traveling the night trains

Jul 9th, 2011, 09:43 PM
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traveling the night trains

My friend and I are planning a trip to France and Italy, hoping to travel by train between longer stays, utilizing the travel/sleep advantage of the night trains. Does anyone have personal experience with this mode of travel? In particular, between Paris and Sarlat, Sarlat (or neighboring towns, even Bordeaux) and Chamonix, Chamonix and Milan.
annaleelarimore is offline  
Jul 10th, 2011, 05:58 AM
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Hi A,

Sleeping on trains is not as romantic and pleasant as movies and TV make it appear to be, unless you are going in a 1cl private dbl compartment.

Schedules and prices for France are at Italy is at

ira is online now  
Jul 10th, 2011, 06:10 AM
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once for the experience -- sure. But multiple sleeper train trips is not a good idea IMO. One sleepless night most anybody can manage OK. But 2 or 3 or 4 during a vacation will leave you exhausted. Now, you may sleep just fine on a train, some do. But many don't.
janisj is online now  
Jul 10th, 2011, 08:57 AM
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I slept well on a night train from Paris to Irun, and on many others throughout Europe. For an illustrated introduction to night trains see The *white noise* of a moving train is very conducive to sleep. I only wake when the train comes to a stop.
spaarne is offline  
Jul 10th, 2011, 09:48 AM
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spaarne: I sleep pretty well on trains to. But many people can't. I took the sleeper from London to Edinburgh -- slept great -- my friend was awake the entire night.

The problem is -- one doesn't know which camp they are in until they are already on the trip . . .
janisj is online now  
Jul 10th, 2011, 10:00 AM
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What you have to watch for is transfers during the night or early in the morning and how long you hang around before leaving again.

One night train from Paris to Sarlat has you sitting for an hour in Cahors at 6:30 am and then transferring to a bus in Souillac after a 4.5 hour wait. The other night train has better communicating times but involves 3 transfers, beginning at 5:30 and ending with the bus at Souillac, although this transfer time is only 15 minutes.

Better take a day train from Paris to Sarlat or find a different routing such as through Bordeaux.

I'll let you do the rest of the work on this but now you have an idea of what to watch for.
adrienne is offline  
Jul 10th, 2011, 10:05 AM
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once for the experience -- sure. But multiple sleeper train trips is not a good idea IMO.>

this is a subjective take and after doing multiple overnight trains - sometimes even on consecutive nights now for decades I say go for it for the same reasons I do - cover large swathes of ground at night and save on a night's lodging cost. Now of course if one cannot sleep on overnight trains and there is inevitably some clickety-clakety noise even in a private compartment then overnight trains make little sense if one arrives train-lagged in the morning. Me I sleep well on overnight trains even in multi-person couchettes - where there is also noise from fellow compartment mates like the ubiquitous loud snorer or the bloke who goes in and out of the compartment late at night several times, etc.

But bring some wine and food aboard as locals do and the wine at least may help you snooze - and bring earplugs as well if noise is a bother.

Remember it is your decision based on your proclivities and not for others to sternly say multiple overnight trains is a bad idea - it may be for them but not for you (and I!).

France pretty much only has couchettes on trains I believe - 4- and 6-person berths - the first class private doubles Ira recommends I understand at least do not exist - just 4- and 6-person couchettes - first- and second-class couchettes if you like. But I may be wrong about that and there may indeed be single, double and triples - the standard fare in sleeping cars as opposed to couchette wagons - there are on trains going out of France but on domestic ones I think not. but again could be wrong and that would not be the first time so!

