Are you working on a train trip and wondering if you will have Amtrak Wi-Fi on your train? If true, you may have questions about what you can expect, and you are in the right place if these or other questions run through your head.
Amtrak introduced Wi-Fi on select regional trains in 2014; since then, they have expanded to cover most regional and East Coast long-distance trains.
This article will help you set your expectations about Wi-Fi on Amtrak trains and alternatives.
Amtrak Wi-Fi can help you get out that last email or update your social media, but it probably will not help you binge your favorite show.
My first experience with Amtrak Wi-Fi was aboard the Hiawatha the first week it became available. The service has improved since those first few weeks but has limitations.
Amtrak routes with Wi-Fi.
Most regional Amtrak trains have Wi-Fi, while many long-distance trains do not. Here are the trains that do have Amtrak Wi-Fi.
Amtrak stations with Wi-Fi
Some stations have Amtrak Wi-Fi, but be aware there could be dead spots in the station. Other stations may have Wi-Fi not provided by Amtrak; an example is Milwaukee Intermodal. Speeds can vary based on the amount of people using the service.
Stations with Wi-Fi not provided by Amtrak Wi-Fi are not on this list.
- Baltimore, MD – Penn Station
- Boston, MA – South Station (inside the lounge only)
- Chicago, IL – Union Station (not available in all areas of the station)
- Lorton, VA
- New York, NY – Moynihan Station
- New York, NY – Penn Station (in gate areas and inside the lounge)
- Philadelphia, PA – William H Gray III 30th Street Station (in gate areas and inside the lounge)
- Providence, RI
- Sanford, FL
- Washington, DC – Union Station (in gate areas and inside the lounge)
- Westwood, MA – Route 128
- Wilmington, DE – Wilmington Station
What devices can connect to Amtrak Wi-Fi?
Most modern devices, such as computers, tablets, and phones, can connect to this free service.
How to connect to Amtrak Wi-Fi
The photos used in this section are meant as an example, and the screens can change at any time. I used an iPhone in these examples.
Step one to connect to Amtrak Wi-Fi is to go into your device’s settings and look for Wi-Fi; the photos are from my iPhone. Other phones and tablets will look different.
On Capitol Corridor and San Joaquins trains, look for “YourTrainWiFi” and click agree from the welcome screen.
Step two: wait a few seconds, and your web browsers should pop up with the terms and agreement page.
If not, try opening up your browser or try again. If all else fails, turn your gear off, back on, and repeat.
Step Three: wait for a few seconds, and this screen should appear. From here, click “done,” check out the latest Travels with Kev article, and enjoy the rest of the interwebs.
You do not need to check my site, but it’s an idea.
To make things easier, set this network to auto-login. If you no longer want to use Amtrak Wi-Fi, you can turn off your Wi-Fi for your device or hit the forget network.
Can you use a VPN with Amtrak Wi-Fi?
Yes, Amtrak Wi-Fi allows for VPN traffic on their network.
What kind of internet service can I expect?
Amtrak Wi-Fi can vary from train to train, and speeds can change as you travel along the route based on the number of passengers using the service and signal strength in the areas.
The Golden Rule of Amtrak WiFi is, it supports general web browsing and not heavy data activites.Amtrak’s website
Amtrak Wi-Fi is a cell-based service, so dead spots or weak signals happen along your route.
Also, like at home or elsewhere, the system could slow down if many people try to send their TPS reports simultaneously.
Sometimes, “things happen,” and the train might not have Wi-Fi during your journey. This can happen due to last-minute equipment changes or glitches.
Amtrak Wi-Fi may block large files and streaming.
The Wi-Fi receivers are often attached to the cafe car’s roof or the cab-baggage cars. The train distributes the signal to the rest of the train from that hub. You probably will not have service if the train goes through a tunnel or hits a sparse area without cell service.
What can you and cannot do with Amtrak Wi-Fi?
What you can do
Amtrak Wi-Fi lets you do simple searches like checking the train’s status, surfing the web, and sending plane emails.
What you cannot do
The system cannot handle a cross-country game of Call Of Duty, video streaming, or up or downloading large files.
Amtrak Wi-Fi will limit access to streaming media and large file sizes to maximize the amount of onboard bandwidth available to all passengers.
In addition, Amtrak restricts access to websites with “objectionable content.”
So, if you want to check the train status, verify reservations, send a plain text email, or check out this site or your social media, Amtrak Wi-Fi could work fine.
Why use Amtrak Wi-Fi
One reason to use Amtrak Wi-Fi is it is free. With that said, remember that Amtrak Wi-Fi is free, so set your expectations accordingly.
The other reason is the train may have service when your phone does not, so if you have Wi-Fi calling, you might still be able to make a call or send web-based texts.
Some of these suggestions come from my experience, and others are from Amtrak.
Download before you go!
The best thing you can do is download large files and entertainment before leaving. Excel and PowerPoint files are often more significant than you realize.
Services like Amazon Prime, Netflix, DisenyPlus, and others allow you to download shows and movies to your device.
Videos may “expire” after watching them, so you may need to jump to a Wi-Fi source to renew your shows if you want to watch them again.
Often, services give you 48 hours after watching a program to enjoy it again before it expires, so this may not be a problem depending on your trip.
If your journey includes a layover, you may be able to replace movies with some “new” ones.
Netflix and others may offer the option to delete watched shows and upload new ones automatically. This option could work well if you get on Wi-Fi during a layover; you could have new shows uploaded on your next train or connecting service.
This option might work with Amtrak Wi-Fi, but it might not. Please note that if you have this option set and try to hook your tablet to your phone, it may try to upload in the background, which may use up a lot of data.
Bring your Wi-Fi.
If you need Wi-Fi or higher speeds, consider getting a personal hotspot or tethering your phone to your device. Many cell plans offer these options to use your phone or a separate “box” you would carry with you.
Some cell phone plans have better deals and data allowances than others.
If you plan on traveling, now could be a good time, so show around to see if you have the best coverage and price.
If you use your phone for videos or as a hot sport without an unlimited plan, keep an eye on how much data you use, for it is easier to use more than you think.
Consider a pay-as-you-go plan if you do not plan on using it all the time.
Like with Amtrak’s Wi-Fi, there are areas where you may not have any service, or it could be weak, regardless of the carrier.
My experience With Amtrak Wi-Fi
I never plan to have Wi-Fi on a train, but I am happy when it does. Even if the train is supposed to have it, I set my expectations that it doesn’t. Since I am not paying for Wi-Fi, I take it for what it is.
How can a cell-based system be expected to have excellent service everywhere if my phone doesn’t have a cell signal? Heck, even cable internet is not always reliable.
Since I know the service is slow, I am patient when I use it. There are times when I have been able to download Netflix files. In those cases, before I went to bed, I set up a few downloads, and if I finished, I was happy. If it didn’t, meh, I tried.
As better technology comes out, I hope Amtrak can deliver a better product.
I try to download everything I want before leaving for the station. But if I want to load one more episode of The Office or Parks and Recreation before going, I try to find a restaurant or coffee shop.
Remember, if I can travel, you can too; memories come from doing, and regrets come from waiting.