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Overnight trains - costs and your thoughts

Overnight trains - costs and your thoughts

Jul 22nd, 2006, 08:19 PM
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Overnight trains - costs and your thoughts

The last leg of our upcoming European trip is going ot be a train trip to venice (from either Budapest or Vienna or Salzburg). We are going to get a 2nd class East Euro Pass (good in Austria). We would like to find out more about sleeping accommodations. How much do they cost? Can I wait until I am in Austria? What are the pros and cons (saving hotel costs vs. comfort, etc.)? Are there showers on the trains?!? If I get into Venice at 7 or 8 am, I may not be able to check into the hotel until much much later. Can luggage be left at the station? Finally, any suggestions for a good hotel or B&B around $100/night for a double? Thats' a lot of qustions! Many thanks
huntley is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2006, 08:35 PM
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Have you entered your itinerary on www.railsaver.com and click only if it saves me money to see if you actually need a pass? Sometimes it can be cheaper to fly on one of the many budget airlines. www.whichbudget.com for airlines.

Most hotels will store your luggage until your rooms is ready. That's a very low budget for Venice. Try www.eurocheapo.com
kybourbon is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2006, 08:42 PM
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€77 for a double in Venice?? Pretty difficult.

But you really are asking some pretty specific questions and have an awfully generic title. You could be asking about trains anywhere in Europe.

Something like "Overnight trains Austria to Venice, and recs for low cost rooms in Venice" will pull in the folks who know something about that rail route, AND anyone who might be able to give you hotel advice.

janisj is online now  
Jul 22nd, 2006, 08:49 PM
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I don't know about the Austrian trains, but I took the Night Zug from Munich to Milan in June. The cost in addition to my first class rail pass was 99 Euros. Of course the compartment is very small but there was a nice shower at the end of our car. I slept all night.
scatcat is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2006, 04:59 AM
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Hi H,

Good advice above.

Trains come with 6 person couchettes, 4 person couchettes, double sleepers and single sleepers.

The more privacy, the higher the cost.

It is unlikely that you will have a shower.

See http://www.oebb.at/vip8/oebb/de/ for schedules, etc from Vienna or Salzburg.

I think that your best route is from Vienna, prices from 90 - 170E pp.

ira is online now  
Jul 23rd, 2006, 05:41 AM
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Also look at: http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homep...e/pricestr.htm
for info on night trains.
Kristinelaine is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2006, 05:46 AM
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We took the overnight from Venice to Paris a couple of years ago--it was fantastic! We had a little sleeper car with a 'couch', sink, and 2 nice twin beds above. After having a bottle of wine and some 'dinner' we slept(great, too--the rhythmic motion and sounds were soothing, and woke up in the am right in Paris! We would do it again in a heartbeat!
has250 is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2006, 05:56 AM
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I took the night train first class from amsterdam to munich in December. The cabin is small but it was perfect for me. I was able to leave my bags at the station while i looked for a hotel.

I also took the night train to Prague from Munich. This was a different experience, the cabin was bigger but very old. I was told not to check my bag at the station here.

I was able to sleep on both trains not a deep sleep but I did rest.
Lostmymind is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2006, 08:05 AM
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I've taken several overnight trains in Europe, including those starting from Vienna, and have opted not to take any more. I just can't rest on them. Plus, I enjoy looking at the scenery! There is a very pleasant direct (no changes) day train from Vienna to Venice; we're going to do that next March. Unless you are really pressed for time, I think you would better enjoy the day train ride and the scenery you pass along the way.
BTilke is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2006, 08:14 AM
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Hi H,

Forgot to mention, we have done the Venice/Vienna route in the daytime. It is a very nice ride over the Alps.

