Category Archives for "Night Trains"

Sleeping on a night train
Mar 12

13 Hacks for Sleeping like a Baby on Any Night Train

By Edward | Night Trains

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13 Hacks to Sleeping on any Night Train

Sleeping on a night train. Silent Hunter asks: "What is your advice for getting a good night's sleep on a sleeper or couchette train?" Here is what I came up with in one morning. I haven't done all of these things yet, but I shall definitely try them next time.

It is always a challenge, sleeping on a night train. Or indeed any environment to which you are not accustomed, be it at your in-laws, under a bridge, or just on a new mattress.


I've racked my brains and screwed up all my years of experience with night trains. I touched this subject in a post I wrote for Amateur Traveler Podcast. Here is what I came up with to help you sleep:

1.

Be tired

"Oh come on, Ed! I thought you said HACKS?" Sorry for stating the obvious, but this is a big one. It helps to be tired. Get this right and nothing else matters. Be up nice and early the morning of your journey and do lots of stuff. Say, trudging around Venice all day. 

2.

Drink

I mean alcohol. If you can. Beer contains hops and hops make you sleep. Beer contains alcohol and alcohol relaxes. Relaxation makes you less tense. This can help with sleeping on a night train. Aim for a small, strong IPA. In Germany, some kind of Export. In Italy, Speciale. Or just have red wine.

3.

Don't drink

Beer contains water and water makes you pee. So don't have too much. There is nothing worse than waking up on a night train and sort of needing to pee and then agonising for hours whether to... 

  • put on your wig and clump down the corridor with your strappy sandals not strapped up? 
  • or just go back to sleep?
The answer to this, by the way, is immediately to get up and get it over with. If you force yourself back to sleep against your bladder, guess what? In the morning, when everybody is going to the loo, you'll be desperate and have to wait. And end up gulping stone-cold coffee half inside your coat as your train stops at your destination. But I digress.
Sleeping on a night train

Polish Rail are very generous with the beverages. It's a trap.

4.

Consider ear plugs

Personally, I don't ever use ear plugs. But other people do. Ear plugs are definitely a thang for sleeping on a night train. The train is moving, there will be noise. 


Once I had a sleeper in which somewhere, behind the cladding, something  kept softly tapping at irregular intervals. It drove me insane and I slept about one hour. I would have needed ear-plugs then.


The Hungarian couchettes that run between Zürich, Munich, Vienna and Budapest have very loud air conditioning. Imagine sleeping on the wing of Concorde. Ear plugs would be good there.

5.

Go for a walk

If you really cannot sleep, don't just lie there, fuming. Put on your wig and your strappy sandals and go for a wander up and down the train.


If you are on a train with a dining car, and it is open, good for you. Have yourself a drink. If there is no dining car, you might still get something from the staff. I remember an American waking me coming at 3.30 AM and buying peanuts and a coke from me.


Go to the very front of the train and watch the engine powering through the night. Then go to the very back and watch the stars spiralling in the vastness of the cosmos as the train winds its way through the dark. Ponder your insignificance.

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6.

Pour your heart out

Chase down the attendant and strike up a conversation. A sleeper attendant is like a barkeeper. If you want to pour out your heart, they are there for you.


Many's the night I've listened to some insomniac's story. Once on the way to Venice I had a beautiful chain-smoking Albanian (let's call her Aferdita) telling me about her forced marriage all the way from Rosenheim to Tarvisio. That's five hours.

7.

Bring sticking plaster, newspaper and blu tack

I'm on a roll now. Keep a small roll of sticking plaster and a little bit of blu tack (Americans: Poster Tack) in your toiletry bag. These can be invaluable for keeping the door of the washbasin shut or preventing said door from vibrating in its hinges. Newspaper is also good for such interventions. 

Sleeping on a night train

Doors can sometimes open or vibrate. Tape, blu tack or newspaper can help fix this.

8.

Try lying the other way

Sometimes it helps to lie the other way. Let's say you are lying in a bottom couchette with your head next to door. Now let's say someone keeps getting up, putting a wig on, fumbling with their strappy sandals and banging the door. You'll have much more peace with your head at the window. 


Here is something fun to try: lie on your back, looking upwards out the window at the stars. Now imagine everything upside down. All of a sudden you are soaring through the darkness, watching the stars drift light-years below you.

9.

Leave your phone alone

Another old hat, but I'm still going to mention it: try and resist the temptation to play with your phone. If you see what time it is, you might feel stressed by how little time you've got left. Then there's the blue light the screen emits. Scientists say this screws up your sleep cycle.

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10.

Master the air conditioning

Most sleeping cars now have air conditioning. Me, I prefer windows, but I'm an old fuddy-duddy. Always have been.

Sometimes the air conditioning can emit very dry air, parching your nose and mouth. This has stopped me from sleeping on a night train, I can tell you. Here's what to do:


  1. if there's a control knob, turn it down to cooler. It won't make much difference, as there is only one unit feeding all compartments. However, cooler air absorbs less moisture.
  2. Moisten (don't soak!) a flannel with water and drape it over such vents as you can find. The main vent is often at the bottom of the window frame. The aim is not to obstruct the air - merely to humidify it as it streams into your compartment.
  3. Don't ask the attendant to turn the air conditioning off. They won't. If they did, it would be 30 seconds before someone else came complaining. 
Sleeping on a night train

Polish Sleeping car compartment

11.

Safeguard your valuables

This applies in all compartments, but especially if sharing with other people.


Put your valuables somewhere safe when sleeping on a night train. You needn't be super original. It's enough that your wallet is harder to find than other people's. Also, spread your stuff about so that if something does get stolen, you don't lose everything.


