Riding in a sleeper train is a right of passage while backpacking through Europe. Watching beautiful scenery go by during the day, and sleeping in fold out the bunk beds at night seems like a great way to experience a country and get where you need to go. I had seen sleeper trains in movies and TV shows, and decided that this was a method of transportation I wanted to try!
I was planning a trip to France and Italy for the Summer of 2017, and I found a super Thello cheap overnight train from Venice to Paris for about 35 Euros (or about $55 CAD). These were third class bunks, with 6 people to a cabin. There were some upper class seats available for a bit more, but we decided to be cheap.
Our train was scheduled to leave around 7pm from Venice, so we made sure to stock up on some food for the 14 hour journey. When we boarded the train, we found our cabin and got settled it. The cabin already had two passengers in it; two men from Turkey who couldn’t speak much English. The cabin also came equipped with small pillows, a sheet, a blanket, and a bottle of water for each passenger. The middle bunk was folding up, so there was enough room for the guests to sit upright on the bottom bunks.
The train staff took our passports for the border crossings through Switzerland and Italy. We were a bit alarmed by this at first, but we got our passports back with no problems the next morning.
After a meal in our cabin, we decided to settle in for the night. We locked the door to our cabin and put our valuables underneath our pillow. I’ve heard quite a few stories about people getting their belongings stolen from an overnight train, so I was quite careful about keeping my valuables close. A few hours later, the train came to a stop and there was a pounding on the door. Two more guests were scheduled to join our cabin during the stop in Milan. We thought we had just gotten lucky by only having 2 other passengers!
After some rearranging, we all got settled in. Every passenger’s ticket has an assigned bunk number on it. If you’re travelling by yourself, that bunk is going to be your only option, unless you can get a stranger to switch with you. Luckily, I was travelling with my boyfriend and was able to convince him to take my coffin-like bottom bunk. Overall, I didn’t sleep well at all on the train. There was a heat wave in Southern Europe and the cabin was sweltering. My boyfriend tried to open a window, but another passenger kept trying to close it.
Overall, I don’t know if I would rush to take another sleeper train again. It was a good experience, but I just couldn’t sleep very much. I might pay a bit more for a cabin with a few less people.
If you’re booking train tickets in Europe, I would recommend using the following website: www.trainline.eu. They only sell tickets that can be printed from home, and easily allow you to compare tickets.
Do you want to hear more about my travel experiences in Europe? Let me know in the comments below!