One of the questions I had before taking our recent Amtrak trip was about tipping on Amtrak. Who do you typically tip and how much. I did a bit of Internet research as well as asking some people, and this is what I came up with.
(SEE ALSO: 4 reasons my Amtrak trip was a blast…)
(SEE ALSO: … but I’ll probably never take another Amtrak trip)
I can’t say that this is the “perfect” amount for tipping on Amtrak – your mileage may vary and you should do what you feel is right – I share these just as my experiences
Tipping on Amtrak dining car
For me, the easiest one was tipping on the Amtrak dining car.
Even though our meals were included as part of our having booked 2 sleeper cars, it is still appropriate to tip. We have had experiences before where we’ve had free meals, and we typically tip the customary 15-20% on what our meal WOULD have cost otherwise.
The Cincinnati Reds run a promotion where if Reds pitchers strike out at least 11 people in a game, everyone in the stadium gets a free pizza from a local pizza chain. As you can see from the video below, when we were there last year we did get our 11 strikeouts, so the next weekend we took the family out for pizza.
Though after tips and pizza for the people that weren’t at the game, my “free pizza” meal ended up costing me $20-30 😀
The food was good on our Amtrak trip, but it was super over-priced (which makes sense given that it’s free for some passengers and for coach passengers, they are a captive audience). For example, lunch and dinner entrees were anywhere from $10-20. As you can imagine, with our family of 8, we don’t go out to very many restaurants where we’re paying more than $20 a person!
(SEE ALSO: What does a budget for a family of 8 look like?)
(SEE ALSO: How I eat for less than $1 / meal)
On our train trip, for our family of 8, we tipped $10-15 for breakfast and lunch, and $20 for dinners.
Tipping on Amtrak – sleeping car attendants
The suggestions that I had read online said that typically you tip your sleeping car attendants. Each sleeping car has about 10-15 roomettes and bedrooms, and each car has 1 sleeping car attendant.
(SEE ALSO: Amtrak Superliner vs. Viewliner – what’s the difference?)
Your sleeping car attendant will do things like help change your room from day mode to night mode (pulling the beds down), as well as answer questions about the trip. I had also read that there were people who would give a big tip to the sleeping car attendants upfront in the hopes of excellent service.
Frankly, I didn’t find our sleeping car attendants very helpful. We were more than capable of putting the beds up and down. Here is what we tipped our Amtrak sleeping car attendants
- Toledo to Chicago leg, during the day – we didn’t tip anything
- Chicago to Denver leg, overnight – we planned to tip $5 for each one but my wife couldn’t find the attendant in her car at the end
- Denver to Chicago leg, overnight – we tipped $5 to each attendant
- Chicago to Toledo leg, during the night – again, we tipped $5 to each attendant
Tipping on Amtrak – bellhops, redcaps, conductors and more
On Amtrak, the bellhops (people that help with your luggage) are called redcaps, and the consensus was that you tip these people similar to hotel or airport bellhops, on the order of $1 / bag. We handled our own luggage, did not use any redcaps, and did not tip anything.
I also read that it is also customary that you do NOT tip Amtrak conductors.
Hopefully this guide to tipping on Amtrak will be helpful to you on your own upcoming Amtrak trip!
- Introduction: Big heads, Trains and Bears, oh my!
- My (free) $6500 family train vacation on Amtrak
- Holy Toledo! The lunacy in trying to book this Ohio hotel
- Why you want to transfer Amtrak points to Choice Hotels
- How I spent 350,401 miles and points
- You can book unlimited Choice Hotel award nights?
- Checking historical Amtrak delays
- Amtrak Union Station Toledo parking
- 4 reasons my Amtrak trip was a blast…
- … but I’ll probably never take another Amtrak trip
- 4 laundry hacks when you're doing long term travel
- Amtrak Union Station Chicago Metropolitan Lounge
- Boiling River Yellowstone
- Do you take hotel toiletries, pens and other amenities?
- Finding the REAL geographic center of the United States
- How to get compensation for Amtrak delays
- Amtrak tips: Tipping on Amtrak
- Ranking the 8 hotels we stayed at on our vacation
- Updating my travel map with new visited places
- How I spent 350,401 points
- Why I didn’t spend $9,144.92 on my vacation
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Good day. As a four-year on board services employee at Amtrak, I feel compelled to make a few comments on your article. I speak only for myself and about my own level of service to each passenger – whether it be as a server in the dining room, a sleeping car attendant, or a coach attendant.
