Canada is the second-largest country in the world after Russia, so those who wish to discover everything Canada has to offer have quite a challenge on their hands. However, it is possible to see a large chunk of the country by train, and Canada train vacations are becoming an increasingly popular option for travelers to the country.
The most popular train trip in Canda is a ride on The Canadian, a rail route operated by Via Rail Canada. The longest scheduled passenger train outside Eurasia, The Canadian crosses over 4000 kilometers and passes through many of the major Canadian cities and provinces. It allows visitors to take in panoramic views of the dramatic scenery in the country, such as the Canadian Rockies, Ontario’s Lake Country, and the vast Canadian prairies.
Read on for a complete guide to taking the train across Canada.
Where Does the Canadian Train Stop?
The Canadian train line covers the entire breadth of the country from east to west, running from Vancouver to Toronto. There are numerous stops in major Canadian cities along the way, including Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Jasper, and Kamloops.
The full train line covers the following routes:
- Vancouver to Kamloops, departing from Vancouver’s Pacific Central Station, crossing over the New Westminister Bridge, and passing through the Fraser and Thomson River canyons to Kamloops.
- Kamloops to Jasper, following the North Thompson River and passing through scenery including imposing mountain ranges, extensive farmland, lush forests, and even a dramatic waterfall, Pyramid Falls. The Canadian continues alongside the shores of Moose Lake for several miles before arriving at Jasper in the Canadian Rockies, the home of a UNESCO-certified National Park.
- Jasper to Edmonton, following a mountain-hugging line that passes through Jasper National Park and alongside the shores of four stunning lakes to arrive in downtown Edmonton.
- Edmonton to Saskatoon, cutting across nearly 470 kilometers of Canadian prairies, with stops in the rural towns of Viking, Wainwright, and Biggar, before stopping in Saskatoon, the largest city in the Saskatchewan province.
- Saskatoon to Winnipeg, crossing the Saskatchewan-Manitoba border and passing through mostly prairie and farmland to arrive at the historic Winnipeg Union Station. Depending on the schedule, the train may stop for up to 5 hours in Winnipeg, allowing the passengers ample time to explore the capital of Manitoba.
- Winnipeg to Toronto, again following more mountainous and wild terrain, crossing the Saskatchewan-Manitoba border, passing through the dramatic Canadian Shield and alongside the shores of the Parry Sound to arrive at Union Station in downtown Toronto.
Although the train route does not pass through Ottawa, connections to Canada’s capital city, as well as to Montreal, Southwestern Ontario, and New York City are available at Toronto’s Union Station.
Take a Canadian Train Trip with Sleeper Accommodation
Passage on The Canadian train is divided into 3 different classes; Prestige Sleeper, Sleeper, and Economy. The majority of the carriages on The Canadian during the peak season are made up of sleeper cars, as well as coach cars. On every train, there are at least two Skyline cars, one available to economy passengers.
Skyline cars are carriages with a large glass dome on the upper levels, allowing passengers a panoramic view of the scenery the Canadian passes through on its route. These carriages also contain a kitchen and snack bar, and often offer live musical entertainment for passengers from all classes.
The most comfortable option for passengers who take a train trip in Canada is to get a berth in a sleeper car, or a private sleeper cabin. In addition to being able to sleep in a bed throughout the trip instead of just a reclining seat, sleeper passengers receive free 3 course meals in the dining car, as well as complimentary snacks and non-alcoholic drinks in the Skyline cars.
However, no matter what class they choose, all passengers travel in the distinctive carriages The Canadian is known for. The majority of the cars were built in the 1950s and so boast an appealingly retro vibe, although all have been rebuilt several times and also offer a range of modern services.
How Much Does a Canadian Train Trip Cost?
The price of a trip on The Canadian train depends on the class the passenger chooses to travel in, as well as the time of year the journey will take place. Prices are higher during the peak season from the beginning of May to mid-October, and seats are harder to come by. However, one advantage of the peak period is that the train runs 3 times a week as opposed to twice weekly during the offseason.
The prices for the different classes of passage on the Canadian train, for the entire length of the trip, are as follows:
- Prestige sleeper cabin – $4,650-5,320 CAD per person
- Sleeper berth – $1,110, $1,320 in the peak season
- Sleeper cabin for one – $1,900, $2,600 in the peak season
- Sleeper cabin for two – $2,900 for 2 people, $3,900 in the peak season
- Economy class seat – from $444 year-round.
Tickets are available directly on the Via Rail Canada website, with special discounts and sales often offered through the year. Discounts for the next few weeks of economy travel are made available every Tuesday, while discount fares for the sleeper class during the offseason can often halve the regular price. Special discount fares for children, as little as $15, are often offered between any 2 points on the route during the peak season.
Before planning a journey on The Canadian train, foreign travelers should check whether they require one of the visa types for Canda to visit the country. Citizens of visa-exempt countries for Canada are not required to obtain a visa for short stays, but they are required to register for an eTA for Canada (Electronic Travel Authorization) online.