Dave Pellatt shares his memories and advice following his journey taking the train across Canada.
Taking ‘The Canadian’ across Canada is a fantastic experience – if you like trains, of course.
It’s Canada’s answer to the Trans-Siberian, or the Orient, it has scenery to rival any, and if you want it, luxury too!
The full 4.5 day journey is really worth the time if you are looking for a more interesting alternative to flying, and if you’re savvy with looking for a deal it can be nearly the same price. There are a few things to consider, though.
The main draw of course is the scenery.
The train gives you a great cross section of Canada’s landscapes, with each day presenting different views, from the forests and lakes of Ontario to the grand majesty of the Rockies in the west.
If you’re going from east to west the mountains make for a stunning finale to the journey.
The scenery is best viewed from the dome carriages; these have plenty of comfy seats, and as the name suggests dome windows which give you a full 360° view.
This is particularly useful in the mountains as you will pass stunning vistas that might look even more fantastic from another angle as the train goes away.
It goes without saying, if you’re planning to take the train across Canada, invest in a decent camera. It’s one of those places where you have to take photos, but make sure you see it with your own eyes too.
I remember after leaving Jasper I descended into a gasping mess, spilling free champagne all over myself every time the train rounded a corner, and I was presented with another stunning view.
The scale is difficult to put into words, and the pictures here can’t do it justice.
I slept on an upper berth, the cheapest of the flat bed tickets, which gave me essentially a luxury shelf to sleep on, complete with a hotel-style towel and soap pack, curtain, and baggage hammock.
Food was also included in my ticket, which was five-star and included the best chocolate cake I have EVER had.
This costs about $1,000 one way, and is the middle of the range.
It’s a lot more than a flight, but if you book it during a sale, and travel in the off season (basically winter) you can get it for closer to $480, very competitive with the likes of Westjet and Air Canada, and VIA Rail is more generous with baggage.
You can of course go in a lower class and save even more. This comes with a couple of warnings though.
The experience in the economy class is more akin to a hostel on wheels: food isn’t included, and you sleep in bus style seats, albeit nicer. The scenery is amazing for everyone on the train of course! If you’re a seasoned backpacker this will likely be no trouble.