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The Canadian Train – Toronto to Vancouver

The Canadian Train, Canada

At 2,800 miles, aptly named The Canadian runs the longest passenger train route in north America, from the eastern capital of Toronto to Vancouver on the Pacific coast. The train is operated by Via Rail Canada, the country’s national train operator, and is truly one of the world’s greatest train journeys. Over a four-day trip, guests experience the jaw-dropping scenery of the Canadian Rockies, and quick stops in Winnipeg, Alberta and British Columbia.

The train attracts a whole host of people thanks to its three classes, all with diverse price points. While Economy may appeal with its lower prices, those making the four-day journey should opt for Sleeper Plus and Prestige Class, with private sleeper cabins and all meals all included. If you’re looking to explore Canada, then The Canadian is for you. 

Prices from: Can $1,109
Departing from: Toronto, Vancouver
Journey length: 4 days

  • toronto, canada
  • vancouver canada

The Canadian train route

The mighty Canadian travels 2,800 miles across the width of Canada, with the full journey starting in Toronto and finishing up in Vancouver (a reverse journey is also on offer). The journey takes 86 hours, passing through Sudbury Junction and Sioux Lookout in Ontario, Winnipeg, Saskatoon in Saskatchewan, Edmonton and Jasper in Alberta and British Columbia’s Kamloops. Longer stops take place during the day, so guests can actually disembark the train and check out destinations like Winnipeg and Jasper. A journey highlight is Mount Robson, the highest point in the Canadian Rockies.

The Canadian train

Build in the 1950s, The Canadian is a majestic beast moulded from gleaming stainless steel, and interiors are a mix between charmingly dated and recently refurbished. On top off the array of class-specific sleeper cars, there are eight carriages to play with on the train, all of them open to different classes. Sleeper Plus and Prestige guests can make use of the scenic glass-domed Skyline, Prestige Park car with its lounges and too-floor glass dome, a restaurant car and additional, more luxurious Skyline car. The train’s most impressive carriage is the Panorama car, offering total outdoor immersion with an unobstructed glass canopy. Economy guests (usually daytrippers) have access to the Economy carriage and standard Skyline car. 

Cabins on The Canadian train

The Canadian journeys through some of the most breath-taking scenery on the planet, so the fact that cabins are on the small side isn’t that much of an issue. While passengers can sleep in economy class seats, it’s recommended going Sleeper Plus or Prestige class, where a host of cabins are on offer. Semi-private berth is perfect for solo travellers, transforming from couch-like seats to bunk beds with curtains providing privacy from other passengers.

Sleeper cabins for one and sleeper cabins for two offer totally private space, with comfortable single beds and a private washroom with toilet, sink and mirror. The most premium accommodation in Sleeper Plus is the Sleeper Cabin Suite, essentially two combined cabins for two with the wall removed. There are no showers in Sleeper Plus cabins, with showers located in each car. Prestige passengers’ experience is the most luxurious, with leather couches, a double Murphy bed, flat-screen TV, 24-hour butler service, fully stocked mini bar and private bathroom with shower.

Food and drink

In Sleeper Plus and Prestige Class, all meals are included, served in the train’s swish dining car. Between June and September three choices and daily specials are offered at each meal – a meat, fish or vegetarian dish – although special requirements can be arranged 10 days before departure. Breakfasts include the likes of banana bread and French toast and lunches and dinner champion local produce, like Canadian lake trout and pan-seared maple duck. Local beer and wines are available throughout the train and at meals, complimentary for Prestige ticket holders but at an extra cost for Sleeper Plus. 

Excursions

With 2,800 miles to cover, the train makes only short stops at dedicated stations, and while many passengers jump off to explore no excursions are offered. However, on board, staff go above and beyond to keep guests entertained, with complimentary local beer and wine tastings and the train’s ‘artists on board’ initiative. The latter allows local performers to just on board and travel for free, providing musical entertainment for guests along the way. 

Fellow passengers

Anyone and everyone travelling across Canada rides on the Canadian, and the train is a colourful mix of people from all walks of life. In Sleeper Plus you’ll find young backpackers, travellers and even families, while Prestige the crowd is older and more affluent.  

What’s included

For passengers in Sleeper Plus all meals are included in the fare, and guests are treated to breakfast, and multi-course lunches and dinners with coffee, tea, milk and juices complimentary. While alcohol and most soft drinks are extra in Sleeper Plus, everything is included in Prestige class, spanning meals, all drinks, snacks and cabin service. 

Pros and cons

The Canadian is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, with something for every budget and traveller. Despite being operated by Canada’s national rail service, The Canadian can be slow running and late, having to often wait for freight trains to clear the tracks. Because of the changing schedule Via Rail recommends you don’t make same day connections. There is also no wi-fi on board, so make sure to make other arrangements. 

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