Costs less than a sleeper, too.

ira is online now  
Jul 23rd, 2006, 08:23 AM
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The reference library of a city near you may have the Thomas Cook European Rail Timetable. Table 88 shows that the Allegro Don Gioivanni Express leaves Vienna West at 2034, Linz at 2233, and Salzburg at 0138, and reaches Venice Santa Lucia at 0845. The book says that it has ordinary sleepers with 1, 2 or 3 berths per compartment, and Excelsior sleepers with 1 or 2 berths, plus a shower: these are described in http://www.raileurope.co.uk/trade/ra...sia/index.asp# under Excelsior. A problem is leaving Salzburg at 0138, but you solve that if you leave Salzburg at 2010 westbound, change trains at Linz at 2131, and go to bed there at 2233. Budapest to Venice is simpler. Take a packed supper, leave Budapest Keleti at 1730, in a sleeper with 1, 2 or 3 berths but no showers, wake at frontiers at 2202, 2350 and 0350, and reach Venice Santa Lucia at 0716. Waking for frontiers is a bit irritating, so you may choose Budapest Keleti 1550, Vienna West with dinner in the station restaurant 1845 to 2034 and then the Allegro Don Giovanni Express, though this costs more, especially if you have a shower.
I am afraid I do not know fares. You can learn them if you e mail two or three of the agents, listed below. For travel until late September you mist book two weeks ahead of travel, but after that three days will do. As for sleeper supplements, they are about 45 euros for a berth in a 3-berth compartment, with a second class ticket, and about 70 euros for a berth in a 2-berth compartment, with a first class ticket.
You can leave luggage in the office in Venice Santa Lucia station. I am afraid I cannot help over Venice hotels, but wonder whether you may find some value in my general note on getting the best from night trains, which I attach now.
Then, please write again if I can help further.


The site http://www.seat61.com/Sleepers.htm has a masterly survey of sleeping berths on the trains of Europe, with photographs. The notes that follow are subjective, my own view of how to get the best from a night on a train.

Night trains beat planes and buses. You cut a hotel or hostel bill, and are travelling by night, asleep. Flights often take five hours city centre to city centre, whereas main stations are in centres.

Most people have a good night in a sleeper, and can enjoy a full days sightseeing the next day, starting early. Some cannot hope to sleep and should avoid such trains. Some check a timetable or web site before they book, to select only the trains that run non-stop from about midnight to about six. Some need help to sleep. I for my part travel with three plastic cups, a folding corkscrew, and a bottle of wine bought in a city store. Wine is cheap, and the extra cups let me offer a glass to fellow travellers. If you think you will not sleep then probably you will not: much lies in the mind-set. Many people are like me and find the movement of the car rocks them to sleep. I sleep better if I lie down tired and relaxed. At stations where trains start people can board forty or fifty minutes early. Doing this cuts out any feeling of rush or bother getting from the hotel across town, and in the station, and gives a longer night asleep. Usually passengers must leave the train when it arrives, even if that is at six thirty, but in Britain and on the handful of City Night Line trains across Germany they can remain on board at termini until eight.

Whether a train will help you is clear if you look in Thomas Cook European Timetable, described in http://www.thomascookpublishing.com, and essential for rail touring. This has times and routes of trains and is worth the money, especially if bought in Europe at 14 to 20 euros, not in North America at 33 euros. Or, train schedules may be found at the several European rail servers such as for Swiss Rail or German Rail.
but once you are used to it the book is faster, gives you a view of all services on a given main route in a single day, and carries on being useful
while you travel. All berths are reservable up to two months before travel. Most nights you can reserve two days or so before you go. The international desks of travel centres, or international windows, in all big stations in northern and western parts of the Continent sell reservation slips for trains from any country, so if you land for example in Paris you can go to any big station of the city, use English and a credit card, and book seats and berths to or from Berlin, Salzburg, Seville, and so on. The region is vast, from the Atlantic and Mediterranean to the Russian frontier in Lapland, through the Baltic, then up to the eastern frontier of Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary, to the southern frontiers of Hungary and Slovenia, and to Trieste. For journeys that start east and south of there you simply book your onward train on arrival 9in the country. The booking staff are helpful, but tend to have no English, so you need to write on a bit of paper some such message as "15.II.1999. Galati 2018 -Timisoara. Train 772/3. 2 Klasse." And add the international rail icon for, shall we say, a sleeper (you'll learn this icon fast: it's widespread).

