Quite possibly the most popular line with VIA Rail, the Canadian line runs from Toronto to Vancouver and takes passengers through picturesque northern Ontario, across the Canadian prairies, and snaking around the Canadian Rockies. It’s a dream trip across Canada and one that many Canadians think they need to wait until after they retire to do; which is totally not the case!
While some travel from Toronto to Vancouver without stopping (it is a four-day journey), others choose to include stopovers.
TRAVELLING ABROAD THE CANADIAN LINE
The Canadian line is by far the longest and most popular rail line with VIA Rail, as well as the most expensive. That being said, there are ways to do the journey on a budget.
The Canadian line travels through Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Edmonton, and Jasper before arriving in Vancouver. As each of these cities is a major stop along the route, giving passengers time to disembark the train and do a little exploring before continuing their journey.
Economy Class – This is by far the cheapest class for travelling on the Canadian line. Seats are comfortable and have an outlet for charging electronic devices. Meals are available for purchase in the service car, and the is one dome car (skyline) available for economy passengers. As the seats recline the four-seat sections (two seats that face two seats) are highly popular because if you recline all of them it is almost like you have your own bed.
Sleeper Plus Berth – By day this area of sleeper class is bench seating, at night the bench seats become a bed, and another bed is lowered from the ceiling, creating a bunk bed. Curtains are used for privacy from passengers walking passed to either their cabin or to the dome or dining cars. Linens, pillows, a shower kit, and all meals are included in this class. You also have access to both dome cars, the panoramic car, and the various educational programs on offer in the service cars.
Sleep Plus Cabin for One – Built to be cozy, the cabin for one is not a good idea for those who are claustrophobic. During the day this cabin (which has a curtain for a door) has a single seat, as well as a toilet (which is made to look like a seat). At night the bed is either lowered down or pulled out from the wall. The bed is comfy, but it also covers the toilet so you’ll need to use the bathroom down the hall. Linens, pillows, a shower kit, and all meals are included in this class. You also have access to both dome cars, the panoramic car, and the various educational programs on offer in the service cars.
Sleeper Plus Cabin for Two – This is the more popular sleeper class choice. By day the cabin has two leather chairs, and by night two beds (a lower and upper). Cabins have a bathroom with a toilet. Each cabin also comes with a vanity and sink. Linens, pillows, a shower kit, and all meals are included in this class. You also have access to both dome cars, the panoramic car, and the various educational programs on offer in the service cars. Tip: Ask for cabin F when booking as this is the bigger cabin and there is one in every car.
Sleeper Plus Cabin for Three – This the perfect cabin for a family or a group of friends. The cabin for three has a couch and chair during the day, and three beds at night. There is a bathroom with a toilet, as well as a vanity and sink. Linens, pillows, a shower kit, and all meals are included in this class. You also have access to both dome cars, the panoramic car, and the various educational programs on offer in the service cars.
Sleeper Plus Cabin for Four – Made from two cabins for two (the wall is removed), this cabin is spacious and comes with the same amenities as the Cabin for Two.
Premier Suites – These cabins are more like hotel rooms. Beds are big and comfy and bathrooms are quite modern. Passengers in this class have access to their own bar, as well as the luxury of being very close to the dome car at the end of the train.
If you’re travelling in Economy class you can purchase food in the service car. The food is a little expensive though. About five to seven dollars for dinners. Two dollars for a can of pop or very small bag of chips. If you want to continue saving money you can always bring snacks onboard (just nothing perishable).
If you’re travelling in sleeper class your meals are included in the price of your ticket. That being said, if you like to snack, bring some with you (they do have fruit, cookies, coffee, and tea available at all times in the dome cars). As a sleeper class passenger, you can also bring your own alcohol onboard, but it must be consumed inside your cabin and nowhere else!
There is a misconception that the Canadian line is too expensive and therefore one must be retired. That couldn’t be more wrong. There are ways to do this route and save money in the process.
Express Deals – there are often express deals available for sleeper class tickets along the Canadian line. The trick with using express deals is to be flexible with your travel dates. When booking tickets, remember that VIA Rail allows one FREE stopover per ticket. This is a fabulous way to save money. Tip: Try to book a deal from Toronto to Saskatoon with a stopover in Winnipeg, then book Saskatoon to Vancouver with a stopover in Jasper.
Canrail Pass – If you’re travelling in economy class and your goal is to travel the full Canadian line, think about buying a Canrail pass. The pass costs $699 per adult for high season and includes unlimited train rides in the Québec-Windsor corridor over a 21 day period. It’s a great way to break-up the trip and see more of Canada and save a little money along the way as well.
VIA Préférence – Everyone knows about airline rewards programs, but few people realize that VIA Rail has its very own reward program called VIA Préférence. If you’re Canadian or American and you’re planning a cross Canada trip with VIA (or just regular train travel) you MUST join! You’re buying the tickets anyway, get rewarded for it! You’ll earn 1 point for every dollar you spend, and you can use those points for future train travel with VIA Rail as well as SNCF in France and TRENITALIA in ITALY!
Space is limited on the train and bringing all of your luggage into your cabin, or by your seat is simply not possible. Keeping this in mind bring a carry-on bag (along with your other luggage, if you really need more luggage) and be sure to pack the following:
- Camera – you will see some stunning scenery and chances are, you’ll want to snap photos!
- Flip flops or sandals for wearing while on the train
- Comfy clothing, as well as something a little nicer for dinner
- Basic toiletries
- Nicotine – if you’re a smoker, be responsible and bring patches. There will be very few stops where you can smoke, and as the train is non-smoking, if you’re caught, you’ll find yourself stranded at the next station.
*Tip: trains are an enclosed space and smells can carry very quickly. Please do NOT use perfume as there could be passengers nearby who are allergic (I have been told of passengers taken off the train by ambulance due to an incident where perfume was sprayed and someone had a severe allergic reaction).