Getting To Florida By Rail

Though most people tend to fly to Florida these days it is still possible to travel to Florida by rail and Amtrak ticket prices are very competitive.

An adult ticket from New York to Orlando or Miami can be as low as $125 one way; return tickets are usually twice the single ticket price and Amtrak have weekly special deals with up to 70% discounts on some routes.

Florida Amtrak Services

The Amtrak Silver Star and Silver Meteor Service routes run daily down the eastern seaboard from New York to Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington DC, Charleston, Savannah, Jacksonville, Orlando and then on to Miami.

silver-star

Amtrak Silver Star crossing St. Mary's River
[Courtesy of www.trainweb.com]

The Silver Star also goes via Tampa on the Gulf Coast and a Thruway motor coach connection connects with some other Florida towns. The Palmetto service also starts in New York but these days it terminates in Savannah, Georgia.

Do bear in mind though that instead of a few hours flying time, you are looking at 24+ hours travelling time. In the most part, this is not European Intercity travel but it is relaxing, a great alternative to driving time and you get to see the wonderful countryside.

Another service on the East Coast is the [Amtrak Auto Train][Train] which runs from Lorton (just south of Washington DC) to Sanford daily and takes around 16 hours non stop. As its name suggests you can take your car, van, SUV or boat with you so you have the convenience of having your own car when you get to Florida but without all the stress of long distance driving.

If you were travelling from the West Coast then the Amtrak Sunset Limited train used to go from Los Angeles, via Houston and New Orleans to Orlando. It used to run three times a week in each direction and take nearly 3 days (68 hours) to cover the 2,500 miles.

Following the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina, The Sunset Limited is currently only running between Los Angeles and New Orleans. Amtrak had hoped to resume the service into Florida in the Spring of 2006, but at this time there is still no details of when the service will go beyond New Orleans.

To get from the West Coast to Florida these days takes around four days going via Washington DC.

All long distance train services offer a choice of accommodation including sleeping cars (coaches) and also provide other amenities such as viewing cars and dining cars.

To see how close you can get to your final destination check out the list of Amtrak stations in Florida including Thruway connections.

The following table summarises the Amtrak train services in Florida.

Amtrak Route Direction Train Code Frequency Approx. Journey Time
Silver Star (New York to Miami) Southbound 91 Daily 30 hours
Silver Star (Miami to New York) Northbound 92 Daily 30 hours
Silver Meteor (New York to Miami) Southbound 97 Daily 28 hours
Silver Meteor (Miami to New York) Northbound 98 Daily 28 hours
Sunset Limited (Los Angeles to Orlando) ‡ Eastbound 2 3 times a week 68 hours
Sunset Limited (Orlando to Los Angeles) ‡ Westbound 1 3 times a week 68 hours
Auto Train (Lorton to Sanford) Southbound 53 Daily 16 hours
Auto Train (Sanford to Lorton) Northbound 52 Daily 16 hours

‡ The Sunset Limited service currently terminates at New Orleans and does not continue into Alabama and Florida.

Amtrak Rail Passes

As well as regular tickets you can also purchase a number of different rail passes if you intend to do a lot of rail travel.

The North America Rail Pass offers 30 consecutive days of travel across the USA and Canada with unlimited stopovers. The normal pass entitles you to Coach Class travel but you can upgrade to Business Class or Sleeping Car accommodations for an additional charge. The North America Rail Pass is available to anyone. Amongst the conditions of travel is that you actually have to travel between Canada and the USA; you cannot restrict yourself to USA travel only. Also the pass is not valid on the Acela Express or the Auto Train.

International travellers can also purchase a USA Rail Pass (not available for US or Canadian residents) either for the Western region, Eastern region (including Florida), Northeast region or National for 15 or 30 days. There are two ticket prices, peak periods including the summer and holiday season and off-peak.

The normal pass entitles you to Coach Class travel but you can upgrade to Business Class or Sleeping Car accommodations for an additional charge on some services.

The USA Rail Pass is valid for travel on all Amtrak trains except the Auto Train, Acela Express, Metroliner, certain Thruway motor coach connections and the Canadian portion of trains operated jointly by Amtrak and VIA Rail Canada.

Amtrak Delays

Amtrak does not own most of the tracks on which they run, they share the tracks with the freight haulers who own the rails and as a result Amtrak services are often subject to delays as freight takes precedence.

Because of delays due to slow freight traffic, on time performance on their East Coast Services was down to 68% (February 2012), its lowest since the 1970s.

Also it is not unknown for Amtrak to have to move the scheduled times; for example between February 26 and March 29, 2012, the Silver Star 92 northbound train departed five hours early because of track work.

If you can put up with the long journey times and potential delays, then travelling to/from Florida by train is still a viable alternative to driving or flying.