Train travel beats air travel in so many ways. The seats are larger, the scenery is better, at-seat power is basically guaranteed, and it’s simply a more comfortable experience overall. Granted, you trade significant time for said experience, but I typically find it far more enjoyable and stress-free. I might have a different perspective, however, if I had any first-class air travel and less first-class train travel under my belt.
Having taken several excursions on Amtrak, I was very interested to see how VIA Rail would compare. As the national passenger rail line of Canada, I was expecting the two to be pretty similar. And it was, in my opinion. I have a few observations from our first trip with VIA:
- Decent free WiFi . This came as a big surprise. Compared to the two Amtrak trains that I have ridden that offer WiFi, the signal on the Montreal-Quebec train was both stronger and more consistent. This allowed my wife to watch some shows while I got a few productive hours of work in during the trip.
- Baggage allowances are different than Amtrak. I should have been prepared for this, but I wasn’t. The night before we were scheduled to depart, I finally checked the fine print of the tickets, and realized that we had to get our large bag down to 40 lbs, not 50 like Amtrak. We were pushing 50 already when we flew out to Montreal, so this was a bit tricky. We then ended up being extremely late getting to the station for our train toward Quebec, due to an unfortunate address mishap with an Uber driver, and we didn’t have time to weigh the bag. The station agent was kind enough to simply lift the bag and say, “that feels about 40 pounds,” and let us run down the escalator and board the train.
- Major temptation for cross-continent travel. Oh my. I should not have opened the pamphlet in the back of the seat. The pictures of the Canadian Rockies are breathtaking, and if there is anything I will fall for (besides my wife) it is mountains. VIA has one main cross-country route, and everything about it appealed to me. I have not found an easy way to accrue points for a first-class ticket with VIA Rail, however, so that idea may stay out of reach.
With two trips to Canada in a year, I don’t foresee my wife and I heading back anytime soon. Currently, the only other area I have my eye on is Vancouver and British Columbia. For any future trips, though, VIA will definitely be in the back of my mind.