In Britain and Florida certain agents book these berths and seats. (Some also book journeys that start in Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, and the former Yugoslavia). You can send e mails and phone calls to three or four agents for estimates and bookings for the rail fares. For international tickets, berths and seats. Trains Europe say they are ten percent cheaper than German Rail UK or Ffestiniog Travel. For domestic Italian trains they are cheaper again. German Rail UK are cheaper than Trainseurope or Ffestiniog Travel for domestic trains within Germany and Austria and may be competitive with them for international trips with a big proportion of miles in Germany. The rail booking office on Piccadilly in London is slow and the staff are limited in the range of what they can do.

Euraide of Florida, E-mail [email protected], phone
at the Florida office 941/480-1555, site http://www.euraide.com

Trains Europe of Cambridgeshire E-mail [email protected], phone 00 44 900 195 0101, site http://www.trainseurope.co.uk/ -

Ffestiniog Travel of Wales, E-mail [email protected], phone
00 44 176 651 2400, site http://www.festtravel.co.uk,

Inside France (Canterbury). E-mail [email protected], phone
00 44 122 745 0088, site www.rail-canterbury.co.uk/.

German Rail UK in Surbiton. E-mail: [email protected], phone
00 44 870 243 5363, site http://www.deutsche-bahn.co.uk,

Railwise Ltd in London. E-mail: [email protected], phone
00 44 207 242 1490, site http://railwise.com

You want to plan your last evening, as you lose your hotel room that morning. Ideas are a concert, opera, ballet, film in a language you speak, sitting reading, night walking, a pub or restaurant, or for late trains a combination such as a concert until 2130, then a pub for supper. You may want to move your bag to a left luggage locker in the station, for a smooth departure. I remember from the seventies in Bulgaria a transit visa, a brilliant concert by the national youth orchestra with Tchaikovsky, supper of Bulgarian lamb and red wine, a walk to the station, and boarding my train fifteen minutes before we left for the Seraglio.

Backpacks or rucksacks are a pest on trains and in storage lockers, as all luggage spaces are rectangular. A wheeled suitcase is a good idea, and I've used them for the last ten years or more. I like the kind that zips rather than buckles, as it keeps its shape and is easy to open. The case I used for my trip from Karachi to London by rail measures 28 inches by 19 inches by 8.5 inches. I am stout and 64: for me it was fine for half a mile or so: after that it became tedious. It was much better without books in it than with, and from time to time I spent about 10 euros to send back home those guide books and other books that I would no longer need.

Some largest stations have public showers, and you may choose to shower there in the evening, or in your arrival station in the morning, but you have the bother of taking your luggage, or at least your toiletries, to the cubicle.

On the afternoon of the day you leave you have no hotel room, so in a hot country you need to think where to be cool. An art gallery, with padded seats, may fill the bill, or a botanical garden. If the train has no restaurant car and the journey is long you should buy food and drink that afternoon, to form supper and breakfast.

Since the point of sleeping cars is to sleep, you won't want to use any buffet or restaurant car early on an arrival morning. But it makes sense to sup on any train that leaves before eight p.m. The classic routine (as in the great films) is to book and then dine in the restaurant car. But these days in west Europe such cars are rather few (and those between Paris and Italy give poor value). Quite often, on the afternoon of your last day in a city you should go to a supermarket and buy up cold meats, paté, cheese, butter, fresh bread, tomatoes, olives, other salad to taste, fruit, and wine: a red and a white.
Your hotel may even let you keep these goodies in their fridge till you leave for the station. Also, paper cups and a newspaper to serve as tablecloth. And the day before that you should buy table knives and a corkscrew that works well for you, or bring them from your home country. You draw the first cork ten minutes after departure and wipe the last fruit juice from your lips an hour later. And so to bed. You won't need a sleeping pill after that lot. In Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary dining cars are fairly common on sleeping car trains.

