Sleepers vs. Couchettes

May 1st, 2005, 04:24 AM
Original Poster
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Sleepers vs. Couchettes

We want to travel by train from Paris to Florence and are stumped. What is the difference between a sleeper and a couchette? And, which is the most comfortable?
evanolan is offline  
May 1st, 2005, 04:34 AM
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Hi ev,

A sleeper is a compartment for 2 (T2) or 3 (T3), with private facilities (usually). A couchette is a compartment for 4 or 6.

The difference is between sleeping in a closet for 2 or a closet for 6.

If you can afford it, take a sleeper. If you can't afford it, sleep in your seat.

ira is offline  
May 1st, 2005, 04:47 AM
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Also, sleeper cars have sinks and bathrooms. Couchettes don't. With couchettes, you are in the same compartment with strangers (M and F) and it's expected you sleep in your clothes. Sleeper cars are same sex, unless family members, and you're free to change into night clothes if you prefer.
BarryK is offline  
May 1st, 2005, 05:17 AM
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Another good site with pictures and explanations is found at
Use the sidebar on the left accordingly.
Intrepid1 is offline  
May 1st, 2005, 09:50 AM
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sleeper compartments have sinks, but not always toilets. They are located on each car at one end, the other, or both.
Surfergirl is offline  
May 1st, 2005, 10:23 AM
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One big difference is that sleepers have beds, while couchettes are more or less flat shelves suspended from the walls.
Underhill is offline  
May 1st, 2005, 10:30 AM
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Sleepers are reasonably comfortable and private for 2 people traveling together; couchette beds/planks are less comfortable and you will share a small compartment with 4-6 strangers.

Not all sleepers have toilets in the cabins but do have a sink and window with toilet at the end of the car. The bottom bed flips up into a sofa. Is the configurtion I've always had.

If you can't spring for the cost of a private cabin, I would take a day train or fly instead.
suze is offline  
May 2nd, 2005, 07:32 AM
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"Sleeper cabins" are also concentrated in one or more "sleeper cars" that are added to the main train as required.

We took one from Venice to Vienna. It's not the most comfortable night of sleep you will have, but the privacy can make it cute and romantic if you're in the right frame of mind. The book up early as the train rarely adds extra sleeper cars.

The first-class couchettes are basically upper and lower pairs of bunk beds in each cabin. I would take one in a pinch.

The second-class couchettes are, as mentioned, bunk-above-bunk-above-bunk on each side of the cabin. Unless you're into the Amistad experience, avoid them -- you are indeed better off in a regular train seat, especially the special "recliner" seats on some trains that are meant for napping.
metlc is offline  
Apr 1st, 2006, 11:18 AM
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Sleeper = hotel on rails
Couchette = youth hostel on rails

A sleeper has proper beds in a carpeted room with washbasin. You sleep in a bed, undressed. Sleepers are always single sex unless your party occupies all berths.

Couchettes are padded bunks supplied with sheet, pillow and blanket. You don't normally get fully undressed, and the sexes are normally mixed.

See for pictures of each type of couchette and sleeper on the Paris-Florence night train.

Sleepers are much more comfy than couchettes, though my wife and I liked the 4-berth 'comfort' couchettes, with special fares available if you book in advance (70 euros one way per person) making them much cheaper.

There are NO seats (thank goodness) on the Paris-Florence train, and if there were, I wouldn't recommend taking them. Sleeping in ordinary seats on a night train is the rail equivalent of sleeping in a shop doorway. For both comfort and security, ALWAYS book a couchette or sleeper berth in a safely locked compartment.
Man_in_seat_61 is offline  
Apr 1st, 2006, 11:54 AM
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Youth hostel on rails - LOL!

Actually, I don't think sleeping in a train seat is much different from sleeping in an airplane. Wear some good noise-canceling earphones and make sure your goodies are secured before you pull down your sleep mask.
Robespierre is offline  
Apr 1st, 2006, 12:06 PM
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I agree with Robe.

Actually, I think sleeping in a train seat is more comfortable.

ira is offline  
Apr 1st, 2006, 02:23 PM
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There is one big difference. On an aeroplane, everyone is (trying) to sleep in the seats.

On a train, upper class people have all paid for a sleeper. Middle class people have all paid for a couchette. So what sort of people are you sharing with, in the cheapskate sit-up-all-night seats? Other people who are also so desperate they cant afford the couchette supplement. With no stewards or attendants on duty to keep order, and no lock on a seats compartment door, you are on your own. It's not a nice situation to be in all night!

But as I say, all passengers on the Paris-Florence night train get a berth included in the fare.
Man_in_seat_61 is offline  
Apr 1st, 2006, 04:52 PM
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The locks on compartments are a joke. Posts have been made on this very by people whose belongings were rifled after they had locked the door and gone to sleep.

And there are stay-up-all-night talkers on airplanes, too. That's why I recommend the noise cancellers.
Robespierre is offline  
Apr 1st, 2006, 04:55 PM
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...on this very forum...
Robespierre is offline  
Apr 1st, 2006, 10:09 PM
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We did the couchette from Vienna to Venice almost 20 years ago (so we were younger then - I was about 40 and DW was EARLY 30s) and had no problem with it. It wasn't fancy, but we weren't expecting fancy. We were joined by two female school teachers from Vienna taking a holiday to Venice. They were delightful (when we really met them the next morning). It was disconcerting to me when they disrobed to their pantyhose and climbed up the ladders to their berths, but that was my problem, not theirs.

knoxvillecouple is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2006, 11:02 AM
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A few years ago, maybe, 'the compartment locks were a joke'

Because the locks could be opened from the outside with a staff key. Which could be obtained if you knew how.

Now, there are new security locks. These CANNOT be opened fromm the outside.
Man_in_seat_61 is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2006, 11:49 AM
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We slept in a 6 person couchette from Switzerland to Venice. We booked the top two bunks for security reasons. We chained our lugguge to the rack with small locks. It must have been 100 degrees and very stuffy during the night. The lady in the bottom bunk opened the door to get some air and fell back to sleep. When she woke up, she discovered that her purse had been stolen with everything important gone...passport, money, credit cards etc. We always wear money belts as an extra measure. The beds in the couchette were comfortable enough but the stale air, heat and noises of the train pretty much kept us awake. I'm not sure I would consider an overnight train again unless I had a private sleeper. It would likely be stuffy, hot, with the same noise but at least I would not have to sleep in my cloths which might make you feel a little more comfortable.
CRAZY4TRAVEL is offline  

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