The Vancouver to Jasper Train – Travel by VIA Rail
The Vancouver to Jasper train is an iconic segment of VIA Rail’s flagship Canadian train experience, “The Canadian.” The Canadian is a 4 day/4 night cross country train that travels 4,466km across Canada’s landscape and is the gateway to Canada’s history and creation. I’m not sure which adjectives to use, magnificent, majestic, magical or one of many others. VIA Rail’s Canadian is an experience that holds a place on many traveller’s bucket lists, including mine. I’ll take my journey coast to coast in 2020.
The Route – Vancouver to Jasper
The Vancouver to Jasper train travels on the Canadian National (CN) tracks to Jasper. Your journey will begin from the historic Pacific Central Station located at Commercial and Main in Vancouver.
From there you will travel through Vancouver and its various suburbs, continuing through the abundant farmlands of British Columbia’s lower mainland following the Fraser River alongside a rather narrow (but safe) ledge of the Fraser Canyon.
The journey continues into the Thompson-Okanagan region, turning north at Kamloops where the train will follow the North Thompson River to the town of Valemount, here the journey turns east into the Canadian Rockies where if you’re lucky, you will see the majestic mountain peak of Mount Robson before arriving in Jasper.
Whether you are taking “The Canadian” across the country or just a segment between Vancouver to/from Toronto, be sure to buy the book, “Canada by Train, the Complete VIA Rail Travel Guide.” Take a look here Canada by Train Guidebook This guidebook will answer all of your train questions, help you learn about train operations and provide you with insight into Canada’s history.
What to Expect on a VIA Rail Train Journey
What should you expect as you plan, arrive and take the Vancouver to Jasper train?
Will you be bored? Maybe, but I’ll bet that slowing down will make this a journey you’ll never forget.
VIA Rail is an adventure and an opportunity to enjoy every moment.
Here are 15 ways that your VIA Rail train journey will surprise you:
1. Expect to step back into railway history – VIA Rail’s cars are beautifully restored original CP passenger cars.
2. Experience great service – be greeted with a warm Canadian welcome, attendants who care about taking care of whatever you need and service includes making your bed ready for sleep and putting it away for the day.
3. Be comfortable – find a comfy seat in the Skyline or Park car during the day and at night time be impressed by the comfortable beds. There is nothing like sleeping to the motion and sounds of the train.
4. Relax – discover what it feels like to truly relax. Some may call this boring but everyone needs some downtime.
5. Eat great food – be impressed by the 1st Class menu which includes something for everyone and the most decadent desserts anywhere.
6. Disconnect from electronics – there’s no Wi-Fi and cell service is more off than on.
7. Enjoy the feel and sounds of the train, learn how the signals work and listen for the whistles too.
8. Experience delays – there will be delays, okay, this one is not a surprise.
9. Learn about Canada’s history – the Trans-Canada railway is Canada’s history. Each of the Manor, the Château, the Skyline and the Park Cars all have a name steeped in Canadian history, look for the plaques or ask a VIA Rail staff member about the name.
10. Watch for the unique places names across Canada and imagine that the towns along the railway tracks were once thriving communities where the train station was the connection to the rest of Canada.
11. See the changing landscapes and experience the vast size of Canada. What can I say, Canada is huge and the landscape changes with distance, the weather and the seasons.
12. Meet travellers from all over the world – taking the train across Canada is a bucket list item for people around the world. Say hi and ask them about their travels in Canada.
13. Connect with other Canadians and learn about our country from different points of view.
14. Be entertained – the activity lounge has books, newspapers, board games, cards and often there are musicians on board to keep travellers entertained.
15. Definitely expect to want to take the train again.
A Brief History of Canada’s Railways
There is no brief history of the railways in Canada. Canada’s history and development is intertwined with the railway and without it there would be no Canada as it is today. British Columbia (BC) agreed to be the final province of Canada, as long as the railway connected the province to the rest of the country. In 1885, the last spike on the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) was hammered in and Canada became a nation.
