Part II – Tipping on Amtrak: Who and How Much?

I usually suggest that people thinking about a long-distance train ride at least consider traveling in a sleeping car. There are several reasons: privacy, comfort, a bed to sleep in, and the fact that dining car meals are included in the sleeping car fare.

But that meals-included benefit results in negative fallout for the people in the dining cars who serve those meals. The fact is, sleeping car passengers often do not leave tips for the servers. 

I suppose that’s because passengers think of the meals as being “free” and for that reason a tip is not appropriate. That’s not the case, of course, and the serving of those meals requires just as much care and attention as if a normal transaction took place after dessert and coffee.

So how much should we tip the servers in the dining cars? That’s easy: take a look at the prices on the menu when you place your order, and tip accordingly – start at 15% and adjust up or down according to the quality of service.

In making that decision, it’s good to remember that the IRS assumes these people are being tipped and they are taxed accordingly. 

I also take into account that, as part of Amtrak’s cost-cutting efforts, most dining cars are short-staffed … and those fewer people are having to put in long hours. Breakfast begins at 6:30 in the morning and it’s often 9:00 p.m. when the last people get up from their tables and head back to their sleeping cars. And the dining car staff on long-distance trains essentially work six days in a row.

So, again, cut ‘em some slack. And, yes, do tip in the dining cars.