The Man in Seat 61 describes well the beds available, and you need to see his pictures and notes, and choose your class of berth, before you read on here. For my part, as a bachelor of moderate means I think the best buy is a berth in a 3 berth, second class, type T3 room. A T2 room, too, is second class, with only two berths, and is better still, but they are rare. German Rail three berth sleepers have rooms with a bathroom (wc and shower) attached en suite, and other rooms with none. The price difference is ten euros or so, and the version with a bathroom is the better buy. Such cars runs to, from, and within Germany, and include any train with a number that starts NZ (Nacht Zug). In most of Europe the supplement for a couchette berth is 15 euros, while that for a sleeper is 45 euros. A couchette has no basin, so you walk along the corridor to wash, takes both sexes, so you cannot change into night clothes, and holds six people, so is cramped. On French, German, and Hungarian trains there are also 4-berth couchettes, but they share the same disadvantages.

The second class sleepers have three berths each. Couples, one man one woman, cannot book such a room together. No matter: what you do is book into a men's and a women's room, reach the platform beside
the sleeper half an hour before you leave, chat with the conductor, and see whether he or she has space enough to swap you into a 3-berth room of your own. A ten euro tip next morning will encourage similar kindness to travellers who come after you.

Backpacks or rucksacks are a pest on trains and in storage lockers, as luggage spaces are rectangular. A wheeled suitcase is a good idea, and I've used them for the last ten years or more. I like the kind that zips rather than buckles, as it keeps its shape and is easy to open. The case I used for my trip from Karachi to London by rail measures 28 inches by 19 inches by 8.5 inches. I was stout and 64: for me it was fine for half a mile or so: after that it became tedious. It was much better without books in it than with, and from time to time I spent about 10 euros to send back home those guide books and other books that I would no longer need.

I select the highest berth, not the middle one or bottom, so once I have climbed up the little ladder into bed fellow travellers do not bother me as they come and go. Also, I am not responsible for fumbling the lock open in the middle of the night when the border police come knocking. Climbing onto them is part of the fun of night travel. But a correspondent who is six foot two inches avoids the top bunk if he can as it can get hot up there, and the curvature of the roof reduces feet-room slightly but for him crucially.

Two people together in a couchette like to be at the same level, so that they can talk a little -- but not after you put the lights out. If you don't get the right level bunks no worry: people are nearly always ready to swap if you ask pleasantly and before they settle.

In Spain you can book a whole room only, but usually you can book a single berth. An advantage of a shared room is conversation for half an hour with a stranger at bedtime. In my hotel I pack a carrier bag with water, pyjamas, toilet things, reading matter, timetable, and passport. A correspondent adds that if she is expecting to take several night trains she travels with a silk sleep sack (from www.dreamsack.com) and the top half of a shalwar kameez, a light Punjabi cotton top. She switches her top and bra for the shalwar kameez in the toilet and takes her trousers off in her berth. Other correspondents take earplugs, moist wipes, or a long wire lock that they can be loop around luggage and secured before they leave their seats.

In hotels in central Europe I write on a scrap of paper the times of any frontier checks. On the platform I ask a competent fellow traveller, or a railway staff member, to show me where my sleeping car will arrive (there are guide plans on notice boards to tell us) and at the train door I show the conductor my rail tickets and if there is a frontier my passport.

In the old European Union area, Norway and Switzerland the conductor does not wake you during the night. You hand over your rail tickets and passports as you board or ten minutes later, and 30 minutes before final arrival conductors wake you to hand them back. This is of course no cause for concern: what would it benefit a rail officer to fail to return your passport ?