In the early 1900’s there were three key railroad companies, Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), Canadian National Railway (CNR) and Grand Trunk Railway (GTR). Due to financial and political pressures of the day, by 1920 the GTR railway was acquired by CNR, and then there were two railways.
Canada’s trains hold a story for every immigrant arriving in Canada in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Cars, buses and airplanes were not an everyday item. Canada’s trains were the answer. In my family, both my mom and dad immigrated to Canada in the 1950’s. My dad arrived in Quebec City and my mom arrived in Halifax, with train tickets in hand both took trains across Canada to their new jobs in Vancouver.
Up until the 1950’s and into the 60’s, trains were the mode of transportation for people. Passenger revenue declined for both CPR and CNR and then the railways focussed on the lucrative revenues from transporting freight.
As passenger rail service in Canada no longer remained VIAble and neither CNR nor CPR wanted to provide these services, the Canadian government stepped in and created the Crown Corporation VIA Rail. VIA Rail acquired the gorgeous stainless steel train cars from Canadian Pacific and has the right to use the Canadian National railway tracks.
Today, VIA Rail’s four night “Canadian” experience from Vancouver to Toronto is like none other, it is a step back into the history of Canada. The changing landscape from the coast, through canyons, the Canadian Rockies, the prairies, the Canadian Shield may be the first attraction to booking travel on VIA Rail but it will be the experience of the train that will leave an indelible mark on your travel experience.
Departure Day on VIA Rail
Train travel is a unique travel experience and somewhat different than flying to your destination. VIA Rail employees work hard to make your adventure extra special, they will patiently answer all of your questions and of course ensure that all passengers stay safe.
Arrival at the VIA Rail Train Station in Vancouver (1)
Check in starts about 2 hours prior to departure. The check in process is a lot calmer than checking in at an airport, everything just seems more laid back.
First, check your baggage in at the baggage counter located at the far left side as you enter the Vancouver VIA Rail station. Second, go to the Sleeper Plus/Prestige Class counter (2) located inside and directly across from the front doors of the station to check-in.
Check-in consists of the following:
1. Boarding pass verification
2. Choose your dinner/lunch sitting either the 1st or 2nd sitting, you can always change your option after your first day on the train.
3. And then you can proceed to the lounge until boarding.
At Vancouver’s station there is an A&W Restaurant and a coffee shop inside. Once you have checked in there is a lounge and patio available for Sleeper Plus and Prestige Class where coffee and snacks are available (no additional cost). The patio is lovely and you can watch the activity of getting the train ready for its journey.
I love sitting on the patio and watching the goings on of getting the train ready for departure. It truly is a different experience than sitting at an airport waiting to board an airplane.
(1) I’ve been to the stations in Vancouver, Kamloops, Jasper, Prince George, Prince Rupert and Edmonton. 2020 is the year that I will take VIA Rail from coast to coast.
(2) I recommend travelling in Sleeper Plus class – see why further in this blog
27 Train Travel Tips and Other Bits of Information
- VIA Rail is a working train which provides transportation to communities along the way. The train doesn’t stop everywhere but it will stop when it has been notified that there are passengers to pick up.
- Is your destination one of VIA Rail’s scheduled stops? If not, ask at customer service or your assigned attendant for a stop and believe it or not, the train will stop and let you off.
- Every train car has an attendant and him/her will be your point of contact for any personal needs. Board the train and go to your assigned seating/cabin, from here you will meet your attendant and receive your safety brief (just like being on an airplane but different). Once you have met your attendant, safety brief is complete, all questions answered, you will be free to wander and explore the train.
- Every train consists of a different configuration of train cars which depends on the number of travellers and where/when they will disembark.
- Coach class passengers board first because they are closer to the front of the train which is further from the station. Sleeper Class and Prestige will board last because the sleeper cars are at the back of the train.
- Coach class passengers do not have access to the sleeper cars or any of the cars associated with Sleeper Plus or Prestige Class.
