Our plan for a Central European trip this fall is to take the night train from Krakow to Prague. The thought is that we will arrive in Prague rested and not having lost time during the commute. My question is has anyone had experience with the overnight train and if it a good alternative to flying? I just read a thread on this forum and flying between these two cities was the only means of transportation discussed. Are we correct thinking that spending the night in a train compartment a restful alternative?
I took the night tran from Krakow to Prague a few years ago. I do not recommend it. It was a very uncomfortable ride with little sleep, even in a private sleeping compartment. The rail cars were very antiquated, with frequent very noisy stops throughout the night. I would arrange to fly if I had it to do over again.
I would fly.
Wake at 8am, shower and go sight seeing till noon. Return to hotel, check out and ask the desk to watch my luggage. Go sight seeing. Return to hotel at 10 pm and retrieve luggage and head to train station. The excitement would keep me awake till 1 am, then I would wake a half dozen times out of irrational fear that we slept through our stop and we're on our way to Minsk. Train arrives at 7am and I got 4 hours of sleep. Head to hotel and ask desk to watch luggage till 2 pm check in. Go sight seeing. Return to hotel at 2pm and shower. Did that when I was younger. Couldn't do it now.
Nothing is guaranteed to start an argument quicker on this forum than the matter of overnight trains. We've done it a couple of times - suckered in by the premise that we'd save time and money, get a good night's sleep along the way, and hit the road running at our destination the next morning. Our reality was that we got hardly any sleep during a long uncomfortable journey and arrived bleary-eyed and exhausted the next morning, then staggered around for several hours waiting for check-in time at our accommodation. Took us a couple of days to recover from the ordeal. We will never do it again and don't recommend it. It's a false economy...at least it was for us.
Just fly. Even with a short stopover in Warsaw (if you're flying LOT) it's a much better experience that the overnight train, and if you take the express train up to Warsaw for a quick visit there (worth it) then there are a number of cheap, direct (non-stop), one-way flights to Prague.
"Whether you sleep on a night train is up to you." How true! No problems sleeping in a compartment or general seating area. I've taken numerous night trains then in the younger days and still take them now but, as yet, not this Krakow to Prague route. If I did, I would do the opposite Prague to Krakow in terms of the proximity of accommodations near Krakow main station. If the flying option is out, check on that, you'll have to tailor the train route unless you opt for the night train.
@ James...good night train analogy...humorous too with the (legitimate) fear of missing one's stop by oversleeping, which has happened to me on day trains. Then you feel really stupid. Plus, the fear of heading towards Minsk as a result of the missed stop. Historically, that fear would be finding oneself heading to Siberia.
"Whether you can sleep on a night train is up to you."
Right. I have heard that there are some people who sleep OK on overnight train journeys, and believe me I have nothing but admiration for both of them...
In October, 2014, right before the EuroMaidan revolution in Kiev, I took the overnight train from Kiev to Nikolaev, Ukraine. It was a 14 hour train ride. I was in a 4 person sleeper compartment and none of them spoke English but me (and my Russian is poor). After about 2 hours into the trip and the 4 of us trying to figure out how long we should stay awake, the husband of the Ukrainian woman shut off the lights and mumbled something in Russian that must have meant "Time for bed." After 14 hours of gently swaying with the train car and getting absolutely zero sleep, I arrived at Nikolaev at about 4:00 am. The taxi driver took me to my hotel, dropped me off and I checked in, finally crashing on the bed until about noon. What a night! I'll never forget that night and how nice it would have been to fly.
Then you traveled in November.
I took night trains from Prague to Krakow and then Krakow to Budapest ten years ago. It was a fun, different experience but I absolutely did not get much rest! It was nice to arrive at my destination early in the morning to get as much sightseeing in as possible.
Now that I am ten years older I would most likely fly.
Just to report our experience since starting this thread. We chose to do the overnight train from Krakow to Prague as we had initially thought we would. This was done with quite a bit of skepticism especially after seeing the advice from other travelers. But we decided that it would be an adventure as well as the time saving aspect, and if it didn't work well, we wouldn't do it again. My sister and I had done the overnight Amtrak to New Orleans here in the States, enjoyed it and wondered how bad could it be in Europe. We had a triple sleeping compartment, and although it was small, it was adequate in size. I have to say that there were supposed to be three of us, but an unexpected event it was just two. The triple was fine, but would have been tight with three. Also I know that I would not have been as comfortable sharing the space with strangers. We found the experience pleasant and restful having slept waking only once during the night which is not unusual for me. We were ready to go on arrival in Prague and spent the day sightseeing after dropping our luggage at our hotel. I know that it might not be for everyone, but all and all we found the train to be a fun and relaxing experience that allowed us to arrive rested and ready to explore Prague before joining our RS tour in the afternoon. Thanks to all for your input.
Great that you found this particular night train route more than satisfactory. I might include this myself on next year's trip. The 2 night trains I took this time were totally safe, didn't bother me at all with strangers. You are yourself a stranger to them too.
We did this route by bus then train. There is a bus station downtown Krakow that we walked to. I wish I had better details, it was just a few months ago... but I can't remember where we took the bus to. I just know we left in the early afternoon and took a bus right across to border in Czech Republic, to a train and bus station. We got off the bus walked a few years to the train station on got a train to Prague. It was really easy. I want to say it only took 4-5 hours and was cheap. If I remember or find details I will let you know.
We are among those who sleep well on a train. It is not for everyone and the only real way to find out is to try it! So glad it worked you - it can be a great alternative.
It is a lot easier to sleep on a night train than on a flight. I know I'll get 5-6 hrs on a night train , can't always guarantee that on a transatlantic flight from SFO.
No I traveled in October. I think I would remember that. I know the protests began in November about the day I left.
My husband, my 10 y.o grand daughter and I had a triple bunk sleeper compartment on a night train from Belgrade to Bar, Montenegro. We all had a great sleep. We were woken twice in the early hours for border checks, but hey, that's 2 more stamps in our passport. The toilets were pretty gross and there was no dining car, but there there was a chap came through selling coffee and snacks around 6:30am. We took our own food and drinks and it was a fun experience. It was a 13 hour trip but we had at least 8 hours sleep and arrived well rested. We are glad we did it.
Forgot to say this trip was in September this year
I'm glad that your overnight train travel went well. As you saw, we also were happy with our decision to so the overnight train, so much so that we are thinking about planning ur next trip to include train travel. As others have said, it isn't for everyone, but we find the motion of the train relaxing and love the opportunity to enjoy the landscape. As far as sleeping on the train we have no trouble with that and the rocking motion lulls us to sleep.
Pat, I'm glad you tried the train. Every overnight train I take is an adventure, and so far, lots of fun and sleep. Trying the train is the only way to determine, on which side of the overnight train debate you fall. To me it makes the location change very much part of the trip, and I go out of my way to take night trains. Wray