Please sign in to post.

Overnight Trains: Not Worth it?...

I just wanted to open the boards for any discussion on this topic. When I first started reading Rick Steves, and watching fun movies like Eurotrip, I was really excited to do the overnight train adventure. I thought it sounded kind of rugged and pirate; also, what a great way to save time for sight seeing, right?

Well, as much as I love Rick, and I really do, I'm a bit surprised he doesn't fully detail how much it really is to travel on trains overnight. I was under the impression that the Eurrail pass covered it. Then, I learned about supplements. OK, I said to myself, so you have to pay about $30 bucks more to reserve a spot. That's cool. Then, I learn that the actual sleeping compartment costs additional, on top of the supplement! All right, I said. Well, we'll just use that money that would have been needed for a B&B or hotel room and sleep on the train. But no! Sleeping on a train costs much more than sleeping in an room overnight. I was shocked to go through my schedule and learn that two overnight trains was going to cost me close to $350 pp! That's crazy.

So, I did the best with my schedule to minimize train trips that took more than 6 hours, (and I actually did a great job on that: all train trips, but one, are no more than 4.5 hours). No overnight trains for me, I guess. Too bad; I really wanted to enjoy that adventure, but I am truly a budget traveler, and that just doesn't fit my budget :)

Any thoughts?

Posted by
932 posts

Andrea, check your private messages. I sent you a detailed message showing you how to get fares for the sleeper cars... Unfortunately though, I can only help you with a trip that includes a destination in Germany... Does anyone else have a user friendly site to help Andrea? Remember Andrea, whatever site you're using, make sure that you specify that you're only wanting accomodations, no ticket is needed because you have a Eurail Pass.

Posted by
8700 posts

Andrea, I know that the fare example you gave for the Paris-Madrid night train was for a sleeper. However, if you're willing to sleep in a T-4 couchette, you can get a discount fare of €69 on the Paris-Madrid Elipsos Trenhotel.

Posted by
1568 posts

We had a Eurail Pass and took the night train from Paris to Zurich. We wanted to experience just one night train for the heck of it. We were not impressed. I am sure we missed some beautifly scenery.

Night trains are an individual choice.

Posted by
342 posts

My wife and I took a night train from Paris to Salzburg, because the trip was 12 hours. And yes, we wanted to experience it. Well, you can have it!

The train rocked, it stopped numerous times throughtout the night, people were boarding the train and making NO effort to be quiet...it was a nightmare.

Posted by
7205 posts

I've also wanted to do this, but never got the opportunity. Recently we help 2 different families plan their Europe trip and we encouraged them to do the night train. Both families did it and both said they would not choose night trains again. There was noise, rocking back and forth, and no sleep...yes, it's expensive, too.

Somehow things must have changed since Rick did the night train rides. Maybe he should re-investigate. Perhaps he could film one of his episodes the "morning after" a night train so that we could ALL see just how restful the night was!

Posted by
423 posts

I have been on 2 overnight trains. The rocking motion kept me up all night and the extra money (in the states it's even more on Amtrak) added insult to my insomnia. I think you will be very happy enjoying the view from city to city during daylight.

Posted by
342 posts

Tim, Rick couldn't air what I would have said the morning after! 8-(

For the record, my wife slept like a rock. But, then again, she could sleep standing up.

In fairness to trains, they can cover alot of territory that you might not be interested in seeing, they substitute for a hotel room, and save some valuable sightseeing time since you are travelling while sleeping - you wake up at your next destination. But if you are not a sound sleeper, a heavy dose of booze, medications, or both might be in order!

One other thing to keep in mind: find out what time your train arrives at your next point. Our train got into Salzburg at 5AM. Not a whole lot going on at that time. Luckily our hotel let us check into our room, but you certainly can't count on that.

Posted by
8700 posts

Since I don't have trouble sleeping on trains, I like night trains. Andrea, maybe it's just a matter of how you and I define the same terms, but it's my understanding that if you have a railpass, the supplement you pay for accommodations includes the reservation. The amount of the supplement varies depending upon the type of accommodations you choose. Rick's $30 figure is for a bunk in a six-person couchette. It will be quite a bit more for a bed in a sleeper.