- Ask the staff when/if there is a presentation on train signals, avalanche detection and train communication.
- Travel light – space is very limited.
- Call VIA Rail’s customer service for unique services or have any accessibility needs.
- It’s straightforward to book your VIA Rail journey online. But if you have any problems definitely call VIA’s customer service, they are available to help (and they are very nice).
- Download the VIA Rail APP and follow your train in real time.
- What side of the train should I sit on? I highly recommend following the route in the “Canada by Train” book and plan to move to either side of the train as it passes various points of interest.
- Get up and explore the train from end to end, see what’s going on and stretch your legs. You will see “deadheads” which are train cars being transported empty to its destination.
- There is a nightly turn down service. Your bed will be made for you every night and tucked away each morning.
- Sit in the dome of the Skyline Car late in the evening. Watch the shadows and lights of Canadian towns pass by.
- Know your train car number because finding your room/berth at night can be confusing.
- There are no keys or locks on doors – keep your valuables with you or put them away out of sight Note: I’ve had no issues with theft or hearing of theft on the train but this is good practice.
- Bring flip flops for use in the shower facilities.
- Always hold onto the hand rails walking through the train cars and up/down the stairs. Unexpected movements on the train happen when you least expect them or when you are carrying your coffee back to your seat.
- If you are travelling further east than Jasper, enjoy the flat land of the Canadian prairies there is history there. Imagine stepping into the shoes of the First Nations hunting buffalo; the explorers who crossed this unknown land looking for another ocean; and the immigrants who came 100+ years ago, cut down bush, withstood snow/wind/insects and picked rocks to make this agricultural land that it is today.
- Remember to leave a tip for the staff, they are working hard to make your VIA Rail journey special.
- There are limited electrical outlets on board. All Sleeper Plus cabins comes with an outlet, the upper and lower berths do not come with an outlet. Talk to your attendant to ask for access to recharge your electronics.
- Know where your light switches are before it gets dark so you can turn the lights on/off once you’re in bed.
- Ask your attendant to call you taxi as you are arriving at your final destination. Train stations may be located outside of the main areas of the towns and you’ll want to have a taxi waiting to pick you up.
- Have conversations with VIA Rail employees, they have so many stories and lots of information to share. I was surprised that many have worked with VIA Rail for years.
- Take a return trip and have a completely different view and experience.
- Do Nothing, read a book and live the simple life for a few days
Travelling on VIA Rail – My Story
I have a personal interest in travelling by train across Canada. Both of my parents arrived in Canada by ship and then continued to Vancouver by train to start new jobs, meet each other and the rest is history. I plan to follow my mom’s immigration story in the next couple of years which will include taking the train from Halifax to Vancouver.
This year, I’ve been on VIA Rail four times in Western Canada and each trip was a different experience. My first trip in February was special because it was the first time that I had been on a Canadian passenger train in 30 years. I was truly excited. In February, I travelled from Vancouver to Kamloops, a short trip but I just couldn’t wait to take a longer train trip. The 2nd trip in April, was an attempt to see Hell’s Gate in the Fraser Canyon during the day and to experience an overnight on a train (my first time ever). In August, travelling by train consisted of two segments of a circle trip around British Columbia.
Just a quick note, I am not sponsored by VIA Rail, I have paid for my trips and utilized discounts available to all travellers. I am just a big fan of VIA Rail, Canadian passenger train service, the history and of course, travel in general.
I’ve had a lot of favourite stories from taking the train this year. Most of my stories consist of special moments that involve meeting people, learning a bit about them, sharing my love of Canada, taking pictures and enjoying the feel of travelling by train. Here are a few moments from my train travels this year.
Why I took VIA Rail this Year?
