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Tipping on Amtrak Trains: What you need to know

Alpine Texas
Amtrak Superliner Sleeper car on the Texas Eagle/Sunset Limited stopped in Alpine. Texas.

Are you wondering about tipping on Amtrak trains? Maybe you heard that you need to but don’t know who gets one or how much to tip?

If those questions crossed your mind, this article is here to guide you through this part of your Amtrak adventure.

Tipping has been a hot topic on social media, so I sifted through the comments and added the thoughts of others to this article.

Grab your favorite beverage or snack, and let’s walk you through the thought of tipping on Amtrak.

Is it necessary to tip on Amtrak?

The technical answer is no.

Before we go too far, you should know, tipping does not have a set protocol among Amtrak passengers. Some passengers feel that is unnecessary, while others can’t think of a better gesture. For me, I often tip, but not always; further down, you will find out my when, where, and why.

Unlike many US service industry workers, Amtrak employees do not depend on tips as part of their income. But tipping on Amtrak is a great way to thank you and show that you appreciate their efforts.

If you are financially unable to tip, a sincere thank you and letting Amtrak know what a great job they did is appreciated. At the bottom of the article is a link to contact Amtrak to praise the Amtrak employee.

While tips are not essential, if you require a little extra attention for whatever reason, tipping is a grand gesture to say thanks for the extra running around. Remember that attendants are there for the whole car, and they are not personal servants. Be patient and understanding with their time.

Who and when would be tip along your journey?

When and who you should tip is up to you, but these employees tend to receive tips and when to tip them.

Lawrence is an Amtrak sleeping car attendant on the Texas Eagle.

Car attendants (Coach or Sleeper)

Some people like to tip their attendants at the beginning of their adventure. I am not one of those.

My belief is tipping needs to be earned and not given. Looking at what other passengers say, they feel that tipping at the beginning is bribing the attendant for better service. I tend to agree.

Allegedly, TIPS stands for: To Insure Prompt Service, so there is that, but I prefer to tip at the end.

Usually, I tip when the attendant comes around, alerting me of a stop or during one of the sweeps they do before coming into the last city. Or I tip as I leave the car at my destination.

The typical tipping range for car attendants is $5-20 a day based on the level of service and your budget.

Food service employees

I often tip at the end of the transaction, for example, after meals or completing your transaction in the cafe. On occasion, I had the same dinner attended for the day; in that case, I tip at that day’s last meal.

Often the stander food service rates of 10% – 20% are typical; if there are no prices, tip what you feel is appropriate.

Station Staff

Some stations have red caps or agents that can help you get to or from the train. You are free to tip them a few dollars per bag.

Information to consider about Amtrak staff

NYP Loading
Passengers are getting ready to board the Lake Shore Limited at New York Penn Station.

Sleeping and coach car attendants and food staff stay with you for the whole route of the train. The exception is the Texas Eagle, where attendants change in San Antonio.

These employees are away from their homes and family for four to six days at a time.

For example, the California Zephyr crews, are based out of Chicago, travel with you to Emeryville, CA, spend the night and then return home working the next train.

These employees do a lot of work behind the scenes to make the trip the best they can for you and your fellow passengers.

For example, sleeping car attendants help you along your journey by making your beds and putting them away, assisting with getting you off the train, helping with reservations, giving you the information you may need along your journey, and more. They also run and grab meals for some passengers and keep the car clean.

Conductors and engineers change throughout the trip. The FRA sets the amount of time these employees can work. Often when the “smoke” or “fresh air brakes along the route, there are crew changes.

When tipping on Amtrak is not recomended.

Amtrak Viewliner Roomette Hallway
Looking down the hallway of roomettes on a Viewliner Sleeper Car

I know not everyone will agree with me on this point, which is fine, and do what you feel is right. Like all my articles, these are the guides I follow.

For the record, I tend to follow the motto, assume positive intent, and, when in doubt, try to improve someone’s day. But a few times over my years of travels, I received inadequate service, to the point I would not tip.

With this section, remember to keep your expectations in check. If you expect the car attendant to be a personal attendant, you will be disappointed because they have a whole car to maintain.

It does take time for one person to make up twenty rooms if a Superliner car is full of passengers.

Over my many Amtrak trips, I only had a few poor attendants where I refused to tip.

For example, once I hit the call button, the car attendant came to my room, looked at me, and walked away, so I ended up putting my bed down myself. The other time, the attendant ignored me for most of my journey. Both times I did report them to Amtrak. If they do well or if they do poorly, I let Amtrak know. If it is the middle of the road service, I tend to let things go.

A wrap-up about tipping on Amtrak

Viewliner Dining Car
An inside view of a Viewliner Amtrak dining car

It is your choice to tip or not.

Tipping is a great way to thank someone who made your Amtrak adventure better. While attendants do not expect it, it is a pleasant gift.

Don’t worry about it if you can’t afford to tip, but try to let Amtrak know what excellent service you had.

If you want to let Amtrak know about the excellent service you had, there is a way, with the yellow button below. I had a conversation with someone in Amtrak management, and those comments do get to the employees and their bosses.

Safe Travels!



Kev has traveled over 125,000 miles on over 660 trains all around the United States aboard Amtrak. When he is not on the move, Kev enjoys making music as an organist.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. TheFullIt

    This is a thorough and thoughtful article based on experience with Amtrak and tipping. I’ll be reading more with Kev.

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