According to Amtrak website, there are at least two ways to buy USA Rail Pass. 1) buying it online at Amtrak website 2) buying it from travel agencies who have access to Amtrak.
As a heavy online shopper, I chose to buy it online. Buying the pass online is pretty much like other online shopping. However, NOT like other stuffs that are delivered to your mailbox, Amtrak does not send you the pass but you will have to pick the pass up at Amtrak station later.
So purchasing the pass is more like purchasing the right 1) to pick-up the pass at the Amtrak stations later 2) to make reservation for each train ride with the info that you will obtain after making the reservation. (I will come back to making reservation for each train ride in later posts.)
Purchasing the USA rail pass can be made here. This is the first page you’ll see when you visit the website.
I chose ’30 Days: 12 segments’ pass ($689) and clicked ‘Purchase Now’ and was led to here eventually.
Amtrak is not the most user friendly company (WHY!!!! 😱). As you can see, this page can be pretty intimidating especially if you have not decided details of the trip! I will share what I know+what I did.
1) Choosing the pass.
It is pretty easy. You can choose which pass is right for you. (post about choosing which pass it right for you)
2) When is your first day of travel?
If you have fixed the starting date of the travel, you can just state the date. However, I wasn’t 100% sure what date I was to begin traveling (I only had an approximate range.) In this case, you don’t have to be super specific about the date… unless it is way too off (like one year.) I don’t even understand why one needs to put this down, because when I got the actual ticket I did not find any info about this date.
There are still the rules to keep in mind. According to the e-mail I got later:
<all travel must be completed within 330 days of reserving the first travel segment or within the selected travel duration of the pass once the first travel segment is reserved, whichever comes first. Pass prices are subject to change and are not guaranteed until actual travel reservations are made.>
In short, you have to finish the trip within around one year after the purchasing of the pass or before your pass’ duration ends (which is obvious, you have to finish the trip within 30 days if your pass is 30 days pass…hmm….)
3) Where and when will you pick up your pass?
This one really got me confused. How will I know for sure which date I will pick up the pass? Life is so busy, right? It can sound even more problematic when you are an international traveler, coming to US and you are not 100% sure which train station is the best for the ticket pick-up. What I can say is that you can be pretty flexible about the pick-up date. I KNOW it because I put in ‘May 25th’ as a pick up date but I went to the station (South Station in Boston in my case) on 29th… and it was just fine! There is a fine print on the page saying ‘NOTE: If you do not pick up your pass by the date you specify, your pass will be canceled’, but my pass was safe and alive. (The lady at the station didn’t seem to care at all about this date.)
I am not sure if you can change the pick up station though. (I will add the info to the post if somebody gives me a feedback on this?) I have a feeling I can be flexible too, because it wasn’t like they have a printed pass waiting for you or anything. They print the ticket only after you present them the ID and the reservation number.
After you are finished with selections on these three factors, rest is just like other online shopping. You sign-in/sign-up for Amtrak account or you can choose to pay with a guest account. Amtrak accepts most of major credit cards, including Union Pay, JCB, and UATP(?).
Well.. this was about purchasing the pass online. There is another way of buying the pass, by contacting travel agents who sell Amtrak tickets. Considering all the hassles, it sounded nice if I could ask an expert about details. However, I have not succeeded on finding the mean to search for Amtrak agent near me. Perhaps, if you call Amtrak (1-800-USA-RAIL = 1-800-872-7245), they might be able to tell you.