I was in New York for the New York Times travel show and there I heard that VIA Rail was in attendance. I had been dreaming of travelling by train through the Fraser Canyon forever, so between travel sessions I went to ask my VIA Rail questions. I had a lot of questions. Is taking the train a good travel experience for solo travellers? What are the cabins like? Can I see Hell’s Gate in the daytime? etc. etc. Well, Ryan kindly answered all my questions and more. We talked about Canada, the history of passenger train service in Canada, solo travel and lots more. I was hooked. I booked my first tickets shortly after returning back to Calgary with determination to see the Fraser Canyon by train.
Nighttime on VIA Rail
It was late at night and my arrival into Kamloops was soon. I waited in the darkened dome of the Skyline Car watching the train snake along Kamloops Lake. The train was lit with various nighttime lights and a few other lights along the way, there was enough to brighten the stainless steel train and the shoreline of the lake, it was mesmerizing to watch and to feel the train as it continued on it’s way. I had learned earlier in the day about how the train signals worked and 10 minutes outside of Kamloops we came to a red light. Progress stopped and it wasn’t until the oncoming freight train passed us by that we could continue on our journey.
Photographers on the Train
You will find that there is always a few photographers wanting to get “the shot” from the train, I am one of them. It’s actually not that easy to get a good shot, the train is “always” moving, trees often get in the way or you’re just not in the right spot at the right time. I met Glen from Edmonton and David from Texas, both were travelling on their own, their wives at home and they just wanted to take the train across Canada. We talked about this and that, took photos, discussed photos and shared vantage points, it was an easy way to spend a day travelling. I laughed when David said, “I can do anything in Canada because Canadians are so polite,” we all laughed at this lovely view of Canadians.
People you Meet Along the Way
Dinner is the time to meet new people on the train and this one evening I joined a table with a mom and daughter from Vancouver for the evening meal. Fran, the daughter was about my age and her mom, 80+ years old. We had lot’s of interesting topics to talk about, travel, Hong Kong, Canada etc. etc. Fran’s mom’s bucket list item was to spend a night at Chateau Lake Louise, well Fran wanted to make this happen for her mom. Their bucket list journey included an overnight on the Vancouver to Jasper train with an awesome upgrade to adjoining rooms, a night in Jasper, a tour bus to Banff and Lake Louise, a night at Chateau Lake Louise and then to Calgary.
Knowing that Fran and her mom were coming to Calgary, we exchanged emails and I offered to help if they needed anything in the city. I emailed to say, “Welcome to Calgary” and the next day I met them at the magnificent new Calgary Library and proceeded to tour them around and share the City that I know so well.
Solo Travel – Vancouver to Jasper by Train on VIA Rail
Solo travel is easy whether you are just travelling overnight or going further on the Vancouver to Jasper train. There are lots of solo travellers on the train, all guests on the train are treated the same by VIA Rail staff and honestly, all of us solo travellers are in good company.
My first concern with any solo travel is always safety. I have now taken 5 VIA Rail trips in Western Canada and I have always felt safe. Once on board, you will receive a safety brief either at your private cabin or in the seating area of the berths. Each sleeper car has an attendant to take care of any questions or requests and seems to be available at all times.
Solo accommodation is available and has no single supplement when you reserve a Cabin for 1 or an upper/lower berth. You can also reserve a Cabin for 2 which will give you a private bathroom (no shower) and more space. The Cabin for 2 will cost a bit extra but you can decide if it fits your needs and budget.
The train cars will include the Skyline car with the dome seating, sometimes the Panorama car and of course, the iconic Park Car. There are no reserved seats in the public areas of the sleeper plus train cars but there didn’t seem to be an issue to find just the right place to enjoy. My favourite spot on the train is sitting in the dome car.
Dining on the train as a solo traveller is not an issue. The dining car consists of tables for 4 and unless you are a group of 4, you will be seated with other guests on board whether you are 1, 2 or 3 persons. I have always enjoyed the conversation around the dining table, this is a great time to learn a bit about other travellers. Where they are from? Why they are taking the train? What life is like where they are from? You will find that many of the guests are from all parts of Canada.
