Canadian Rail Tours – Tips for First-Timers

10 Reasons to Explore Canada by Rail

Canada is a very big country that has large sparsely populated areas. And traveling by rail is a superb way to view various Canadian landscapes without driving long distances. The country has a well-developed railway network and the trains are fitted to cope with long and snowy winter periods in Canada.

The railways stretch for thousands of miles across the country. This offers travelers an enjoyable view of its forests, metropolitan centers, rivers, and mountains. Rail tours provide you with options like some hours aboard the train to appreciate the changing color of leaves during fall. You can also spend several days on a transcontinental route from Vancouver to Toronto in an elaborate car suite that you can sleep in.

However, if you are a traveler that likes to try out new things, you can arrange your own itinerary. But you can outsource that job to an experienced tour operator in the country that specializes in rail tours. If you are interested in letting experts handle the tour for you, click on to get started.

Types of Railway Carriers in Canada

The most popular passenger railway company you’ll find in Canada will be the VIA Rail. It is a corporation owned by the nation as a whole and the only carrier in the country that offers a rail services that runs from one coast to the other coast. However, there are other choices of rail carriers like the Rocky Mountaineer and also the RCP which operate in different provinces.

Also, there are some public and private train companies that provide inter-city services such as Ontario Northland and a few others. But they only operate within one province.


All the major cities in Canada can be accessed from different points by train. From the east to the west axis, VIA Rail observes stops in Quebec City, Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton, and Vancouver. Also, Rocky Mountaineer connects to Vancouver from Alberta’s biggest city, Calgary. 

However, most parts of the Canadian rail lines share the same territory as its border with America. This is also where more of the country’s population can be found.

Furthermore, VIA Rail’s route that runs from Churchill all the way to Winnipeg also covers Manitoba. This route goes from the north to the south.

You can also travel to British Columbia as VIA Rail has a line that runs from prince Rupert up to Jasper. Otherwise, people who need to travel to the Canadian northern parts like Yukon, northern Quebec, and New Foundland, do not have rail options.

Tips for Touring Canada by Rail

Here are useful tips for touring Canada by rail:

1. Decide on Where to Visit

The first step is to decide on which part of the country you want to visit. You can access different parts of Canada with VIA Rail, Canada’s national passenger train service. You can also explore several provinces northward, including Quebec, British Columbia, and Hudson Bay in Manitoba using other smaller passenger train operators.

However, you cannot travel by train to the Island of Prince Edward or the Northern provinces without arranging for other means of transportation. Places like Whitehorse, the capital of Yukon, does not have a rail connection for passengers who are going to Alaska. But this is not so for the other parts of the country’s railways.

2. Choose When You Need to Travel

It is important to fix your trip at a time when you will have enough time for the tour. Of course, you do not want to rush your vacation. You can travel to Vancouver from Halifax in less than 7 days by rail. But that means you will have less time to get off and explore places between the trips. 

So, if you have a limited time, you can decide to check out one province or some cities, to have a thorough experience. But if there are several weeks at your disposal, you can decide to explore more provinces.

3. Pick a Train Operator

It is important to pick a suitable operator for the rail tour. Operators such as Hull Chelsea Wakefield Steam Train, Ontario Northland, and Rocky Mountaineer provide rail tours. However, you can get packages that include excursions and hotel stays from VIA Rail. 

There are also some tour operators that offer packages that include meals, excursions, lodging, and guided sightseeing. If you are good at planning, you can book directly on VIA’s website for your tickets to travel to your chosen destination, then make hotel reservations separately. 

4. Choose a Service Level

You have to choose the level of service that you need on the train. VIA has a range of classes and they vary by route. They include:

  1. Sleeper classes that range from full suites to simple bunks on longer routes,
  2. Basic economy classes; and
  3. Business classes with very comfortable seating and meals.

Private train operators also have different service levels. The level you choose will determine if you need to plan the trip using a tour operator. But this may include some options for upgrade.

5. Buy Your Tickets

It is good to buy tickets in advance as this will help you to skip the long lines at the train station. You also do not want to experience the pain of knowing that your service choice has been sold out. If you are on a budget, you can save some money by getting Canrailpass from VIA Rail. That way, you will have access to different economy trips within a few weeks.

Additionally, when you purchase your tickets early, you will enjoy a discount from VIA Rail. And if you are using a tour operator, they will help you to buy the tickets. But you need to ensure that they offer such a service.

6. Find Out About Baggage Restrictions

A critical part of your tip is the requirements for baggage. Hence, you need to know early enough if there are baggage restrictions on the trip. You can ask the train operator about the number of baggage each passenger is allowed to carry, the size as well as the weight of items that can be checked and carried. 


Touring Canada by train is a unique travel experience. Whether it is your first time, or you are a seasoned pro, the tips we have shared in this article will make the experience much better.