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What's a night train in Europe?

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Question: What's a night train in Europe?
Answer: A night train in Europe travels from well before midnight (usually after 7:00) until morning, which is generally understood to mean after 6:00 a.m. Passengers do plan to sleep on night trains, whether in sleeper compartments or seats. Trains specifically called "night trains" are meant to convey you across long distances while you sleep; trains traveling before and after midnight aren't always referred to as night trains.

Night trains have sleeper compartments -- couchettes (below) are cheapest -- which should be reserved in advance and which add cost to a Eurail pass or European train ticket, even one for a night train. You can also sleep in a regular seat on a night train at no extra cost (of course). An example of a night train is the popular route from Rome to Munich, which leaves Rome at 9:30 pm and arrives in Munich at 8:30 am. Learn more about night train routes and buying night train tickets below.

What's a sleeper on a night train?

Each passenger in a Europe train sleeper -- a sleeping compartment in a night train -- has his/her own seat/berth which fully reclines with a pillow and sheets and blanket. And his/her means sleepers aren't seperated by gender; you'll be sharing the compartment with both sexes, so keep your daytime duds on. A curtain can be drawn across the locking compartment door to the train hallway. Bathrooms are at the end of the car; Europe train bathrooms are pretty much like airplane bathrooms -- small, but have what you need.

Couchettes are the cheapest way to go on a night train and can generally sleep up to six -- couchettes on night trains are usually like a rolling hostel, as most passengers in a couchette will be budget travelers and backpackers. (Complaints about night trains involve always seem to involve noisy night owl students, who always seem to be outside the complainant's door.)

You can also buy a sleeper compartment that sleeps two -- a double -- or a sleeper compartment for one -- singles are very expensive, and not all night trains even offer singles. If you really want your own room on a night train, you may have to buy an entire double sleeper.

Does a night train sleeper cost more?

Upgrading to a single or double sleeper on a night train in Europe will add bucks -- sometimes substantially. Sleeping in a couchette compartment will likely be a minumum of $32 (as of summer 2006) on top of your Eurail pass or single train ticket.

    Do night trains save money? If your European trip is taking you across tall countries in a single bound, consider making some of those long journies by night train to save time, but not money. The night train from Rome to Munich leaves Rome's Termini Station at 9:37 p.m. and arrives in Munich's Hauptbahnhof at 8:31 a.m. You've got a whole day in front of you, you're well rested and rarin' to go (European trains offer very good coffee as a matter of course). That's a plus.

    However, a European hostel can be as low as $10 per night, and as much as $30. If time is more important than money, take the night train and use an overnight sleeper -- if sticking to a budget is paramount, stay in a hostel and travel by day to see the scenery tick by.

Will an overnight train use two days on my train pass?

Rail Europe says that if you board a direct overnight train that departs after 7:00 p.m., then you use only one day on your pass. If your overnight train requires a train change before midnight, then you will use two travel days.

Do I need to make reservations on an overnight train?

If you want to sleep in a couchette (above) or any other kind of sleeper compartment on an overnight Europe train, reserve. Buy reservations ($3+ extra) up to sixty days in advance or at the station half an hour before departure. You can sometimes buy an upgrade from the conductor (he'll show up to look at and/or validate your train ticket or pass after you board), but it may cost more than buying it from the US (try Rail Europe) before you leave and sleepers may be sold out by train time.

Night trains are also popular routes -- you may want to reserve a night train even if you're not buying a sleeper in order to ensure that you have a seat. The seats themselves are pretty comfy -- I've slept in one, and it's not bad. When I talk about seats, I mean regular seats in a European train car, not the seats in a couchette, or sleeper. You can only have one or the other.

More about Eurail passes

Buy Night Train Tickets

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