The best part about travelling Canada on the train will be the people that you meet along the way.
VIA Rail Train Delays
There will be delays. VIA Rail does not have its own dedicated railway tracks and depends on track access as per agreements with CNR. CNR is a freight transportation business and transports freight from one side of Canada to the other. Freight transportation is the priority. Sharing the tracks is a challenge for both companies.
As a traveller, you must include contingencies in your plans for arrival delays at your final destination. If you plan ahead for delays, you will not spend your time on the train worried about being late. The length of delays on the train does not seem to be predictable, the train could arrive early, hours late or even a day late.
The current schedule for the Vancouver to Jasper train, departs Vancouver at 3 pm and is scheduled to arrive in Jasper at 11 am. I’ve been on this train when it arrives late and early but more often the train from Vancouver to Jasper will be delayed somewhere along the way. The delays are part of the experience, be prepared and make flexible arrangements at your destination.
The best way to plan for delays is to ensure that any travel bookings that you have in place for your arrival are flexible. Flexibility means that the hotel, tour or flights can be rescheduled or cancelled at minimal or no cost. In general, if you have booked your hotel or tours directly, not through a 3rd party website or Airbnb and you contact them directly, they will likely work with you to adjust your reservation. Airlines will accommodate you based on the plane ticket that you have purchased, so buy a ticket that will allow changes.
Three additional options for minimizing delay impacts:
- Take a shorter trip, for instance take the Vancouver to Jasper train segment of the Canadian route, you will receive the same service and the same railway experience but a shorter trip will result in less delays than a trip from Vancouver to Toronto.
- Combine the shorter trip with a flight to your final destination in Canada. For instance, take the train from Vancouver to Edmonton and then fly from Edmonton to Toronto.
- Book your trip on the Canadian in the middle of your holiday with plenty of time for the train delays and be okay with missing or rescheduling your bookings at the end of the train adventure.
With plans in place to deal with any delays on your train journey, this is a time to sit back and let time go, plan to read a book, there is no Wi-Fi, write in your journal, observe the landscape, feel the train, check out all the train cars, buy the VIA Rail book and map and follow along the journey, see how big Canada truly is, learn about the importance of trains throughout Canada’s young history and remember to engage with other travellers.
When to Travel on the Vancouver to Jasper Train and Beyond
VIA Rail’s passenger trains travel across Canada all year around, 24/7 but with some schedule changes around statutory holidays. The goal in planning any travel is to experience as much as possible for your time and money. How do you get the best experience and value when planning your train journey from Vancouver to Jasper?
As Forrest Gump said, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.”
And those are words to live by when you’re travelling by train in Canada. Weather and freight train activity (ie. delays) are the two unknown factors on any train trip in Canada.
Let’s take a look at options for when to travel from Vancouver to Jasper. There are three seasons on VIA Rail, high (Jun-Oct), spring (mid-Apr to May) and winter (Nov to mid-Apr). Here are the pros and cons for travelling in each VIA Rail season:
High season (Jun-Oct)
• Most likely to have great weather
• Longer daylight hours so you’ll be able to see more
• Canada’s landscape is alive with colour, green in the summer, the oranges and reds of fall
• Planned activities and entertainment on board
• Most expensive
• More people on board which means less quiet and space
• Less access to the Park Car, it’s reserved for Prestige Class daily until 4pm
• More competition for prime seating in the Skyline (dome car), Panorama or Park car
• Less personal service on board because the staff are busy assisting everyone
• Less interaction with others just because there are so many people
• Trees with full leaves will block some of the view.
