Taking the Night Train in Europe: Budget vs Luxury

April 2010


The compartment was dusty, smelly and tiny, I looked around and thought: “how the hell can you fit six people into these tiny berths?” I sat alone in the compartment waiting and dreading the night ahead.

I wound up in this predicament because I left booking my train reservations a little too late, and wasn’t able to secure a private sleeper for the first of the two night trains I was taking during my solo travel through Europe. At the time of booking I thought to myself “aw, it’s not going to be that bad, it’ll be like a slumber party with five other chicks!” It didn’t take me too long to discover some critical facts that I didn’t know at the time of booking:

Two Important Things Women Need to Know About Sleeping on European Night Trains

1. How small and cramped train compartments are on European trains. Not a problem if you’re on a day trip but imagine the jostling that would need to be done with six people getting ready for bed.

2. The compartments were NOT going to be segregated by sex. My visions of a fun PJ party had disappeared!

Did I survive my night of cheap travel? Was it as bad as I was expecting it to be?

trainTravelTips_300Yes, of course I did survive and no, it really wasn’t a horrible experience at all. I was traveling midweek, in the height of winter in Poland, so the night train from Krakow to Prague was empty and I ended up with the entire compartment to myself. The place was dusty and a bit worn around the edges but the white sheets provided for the couchettes were starched, crisp and clean.

The Polish conductor was absolutely awesome; he took me under his wing, scolding me when I didn’t lock my compartment door in the early evening and then carefully showing me once, twice and three times how to lock my door. We wound up spending a good part of that evening talking about his travels in North America.

All in all I had a fun experience… would I try this budget trip again? Hmm, if I absolutely had to, I would, but I much preferred the very posh private sleeper I had booked for my travel from Munich to Copenhagen.

Traveling First Class on a European Sleeper Train – Oh So Very Lovely!

privateSleeperEuropeanTrain_300For the last train trip of my holiday I booked a first class ticket on the night train out of Munich, planning to end my travels in Europe with a visit to Copenhagen before heading back home. I arrived at Munich’s Hauptbahnhof Central Train Station in the early evening. The night train had arrived for its 7pm departure, and upon boarding my designated train car, I looked at my ticket to find the compartment number, I found my sleeper, then I stopped and stared.

sleeperBedEurope_300I checked my ticket again and then looked up the small spiral staircase leading into the upper loft-like room… it was huge. And it was oh, so lovely, all decked out with a small sitting table, upholstered chairs, a lovely little nook for the bed and yes, a private toilet and shower! Ok, this can’t be for me, I decided, and went on the hunt for the conductor.

I showed him my ticket and asked if I was on the right car. Yes, I was in the correct car, he confirmed, then he took charge of my luggage and led me back to the very same sleeper I was at before! He hauled my rather heavy bag up the spiral staircase and proceeded to give me a little tour of the room. What a difference from my first night train experience. The room was at least twice the size of a regular train compartment, it was a perfect little home away from home.

Shortly after the train left the station, there was a knock at the door; my complimentary dinner and wine had arrived. I sat at my little table, sipping red wine watching the scenery go by and thought to myself, this is the way to travel.

* Train travel provided by RailEurope. Click here for Rail Europe Information

2 thoughts on “Taking the Night Train in Europe: Budget vs Luxury

  1. I remember spending a night in a compartment going from Venice to Prague,,, We were 5 people in that compartment and it wasn’t a sleeper… no beds.
    But as luck would have it, even if we got a crappy night’s sleep, we ended up spending the day in Prague with the three lovely Swedes we met 🙂

    I’m glad you got the place to yourself though, or at least that you didn’t get the worst case scenario 🙂
    Thanks for sharing!

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