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Taking an overnight train - what are couchettes like?

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Sep 22nd, 2010, 06:24 AM
  #1
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Taking an overnight train - what are couchettes like?

We (2 couples) are planning on taking an overnight train from Munich to Rome next April. To save money we are thinking of booking a 4-person couchette. I've seen pictures but can't tell how big the couchette is. Will 4 adults be really cramped? Is there any privacy?

Before anyone says anything, I don't expect to get a lot of sleep. We took an overnight train a few years back from Vienna to Rome, in a private sleeper compartment, so I know how overnight trains work and all about the lack of sleep. This time I'll be coming equiped with Ambien!

Thanks!
Tracy
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Sep 22nd, 2010, 06:56 AM
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What do you mean by privacy? If you've seen pictures, you know it is four bunk beds in a small room with little overhead space and little space between the two rows of beds. The beds aren't even as comfortable as a normal bunk bed at home might be because they are flip-down beds. No, there is no privacy, how could there be, unless you think what you do under your covers is private. The four berth mainly give you more headroom than 6 berth, as there are only two on each side.
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Sep 22nd, 2010, 07:05 AM
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I've slept in one, and found it comfortable, but I was a child at the time, and even as an adult, I'm fairly small and can sleep through anything. I think the only real point to booking them would be if you had a strong preference for lying down, instead of sitting up all night. I would, but I know I'll sleep, and I always feel more rested if I'm lying down.
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Sep 22nd, 2010, 07:10 AM
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If you want privacy on a CNL train you will need two T-2 cabins in 1st class. Otherwise get a T-4 in 1st or 2nd class and keep your clothes on. There is very little space for luggage. Learn more at http://tinyurl.com/y57vft, including some photos.

I always get a good sleep on overnight trains. I wake when the train stops in a station but fall back to sleep almost immediately when it starts moving again. A bottle of vino helps.
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Sep 22nd, 2010, 07:54 AM
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Well I'm thinking it will be private for the 4 of you but yes, you will all be together in a fairly small space. Another factor - make sure you are traveling with fairly compact luggage - several times I have been in compartments like this will other travelers with big bags - there is very limited floor space - you need to be able to heft the bags up into overhead racks that are not large. Personally, I enjoy the overnight trains for one night in a two week trip. Certainly more comfortable than the flight over - with ambien, I am well rested tho a bit grungy.
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Sep 22nd, 2010, 08:13 AM
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I have taken that train several times and always in a 4-person compartment - and most of the time i've been in with really nice folks and have had interesting discussions with Austrians and Italians - but to your Q is it cramped? Not if everyone is packed normal - but if they have big bags over the floor, etc it can make it harder to get out at night to go to the loo, etc.

I have never felt really crowded and i always ask for the upper berth when booking because up there there is much more room - there is an extension that goes over the outside corridor to store bags - much more secure than leaving them down below IMO - and you have a lot more privacy as you are not interrupted when folks form above come down in the night to go out, etc.

You could book both upper berths and you and your wife would be sleeping across from each other and share the ample baggage storage area. But if you are not a lithe yogi you could have problems climbing the ladders - well that is an exaggeration but anyone with any knee problems, etc may want the lower berths.

For loads on overnight trains and European trains in general check out these IMO spuerb sights - www.seat61.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com; www.ricksteves.com
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Sep 22nd, 2010, 09:58 AM
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A problem could be noise - and you realize this but for others there is always the clickety-clakety noise of the tracks - more on some rail lines than others and also the notorious snoring problem - i have been in compartments with very loud snorers - and though i can sleep well - with the aid of wine, which you can of course bring into the compartment along with any food you like (as long as it does not emit some odious odor like stinky cheese, etc) but light sleepers may be bothered.

Couchettes IME are a crap shoot but also IME usually an interesting experience with really decent folk.
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Sep 22nd, 2010, 10:16 AM
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Thank you all! For privacy I guess I should have asked if there are any hanging curtains to close off each bunk? Or are the beds wide open? I couldn't tell by looking at some of the pictures.