Spring season (mid-Apr to May)
• Less expensive than high season
• Less people and more opportunity to meet other travellers
• More daylight hours than the winter season
• Less competition for prime seating in the Skyline (dome car) or Park car
• Landscape is in spring colours, blossoms and “spring” green of the new leaves
• Full access to the Park Car until the beginning of May
• Less people means more personalized service on board
• Less daylight hours than high season
• Weather will likely be variable, rain, snow or sunshine
Winter season (Nov to mid-Apr)
• Least expensive time of year to travel by train
• Full access to the Park Car until the beginning of May
• Less people means more personalized service on board
• More interaction with other travellers on board
• Less or no leaves on trees, so you can see more views
• Least amount of daylight hours than other seasons
• Winter weather may cause delays
• Weather will likely be variable, rain, snow or sunshine
What is my recommendation for when to travel on the Vancouver to Jasper train? Ideally, the traveller would experience all of the seasons and travel in both directions in order to have the full experience of train travel in Canada.
What is the best choice knowing that a person might only take one train trip in Canada? Of course the best choice depends on what you enjoy and what a full experience on VIA Rail includes for you.
For me, a full experience on VIA Rail includes personalized service, great food, meeting people, sitting in a good seat to see Canada’s landscape go by, taking pictures, relaxing with a good book, learning about Canada’s train history and just feeling the movement of the train.
Travel during the “shoulder season” when there are no limitations on access to the Park Car, the weather will hopefully be good, less people and for all the “PRO” reasons stated above. In 2019, the “shoulder season” is just before May 3rd or after October 11th.
Travel during the “shoulder season,” mid-October to the beginning of May
Booking your ticket for the Vancouver to Jasper Train
There are several options on how to book Canadian train travel on VIA Rail. VIA Rail consists of both commuter travel in the corridor in Eastern Canada and tourist travel on various routes across Canada. I will focus on booking travel as a tourist.
Discounts on the Vancouver to Jasper Train
There are lots of discounts available for your trip on the VIA Rail Vancouver to Jasper train especially if your travel dates are flexible. There are discounts for seniors 60+, children, CAA members and Veterans. These discounts cannot be combined with the Sleeper Class deals.
How do you find out about the discounts available? Subscribe to VIA Rail’s newsletter and you’ll receive notification of ongoing and new discounts.
VIA Rail sends an email every Tuesday for “Discount Tuesday.” Discount Tuesday includes info about all the discounts available for the next couple of weeks for Coach and Business Class, along with a link to the Sleeper Class discounts. You will find significant Sleeper Class discounts approx. 60% off throughout 2019 for travel taken in the next several weeks. These discounted tickets are always available on the VIA Rail website but also subject to change and must be booked online.
For planning your travels on the Vancouver to Jasper train months in advance, VIA Rail has a set number of discounted rooms. “The early bird gets the discounted room” and you can add an additional discount if you are a senior or have a CAA/AAA membership.
During 2019, there has been two offerings of 40% for all bookings into the next year.
Click here for current deals VIA Rail Sleeper Plus Deals
If you have any questions or need assistance, definitely call VIA Rail’s customer service. VIA Rail’s customer service is actually real customer service, helpful, professional and very nice.
Choose your “Class” while onboard the Vancouver to Jasper Train
There are several classes to choose from while on the train depending on your budget and how comfortable you want to be on your journey from Vancouver to Jasper by train.
The classes include Coach, Sleeper Plus and Prestige. To be honest, I haven’t taken Coach or Prestige Class.
I have walked through the Coach area and it’s like being on a bus with rows of seats and lots of people. Coach is the least expensive option for travelling by train and if budget is your number one decision factor, then definitely take Coach.
Prestige Class is expensive. I have had the opportunity to peek into one of the Prestige rooms and what can I say, the rooms are spectacular or at least the one I saw was incredible. I think I would just spend my whole trip in my room, the queen size bed faces a large picture window, good sized private bathroom with shower and beautiful décor using brown leather. The Prestige Class room is an inviting space and comes with priority for boarding, dining and full access to the Park Car. If you are interested in the Prestige Class, give VIA Rail’s customer service a call to find out more about availability and perks that you will receive.
I have taken the Vancouver to Jasper train 2 ½ times during the last 9 months and each time I have reserved in Sleeper Plus Class, twice with a Cabin for 1 and once with a Lower Berth. There are several more options for Sleeper Plus Class, including a Cabin for 2 and in some cars there may be an option to have connecting rooms.
