorter coast to coast, there is the possibility to choose between a large number of trains that serve long predefined routes. In this case, just buy a single ticket to get to your destination.

southwest chief

The Southwest Chief is a train that runs diagonally across the United States and is perfect for those in Chicago and wants to achieve the wonderful Los Angeles. The journey takes about 40 hours and you can admire the beautiful landscapes of the wild west, starting with the Grand Canyon.

You will cross mountains, desert areas and large prairies, glimpsing the snow-capped peaks of Colorado in the distance. With its 3.600 kilometers, the route will take you to large urban centers such as Kansas City, Albuquerque e Flagstaff.

Where to sleep in Chicago

Texas Eagle

Another train with a suggestive itinerary is the Texas Eagle, inaugurated in 1947. It moves along 4.400 kilometers between Chicago and Los Angeles. The name derives from the fact that the central part of the route crosses the whole of Texas, with stops at the stations of Austin, Dallas, El Paso and San Antonio.

It should take you approximately 65 hours to reach your destination and in the meantime there are stops in St. Louis (Missouri), Little Rock (Arkansas), Tucson and Phoenix (Arizona) and Palm Springs (California).

San Antonio: night tour

City of new orleans

This historic Amtrak train colleague Chicago with New Orleans in Louisiana, passing through Tennessee and Mississippi. The journey could almost be defined as a dip in the blues, as you will find yourself crossing the regions where this musical genre was born, as well as jazz.

The journey covers approx 1.500 kilometers and it should take you 19 hours to get to New Orleans. The name of the train was made famous by a song by Steve Goodman, later taken up by Johnny Cash, Jerry Reed and Judy Collins.

New Orleans: Full-Day Steamboat Tour

Sunset Limited

For a slightly shorter and less stressful coast to coast there is the Sunset Limited, a train that connects New Orleans to Los Angeles. It is the ideal solution to go from one coast to another while visiting the southern states.

Within 48 hours you can see the Mexican border, the deserts and the mountains of California from the window. The itinerary will lead you in Texas, New Mexico e Arizona and between the various cities you will encounter San Antonio, Houston, El Paso, Tucson, Phoenix and Palm Springs.

When to go to California
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