I work hard and do so for the integrity of the position and my own exceptionally strong work ethic. My pay is decent, but that little twist of appreciation in the form of a tip is so very nice to receive. On the platform I watch as my passengers thank the red caps with a few dollars for giving them a ride to my car and often carrying baggage up the stairs. Yet through the long ride, I help people retrieve overhead luggage, carry bags for the less able folks from their seat to their stop, ensure they get off at the proper destination, keep the restrooms stocked with supplies and in some semblance of order, provide seatside food and beverage service to those in the lower level seats, monitor the car for inappropriate behavior to protect my passengers, tolerate verbal abuse that would get an airline passenger thrown off in an instant, even $1 from each of those who benefit would be gratefully appreciated. Yes, we all need monetary pats on the back.
It is our job as servers in a service industry to ensure your safety, comfort, and provide a pleasant experience. Some are much better than others. Having an incentive to improve is always a lovely form of respect to bestow upon the best.
As for the dining room – who would go out to dinner and stiff the waitperson? That is a no brainer if the service was acceptable or better. A good sleeper car attendant is akin to a maid and a room service attendant in a regular hotel. If someone brought food to your hotel room and cleaned the room during your stay as well, is that not valuable? The best are close to being personal butlers.
None of it is easy work but it is deeply rewarding.
Thanks for the insight!
Is it ok to tip for first class attendants on the Acela Express and what is a good amount if it is ok?
On my Austin to Chicago trip a couple of weeks ago, the crew, dining car server(s) and snack bar server were all so rude that none of them deserved a tip.
My father retired from Union Pacific (brakeman & yardmaster), & he felt he had a handsome salary, & good perks & room for advancement. We kids enjoyed many free (coach class) trips far & wide. His retirement benefits & railroad insurance are awesome! He used to comment that the passenger service employees had the best jobs overall.
It has become an American tradition to tip servers & housekeepers for their efforts because traditionally they have been & mostly continue to have entry-level wages (formerly even less than minimum wage in many areas because their tips were supposed to supplement their wage.)
I know it is customary to tip passenger train employees & bell caps, but I don’t really understand it because they are unionized (optional), & are already so well paid & receive great benefits, vacations, & schedules. We don’t tip teachers, nurses, flight attendants or store employees for doing their job…
That said, I do tip on trains similar to what this author recommended because it seems expected , but I can’t say I do it happily because the Amtrak employees are just doing the job they are hired to do.
We do not tip for bad service & I write complaint letters to Amtrak when we receive bad service. I also do write letters of appreciation for excellent service, & Amtrak does rewards their outstanding employees with recognition events.
Things have changed between the retired employees (including many who are long overdue) and us relative newbies with regard to benefits. Newbies lose.
We have inept Union representation and inbred crew base managers which contribute to the decline in morale for those of us who cherish the fact that we have good jobs
Integrity leads the best of us who earnestly love our passengers and strive to set the bar high in terms of providing great customer service to our passengers. Often the praise from our passengers is what keeps us moving forward.
That being said, there certainly are coworkers who are lazy, sloppy, and do the bare minimum. Some pull a disappearing act. If a passenger has a negative experience with someone it reflects poorly on all of us.
I implore you to register both your complaints and commendations with customer service. It is a simple phone call you can even do from your seat. Please. You can make a difference.
Tipping for good service is always appreciated, although never necessary. Often I receive notes and hugs from grateful passengers, all of which I savor. Tips are icing on the cakes we bake. Thank you.
So because they are smart enough to have taken a unionized job they shouldn’t be tipped for doing a service job? Crazy way to think. Room attendants perform the same tasks as a housekeeper in a hotel, dining room staff performs waiter/waitress jobs just like a restaurant. Listening to you complain about tipping makes me sick that you could be so cheap to think that a couple bucks here and there is too much for you. Take an intercity bus.
BUT THEY DON’T MAKE MINIMUM WAGE AND HAVE A RETIREMENT PLAN. I feel robbed. Amtrak should not allow this.