VIA Rail – Sleeper Plus Class
I will always choose Sleeper Plus Class because there is a lot of value for your money. Sleeper Plus includes 3 meals per day, coffee/tea and snacks all day long, ample Skyline cars and scheduled access to the Park Car. Here are my comments about the various options in Sleeper Class.
Each car has an attendant and he/she will give you a safety brief, explain the features found on the train and assist There is a shower in each sleeper car (bring flip flops) for the guests to use. You are provided with the necessities for a shower and/or cleaning up from the day, they include a face cloth, hand towel, a bath towel, soap, shampoo and for bed time, earplugs. I would say that the noise from the train definitely drowns out most noise and likely snoring from your neighbours.
Sleeper Plus Class – Cabin for 1
By day, the Cabin for 1 has a bench style seat beside a beautiful picture window and here you can spend your day watching the scenery pass by. It’s definitely nice to have some privacy along the way and know that you always have the option to head into the public spaces where there is more activity and different vantage points.
This is a private room with both a heavy curtain and door. There is a wash basin in the room which I appreciated and lots of mirrors so the space seems open. The cabin is small but there is thoughtful space available for hanging your coat, storing a carry-on size suitcase, a purse and not too much else.
The strangest thing about this cabin is that it has a toilet in the perfect spot for a footrest. There are plenty of public washrooms available on the train and shower facilities available in each sleeper car.
You will also find a plug-in in your room, bring an adapter if you are from outside North America, there’s a shower kit and you also have toiletries by the wash basin.
The “Murphy” bed completely fills the room once it is pulled down, so you need to be on your bed once you’re ready to close your cabin door. Note: There are no keys for the rooms, the rooms are unlocked during the day but at night you can close your door and lock it from the inside.
I would definitely reserve a Cabin for 1 again.
Sleeper Plus Class – Cabin for 2
Full disclosure, I have not been in a Cabin for 2 but I did talk to a solo traveller about her Cabin for 2 accommodation. And absolutely, you can reserve a Cabin for 2 for one person and that way you have extra space, the cost is a bit extra but not excessive.
The Cabin for 2 is for two people and if you’re travelling with more family/friends some of these cabins can be combined with a 2nd cabin.
This cabin comes with two comfy armchairs chairs by day, a beautiful picture window and a private bathroom. You will also find a plug-in in your room, bring an adapter if you are from outside North America, there’s shower kits along with individual toiletries.
The Cabin for 2 has a set of Upper and Lower Berths. In the evening your attendant will collapse the armchairs and set up the berths for night time.
Note: There are no keys for the rooms, the rooms are unlocked during the day but at night you can close your door and lock it from the inside.
I would love to test out the Cabin for 2 as a solo traveller, maybe on my next VIA Rail trip.
Lower and/or Upper Berth
By day, the set of upper and lower berths are two bench style seats facing each other and are in front of a large window. In the evening, the train car attendant will convert the seats into beds for the night and convert back to seats in the morning.
There are three sets of upper and lower berths clustered in each sleeper car. The shared bathroom is only steps away and are kept consistently clean for the duration of the trip. If you are a solo traveller, you can choose one of the berths and there will likely be someone you don’t know in the other berth depending on the number of people on the train.
One couple I met always travels with the upper and lower berths and what they liked about it is that they had daytime assigned seating, it’s away from others but yet not closed off from the activity on the train.
I booked the lower berth in order to test out how it would feel to have accommodation without an actual door. Although there was no door, there are heavy duty curtains with a series of strong snaps in a particular sequence to keep the curtains securely closed while you are sleeping.
