The Coast Starlight is an Amtrack passenger train running the length of the West Coast of the US from Los Angeles. I took this train at the end of Kicking the States (kick scooting the length of the USA). Keen to find an eco alternative to flying the Amtrak Coast Starlight seemed like a great option!
Booking and boarding
We booked our tickets online a month before for $124 (2018). There were different pricing options but we went for the cheapest – the Saver. It is possible to sometimes get tickets as cheap as $94 if you book in advance.
The journey from LA to Seattle is 33 hours….it’s a long ride!
We arrived at the station 2 hours before ‘departure’ and were able to use the comfortable Amtrak lounge until the train left. Large bags needed to be check in and they are quite strict on weight allowance so check this in advance. They also had quite strict rules with what is and isn’t allowed in your checked in bag (food and drink for example).
Amtrak Coast Starlight review
We debated paying for the sleeper option but decided it was too expensive. I was worried that the economy option was going to be really uncomfortable especially for such a long journey. It turned out that the seats were very spacious both width wise and also in terms of leg room.
Each seat comes with a socket, table, light and footrest. I was also surprised that the seat reclined so far backwards (far more than on a plane for example). When sleeping I was able to curl up and have my legs entirely on the footrest. I was amazed by how well I slept!
The viewing deck
The best feature on the Amtrack Coast Starlight is definitely the viewing deck. This room has large curved windows allowing you to really take in the scenery as it passes by. Half of the room is made up of sofas and chairs that face outwards at the view. The other half is tables and chairs.
Throughout the train ride, you also have volunteers delivering short lectures about the places you are passing.
This room is available for everyone to use for free and works on a first come first served basis. There was always somewhere to sit although the sofas can get full.
A comfortable journey
I literally loved every minute of this train ride. I thought by the end of 33hours I would be itching to get off (I’m quite a restless person) but could have happily done another day on the train.
The views are just spectacular – passing farmland, coastline, endless trees and mountains. The comfortable seating meant I got a good nights sleep and had some enjoyable hours watching Netflix which I had downloaded before leaving. Note that WiFi is only available for those in business or first class. Amtrack’s viewing deck provided a change of scenery on the train and an excuse to stretch my legs.
So…is Amtrak Coast Starlight worth it?
Yes!! I actually can’t believe how cheap the tickets are for this journey. The Amtrak Coast Starlight is not just a form of transport but also an experience in its own right and a great way to take in the vast beauty of the West Coast of the USA.
- As soon as you know your dates, book your tickets. You may be eligible for the cheaper advance prices.
- The schedule for the train can be found here.
- Download the Amtrak app to your phone. It’s a great way to make the booking and to keep the confirmation to hand without needing to print anything.
- When checking in, ask for a seat on the LEFT SIDE OF THE TRAIN (assuming you are travelling from LA to Seattle. If you are travelling the other direction then ask for the right side). This way you will have the coastline views!
- There is food and drink available on the train but it is expensive and not so varied. We chose to bring all our own food. The guy managing the restaurant was happy to give us hot water for free so we were able to eat noodles and other ‘add hot water’ meals. I don’t know if they would always allow this or if we just got lucky with a nice attendant! I guess you could always order a tea with the tea bag separate if they said no!
- There are water taps available so bring a reusable bottle. Also, bring a reusable coffee mug if you want hot drinks….do your bit for the environment!
- It can get a bit cold on the train with the aircon, especially at night. We had sleeping bags with us and got them out at night time. I think I would’ve been really cold without mine so bring plenty of layers and blankets if you can.
- If you’ve got the space, a pillow would be a real luxury item.
- Before boarding catching the train we spent 2 nights in Los Angeles enjoying Disneyland (we stayed at Clarion Hotel which was walking distance from the parks and a taxi ride from the train station). If you are looking for a cheap place to stay in Seattle once you arrive I can also recommend the Green Tortoise Hostel.
- The best time to get a sofa or chair in the viewing room was early in the morning or when the train was leaving a station (people go back to their seats to check their bags). It was most busy during meal times.
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