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Tips for Travel on the Coast Starlight Train from Los Angeles to Seattle

Updated on September 25, 2017

The Coast Starlight is an Amtrak train offering service between Los Angeles and Seattle. Known as "A Grand West Coast Train Adventure," the total trip takes thirty five hours. The train passes through Santa Barbara, the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento and Portland. It has a viewing car with large windows, so you can enjoy spectacular views.

"The scenery along the Coast Starlight route is unsurpassed. The dramatic snow-covered peaks of the Cascade Range and Mount Shasta, lush forests, fertile valleys and long stretches of Pacific Ocean shoreline provide a stunning backdrop for your journey."

Most seating on the Coast Starlight is on the upper level, which provides amazing views
Most seating on the Coast Starlight is on the upper level, which provides amazing views

Unlike traveling on an airplane, travel on the Coast Starlight is a fun part of a vacation. And unlike driving, you can relax and enjoy the scenery. The train offers food service and plenty of restrooms. These are some things to consider before booking your trip.

Food Service

The train has a dining car that offers high quality meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Menu items run from about $9 to $25. If you're traveling all the way from Los Angeles to Seattle or Seattle to Los Angeles, food is part of your travel cost. The menu has only a limited number of options. If you're traveling with kids, make sure they'll like the menu items. If not, you may want to pack a cooler with food they like.

Travelers on shorter trips who don't pay for food service may or may not be able to eat in the dining car. A member of the dining car staff goes throughout the train and takes reservations for a specific time for each meal. If they run out of space, you won't be able to get a meal. There is a Cafe car on the train that sells coffee, snacks and microwave pizza. You may want to take a small cooler with sandwiches in case you can't get a meal on the train. Overnight travelers have the choice of eating in the Dining car or the Parlor car. Items on the menu will be announced over the intercom.

Each table in the Dining car seats four people. If you're traveling alone or in a group of two or three, you'll have to share your table with other travelers.

Reserved Seating

When you get on the train, you'll be given your seat numbers by the conductor. Since your seats are reserved, you can walk around the train to go to the viewing car or to get food without having to worry about your seat being taken by someone else.

"Reserved coach seats on single-level / Viewliner trains and bi-level Superliner trains that travel on long distance route have all these amenities, but let you stretch out even more, with extra legroom, foot rests, leg rests, and even curtains at your seat."

The Coast Starlight has comfortable reclining seats with leg rests
The Coast Starlight has comfortable reclining seats with leg rests

Overnight Travel

If you plan to travel all the way from Los Angeles to Seattle or Seattle to Los Angeles, you will need a place to sleep. The Family Bedroom has sleeping space for two adults and two kids. Booking a family room comes with other perks.

  • Meals included
  • Sofa (converts to lower berth)
  • Two comfortable seats (convert to a bed)
  • Electrical outlets
  • Climate control
  • Individual reading lights
  • Garment rack
  • Fold-down table
  • Fresh towels and bed linens
  • Soap and shower amenities
  • Toilet and shower available nearby in same train car
  • Personal service (turn-down, coffee, make-up bed)
  • Bottled water

If you aren't traveling with kids, you can sleep in a roomette, which has seats that convert to beds.

Wifi and Electrical Outlets

Two electrical outlets are located at each seat. Wifi is only available for Business Class passengers.

Travel to San Francisco

If you're traveling to San Francisco, the train will drop you off in Oakland. From there you'll get an Amtrak Thruway Bus that will take you over the Bay Bridge into San Francisco. The bus arrives when the train arrives, so don't worry if your train runs late. You can't miss this bus. Our luggage was checked all the way to San Francisco, so we didn't have to worry about picking it up from the train and transferring it to the bus. However, on our return trip, we had to collect our luggage from the bus and then check it at the train station.

When you arrive at the 'Oakland, CA Jack London Square (OKJ)' station for your trip to San Francisco, the bus will be there waiting for you regardless of whether the train arrives early or late. However, on the return trip, the bus will pick you up at a fixed time. Unfortunately our train ran more than an hour late. We had to wait at the Jack London Square (OKJ) until our train arrived. The station is small, and doesn't have any food besides a vending machine. The bathrooms didn't have soap when we were there. However hand sanitizer was available at the check in windows. So be prepared to have food and maybe soap on hand, in case you have a long wait in Oakland.

An Amtrak Thruway Bus will take you directly from Oakland to the heart of San Francisco
An Amtrak Thruway Bus will take you directly from Oakland to the heart of San Francisco

Stations Served

The Coast Starlight stops at the following stations:

Seattle, WA - King Street Station (SEA)
Tacoma, WA (TAC)
Lacey, WA - Olympia (OLW)
Centralia, WA (CTL)
Kelso, WA - Longview (KEL)
Vancouver, WA (VAN)
Portland, OR - Union Station (PDX)
Salem, OR (SLM)
Albany, OR (ALY)
Eugene, OR (EUG)
Chemult, OR (CMO)
Klamath Falls, OR (KFS)
Dunsmuir, CA (DUN)
Redding, CA (RDD)
Chico, CA (CIC)
Sacramento, CA (SAC)
Davis, CA (DAV)
Martinez, CA (MTZ)
Emeryville, CA (EMY)
Oakland, CA - Jack London Square (OKJ)
San Jose, CA (SJC)
Salinas, CA - Downtown (SNS)
Paso Robles, CA (PRB)
San Luis Obispo, CA (SLO)
Santa Barbara, CA (SBA)
Oxnard, CA (OXN)
Simi Valley, CA (SIM)
Van Nuys, CA (VNC)
Los Angeles, CA - Union Station (LAX)

Passengers can go to the viewing car on the Coast Starlight to enjoy spectacular views
Passengers can go to the viewing car on the Coast Starlight to enjoy spectacular views


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