The price of a four-person couchette is about 125 euro less than getting two separate cabins, but I'm not sure if the money saved will be worth it. We are going with our best friends, but I don't want any awkwardness or arguing over noise, etc.

Thanks! And PalenQ, thanks so much for the links! I've been on Seat 61 but I haven't checked Rick Steves or the other website so I'll definitely do so.

Tracy
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Sep 22nd, 2010, 10:36 AM
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I guess it depends on how comfortable you are with sharing that space with your friends. I'd share a 4 bunk couchette with our best friends, no problem.
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Sep 22nd, 2010, 10:44 AM
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It's actually my husband's best friend and his wife. I'm good friends with them as well, but we have never lived in the same city at the same time and so I don't spend a lot of time with them.
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Sep 22nd, 2010, 11:01 AM
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The good thing is that snoring will be covered by the train noise.
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Sep 22nd, 2010, 11:16 AM
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I've been on a lot of overnight couchettes. The worst annoyance I've experienced was when two French guys took their shoes off. Phew!! Their socks hadn't been washed in months.

There are no curtains on the bunks. Just wide open. You do get a blanket, a tiny pillow, and sometimes a bottle of water.
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Sep 22nd, 2010, 11:39 AM
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To me the money saved would definitely NOT be worth it. It's not just about completely lack of privacy (although that's certainly part of it) but the beds (size, configuration, linens, etc.) in a private double sleeper are better than in a couchette.
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Sep 22nd, 2010, 12:08 PM
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but oh so more expensive! If all friends i would do it as long as i know one of the parties don't snore loudly. Spend the 125 euros on a nice lunch once in Rome and that will make everyone happy!
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Sep 22nd, 2010, 12:48 PM
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PalenQ~
Obviously everyone has to make their own decision, but I am a very light sleeper and there is NO way I'd be able to get ANY sleep in a shared compartment with the type of beds you find in couchettes. So for me would be a guaranteed sleepless night (and ruin my next couple days of the trip). So if I could not afford the private compartment (where I can in fact get at least some sleep) I personally would make other arrangements and take a day train or a flight instead.
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Sep 22nd, 2010, 01:58 PM
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suze - i hear you very well and agree with all you say - if you are a light sleeper it is counter productive to arrive early in the morning in a strange city wiped out and having to nap during the day to recover - and private compartments are also not noise-free - due to the noise of wheels going over tracks and station loud speakers, etc. And also folks talking outside the room in the corridors - but at least there is no noise from strangers.

I do get very annoyed when some folks just point blanketly say 'you will never sleep on an overnight train' - often based on a single overnight train trip - they do not sleep for various reasons but many can and do sleep thru lots of noise, including moi.

so i do agree with you - it is a personal thing and you should do whatever is comofortable for you.
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Sep 22nd, 2010, 02:28 PM
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It's not about *me* (lol) since I have no trip to Europe planned anytime soon. Just sharing my own past experiences with tcreath to help her figure out whether for her group this is a good idea or not.
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Sep 22nd, 2010, 02:46 PM
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Thank you all. I'm not really a light sleeper once I'm asleep, but it can take me quite awhile to get to sleep if I have to deal with reading lights and conversation and other noise right around me. I certainly don't want a sleepless night. Our last overnight train experience wasn't the best, but it wasn't really the train itself (although noisy) but more of the excitement of being on our first overnight train. We woke up at 5:30 am in Florence exhausted! I think we may have to spring for our own cabins.
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Sep 22nd, 2010, 02:48 PM
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good idea ;-)
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Sep 23rd, 2010, 10:07 AM
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but it can take me quite awhile to get to sleep if I have to deal with reading lights and conversation and other noise right around me>

even with strangers i rarely experience anyone talking late or even staying up - there is a reading light in each berth that would not bother anyone else - the overhead lights are usually switched off early on. and if traveling with friends i expect the noise problem would be abated.
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