Points Miles and Bling (blog) contains referral or affiliate links. The blog receives a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your continued support. Credit Card issuers are not responsible for maintaining or monitoring the accuracy of information on this website. For full details, current product information, and Terms and Conditions, click the link included.
I had forgotten how humane train travel can be. In fact, not sure why I don’t do this more often. I would argue that for certain distances, train journeys are actually shorter, if you account for check-in/security/gate procedures at airports. This revelation was thanks to a recent ride on Canada’s VIA Rail from Ottawa to Montreal, in Comfort Class (Economy).
VIA Rail Comfort Class Review – Ottawa to Montreal (YUL)
Origin: Ottawa Train Station
Destination: Dorval Train station (YUL)
Trip Duration: 1 hour 36 minutes
Price: $51.00 (one-way, tax incl.)
I was able to book my trip one week out, and managed to snag an Economy-Escape fare (lowest). VIA’s economy class service is called ‘Comfort Class’.
Ottawa train station is a short cab ride from downtown Ottawa and easy to navigate. I arrived at the station at 9:45am (30 mins prior to departure) and walked into the main terminal building, the customer service desk was right across and hard to miss. Self Service kiosks were also available (left of main desk) to print/check-in tickets.
Because I don’t do this often, wanted to have the novelty of a printed ticket, so I presented myself at the main desk with an ID. Canadian smile, Canadian warmth, Canadian humour and voila my ticket was ready 🙂
Ticket in tow, I joined the lineup of passengers waiting to board the train or in this case enter the platform. The line-up was in the main building. Exactly at 10:00am, the lineup started moving, a VIA employee scanning our boarding passes as we walked onto the platform. The train was already at the platform with several VIA employees to direct passengers to the right cabin car and their seats. I was in cabin car 4, seat 4A (window).
I boarded the train to an empty cabin car. Seat 4A was first up to my left, a single forward facing seat.
The cabin car was clean and the seats comfortable. But the seat upholstery was starting to show it’s age and appeared discolored, especially around the head rest. As I settled into my seat, the car attendant came by for another check of the tickets and confirm our destination. Since my seat was near the emergency exit, I got a quick instruction on the setup and we were on our way. The train departed Ottawa station at 10:20am, a couple minutes past the scheduled time.
My seat table was equipped with the VIA magazine and economy class food & beverage menu. The selection of snacks, drinks and meals looked pretty impressive. Within 15-20 minutes into our journey, the attendant was out with the food trolley, items out on display.
A quick browse and I decided to purchase a coffee and Montreal Bagel with cream cheese, which priced out to $6.25 CAD. The food items came in clean and neat packaging. Each seat was also equipped with a personal garbage bag, placed under the table.
I was pleased to learn that they accept American Express as a form of payment. My joy turned into amusement when the attendant whipped out a credit card imprinter (!!), to process my payment. For young readers that have no idea what I am talking about, please google 🙂
The credit card invoice was a nice throwback to simpler times. Much like my train ride to Montreal, the hour and half slipped by between gazing out the window, enjoying rural Canada and getting work done on free WiFi, which was steady and strong enough to stream videos.
Once at Dorval station, there were clear signs directing passengers to the complimentary shuttle for Montreal International Airport (YUL). If you don’t see the shuttle parked, you can call the driver using the free phone service at the station. The pickup otherwise is every 20 minutes. The shuttle ride was under 10 minutes, convenient and a comfortable way to get to the right airport terminal.
Not sure why train travel does not get as much coverage amongst bloggers. Train travel continues to be civil and now maybe my preferred mode of transport within certain distance radius. This was my first train ride in many a years and I quite enjoyed it.
Have you taken the VIA trains in Canada, share your experience with a comment below.
Title Image Source: VIA Rail Canada
I think I’ve done the Ottawa-Montreal trip at least once year for the last few years. It’s definitely a better option than flying and even driving, if you don’t need a car on arrival, especially considering the central stations in both cities are quite close to downtown. In Ottawa, any of the major bus routes service Train Station and I’ve always thought that’s the easiest way to get there. I would say that after a few trips in economy, I do prefer to shell out the extra dollars for business class. While the difference in price for a round trip can be almost double, that’s only $160 v. $80 so it’s still cheaper than flying. The best part, in my opinion, is that with business class, you don’t have to wait in that long line up prior to departure; if the train is in you can go directly to the platform and your car as soon as you arrive, otherwise, both Ottawa and Montreal central stations have lounges available prior to departure and even upon arrival. On the train, the seats are larger and you get free food (could be a hot or cold meal depending on the time of day) and beverages (including alcoholic).
Super! Thanks for adding to the post Angelique. Alcoholic beverages are fee in business class? Free food and drinks are definitely worth the extra coin. Cheers!
I second Angelique’s business class recommendation. And yes, alcoholic beverages are free and quite plentiful! Even on the Ottawa-Montreal route you’ll get a pre-meal cocktail and then wine with the meal.
I agree that the Ottawa – Dorval ride is a great alternative to driving from Ottawa to YUL, and that the train staff are phenomenal. I did it with two young kids and my wife this summer, and the staff went out of their way to help us lug all our bags, deal with the stroller, and then have someone meet us at the station at the end to do the same thing.
Their catering could use some work though; we were in the middle of the 4th car (out of 5), and by the time they got to us all they had left was hummus and the nuts/chocolate snack. Disappointed kids (and adults), expecting a lunch.
Beyond my earlier comment about their treatment of families, they also have a few “4-seater” areas, where two rows are face-to-face with a table in the middle. Their system automatically places reservations with 3+ tickets in those areas – invaluable for families with kids, or even a group of 4 adults looking to talk, play cards, etc.
If it wasn’t for pricey parking… I’d probably take them more often!
Thanks for adding family travel perspective Jeff, much appreciated! I assumed that each car would have a food trolley, odd that one guy goes around in 4/5 cars. Definite scope of improvement there. The 4-seater setup (pic included in post) is great for family and even a business meeting. And only good things to say about VIA staff, what a refreshing change from airlines and airports!!
Parking at $17/day is not bad but can quickly add up if you are gone for a week or more..