Besides, if you book a night train well in advance on a country's national rail Web site, discount fares can be quite reasonable, even for sleepers. They can be nearly the same as the cost of supplements alone for passholders.

For very helpful information, including photos of sleeping accommodations, go to www.seat61.com.

Posted by
932 posts

Andrea, I don't know where you came up with $350.00 pp for the night train unless you were looking at a deluxe. We JUST did the Prague to Munich night train with Eurail pass and this is how it worked: we had the Czech-German railpass and we paid 30 Euro pp additional for a 4 person couchette (no bathroom or sink). I'm sure the deluxe sleepers are INCREDIBLE as well as private and quiet. We walked by the outside of them and they have solid doors and walls. As the previous posters said, it can be a bit noisy when other travelers get on the train. It was not the best night's sleep, but who cares? We got a few hours sleep and just went to bed early the following night. We stored our luggage at the hotel when we arrived and got an early start to our sightseeing. The supplement for the couchette IS a reservation. You're assigned your couchette when you buy the supplement and you print the tickets at home. Website is: buchung.nachtzugreise.de.

Posted by
479 posts

Andrea, just remember, you're saving the cost of a hotel for one night by taking a night train. Plus you're maximizing your sightseeing time by traveling while you sleep. Otherwise you'd waste that same amount of time sitting on a train instead of exploring a city. Your time has to be worth something!

Posted by
47 posts

Great thoughts everyone! Well, I did come up with this, as an example: night train from Paris to Madrid, $200 pp for a double. I would only be paying $50 pp to spend the night somewhere on the way in an B&B. Perhaps I am just searching the train fares incorrectly?

Posted by
4125 posts

Well, they're not going to be for everyone, but I think they can be a pretty good deal. Especially for those trying to stretch an itinerary.

You need to be able to find a night train that makes sense with the itinerary; no 2 AM transfers. Your sleep may not be the greatest--either you can roll with that or you can't. Personally I wouldn't plan an itinerary that relies on them too much for that reason.

On the plus side they can be romantic and fun, and logistically brilliant.

A personal note: the worst night train ride I had was in a first-class sleeper in Spain, when RENFE "forgot" to sell us the couchette reservations we thought we were buying when we got our tickets. Turns out all the clueless (and rude) people travel in first class.

Our couchette experiences, by contrast, have all been satisfactory, if not perfect.

Posted by
12040 posts

At least in the East, night trains can be quite cheap. I spent about a fourth of the cost of travel from Prague to Munich during the day on a night train from St. Petersburg to Vilnius. I figured I could afford to skip the views of rusting factories and crumbling collectivist villages. But I agree, sleeping on a night train is not automatic.

Posted by
221 posts

it is so great to read this! I have taken two overnight trains from Rick's advice and both times were some of my worst travel experiences. Especially in the UK the cost is very high, I did the London to Edinburgh, in a sleeper compartment. I will never do it again for all the reasons listed here-plus the conductor didn't come wake us up like he said he would and we barely got out in time and our shower flooded our compartment, plus it was hot and there was no air conditioning, it was so miserable we had to prop the door open all night. I would take a night train in a seat, with headphones and an eye mask, maybe and be prepared to have a night of discomfort.

Posted by
1352 posts

We took 2 night trains on our last trip and they were very different experiences. Our 1st night train was on City Night Line CNL from Amsterdam to Munich. It was really nice, the ride was smooth, the train was fairly new, we got a good night's sleep. Then we took a EuroNight EN from Rome to Lausanne. It was horrible. The whole night I felt like I was swaying with the train, and felt every stop it made. Got very little sleep if any.

We would definately do a night train again as long as it is a CNL train, but would never do an EN train again.

Posted by
5465 posts

Well, I have to admit that I have never taken a night train in all my travels, they just never appealed to me. I for one, enjoy train travel. I like watching the scenery...I never understood the people who prefer to sleep through their trip through the Alps! I prefer to break my trip into shorter travel chunks, and if I really need to make a long jump, consider flying. The other reason for limiting night trains is that I prefer a loose itinerary, the fewer locked in segments the better, and night trains require early reservations.

