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Yes, Virginia. There is wifi aboard Amtrak and at Amtrak stations. However, all of us who travel with smart phones, tablets and computers close at hand need to know the limitations.
The good news: wifi is offered aboard many Amtrak trains including long distance trains. There’s also wifi at most Amtrak stations. And it’s free! Unlike some European trains where you, the tourist, must register an email address and pay a few euros to connect, wifi aboard Amtrak is free and easy for everyone.
The bad news: Wifi isn’t offered on all trains.
How good is Amtrak wifi
Amtrak continues to add and improve their wifi service, AmtrakConnect Wi-fi, to more trains. Sure, I get frustrated when I can’t connect or if service is spotty. Then I remind myself that a train is a moving target and needs to be in areas where reception is possible. Similar to wifi on a ship…it’s only as good as the signal it receives…and how many people are logging in at the same time.
That’s primarily why you’ll find wifi offered on trains that operate east of the Mississippi River. As you travel west, you’ll be able to connect on the California Surfliner between San Luis Obispo and San Diego. Other trains, like Amtrak’s famous long-haul trains, spend so much time in rural and mountainous parts of America that even mobile phones drop reception at times. So while the long distance overnight trains do offer AmtrakConnect, there are definitely spots without a connection.
The only downside to using AmtrakConnect Wi-fi is that it doesn’t support high-bandwidth activities such as streaming music, streaming video or downloading large files. It’s really only for general wifi use but at night, I’ve been able to stream Frasier, usually after most of the passengers are asleep.
Amtrak Trains with Wifi
Several Amtrak stations offer wifi, however for now, those stations are all east of the Mississippi River.
Amtrak Train Stations with Wifi
- Baltimore, MD – Penn Station
- Boston, MA – South Station – available inside ClubAcela only
- Chicago, IL – Union Station
- Lorton, VA
- New York Moynihan Station
- New York, NY – Penn Station – available in the gate areas and inside ClubAcela
- Philadelphia, PA – 30th Street Station – available in the gate areas and inside ClubAcela
- Providence, RI
- Sanford, FL
- Washington, DC – Union Station – available in the gate areas and inside ClubAcela
- Westwood, MA – Route 128
- Wilmington, DE – Wilmington Station
How to Connect to Wifi on Amtrak using AmtrakConnect Network
Just like in a hotel, in Wifi Settings on your device, it should automatically find AmtrakConnect network. If your phone, table or laptop do no automatically connect:
- Under your list of available wireless networks, look for Amtrak_Wifi
- Select the network name
- Oper or refresh browser and you should see the AmtrakConnect welcome screen
All four steps above must be completed to access the internet.
Read Next: Aboard the California Zephyr Chicago to LA
Amtrak Wifi Internet Speed
According to information furnished by Amtrak, “Our mobile Wi-Fi network relies on bandwidth provided by cellular carriers who have towers along our routes. The bandwidth available from these towers is limited and our speed may not match what you are used to receiving from stationary Wi-Fi networks such as your home or office.”
Amtrak continues, “Engaging in web activities that use large amounts of bandwidth will negatively affect the online experience of other passengers. When using our network, please keep this in mind and be respectful of your fellow passengers.”
Restrictions on Wifi Usage
AmtrakConnect blocks access to streaming media and limits file downloads to 10MB. Amtrak recommends passengers download any necessary large files prior to boarding the train. AmtrakConnect also restricts access to web sites with objectionable content.
That’s all you need to do to connect to wifi aboard Amtrak. As you might expect there is no technical support available while traveling. However, if the network appears to be down, it’s a good idea to let the conductor know so the outage can be reported.
Like any open network that can be access without a pass code or login, it’s no more secure that what you’d find at Starbucks or a local library.
Before you leave home
It’s always a good idea to download whatever you plan to watch, before you leave home. For example, the wifi at the train station in New York in the Acela Lounge, I tried in vain to download 23 minutes of a Big Bang Theory episode. Only 23 minutes and the train station wifi couldn’t handle it. I later learned that the limit for a download file was 10MB…the episode was just slightly over that number. Download before you leave home.
Amtrak is continuously looking for ways to add wifi on more trains. Check back for updates on new Amtrak trains and train stations that offer wifi.