Even for countries where in principle there are customs checks -- Switzerland is not in the European Union -- the task of passing passport and customs checks lies with the sleeping car conductor, acting on your behalf. This has been so for thirty years or more. In central Europe, I'm afraid, they wake you at each frontier, but you stay in bed, and hardly need to wake up fully.

The conductor shows me where my room is. I pull the carrier bag out of the big bag when I am inside my room, and ask a strong young person to put the big bag right up on an upper shelf, to stay the night there.

If my train leaves before eight and it has a restaurant car (as few do) I settle things in my room, ask the conductor to keep my room safe, carry my passport, and walk along to dinner. If I feel like it I open a bottle of wine, bought earlier, with a plastic mug to drink from. Also when the conductor
comes, if I am to arrive next morning after eight, I ask for morning service of a coffee, and a croissant or roll if one is on offer. If I am to arrive before eight I ask to be left asleep as late as can be. If after nine, I ask whether there is a restaurant or buffet car, and go next morning for coffee and an omlette.

You control the heating and lighting in your room. If there's a bright central light on you can switch it off, and use the little bedhead reading light. Whereas modern French couchettes have blinds on the window side and on the corridor side, many other couchettes have curtains, not blinds, so some people feel bothered at station platforms in the middle of the night, as station lamplight pours into the train. If there is no curtain you should ask the conductor for another room: I have never experienced this.

At the right moment the three of us switch off the main light and rely on our reading lights. We lock and chain the door, and sleep.

During the late evening and in the night if people in other rooms disturb me with talk or music I either tell them we in our room want to sleep or ask the conductor to do that. Nobody has a right to noise, and others as well as I will want quiet. I can do nothing about or sad babies or morning noise, but seldom hear them, as room doors are tightly fitted. Happy and talkative first-time youngsters are more a pleasure than a trouble, and at times I join their conversations. In British night trains dogs go in the luggage van with bicycles, and I think they are forbidden in continental sleepers: certainly I have never found them there.

On international journeys in central Europe I wake five minutes before frontiers are due, put on my reading light, unlock the door, and await frontier staff (others await their heavy knocking). They take ten minutes per country, and then I sleep again. Between Austria and Italy nobody calls.

An hour before the last station passengers start to bustle about. They wash, dress, pack, and have coffee or breakfast. The conductor brings them their tickets and perhaps passports. Travellers in top berths in 3 berth sleepers can stay in bed, as the other two passengers can fold up the middle bed and sit on the lower bed and move in comfort. Nearly everybody rises too early, so they render their night short. I like to snooze until a reasonable hour, then take my toilet bag to the toilet at the end of the corridor, unless I am alone, and wash in the room.

Again on arrival I like to avoid rush. Great stations are a pleasure of themselves. You can ask the conductor or a strong person for help in getting your big bag onto the platform. You tip the conductor ten euros or less, and ask him to give you a coin for the cash dispenser (often called Bankautomat), you take the coin and go to collect a luggage trolley (in German, Koffer Kuli) from the platform. Now you look for a cash machine and draw money against a plastic card (with better exchange rates and handier than travellers cheques). You wheel your bag to a newsagents shop to buy perhaps a ballpoint pen (for noting things to do and see) and an expensive UK or US newspaper in English, and certainly the local paper of Venice. This paper is cheap, and has a half page headed Culture, Diary, or Today in the City. You can read about music events: Bach means Bach and Hiphop means Hiphop in any tongue. Unless you speak the language theatre listings have nothing for you, alas. Armed with all this paper, with my Koffer Kuli beside me, I settle to coffee and omlette in the station restaurant, if possible with a proper chair, not a stool.

