Guide to Riding Sleeper Trains in Europe

By Ivan PetrenkoMay 27, 2024 18:00 PMNews
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Travel with the night train
Travel with the night train. Source: Photo by Jonathan Barreto on Unsplash

As climate concerns rise, many Europeans are opting for sleeper trains over short-haul flights. This shift towards more sustainable travel offers numerous benefits but can be challenging to plan.

The growing demand has led to a variety of national and private operators offering sleeper train routes. Booking can be complicated, with over 30 websites selling tickets and some routes not running daily.

"I’ve always traveled by trains, boats, and buses," said Cat Jones, founder of the flight-free travel agency Byway. "But friends would say, ‘That sounds amazing, but no way am I going to plan all that.’"

Despite the booking challenges, the convenience and experience of sleeper trains make them worthwhile. With some research and patience, you can avoid airport security lines and enjoy a unique travel experience.

Start by checking if routes exist between your desired cities. The European rail advocacy group Back on Track offers a comprehensive night train database. Additionally, the Man in Seat 61 website provides detailed information on what to expect, including seat and berth numbers, photos, and amenities.

Many operators offer perks like breakfast and free water, and some allow women to book shared spaces with other women. After finding the right route, check Trainline and RailEurope for tickets or book directly through the operator's website.

Night train configurations vary by operator, line, and carriage. Some trains have traditional seats, while others offer sleeper cabins with up to six beds. You can book an entire cabin for a group, but this comes at an extra cost. Frequent traveler Sarah Marks found sharing cabins a great way to meet like-minded people.

Plan to book in advance, but not too early. Rail companies use dynamic pricing, so ticket prices rise as the travel date approaches. However, many railways only open ticket sales two to three months in advance due to track maintenance schedules.

Flexibility is crucial. Popular routes like Paris to Berlin can sell out or become expensive during peak times. If your preferred route isn’t available, consider alternative routes or daytime trains combined with other sleeper options. Europe’s extensive rail network offers numerous travel possibilities, allowing you to explore unexpected destinations.

With flexibility and planning, sleeper trains can provide a memorable and eco-friendly European travel experience.

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