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Vancouver to Los Angeles by train

New Zealand
4 posts
2 reviews
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Vancouver to Los Angeles by train

Hi We are visitors to North America and are thinking of travelling to Los angeles from Vancouver by train.

Is this a scenic trip - does the train have observation cars?

Suggestions on planning our itinerary?

We plan to take several days - where should we break the journey to see the best of North America?

Are the rail stations in safe parts of the towns?

Where do we stow our baggage?

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1. Re: Vancouver to Los Angeles by train

Yes, the the train has observation cars. Specifically, the Coast Starlight has observation cars, while other trains has cafe cars and regular coach and business class seating cars only.

I took a variant of this particular train trip in 2005, and I take the train throughout California on a semi-regular basis (although less so these days). Here are some notes to help you out:

The logical break points for your itinerary are Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, with additional time on California's Central Coast (in/around San Luis Obispo) and/or the Gold Coast (in/around Santa Barbara) if you have the time. Another logical destination is San Diego, which is situated about 2.5 hours south of Los Angeles by train.

For travel between Vancouver and Seattle, I actually don't recommend the train. Instead, I recommend taking the B.C. Ferries from Vancouver to Victoria, then the Clipper Ferry from Victoria to Seattle. The B.C. Ferries journey in particular is amazing!

For travel between Seattle and Portland, I recommend Amtrak's Cascades trains over the Coast Starlight train. The Cascades provide more frequent service with more modern equipment, better food, and better on-time performance. The Cascades and Coast Starlight operate the same route.

For travel between Portland and San Francisco, you will want to take the Coast Starlight. The train usually arrives in the San Francisco Bay Area late due to heavy freight traffic in Northern California. To get to San Francisco, you will actually travel to Emeryville then make a timed Amtrak bus connection across the Bay Bridge to get to the City. The Amtrak bus stops at several locations throughout the City.

For travel between San Francisco and SLO and/or Santa Barbara, you actually have two options. Either you can catch an Amtrak bus in San Francisco and go directly south to SLO, transferring to the Pacific Surfliner train to continue south should you decide to skip SLO, or you can catch the Amtrak bus back to Emeryville and get back on the Coast Starlight to get to SLO or points south. The Coast Starlight often runs late through here, and it arrives in Los Angeles late at night.

For travel between SLO, Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles, I recommend the Pacific Surfliner train over the Coast Starlight for the same reasons I recommend the Cascades over it.

The most notably scenic portion of your train trip will be between San Luis Obispo and Los Angeles. In this area, Amtrak hugs the coast from Guadalupe to Ventura. Amtrak again hugs the coast south of Los Angeles, from San Clemente to San Diego. I suggest taking the train all the way to San Diego if you have the time. The Pacific Surfliner train operates there, whereas the Coast Starlight only goes as far as Los Angeles.

Tip: When planning/booking your itinerary through the Amtrak Web site, be sure to select the multi-city trip option. This will simplify matters and also provide you will a discount, as some or all of the stops along the way can be considered stopovers for a single trip.

New Zealand
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2. Re: Vancouver to Los Angeles by train

Thankyou for a very detailed and helpful reply - rrw

3. Re: Vancouver to Los Angeles by train

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