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Dining Cars on South American Trains

Written by Peter Lauffer
June 21, 2021

A meal in a dining car during a train journey adds a special touch to the trip. I remember many years ago in Europe when most intercity trains had a comfortable dining car with personalized service and excellent meal options. I would often choose a train connection that included a dining car over a train without one, even if it meant that the journey would took more time. 

Perurail Titicaca Train
Perurail Titicaca Train

Today, dining cars with freshly cooked meals have disappeared from most European trains, except for tourist-oriented trains. In South America, however, you can still routinely find old-fashioned dining cars in Bolivia and Argentina. In Peru, they exist as well, but only on tourist trains. 

Initially, the dining car was not invented based on any romantic view of travel but simply for the practical need to feed travelers on long-distance rail journeys. A dining car was the logical extension of a railway station restaurant. 

As has happened in other parts of the world, in South America the restaurant on regular trains has lost much of its former splendor and charm. A notable exception are the trains that traverse the Bolivian Andes.

Bolivia

Dining Car Wara Wara Express, Bolivia
Dining Car Wara Wara Express, Bolivia

Wara Wara Express and Expreso del Sur

The dining cars attached to the "Expreso del Sur" and "Wara Wara Express" between Oruro and Villazon offer freshly cooked dinners.

Meal at the Expreso del Sur Bolivia
Meal at the Expreso del Sur, Boliiva

As in old times, a cook prepares meals in the galley, and a waiter serves food and drinks at the tables. On both trains, the dining car is accessible for travelers with tickets in Executive and Pullman classes. Traveling in the dining car across the Bolivian Andes offers an excellent opportunity to chat with local travelers who often use the train for business trips. Included in the ticket price for Executive Class passengers is the "Merienda" served in the dining car. The "Merienda" is a type of afternoon tea consisting of coca tea and one or two slices of toasted bread.   

We travel on the Wara Wara Express on our Tours "Buenos Aires to Lima: High Andes & Machu Picchu," and on Expreso del Sur " on the Tour "Majestic Andean Rail Adventure."

The trains from Santa Cruz de la Sierra to Puerto Quijarro

Some trains between Santa Cruz de la Sierra and Puerto Quijarro at the Brazilian Border have a dining car. I haven’t yet had the opportunity to try them, however.  

Peru

Dining Car at the Hiram Bingham Train between Aguas Calientes and Cusco, Peru
Dining Car at the Hiram Bingham Train between Aguas Calientes and Cusco, Peru

Hiram Bingham Train

Hiram Bingham Train
Hiram Bingham Train

The pricy, luxurious Hiram Bingham Train between Poroy and Aguas Calientes includes dining cars and an observation car with a bar. On the way to Aguas Calientes, the train ticket includes a brunch. In the evening, on the way back to Poroy, a gala dinner is served. The food is excellent and freshly prepared on the train. Attention is given to every detail, and many waiters serve the train travelers during the journey. I recommend making the trip between May and December during the dry season. From January to April, the time on the train is shorter because the train journey ends in Urubamba in the Sacred Valley instead of Poroy near Cusco.

Travel on the Hiram Bingham Train on our Tours "Buenos Aires to Lima: High Andes and Machu Picchu" and "Hiram Bingham & Andeanb Explorer Trains."

Perurail Titicaca Train Dining Car, Peru
Perurail Titicaca Train Dining Car, Peru

Perurail Titicaca Train

Perurail Titicaca Train Meal
Perurail Titicaca Train Meal

The Perurail Titicaca Train between Puno and Cusco consists of only old-fashioned dining cars and one observation car. The train ticket includes a three-course lunch with a glass of wine, and the lunch is always of excellent quality. The waiter shows you the lunch options at the beginning of the journey. The food is then freshly prepared in a kitchen wagon throughout the morning. As soon as the train leaves the railway station in Cusco or Puno, you can order a la carte breakfast at an additional cost. A trip on the Perurail Titicaca Train is a memorable journey that offers the dining car experience of a bygone era.

We travel on Perurail Titicaca Train on our Tours "Buenos Aires to Lima: High Andes and Machu Picchu" and "Hiram Bingham & Andean Explorer Trains."

Andean Explorer Train Dining Car
Andean Explorer Train Dining Ca

Andean Explorer Train

Andean Explorer Train Dining Car

The Andean Explorer Train between Cusco, Puno, and Arequipa is a fantastic overnight luxury train journey. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are an important part of this enchanting trip, one of the most scenic rail journeys available in South America. The decor of the dining cars is nostalgic, and the service, food choice, and quality are top-notch. After your meal, feel free to move on to the bar carriage, where you can enjoy a drink while relaxing to the sounds of a bar pianist.

Travel on the Andean Explorer Train on our Tour "Hiram Bingham & Andean Explorer Trains."

Brazil

Train Restaurant Vitoria to Belo Horizonte, Brazil

Train from Belo Horizonte to Vitoria

The daily express train from Vitoria to Belo Horizonte or v.v. has a modern dining car that serves drinks, fast food, and snacks. The service and food quality are similar to today’s dining cars in western Europe. The quality and style of the food resemble that served on long-haul flights. 

Travel on the Vitoria to Belo Horizonte Train on our Tour "Grand Rail Tour of Brazil."

Train from Sao Luis to Parauapebas

I have never had the chance to travel on this railroad; however, the operator is VALE, the same company that operates the Belo Horizonte to Vitoria Tren. Therefore, I assume that the service is similar. 

Train Viedma - Bariloche, Argentina
Train Viedma - Bariloche, Argentina

Argentina

There are dining cars on the trains from Viedma to Bariloche, Buenos Aires to Tucuman, and Buenos Aires to Cordoba in Argentina. For long-distance trains from Buenos Aires, it is difficult as a foreigner to obtain tickets; for this reason, I haven’t been able recently to try out these dining cars. 

I will continue in future posts to discuss other dining car experiences in South America.

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