I've never rode on an Amtrak train before- in this case I'll be riding the Silver Star which allows for checked luggage and has a dining car. Is it customary to tip Amtrak personnel?

For example- is it customary to tip the server or personnel at the dining car, the person that delivers meals to the room, or the person that helps carry my luggage?

  • @guest I would suggest viewing the description of the amtrak tag for a basic overview.
    – choster
    Commented May 27, 2020 at 18:31
  • @choster: To make my question clearer and this question here more self-contained, could one add to the question what is so special about this Amrak company? Why and how is it different from other/regular trains?
    – guest
    Commented May 27, 2020 at 18:34
  • 1
    @guest There is nothing special about Amtrak; it is one of a thousand rail operators in the world, each of which is different from every other.
    – choster
    Commented May 27, 2020 at 18:38
  • @guest I'm not sure about 1st class train fares in other countries, but this pertains to renting a room on Amtrak's Silverstar Express train. Most passengers ride in coach. In my experience if you ride coach on Amtrak you will not be approached or asked for any tip; your luggage is handled and delivered to a turnstile similar to how it's done at an airport. Those that rent rooms can take the luggage to the room and avoid checking it. An exception for tips might be made for business-class specific trains in the NE corridor but that was not in the scope of my question.
    – Zorkolot
    Commented May 28, 2020 at 19:40

4 Answers 4


Yes, unlike flights or buses in the U.S., long-distance Amtrak travel includes the expectation that passengers will give gratuities to certain members of the service crew. It is not required (i.e. Amtrak cannot pursue you legally if you choose not to pay tips, and Amtrak staff are not supposed to solicit them), but it is expected.

It is not directly analogous to the situation with restaurant staff, as most Amtrak workers are adequately compensated. It is a longstanding tradition and part of the culture of long-distance rail travel in the U.S., as there was a time when the attendants (largely African-American) did not receive any compensation except for tips.

At the station

If you have a Red Cap assist you with your baggage, then $2 per bag or so is reasonable, same as you would a hotel bellhop.

And that is about it; you do not tip ticket agents or gate agents, for example.

Aboard the train

On board, you do not tip the conductor or the crew operating the train. Even in coach, however, there will be a car attendant who cleans up and keeps coffee and tea available, and so if you are on board the whole day, most people will offer the attendant at least a few dollars.

Celebrity Amtrak enthusiast Jim Loomis, author of All Aboard! The Complete North American Train Travel Guide, has a series of 2013 blog posts devoted to the question for the more involved services. He recommends the following for sleeping car attendants:

For the attendant in a sleeping car, I start with a very basic $5.00 per person per night and, depending on what kind of service and attitude I get, the amount goes up or down from there. So, if I’m traveling with my wife and we’re aboard the California Zephyr all the way from Chicago to Emeryville, that’s a minimum of $20 … two people for two nights. If we ask for or need any extras during the trip – having a meal brought to our room instead of going to the dining car, for instance – I’ll increase the amount appropriately, usually in $5.00 increments. Conversely, I’ll deduct from my basic minimum when a car attendant does less than what’s reasonably expected.

I have seen the $5 baseline figure bandied about since the 1990s, and would bump it up to $10 at this point. It is customary to offer this at your final destination; however, different people have different philosophies. Some tip up front in the hopes of securing a favorable impression; still others do it on a daily basis. I have only done so at the end of the trip.

Regarding dining car attendants:

[T]ip the dining car crew the same way you would tip in any restaurant: start with 15% of the menu prices and go up or down from there depending on the quality of the service.
One other thing: some dining car crews pool their tips and others do not. I‘ve developed the habit of asking at my first dining car meal on any Amtrak trip. If the crew pools its tips – and the best crews usually do – I will sometimes give the LSA (Lead Service Attendant) $20-$30 at the conclusion of my final meal on that trip. Otherwise, I’ll tip after each meal according to the quality of the service.

I will say that in my personal experience, I just see a few dollars left per table at the end of the meal. I don't quite understand why, considering it is table service as you would receive at a restaurant, made more difficult by the tight quarters and the motion of the train. So, I leave 15-20%, but your tablemates may not. Even then, this will rarely amount to more than a couple dollars for breakfast, perhaps $5 for dinner.