Been there, done that. If an attendant is making $55,000 per year, why in the freak am i TIPPING. DO YOUR JOB. I feel robbed that I am expected to tip on Amtrak. I am not cheap. I tip waitresses and bar tenders a minimum of 20%. They do not have a retirement program. They do not have a salary of %55,000 per year. Amtrak should be ashamed.
I don’t agree or disagree with tipping on philosophical grounds. It is just coming from a non tipping culture I don’t really know the rules of tipping. I am a government employee and in Australia it is illegal to accept gifts of any type including tips. It can be considered rude to tip as in the person giving the tip is sending the message they are superior to the waitress etc. Is it illegal to top Amtrak workers who are government employees?
No – Amtrak workers are not considered government employees, at least not for tipping purposes
As a five year employee who has earned numerous awards due to positive feedback from “my people”, I would be happy to respond.
Riding westbound on the Lake Shore Limited, I was thinking back to the four customers with whom I had previously interacted. Three were on this train, another from the California Zephyr. It made my day when they recognized me (one by voice from my frequent updates as to delays and status).
I do not recall the amount any tipped me, but I do know I appreciated the tangible acknowledgement of my service. I pride myself on rendering the level of service my people deserve — mirroring my own positive travel experiences.
Monetary reward is not my primary motivation but it serves to underscore that I do right by my folks. For the time we travel together, be it in the sleepers, coaches or dining room, we are riding the same short path of life together. It is pretty amazing. If I can think of them again by purchasing something with their generosity, it adds to memories.
Signed,. A fellow traveler.
I have found that a compliment for good service is always appreciated. But reinforcing it with a tip when tipping is customary speaks loudly. We travel frequently and the cost of a trip generally is measured in hundreds or thousands of dollars. The total non meal tips seldom approaches $100. It seems to me that I would rather “shout” thank you and make the workers’ day than whisper “good job” and keep my few dollars. I have been in the workers’ shoes and know how good a decent tip makes you feel.
Dan Miller- So your wife couldn’t find the attendant? As with a restaurant aerver, you don’t have to physically hand out your tip. You can leave it on the top bunk, and leaving one daily, as in a hotel, will get you better service, the reason for a tip. To show appreciation.
I have never had a bad sleeper attendant or server on the many trips I have taken. Not sure what happened with those who did, but that is too bad and does reflect back on Amtrak personnel. I always take time to find out my attendants names and write a complimentary letter to Amtrak, letting them know who did an excellent job. If I had a bad experience I would let them know too, but never had. Maybe I am easy to please but I don’t think so.
Yes you should tip. Amount equal to your satisfaction.
I normally tip café servers one dollar for serving me coffee. However once the server tapped the tip jar to make me aware of the tip jar. Needless to say he got no tip!
Tipping rail workers goes back to when Pullman Porters worked on trains and served the passengers during their trips. Amtrak is the offspring of the Pullman trains. They make descent money but tipping is not about evaluating what someone makes in order to determine whether you tip or not. Whether you like it or not, you tip just about every service provider there is, just look at the indirect costs. Tipping is about courtesy. If you don’t want to, don’t. But consider why you feel that you should tip one person or one industry and not the next . I am currently on a sleeper and the attendant brought me breakfast and I gave him $10, the cost of the meal as a tip. It comes back to me, trust me. I am blessed and I share the wealth and it continues.
We are getting ready to take Amtrak trip in October. What do you advise about amount to tip car attendent each day on a long trip?
I guess I can answer my own query about tipping the first class attendants and now the redcaps as well. I tip both $10US when I am alone and I may add $5-10 when I am traveling with my wife. I tip the cafe’ servers $1 as well for java.
I have been riding Amtrak for several years now. I have noticed that the majority of Amtrak workers do a great job and are well compensated for their labors. Very well paid compared to those folks working in the service industries. Most make more than US Government workers say in FL or WY.
I think they are well compensated for what they do and shouldn’t be begging for untaxed tips. The bar car attendant is the worst. Sitting there I observed how much money was in the cardboard box. They get well compensated for what they do and if not seek other employment. Shame on Amtrak for fostering this tipping policy. The only tip they get from me is, “the bridge is not for sale”.
If you get good service….tip. it’s that simple. Better service better tip. It isn’t rocket science.