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I was thinking of going from NYC to Montreal, and the first thing that sprang to mind is taking a train.

The distance is about 530 km (330 mi) beelining or 595 km by road—not much more than Madrid to Barcelona. There must be viable non-flight options, right?

What are the best options by rail or coach? What would you recommend, taking duration, price and convenience into account?

How about NYC-Toronto, which by road is around 780 km (490 mi): are there good train/coach connections to that direction? Looking at the map, I guess the options might be more limited...

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Image from Bing Maps

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3 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Contrary to the popular opinion I would strongly recommend against the trains. Reason being the trains run slower then buses, for example the Maple Leaf which runs NYP-Toronto runs 12h 30min and makes a bunch of stops. Adirondak which runs NYP-Montreal is kind of in the same boat and runs 10h 30min. Granted that a big chunk of both runs along the Hudson river and provides quite spectacular views. But you lose a day nontheless.

The bus in my opinion is a better option because both destinations are served by multiple companies.

To Montreal, the traditional Greyhound (6 buses daily; 7h 20 - 8h 50min, $73-105) plus you can get on New York Trailways (2 additional buses daily; 7½ - 8½ h, $84).

To Toronto there are 3 options: 2 of them I mentioned above. Another one is Megabus (I hate their website) which is low cost express service offered by Coach USA. The cost per ticket to Toronto for example could be about half of what Amtrak will charge with purchase 4 days in advance.

Some of the buses run overnight so it may be more advantageous to do that then the train which leaves NYC in the morning and run by day.

On top of all of this there are websites like Amovens which allow you to find a possible car ride to your destination too. Predictability of schedule in this case is unfortunately out the window.

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Thanks! One key bit of info missing was the travel time of the buses... I checked the websites you linked to and found out the following. NYC-Montreal: Greyhound, 7h 20 - 8h 50min, $73-105; NY Trailways, 7½ - 8½ h, $84. NYC-Toronto: Greyhound, 9h 50min - 13h, $82-123; NY Trailways, 10½ - 12½ h, $77-79; Megabus, 9h 50min - 10h 40min, $39-59. (All prices USD, one way.) So yeah, I agree this seems a better option than trains. –  Jonik May 5 '12 at 23:04
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Seat61 has a good page covering these three routes. You basically have one daytime train a day each way, between New York and Toronto (The Maple Leaf) and New York to Montreal (Adirondack). Journey time is around 12 hours, with the trains during the morning and arriving in the evening. It looks like there's nice scenery for much of it, but it does take a lot longer than flying.

Between Montreal and Toronto, you've roughly 5-6 trains per day each way. Journey time is about 5 hours, and there are some lovely views (especially if you're on the south side of the carriage, so you can look over the lakes and rivers)

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Thanks, good info. Awfully slow though, for a train (not just compared to flying but buses too). Perhaps a night train would be ok, if you can book a sleeper... Also thanks for the Montreal-Toronto tip! That sounds a lot better than the NYC train connections. –  Jonik May 5 '12 at 23:22
    
Sadly it looks like they no longer run sleeper trains, only daytime ones. I'm told they used to be very popular, but were apparently killed off by flights getting cheaper and running earlier/later. I think for overnight your only option is a bus –  Gagravarr May 6 '12 at 13:18
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If you are looking for the cheapest option you can try to share a ride from NYC to Montreal or NYC to Toronto. There is also a Facebook group NYC-Montreal. However, the train might be more reliable and i would prefer it if you have a tight schedule, or a flight to catch.

I have never taken the train between those routes, but on the west coast between Vancouver and Seattle someone (here in this forum?) recommended the train over the greyhound service because apparently the border crossing is much smoother. Basically, you clear immigration at the train station, then they re-check your passport at the border.

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