Now I go back to the station tourist office, if open, to book a room for my stay. Or I put my bag into the left luggage office, and walk or buy a 24 or 48 hour ticket from a machine at a tram stop and take a tram to follow the LP guide to find a room in the city. Among the advantages of sleeper travel is that normally a city has many rooms at nine in the morning, and I can look over a room before I accept it. Festivals and sports events are exceptions: Edinburgh can be booked out for August by late June.

Your hotel has a handful of armchairs and sometimes a lounge, so you can sit still and let the morning develop around you, not rush out to the first event. I often find that my room is in fact ready already at nine in the morning, at no extra cost, and catch up on any sleep.

On the other hand, many city tourist offices run a two hour walking tour of the city centre starting at ten am, and this is a good way to see fine buildings and get an idea of the shape of the place (In 1998 in Augsburg we were a walking group of eight, and asked so many questions that our 2 hour 5 dollar tour turned into 3 hours, to the mutual delight of our lecturer and ourselves, and we all had a great appetite for lunch).

I hope these notes may help enquirers. From them and from everybody I should welcome corrections and additions: I am [email protected].

Welcome to Europe

Ben Haines, London
[email protected]
ben_haines_london is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2006, 08:46 AM
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Even if you cannot check in, most hotels are set up so you can go there and leave your suitcase at their front desk. I know that is what I did twice with an early arrival in Venice.

There is left luggage at San Lucia station but I think it's better if possible to go drop it at your hotel, to save yourself the extra trip likely by vaporetto back to the train station to fetch it later on.

The choice you have on most overnight train routes is either a "couchette" which is shared with 3-5 other people and has flip-down bunk beds, or a private cabin (wagon-lit) where only two people have a private room with beds more like normal beds. Some trains offer normal seating also, some are set up with only the two types of sleeping cabins.
suze is online now  
Jul 23rd, 2006, 01:54 PM
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Posts: 3,000

The cost of a bunk or a bed in a night train depends on the type of cabin you choose and the country. I've paid from about $20 to $45. Sometimes breakfast is included in first class. Many include a pottie and some have a shower in the room. They all have a wash basin.

For an introduction to night trains, illustrated, have a look at

Virtually all train stations have lugage lockers -- small, medium, and jumbo. And most stations have an attended left luggage room.

You should be able to find a $100 double in your cities. Do some googling, e.g. B&B vienna or use the local spelling B+B wien. Or search for gasthof or fremdenzimmer wien to bring up a batch of possibilities.

hopscotch is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2006, 03:17 PM
Original Poster
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Many many thanks for the most comprehensive response. Your note was very helpful.

I have more questions, but I'll let you catch your breath!


huntley is offline  
Jul 24th, 2006, 01:39 PM
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In Venice try www.veniceby.com/gliangeli/pages/profile.htm

Sonia's email is, [email protected]

Her place was very inexpensive and wonderful.

For salzburg we liked http://www.privatvermieter.com/haus-ballwein/

if you have bit more to spend then stay at http://www.ammoos.at/main.php?language=en&m=home

Cheers, the turnip
turnip is offline  
Sep 28th, 2006, 11:43 AM
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Thanks for some great information on night trains.

My game plan is to travel from Sauze d' Oulx by train & I was leaning toward the night train (local to Turin) Turin to Rome. Any thoughts?
skiitaly is offline  
Oct 16th, 2006, 09:03 AM
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For Vienna-Venice or Vienna-Rome night trains, check www.oebb.at (Austrian Railways, with online booking, you pay online then print your own tickets in .PDF format)

Fares for these journeys start at 39 euros with couchette in 6-bunk room, 49 euros with couchette in 4-bunk room, 69 euros with bed in 2-bed sleeper.

Those AREN'T the supplement to be paid on top of a pass price. They are the complete fare, couchette or sleeper included..! Naturally, these deals are limited availability and must be booked in advance. But they are readily available to anyone, and beat any flight+hotel, or railpass+supplement, hands down.

Don't be conned into paying for an expensive railpass fi you can get these budget train fares!
Man_in_seat_61 is offline  

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