As for the lounge car attendant (note: the lounge car is not the same thing as the café car):

[T]he best way to do it is to leave some extra change or a dollar bill whenever you make a purchase, an amount that bears some relationship to the amount of the sale. And, of course, much depends on how you’re treated. Prompt cheerful service is the norm, but every so often, if you get a grouch … well, you know.

  • 3
    "Amtrak cannot pursue you legally if you choose not to pay tips" is a truly ridiculous statement. Anyway, for the other 95% of us who aren't high-rollers who carry our own luggage and only use the cafe car (which is overpriced and borderline inedible), none of those employees expect to be tipped (and based on my personal not-so-impressed experiences traveling Amtrak, you'd have to be out of your head to tip them). Don't try to tip ticket-collectors either.
    – smci
    Commented Sep 7, 2019 at 19:55
  • @smci If you believe this is correct, you should post it as an answer, not a comment. If people agree with your assessment, your answer will be upvoted accordingly.
    – Kyralessa
    Commented May 26, 2020 at 10:03

It is recommended to tip:

The Complete North American Train Travel Guide,” recommends $5 per passenger per night for sleeping-car attendants, and the standard 15 percent of what the meals would cost if you paid (prices are on the menu) outright.

(Seattle Times)

  • 34
    why is it expected to tip so much in US ??
    – Nigel Fds
    Commented Sep 6, 2019 at 4:40
  • 6
    @NigelFds culture, which in turn leads to employer taking into account tipping when setting salaries, so an American waiter will get a relatively lower salary then let's say a north European one (where tipping is uncommon).
    – Rsf
    Commented Sep 6, 2019 at 11:55
  • 3
    @NigelFds In the US employers typically pay service employees (those who receive tips) well below a living wage. The law indicates that any difference between their actual earnings (wage + tips) and minimum wage be made up by additional wages from the employer, but in practice this is often not followed (and not enforced by the government as it's not worth their time, usually). The US national minimum wage is $7.25/hour, but for service workers it is $2.13/hour.
    – TylerH
    Commented Sep 6, 2019 at 13:34
  • 16
    @TylerH This is not the situation with Amtrak workers, who are unionized and are paid a good deal over minimum wage. It is a separate tradition exclusive to the railroad industry, carried over from the old passenger rail services that were merged into Amtrak.
    – choster
    Commented Sep 6, 2019 at 14:20
  • 4
    @choster My comment is addressing Nigel's question in a general sense, not specifically in the context of Amtrak employees.
    – TylerH
    Commented Sep 6, 2019 at 14:32

Disclaimer: I'm not American, so the extreme tipping culture is pretty alien to me, but I did find some information online which seemed to be accurate when I've been around on Amtrak before.

At the dining car, your meals are free if you have sleeping accommodation, but whether or not you've paid for your meal, the suggestion is to look at the prices on the menu, and tip according to the price you would have paid were you paying full price, by the usual American restaurant standards (ie 10-20% depending on level of service; I tended to just go with 20% because it's easy to calculate and I thought the service was good).

If you have sleeping accommodation, you will have an attendant in your sleeping car who helps you set up your beds, etc.. Towards the end of your journey, or even as you leave the train, give them around $5 per person per night, at least unless you had bad service.

I don't think I made use of any luggage services, but I'd imagine tipping whatever you'd tip a porter at a hotel would be appropriate. A dollar or two maybe? If you're American, please do chip in in the comments.

You shouldn't try to tip the engineers or conductors, of course, since they're not service roles.

  • 8
    Minor nitpick: Your meals aren't free, rather they are included in the price of the ticket.
    – Peter M
    Commented Sep 5, 2019 at 22:21

To give an update on this trip I addressed in the question- I rode in coach-class on this particular train round-trip from Columbia SC to Washington DC. I did not have to tip anyone riding in coach. You do not tip unless you specifically request or receive services. I brought my own food and drink so I didn't have to visit the dining car/restaurant.

Checked luggage pickup at Washington D.C. was conveyed on an airport-type turnstile system until it reached the assigned terminal for pickup. At smaller stations like Columbia they just put the bags outside on racks for pickup. You do not tip to pick up your own checked luggage. But there are Amtrak employees nearby that you could ask for help and that is essentially asking for extra services and I could understand tipping for that.

TLDR: if you don't want to tip just buy a coach ticket, stay in coach the whole trip, take your own food and drink, and do not ask for help with grabbing carry-ons or checked luggage.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .