There are different ways to travel in Europe, one of the best known is to travel by train, but before you buy your train ticket you should know that there are two types of trains in Europe: traditional trains.
In the case of traveling to Russia, you should know that the trains that operate within the Russian national territory work in a slightly different way.
What is a Night Train?
Before talking about what night trains are, we must take a trip back in time to understand why these trains appeared.
A few decades ago, train journeys across Europe were extremely long, they could even spend several days and nights on the train before reaching your destination.
At that time, it was necessary for trains to provide passengers with more comfort, such as carriages with beds, sinks and even showers. When high-speed trains appeared, travel times were dramatically reduced. Currently, European high-speed trains can operate at 200 – 320 km / h according to the ranking made by Omio.
Night Train Vs Traditional Train
The trains we usually use to travel, also known as day trains, consist of several cars with a certain number of seats. Sometimes you will also have tables inside the cars as well as a dining car or panoramic car.
On the other hand, night trains do not have categories (first class, second class, etc.), as we will see later, they have types of seats.
It is there where we see the main difference between a night train vs. a day train since both trains can run at night but only night trains have beds so you can sleep more comfortably.
How to Identify a Night Train?
As I just mentioned, regular trains and night trains can run overnight, making it difficult to tell them apart. In this case you have to resort to one of the following methods:
- Know the route of the night trains : There are fewer and fewer night train routes in Europe, making it easier to identify.
- Select the type of seat : When you make the reservation on a night train you will have to select the type of compartment in which you will travel and the number of bed.
Types of Seats on Night Trains
On a night train you can find up to three different types of seats which could be compared to the first, second and third class on a conventional train.
The names of the compartments may change depending on the train or the country where you make your train ticket reservation; however, the compartments in the wagons are classified as follows:
Sleepers or beds
Booking a bed is a sleeper is similar to traveling in first class and has the following characteristics.
- In each compartment, you can find two or three beds.
- People of the same sex travel in each compartment, that is, only males or only females.
- If you want to travel as a couple and in the same compartment you must reserve the 2 or 3 beds that the compartment has.
- They include sheets and in the winter they also include a blanket.
- Some sleepers have a sink or bathroom with a shower.
Couchettes, Bunk Beds or Bunks
Sleeping in a bunk on a night train is similar to sleeping in a bunk in a hostel. Let us now see what its characteristics are:
- Although the dimensions of the sleepers and couchette compartments are the same, in the latter you can find 4 to 6 bunk beds.
- Some couchettes have sinks but most of them have only one bathroom per wagon and no shower (you can imagine how the wagon smells after a long journey).
- When making the selection of beds, you can only travel in couchettes that have passengers of the same sex.
- They include sheets and in the winter they also include a blanket.
- If you are traveling as a couple, they will be assigned to different compartments unless you reserve all the bunks of the same couchette.
Reclining seats on night trains are like seats on other types of trains.
These seats are cheaper than traveling in a bunk bed, but the comfort is much less.
If you are traveling on a night train it is because you want to sleep and this is the most uncomfortable way of traveling among all types of compartments.
On the other hand, not all night trains have reclining seats.
What Do I Do if I Have a Train Pass?
If you have a train pass like the Eurail or Interail you must be wondering if night trains are included in rail passes.
In the case of traveling on a night train, a supplement must be paid for the track traveling by night train.
The exact amount to pay will depend on the route and compartment in which you decide to travel.
In addition, when registering the date of your trip, you only have to enter the departure date of your trip (the arrival date is not placed in your travel log).
What Services Are Included?
The luxury night trains include breakfast or snack with the train ticket while in the rest of the night trains you can buy something to eat in the coffee car.
The same goes for the showers on the train cars, you usually find them on the most exclusive trains so it is better to bathe before boarding a night train.
Depending on your luck you will find plugs in the train cars. Although I recommend that you only use them to charge electronic devices such as cell phones or tablets.
Once they called my attention for charging my laptop (I do not know exactly the reason why I did not understand the language).
Is It Advisable to Travel by Night Train?
The main reason a person decides to travel by night train is that they want to save money by not having to pay for accommodation during that night.
For this to happen, the price you would pay to use an alternative transport added to the cost of accommodation must be less than the cost of traveling by night train.
If that is the reason why you plan to buy a night train ticket, you must take into account the following factors:
Number of People You Travel With
If you are traveling alone in Europe as a backpacker you will have to consider the price of the cheapest accommodation in the city you are traveling to, which will surely be a hostel or Airbnb.
The cost of accommodation in a hostel per night in Europe is between 30 – 40 euros (€), I know that there are others cheaper and others more expensive.
However, if you travel as a couple or in a group you can get hotel rooms or apartments for a cheaper price per person than staying in a hostel. In that case, using a night train may be a more cost-effective alternative.
From my experience, I tell you that the sleepers of the night trains are not very comfortable to say. Also, if you are a light sleeper, the noise and movement of the train may make it difficult for you to fall asleep.
To this, you have to add that if you travel with other people, they will probably wake you (accidentally) when they snore or you have to leave the compartment.
Another point to keep in mind before buying your night train ticket. Since these usually have a relatively late departure time (after 10:00 pm), if you take into account that the check-out of your accommodation usually gives more By noon you will have three options:
- Explore the city with your luggage about 10 hours before you can board the train.
- Request or negotiate with the accommodation to let you store your luggage for the rest of the day, this is very difficult if you use Airbnb or Couchsurfing.
- Use the luggage storage service at train stations (for a fee and not all stations offer this service).
Something similar occurs with the arrival time of night trains since some may arrive very early at their destination, let’s say between 5:00 and 7:00 am, at that time you still cannot check-in and you would have to do something similar than in the previous case.
Tips for Traveling by Night Train
To finish, let’s see 5 tips that will help improve your experience on a night train.
- Evaluate all the costs involved in traveling by night train (indicated in this article) before you choose it as a cheap transportation alternative.
- Pack some snacks because, although there is a car with a cafeteria, the prices are higher than what you can find outside a train station.
- If you are a light sleeper, pack a mask and earplugs so you can sleep without interruptions.
- All children under 4 years old can travel in the same bed/litter their parents for free. Although if you want them to have their own space, you must buy a train ticket with the child’s rate.
- Avoid traveling by night train whenever possible, as you have previously read, it is not always the cheapest alternative and they are not very comfortable either. As a personal recommendation, choose to travel on high-speed trains during the day instead of traveling by night train.