Posted by
932 posts

I also enjoy train travel. The scenery is beautiful. But when you're trying to pack in tons of sightseeing and maximize your time, night trains help. We took the day train TO Prague, and the scenery was only okay. So taking the night train from Prague back to Munich was no big deal. Anyway, we took the train to probably 8 other places, so we saw TONS of scenery during the rest of the trip. To spend 8 hours on a train is an entire day of sightseeing that you're missing. Night trains are very practical...

Posted by
112 posts

We took a night train from Paris to Frankfurt last September. We reserved a T-2 couchette (private compartment for 2 with sink). As I recall it cost us somewhere around $200 for both of us which I figured was the equivalent of staying in a hotel. We did not have any transfers during the night and both of us slept very well. We gave our passports to the conductor and he handled the border crossings for us. He woke us at our appointed time in the morning and everything went very smoothly. We thought it was a grand adventure. On the other hand, you share a bath and don't have an opportunity to shower. It gave us an extra day of sightseeing which was well worth it to us.

Posted by
390 posts

On my month-long trip we took 3.5 night trains - Sevilla to Barcelona which cost us $20/person for a quad room, slept great! Barcelona to Paris was going to cost $90 for a 6-bed room, but when we told the ticket guy we couldn't do that and needed a cheaper route he was able to find a slower night train - that cost $20 for the six bed as well. Our night train from Zurich to Vienna was very cheap - BUT we chose to just sit up the whole way and paid €3/person :) The night train from Vienna to Venice is the 1/2 night train - what a mess!! Train strike in Italy and we were stopped in Villach (border of Austria/Italy) and told to get off the train at 2 AM. Had to wait in the train depot for 2 hours before a bus showed up which cost us €15/person and about 20 people ended up having to stand the whole way to Venice. A blast. Not surprisingly, once I saw Venice, I was no longer grumpy. Overall though, good experience with the night trains. Maybe we were just lucky.

Posted by
27 posts

Just returned from Europe and took the night train from Nice to Paris. The cost was over $200 extra for 2 (on top of our global eurail pass) for a 4 x 6 room with a sink. I can't imagine sleeping in a couchette and getting any sleep. Difficult enough in a private room. With the exchange rate at nearly 50% and the cost of your european vacation rising fast, going super cheap at the cost of comfort may not be the best use of your money.

Although we wanted to have the experience of a night train, I'd try not to do it again. Only exception would be if my itinerary required a very long train ride. I would certainly try to change my itinerary to avoid it.

Posted by
3580 posts

You have all re-confirmed my choice to avoid night trains. Almost 40 years ago, when I first traveled in Europe, I spent a few nights in regular train compartments. There was no extra charge over the cost of the Eurail Pass, but there was commotion all night with stops, people getting on, passports being checked. I was better at sleeping then, and not so distrustful of other travelers, so it worked ok.
Now, there is an extra charge, plus stories of mid-night thefts, and all the usual coming and going of other passengers. And lots of stops. I travel alone, so I would have no influence over who the others in the sleeping compartment would be. Most of the overnight trains seem to take hours longer than the same trip taken in the daytime. When I have a long train trip I like to break it into two parts and stay overnight in a town along the way. I've gone Paris-Venice in a day a couple of times. It takes about 10 hours.

Posted by
932 posts

If I traveled alone, I also would have avoided the night train. But if you're with a few others and can book a compartment for your party only, it's fine. My train from Prague to Munich had two locks on the door. No one could get in without us unlocking the door. I didn't get a lot of sleep, but it was so cool! When I go to Europe, I don't get a lot of sleep anyway because of time changes, strange surroundings, etc. so what's one more sleepless night? If you're young ane not stressing over 8 hours of sound sleep, then go for it! It's sort of an adventure...

Posted by
4 posts

Just returned from 2 weeks in Eastern Europe. We used night trains from Budapest to Krakow then Krakow to Prague, the first in a 2 person sleeper (with sink in room), then in a 6 person couchette - I recommend the former if available. Because we were travelling thru countries with non-EU borders we were awakened for each crossing but this actually added to the adventure and brought back childhood memories of a train trip from Frankfurt to East Berlin. The biggest problem was arriving in Krakow before 6 am - couldn't find a cup of coffee anywhere until 7! Night trains saved us valuable sight seeing time and were cheaper than a hotel plus day train.