Train Etiquette to Get You and Others from Destination A to B

Many “trains” arrive at “your” station; treat them good whether they stay or leave!  
 – Mehmet Murat ildan

“ALL ABOARD!”  Traveling on a locomotive is a wonderful way to journey from one destination to another.  Picture yourself relaxed, headset playing your favorite music, daydreaming and taking in varying views flowing past large windows. A train venture offers amazing scenery through countrysides, mountains, coastlines, lush forests and cities. Rail travel allows passengers to just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.

Traveling by train affords you the opportunity to visit numerous cities and landmarks en route to your final destination. Amtrak is the major passenger carrier in the United States. Travel accommodations include coach, business class and sleepers. Tickets are generally more expensive between April and September, but discounts are available for seniors, students, children and active military personnel.  For a more luxurious train vacation, there are private companies such as America by Rail, US Rail Vacations, Great Rail Journeys, Vacations by Rail and Rocky Mountaineer.   The cost is much more expensive than Amtrak, but included in the packages are accommodations, excursions, guided tours and meals.

The following are five basic etiquette guidelines to make you a thoughtful and respectable train traveler.

1. Arrive at the station in a timely manner.

It is important to arrive at the train station at least 30 minutes ahead of departure time because there a few things that you must do prior to boarding the train:

  • Print your ticket at the kiosk, if you have not already done so.
  • Identify the location of your platform.
  • Check the departure board for any delays in departure and arrival times.
  • Allow yourself time to use the restroom and make any phone calls if needed.

2. Prepare for your boarding by patiently waiting to enter the train.

The boarding process for trains moves more quickly than airplanes because they have multiple stops to make before reaching the final destination. Make sure to be at the platform at least 10 minutes before departure time to ensure that you don’t miss it. Once the train arrives, have all of your belongings in hand to ensure a quick transition onto the train.  While searching for a seat, yield to the elderly, disabled and those with infants.

3. Follow protocol on a train.

  • After you have settled in your seat, remain there until the conductor comes by and takes your ticket. Keeping it out and ready helps to speed up the process.
  • Avoid raising your voice on phone calls. Remember that you are not the only person on the train, so use your inside voice while speaking. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes.  Would you want to spend the whole train ride listening to someone else’s conversation?
  • It is acceptable to listen to music but do not play your music loudly. Be cognizant that even though you may wear earphones, those seated next to you can also hear your music if the volume is loud.  Also, do not sing the words to songs out loud; you are not a contestant on “The Voice.”
  • If you know that you have a snoring problem, ask your neighbor to wake you if it becomes disruptive.

4. Watch your belongings.

Be mindful of others by placing your belongings in the compartment above your seat or under your feet. If the train is crowded, make sure not to place your items in the seat next to you. Trains are more spacious than airplanes and cars so there is no need to save an extra seat next to you.

5. Clean-up after yourself.

Please keep the area around your space tidy, especially on long trips.  People are constantly getting on and off the train, therefore “housekeeping” is limited between boardings.  The train may make several stops before a crew member can clean every area.  Do your part to help keep things clean so that the forthcoming passengers can have an enjoyable experience.

The next time you plan a vacation with a desire to experience the country, consider the train and remember to be considerate of your fellow travelers and take heed of how your actions may affect others.

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Tina Hayes is the founder and owner of The School of Etiquette and Decorum in Antioch, CA. As a passionate instructor dedicated to providing quality and professional etiquette training to her clients, Mrs. Tina Hayes promotes the awareness that social presentation and behaviors are important to be successful in today's society for all ages.