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Overnight sleeper trains in Europe

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#1 Nala05

Posted 29 June 2019 - 05:57 AM


I know it is a first world problem. We (2 adults and two kids 11 and 13) are having our first trip to Europe in December. We are travelling by train between cities. I would appreciate hearing people thoughts on overnight trains as we are doing two long legs; Cologne to Innsbruck (around 8 hours) and Salzburg to Rome (around 12 hours).

Also would you go couchette or pay the extra for the sleeper cabins? Any other train tips would be much appreciated!

Thank you!

#2 Apageintime

Posted 29 June 2019 - 06:27 AM

Pay the extra for the sleeper ones. Gives you a lockable room.

I love sleeper trains personally. They're a fun way to travel!

#3 lizzzard

Posted 29 June 2019 - 07:32 AM

Pay for the sleeper cabins - it’s so fun! We took the overnight train from Moscow to St Petersburg in January. I was so excited I barely slept 😂 but it was very comfortable though with plenty of space and a comfy bed with a mattress even!

#4 Jersey Caramel

Posted 29 June 2019 - 07:56 AM

We did 2 overnight legs on our recent trip.  Venice-Munich and Vienna-Zurich. It was a lot of fun!

The trains we were on (Nightjet) had family couchette cabin options, where for a flat rate (199E) you got a cabin to yourself (lockable, 6 bunk bed style couchettes). It was so much cheaper than sleeper cabins for us (family of 5).

DH and I didn't get a lot of sleep,  but the kids slept fine. In hindsight,  the Venice to Munich trip wasn't quite long enough to warrant an overnight train...it meant we were waiting outside in the cold at night in Venice (train was delayed around an hour from its 9pm departure time) and arriving in the very cold and dark Munich morning (6am) (this was in December). By the time we got on and got settled,  there were only a few hours to rest before we were woken for breakfast (hot drink and bread rolls with butter and jam). We were also woken overnight for a passport check.

The Vienna to Zurich leg was much better,  departed Vienna around 8pm, no passport checks overnight,  arrived into Zurich around 8am so it was already light and we had much longer to sleep on the train.

Daytime train travel is great too, watching the scenery roll by. We had some days with 2 x 3-4 hour train trips and they were nice.  I think for up to about 7-8 hour trips in future we will go for daytime journeys but overnight trains are definitely a great experience for the longer legs.

#5 bubskitkat

Posted 29 June 2019 - 08:27 AM

Overnight sleeper cabins are the way to go. It’s a great experience and you’ll feel better the next day having gotten a good nights rest.

#6 MrsPuddleduck

Posted 29 June 2019 - 09:32 AM

We did Barcelona to Paris on an overnight train. As well as maximising your daylight sightseeing time in cities, it saves you the cost of a night’s accommodation and invariably the railway station is right in the middle of town and really convenient to get to, which saves travelling to far flung airports. You can also roll up pretty close to departure time rather than having to get to an airport two hours before, etc.

It will be cold at that time of year but you shouldn’t have too many dramas with snow etc on the tracks. If you flew there would be a high possibility of delays due to fog, wind, etc but trains tend to keep going! Make sure you have enough winter woollies to keep yourself warm on the platform when you leave and arrive.

Most trains will have a dining car but check first, and make sure you take snacks as well. Not all train “breakfasts” are created equal! The breakfast served on our train wasn’t enough for my husband so we ended up in a cafe in Paris when we arrived having a second breakfast.

A really good resource if you haven’t come across it yet is Seat61.com - https://www.seat61.com/sleepers.htm

Just make sure whatever you book you take up the whole compartment or you will find when you get there you might be split across compartments (for example - “Sleepers come in 1, 2, 3 and occasionally 4-bed varieties, depending on the route and type of sleeper.  Berths are sold individually, so one ticket = 1 person = 1 bed.  I'll spell it out for you:  If you book one ticket for a 2 or 3 bed sleeper, you get one bed and the other beds in the compartment will be sold to other passengers of the same sex.  Sharing with other civilised sleeper passengers like this is much cheaper than paying for a single-berth sleeper all to yourself.  Compartments are single-sex unless all the berths are booked by people travelling together.  So a woman booking one berth in a 3-berth sleeper will share with two other female passengers.  A man and woman travelling together and paying for two berths in a 2-berth sleeper will share the same compartment.  A man and a woman travelling together but choosing to pay only for 2 berths in a 3-berth sleeper will be booked into two different 3-berth rooms, one for male passengers and one for female passengers.”).

#7 Nala05

Posted 29 June 2019 - 09:39 AM

Thank you everyone for your advice, I really appreciate it. Looks like the overnight train is a "goer"!

For Cologne to Innsbruck the 4 bunk couchette is 199 Euro and the sleeper cabins (2 x 2 bed) are 399 Euro (in total). Is it worth the extra cost?

Edited by Nala05, 29 June 2019 - 09:40 AM.

#8 MrsPuddleduck

Posted 29 June 2019 - 10:20 AM

I haven’t travelled on that train but I’d find the extra 200 euro hard to justify with my understanding of what the difference between sleeper and couchette is. Is that price the standard sleeper (with sink) or deluxe sleeper (with toilet/shower)?

This looks pretty informative: https://www.seat61.c...es/nightjet.htm

#9 Jersey Caramel

Posted 29 June 2019 - 10:39 AM

It depends on your budget,  but I wouldn't pay double for the sleepers over the couchette. The couchettes were fine from a comfort perspective,  it's more the train stopping and starting and carriages being shunted on and off that kept us awake, and that would be the same whichever class you were in. I also felt more comfortable all being in the one locked cabin,  especially when we were woken in the night by the burly Austrian uniformed passport control guys!! I think you might be able to get interconnecting sleepers though.

Thoroughly endorse the previous recommendation for seat61.com, we were even consulting it from the platform in Venice when we couldn't work out which train was ours!! There are often a few different numbers for each train,  so what was on the indicator board was not what was on our ticket.  Plus many of the sleeper trains split into two at a midpoint,  and go to two different destinations.  So the destination on the indicator board did not seem correct either!!

#10 Nala05

Posted 29 June 2019 - 12:21 PM

Thank you again for your reassurance.

Yes seat 61 has become my train "bible". I don't think I would have the confidence to take my family around Europe on trains without his advice.

#11 seayork2002

Posted 29 June 2019 - 02:16 PM

View PostNala05, on 29 June 2019 - 12:21 PM, said:

Thank you again for your reassurance.

Yes seat 61 has become my train "bible". I don't think I would have the confidence to take my family around Europe on trains without his advice.

I was going to mention him! Great site

#12 smithsholidayroad

Posted 30 June 2019 - 12:09 PM

We love travelling by sleeper train and have done so in a variety of countries.

As a family of 5 we booked the couchette from Amsterdam to Munich and it was great. We stocked up on a few snacks and wine to enjoy on the trip too.

My favourite train trip we have done is the Trans Mongolian from Beijing to Ulan Bator.


#13 Indi

Posted 02 July 2019 - 05:37 PM

View PostNala05, on 29 June 2019 - 12:21 PM, said:

Yes seat 61 has become my train "bible". I don't think I would have the confidence to take my family around Europe on trains without his advice.
Ditto.  So much information

#14 Nala05

Posted 23 October 2019 - 01:48 PM

Thank you everyone for your tips. Our tickets are booked. Can't wait!!

Edited by Nala05, 23 October 2019 - 01:49 PM.

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