Tipping on Amtrak Trains.
Quite a few of the people traveling in sleeping cars on Amtrak’s long-distance trains don’t tip at all. Not the service people in the dining car. Not the attendant in the lounge car. Not even the attendant in their sleeping car. Some those are first-time Amtrak travelers who don’t even think about the tipping issue until it’s time to get off. Not knowing what to do, they do nothing.
Then there are the passengers like the cantankerous individual who told me he wasn’t going to tip our car attendant because, he said, “those guys make more money than I do!”
I can only speak for myself, but I do tip my sleeping car attendants, assuming they perform pretty much according to my list as outlined in the previous post. I tip them for two reasons: first, because it’s a damn tough job—six days in a row away from home and often with very little sleep. I feel good rewarding those who do it right. Second, I tip because, like it or not, that’s the system.
For what it’s worth, here’s how I tip on an Amtrak long-distance train:
Dining car crew: I compute 15 percent of the published menu price and round up to the nearest whole number. I add a couple of bucks to that if the server is efficient and genuinely friendly.
Lounge Car Attendant: I’m not there very often, but I leave some spare change if I’m getting just a soft drink and a bag of chips, or a dollar or two if I’m having a glass of scotch to finish off my day.
Sleeping Car Attendant: Anyone who under-performs on the basic duties or is unfriendly gets nothing (but that’s very rare). Those who provide the minimum required get $5.00 per night per person, meaning when I’m traveling with my wife. I tip $10 per night, per person, to those who meet my personal criteria (see previous post), are genuinely friendly and obviously good at their job. I never, ever have meals brought to my accommodations, but I would suggest $5.00 per person, per meal, should you choose to have a meal or two in your roomette or bedroom.
OK, now you’re on your own.
I understand Americans wanting to tip but comparing the train to a cruise ship seems to be an apples to oranges comparison. Are they not more like flight attendants who are prohibited from taking tips? The train is just a means of transport and it is not cheap.
Tipping on an overnight Amtrak train is left to the discretion of the passenger, but the job performed by a competent Amtrak sleeping car attendant or by a server in a dining car is far more difficult than that of a flight attendant. I’ll try to remember to pick up this theme with another post tomorrow. I will cover all your questions over the next few waves.
Since these original postings are a bit over a year old, I’m just wondering if any of the suggested amounts have been increased for 2019? Getting ready to take the Texas Eagle from Dallas to Chicago. Will be in a bedroom rather than a roomette.
Still pretty much up to you and how much service you require. My current personal rules-of-thumb:
Sleeping car attendant, Dallas-Chicago, assuming he’s available, keeps the lavatories clean, and has a pleasant attitude:$10 to $15, plus $5 each time you have a meal in your bedroom.
Server in dining car: start with 15: of the tab for each meal. Go up a bit if great attitude; deduct from there if quality of service is lacking. Don’t be afraid to go all the way to zero.
Lounge car attendant: small change each transaction.
Have a good trip!
Quote, “Those who provide the minimum required get $5.00 per night per person, meaning when I’m traveling with my wife. I tip $10 per night, per person….” I don’t think you mean “$10 per night PER PERSON” that would mean $10 for you and $10 for your wife each night. Correct?
I think I had a two-night trip in my feeble mind when I wrote that. In other words, two people traveling for two nights = $5 per night per person for barely adequate service/attitude = $20.
Hey Jim – I’ve only done this on a couple of cruise ships, but if the attendant seems sharp, a full early-trip tip seems to be appreciated. You are first for everything going forward. CH
I’ve heard of that and have no problem with it. I agree that you can usually tell when you get a good one.
I will be taking an overnight train trip, treating myself to a roomette. Thanks for the tipping suggestions.
Question: When/how do I tip the sleeping car attendant? Do I hand it to him each night or leave it in an envelope in the car or something else.
I just pass it to him in a handshake when I leave the train. An exception to that would be a $5 bill for each meal the attendant brings to your private accommodations.
I am a sleeping car attendant and I have to tell you that most passengers know from the moment you greet them if they are going to tip you and unfortunately, it’s sometimes based on race, gender or ethnicity. For me, taking care of passengers is my job so I don’t really look for gratuities, but they are appreciated but again, there minds are made up.
I must say I am surprised to hear that. Could it be that some people just aren’t tippers in the first place? In other words, they’re just cheap?
Amazing you should post this today- the day I decide to Google any information regarding tipping a car attendant for an overnight train – which we’re going to be taking next week!
Thank you! (I also just left a reply on your 2013 article regarding tipping – saw that page before this one.)
Well, as they say, “timing is everything.” Glad to be of some help.