There are many reasons why I liked the lower berth:
- It has a window
- It’s assigned the daytime bench the faces the direction of travel
- No ladder to climb up or down, it’s easier access to the washroom at nighttime
- There are a couple small shelves available at night to hold your personal items
- And finally, the lower berth is budget friendly
There is additional space under your berth to store a small carry on bag, this space is shared with the person in the upper berth. Also, note that there are no electrical outlets in the berths area. You’ll need to charge up in one of the public areas on the train.
The upper berth does not have a window, has a net strung across the wall by your feet for some personal items and yes, you need to climb a ladder to get in and out of bed. The upper berth is tucked away up about 4-5 feet above the lower berth and is the least expensive Sleeper Class option available on VIA Rail.
I’m definitely happy to choose the lower berth anytime. The upper berth would not be one of my choices, solely because it doesn’t have a window.
Honestly, Prestige Class is outside of my budget and it’s not likely that I will decide to invest in this upgrade. I have seen the rooms included in Prestige and they really are fabulous. If you’re interested in this upgrade, call VIA rail’s customer service and ask about the availability, cost and perks included in this class.
For more information on VIA Rail Sleeper Class, check here VIA Rail Class Options
Eating and Drinking on the Train
The meal schedule corresponds with the schedule of the Vancouver to Jasper train, the current schedule has the train leaving Vancouver at 3pm with arrival in Jasper at 11am the next day.
Dinner usually has two sittings on the day of departure, the 1st is at 5:30pm and the 2nd is at 7:30pm. You will be able to choose your sitting when you check in. I prefer the 7:30pm because I enjoy spending my first hours on the train exploring everything, meeting other travellers and watching the landscape of BC’s lower mainland pass by.
The dining car consists of tables for 4 and unless you are a group of 4, you will be seated with other guests on board. This is a great time to learn a bit about other travellers, where they are from? Their travel plans in Canada? I have always enjoyed my dinner companions.
Just a quick note, if you are taking a return trip, the menu changes depending on the direction of the train.
Dinner is an experience of fine dining without dressing up, the evening meal will consist of three courses, soup/salad, main meal and dessert. The menu for the main meal usually consists of meat, chicken, fish and vegetarian options and then are also able to provide meals with dietary restrictions. My last trip, I enjoyed beef tenderloin, perfectly cooked medley of vegetables and mashed potatoes. I didn’t need any dessert but I wasn’t able to resist the chocolate caramel cake, it was definitely worth savouring.
Breakfast is on a first come, first served basis and starts at 7am in the morning. Breakfast consists of a full menu of options, including waffles, omelettes or a traditional plate of eggs/bacon/hash browns/toast. And most importantly for me, lots of coffee.
The Park Car
The Park Car holds a special place in Canadian train travel history with it’s incredible beauty inside and out. This is the place to be, for entertainment and to be social. Find a place to sit, by the bar, in the lounge area at the back of the train or head up to the dedicated dome seating area. Coffee/tea, snacks are free or for purchase and of course a variety of drinks for purchase. My favourite is the “Welcome Onboard” champagne and canapes.
The Park Car has access limitations during high season for guests who are not travelling in Prestige class. The limitations have not been an issue for me. I’ve enjoyed both drinks and entertainment in the Park Car, it is truly beautiful and an incredible piece of Canadian rail history.
Final Comments: Travel by VIA Rail on the Vancouver to Jasper Train
I’m a huge fan of VIA Rail in present day and the nostalgia of train travel of years gone by. I absolutely recommend taking the train as a family, as a couple, with a friend or as a solo traveller. This is an easy trip to plan, experience and can be very budget friendly. My top reminders for a memorable journey across part or all of Canada, slow down, enjoy the lack of connection to electronics, bring a good book, connect with other travellers, appreciate/plan for the delays and enjoy the views.
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As a congenital rail fan, as well as someone who was privileged to ride the Canadian when it used to leave from both Montreal and Toronto, I very much enjoyed this post. But I would draw your attention to one small error: one of the three railways that was nationalized by the government of Canada to form Canadian National Railways, waqs the Canadian Northern and n ot Canadian National. The latter only came into existence in 1923.