Anyway for lots on French trains, overnight trains and railpasses (yes a French Railpass for such wide ranging itinerary can be not only cost-effective, especially in first class which you would need to use the T-4 or 4-person counttes but provides you the flexibility to decide to travel once there instead of going the discount online ticket route with non-changeable and non-refundable tickets you must book weeks in advance often to get - anyway check out these fab IMO sites -;; I have never had any real problem booking overnight trains in France with a railpass - even shortly before the train.
PalenQ is offline  
Jul 10th, 2011, 10:26 AM
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PQ -- my comments are no more 'subjective' than yours . . .
janisj is online now  
Jul 10th, 2011, 10:33 AM
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Getting from Paris to Sarlat by train isn't even all that easy during the day. I'd research that route very carefully. You're much better off going to Bordeaux or Libourne or Brive or Périgueux. And once you're actually in the Dordogne, there is little public transportation that's of any use to tourists.
StCirq is online now  
Jul 10th, 2011, 10:39 AM
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Most night trains leaving from Paris are international trains. Domestic night trains designed to arrive at a civilized time are mostly to southwest France, which doesn't have TGV tracks all the way yet, and that gives them an excuse to slow down.
kerouac is online now  
Jul 11th, 2011, 10:40 AM
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PQ -- my comments are no more 'subjective' than yours>

exactly and IF you would have read my full comment you would have found that is exactly what I said!

- those are my very words in my post that you would have seen if you had read my post!
PalenQ is offline  
Jul 16th, 2011, 07:59 AM
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Now, you may sleep just fine on a train, some do. But many don't.>

wonder where this type of statement comes from as it always pops up - some survey of travelers on overnight trains?

I have taken zillions of overnight trains in multi-person couchettes - the noisiest option and I can say that nearly everyone seems to be sleeping away quite well - I would say it is relatively few folks who are so bothered by a little noise and these type will also find many European hotels to be so noisy as well if they are on main streets as many are.
PalenQ is offline  
Jul 16th, 2011, 08:42 AM
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I traveled in Greece this year with 4 women I had not travelled with before. In Athens, one of them had a 2nd-floor front room in the hotel on a central athens street. But it is only 1 lane each way, and was across from an open square, AND there were double-glazed windows closed, & a/c on. IN the morning she complained of being kept awake. However, later evidence showed that she has had sleep problems for many years, ever since thyroid surgery ... and later in the trip often complained of "being kept awake" in isolated island hotels, where the loudest noise was the soft lapping of water on the beach.

Conclusion: light sleepers & persons with sleep problems will have difficulties everywhere, but some of them blame it on the train, the bed, the birds, the sea etc.
travelerjan is offline  
Jul 18th, 2011, 09:10 AM
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Light sleepers should not take overnight trains. Period. there is some noise always. Folks who are not bothered by a realtively small amount of noise should sleep fine - especially after swilling some local vino like I do - folks who are not awaken by the singing of birds in the early morning should sleep just fine on trains. the idea that trains are so noisy that the average folk cannot sleep on them is just a thought not based on really taking any overnight trains.
PalenQ is offline  
Jul 18th, 2011, 09:24 AM
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You do really need to look at schedules - there is no train from Paris to Sarlat - it goes to Souillac, and you take a coach from Souillac to Sarlat. Not at night though.

I have taken the train from Brive, just north of Souillac, to Paris, and it wasn't great. (The night train may not even stop at Souillac. It doesnt always.)

Once I had the whole 6 person couchette to myself, with lot of room to put my luggage, lots of privacy. Still didn't sleep a lot, but OK.

The next time I was in there with 5 other people - no idea who they were as it was dark when I got on. No room for my luggage except at my feet, and who knows who the other people were. Everything was fine, but as a single woman I did have several thoughts during the night!

Despite the very good train system in France, you can't always go where you want when you want. Getting to Milan my involve transfers and long waits. So check the schedules carefully.

Or consider budget flights

(We did however take the train across Australia in February - 4 days, 3 nights, with our own cabin. That's something very different!)
Carlux is offline  
Jul 19th, 2011, 12:37 AM
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I've taken many night trains, always in a private sleeping compartment (except in my 20s when I took couchettes). The first time I liked it, but became progressively less enthralled. Now I avoid night trains completely - I'd much rather take day trains. I've taken some long day trains - Brussels to Vienna, for example, usually traveling in first class, so there's plenty of leg room. I enjoy them much more - I like to see where I'm going. Even on trips that I've made many times (Brussels to Vienna or Milan, for example), I still prefer the day trains and always see something new and interesting.
It's not the noise that bothers me - things are pretty quiet in a private sleeping compartment. I simply prefer travel by day in a comfortable train with a decent restaurant car and then a good hotel at night.
FoFoBT is offline  

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