Photo: Courtesy of Brightline

What It's Like to Ride Florida's Beloved Brightline Train From Orlando to Miami

Florida Train Travel
by Rebecca L. Rhoades Dec 14, 2023

Miami and Orlando are the two most visited cities in Florida. Miami is nicknamed the Magic City and known for its white-sand beaches, pastel-hued tropical Art Deco architecture, dynamic nightlife, and Latin vibes. Orlando is home to the Magic Kingdom and the world’s most famous mouse. Until recently, out-of-towners who wanted to experience both sides of the Sunshine State either had to hop a flight between Orlando and Miami and then take a taxi or ride-share to their destination or rent a car, navigate the oft-congested interstate, and endure the hassle of finding (usually pricey) parking during what’s supposed to be a relaxing vacation.

Now, however, a convenient, high-speed alternative is available. Last month, travelers and Floridians alike celebrated the long-awaited opening of the Brightline Orlando train station, the latest link in the intercity rail system that connects Orlando International Airport to downtown Miami. Here’s what you need to know about Brightline Orlando Station and the rail service at large.

An innovation in mass transit


Photo: Courtesy of Brightline

Brightline is the first privately operated intercity passenger train to roll out in the US in more than 100 years. The last one, the Rio Grande Zephyr, which operated between Denver and Salt Lake City, shut down in 1983. Since then, rail travel has been limited to Amtrak, which is publicly funded, and smaller regional commuter and transit lines.
Launched in 2018, Brightline initially ran between Miami and West Palm Beach. Since then, the company has expanded to include six stations connecting the Gold and Treasure coasts with central Florida: Miami, Aventura, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, and Orlando.

The first five stations are located within their respective cities. In Miami, the station is located at the heart of downtown, just blocks from Biscayne Bay, and is connected to the city’s subway and bus system. The brand new Brightline Orlando Station is connected to Terminal C of the city’s international airport. Passengers headed to or coming from Terminal B can access the Brightline train via the automated People Mover.

Decked out in one of five vivid hues — red, orange, green, blue, or pink — that underscore the company’s name, each Brightline train comprises four passenger cars and holds a total of 240 people. Two locomotives, one on each end, ensure that the train never has to turn around.

Travel time for the entire route — 235 miles that run along the Florida East Coast freight line — is about three hours, with speeds upwards of 125 miles per hour. While this is only about 30 minutes to one hour less than it would take by car, passengers can spend their time working, catching up on some much-needed sleep, or simply relaxing and watching the scenery pass by, all without the stress of driving or jockeying through crowded airline terminals.

There are 15 departures daily from both Miami and Orlando. The goal is to replace approximately three million cars on the road.

A sustainable, cost-effective way to travel


Photo: Courtesy of Brightline

Rail travel is not only an efficient mode of transportation but also a sustainable and cost-effective alternative to renting a car. Brightline offers two fare classes that allow passengers to choose the ride that best suits their budget and preferences. The more economical business class is known as Smart while first-class is called Premium.

Tickets prices for the Brightline trains vary depending on the length and time of travel. For travel between Miami and Orlando, Smart tickets start at $79 one way, and one-way Premium tickets start at $149. Children ages two through 12 ride for half off with the purchase of any adult Smart fare. Discounts also are available for families, university students, groups and corporate travel, and monthly passes are available for business commuters.

Checked luggage services are included on all routes. Standard-size carry-on bags can be brought onboard and stored in overhead racks, or travelers can opt to check large bags. Checked luggage starts at $10 per bag for Smart ticket holders — from Orlando to Miami the cost is $25. Premium passengers receive one checked bag for free.

Modern, friendly facilities


Photo: Courtesy of Brightline

The Brightline experience begins at its stations, all of which are bright and airy with bold yellow signage. Passengers can purchase tickets online through the Brightline app, at self-service kiosks in the terminal, or at the customer service desk. You’ll receive a QR code or paper boarding pass, just like when flying. Bags are checked at customer service.

Comfortable waiting rooms are accessed through automated turnstiles, and all bags, including purses and briefcases, are passed through X-ray machines. The procedure is similar to what you’d encounter at an airport but much quicker.

The gleaming waiting rooms look more like corporate offices than mass transit hubs, complete with plush seating, tables for working, and electronic departure boards. The spacious Orlando area even includes a BrightKids Zone with child-size tables and toys to keep the little ones occupied. WiFi is free, and there are plenty of charging ports throughout.

Each station also features a Premium lounge. These exclusive upgraded spaces offer complimentary snacks, beverages, and alcoholic drinks. A self-service cocktail bar is a passenger favorite in the Orlando lounge. For those looking for something a bit more substantial — or Smart ticket holders who want to imbibe — the Mary Mary Bar at each station serves up a full menu of breakfast, lunch, and dinner dishes, as well as cocktails, wine, and beer on tap. Alternatively, grab something quick to go at the >>MRKT, which sells light bites, snacks, toiletries, gift products, and Brightline-branded merchandise.

A fresh citrus fragrance is piped into the stations and trains; candles that feature this signature scent are available for purchase in the Orlando >>MRKT.

The on- and off-board experience


Photo: Courtesy of Brightline

Unlike with many commuter trains, when passengers purchase a Brightline ticket, they also purchase a designated seat. Unlike most airline seats, all seating on Brightline is ample and comfortable. Smart cars are equipped with plush leather seats in a two-by-two configuration. Premium passengers enjoy leather seating with slightly wider, softer seats in a two-by-one setup. All train cars include a selection of double-facing seats with a table in between, ideal for family groups, after-work beverages with friends, or getting work done while traveling.

Premium ticket holders who board in Miami or Orlando receive complimentary meal items and drinks, including alcohol. Smart fare passengers can purchase food or drink items. Both fare classes include free WiFi, with power and USB outlets at each seat for charging electronic devices.

Once guests reach their destination city, they have a variety of options to get to their hotel, office, or home. Premium passengers receive a complimentary five-mile Uber ride; rides must be booked online at the time of ticket purchase. Fixed-route shuttle service by van or electric mini-car are options, as well.

While the opening of the Brightline Orlando station was the culmination of years of planning, it’s not the end of the track for Brightline. The company continues to expand. The next proposed stop on the Florida rail line is Tampa, and the company has an easement that will eventually bring the train all the way north to Jacksonville. And, just in time for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles, Brightline West will open, connecting Las Vegas with the City of Angels.

Discover Matador