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How to travel by train — and what Amtrak is doing to make it safer

Illustration of train with dreidels
(Ross May / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images)

This story is part of a package on holiday travel.

Amtrak has new COVID-19 safety protocols you should know about when you book your ticket. There’s a limited number of tickets sold to allow for social distancing, and reservations will be required for seats on popular Southern California routes that don’t typically require them. Use the Amtrak app, go to Amtrak.com or call (800) 872-7245 to find schedules and book your trip.

  • Buy your ticket early to get a seat on the train you want. You can change your ticket without paying a fee through Dec. 31. However, you might be charged if you cancel your ticket.
  • Make a reservation if you plan to travel on the Pacific Surfliner, which links San Diego, Orange County, L.A., Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo. This holiday season Amtrak will require seat reservations between Nov. 23 and Nov. 30 on the popular coastal route. Again, reserve early so you aren’t shut out. Metrolink monthly passes and Coaster passes won’t be honored on those dates.
  • Amtrak requires passengers to wear a face mask that covers the nose and mouth while onboard the train and inside stations.
  • Follow social-distancing guidelines in high-traffic areas inside and outside stations. Expect to find plastic barriers at customer service counters.
  • Book a private room. Amtrak trains offer roomettes and bedrooms that accommodate two passengers and larger family quarters with two upper and two lower berths. Meals are included in the price. For example, one-way room fares start at $138 on the Coast Starlight in late November (compared with $25 for coach and $36 for business).

More on traveling this season

  • Check Amtrak’s online “capacity indicator” before you book; you may choose to travel at a less-crowded time. With limited capacity, people in the same household should have no problem finding seats together, Amtrak said. Solo travelers may use the seat next to them for belongings and social distancing.
  • Use Amtrak’s app to check your gate and track information instead of gathering at departure boards, which could become crowded. You can sign up for notifications through the app too.
  • Use an e-ticket, instead of a printed ticket, so conductors can scan from the Amtrak app on your mobile device.
  • Filtration systems onboard have a fresh air exchange rate of four to five minutes, Amtrak said.
  • Amtrak, which has partnered with Lysol on COVID-19 protocols, is performing extra cleaning and sanitizing on trains, at stations and inside lounges.

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