That said, things don't get stolen that often. More important than anything else is to acquaint yourself with the locking mechanism and use it.


In 2015-2016 we had a terrible infestation with pickpockets on the Munich-Amsterdam line. After Frankfurt I would make a round and check that every couchette door was locked from the inside. Most were open, in spite of my exhortations to lock them.



12.

Book something in the middle of the carriage

This is advanced geekiness, but for some people this makes a difference. I factor it in. When booking, ask to be placed in the middle of the carriage. In couchettes, that is berths 51-56, 61-66 and 71-76. In sleepers it is harder to say, but 31-35, 32-36 and 41-45 are a safe bet. The benefit is threefold:


  1. You are not above squealing bogies
  2. You are far from the loos, so fewer people lumber by
  3. You are further from doors opening and closing.

On the Russian and Ukrainian railways' sites you can choose your berth on a little map. The Nightjet hasn't got this cool feature yet.

13.

Try not to give a toss

If you follow all the above tips to the letter and turn up expecting to sleep, you are doomed to fail. You won't sleep a wink. Sleep is about letting it happen, rather than making it happen. [Insert more trite wisdom about sleep here].


If you really can't sleep, just accept that it wasn't to be. You are more likely to sleep on a night train then.  

Bonne nuit / Buona notte / Gute Nacht / Спокойной ночи

I started off writing 6 tips, then went up to 9 and finally 13 as new ideas kept piling in.


A combination of these tips ought to help you get to sleep quickly on a night train. I have aimed to give you stuff that is relaxing, changes your thoughts and makes you more ready for sleep.


Then when the conductor knocks and brings you your breakfast you'll wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.


This post is part of my Ask Me Anything series. If you want to Ask Me Anything, join the Rail Guide Europe club and shoot me an email...


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Astra Transcarpatic Review
Dec 17

Astra Trans Carpatic’s Overnight Service

By Edward | Night Trains

​Astra Trans Carpatic: a New Night Train in Europe

​I know what you’re thinking, and no:

I paid for my ticket and travelled as a normal passenger.

Astra Trans Carpatic didn’t know I was coming, and if they ​did, so what? I’m not a famous blogger or influencer. I’m just a weirdo dragging his wife and baby across Eastern Europe by train, because train bloggers don’t go by plane ever.

Astra Trans Carpatic at Arad

Astra Trans Carpatic ready to leave Arad

Astra Trans Carpatic is a Romanian train operator that belongs to Astra Vagoane, who make trains. In February 2017 they started running an overnight service between Arad on Romania’s western border and Bucharest, using their own carriages.

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In the summer months the ​service is extended from Bucharest to the Black Sea port of ​Constanța, making it possible to traverse the whole of Romania - from the Puszta through the Carpathians to the ​shores of the Black Sea - in thirteen hours.

The ​tidings of a new overnight service in Europe reached me ​between sobs in the office I had ​washed up in after Deutsche Bahn axed its ​CityNightLines and with them my ​job. After decades of night trains being ​closed down, this was a lovely bit of good news and I have ​wanted to pay Astra Trans Carpatic a visit ever since.

Astra Trans Carpatic review

Astra Trans Carpatic ready to leave Arad

​Astra Trans Carpatic's Timetable

As mentioned above, the Astra Trans Carpatic traverses Romania from East to West and West to East over night and over the Carpathians. Here is their eastbound timetable, as of 15th December 2019:

Astra Trans Carpatic Timetable

Astra Trans Carpatic 2020 timetable Arad-Bucuresti Nord

07:05 is a great time to arrive in Bucharest. It is wonderful is to watch the Romanian capital stir and come to life.

Astra Trans Carpatic Review

Rays of the morning sun creeping down the facade of Bucharest Gara de Nord

Here is the westward timetable, as of 15th December 2019:

Astra Trans Carpatic Timetable

Astra Trans Carpatic timetable from Bucuresti Nord to Arad

​The westbound service has perfect timing in every way.

What are the carriages like?

​The carriages are built to standard European specifications (for the nerds: UIC-Z, essentially Eurofima from the 1970s and 1980s), meaning they can be used almost anywhere on the Continent - good for when Astra Trans Carpatic goes international, or if they give up and sell the coaches.

They are painted in a wonderfully cheerful yellow-green livery which makes them immediately recognisable.

Astra Trans Carpatic Review

The yellow-green livery of Astra Trans Carpatic

​Seated coach

Astra Transcarpatic Review

The seated coach on the Astra Trans Carpatic

Last time I travelled overnight sitting up (from Košice to Bratislava, about seven years ago) my companions were a group of ​gypsies munching bread and sausage​ in the dark and scowling at me, followed by a friendly drunk who looked like Asterix in a communist polyester suit ​and ended up embracing and kissing me and giving me slivovitz.

Also, since working on the night trains and regularly seeing what ​goes on in seated cars at night, I've come to avoid ​them. But if I had to, Astra Trans Carpatic's car is one I could imagine travelling in.

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​Astra’s 2nd class seated car is probably one of the nicest in Romania - it is ​worlds ​better than the 2nd class on the ICE or the Railjet, simply because Astra has taken the trouble to align the seats with the windows. On newer Deutsche Bahn trains you may ask for a window seat and find yourself ​staring at a wall.

Carpeted floor, 2+2 seating, leather seats, functioning air conditioning, sockets for every seat - Astra has done well. Some seats are arranged in sets of four around a decent-sized table.

Astra Transcarpatic Review

Leather seats, a decent fold-out table, sockets underneath

​The Couchettes

​Astra only does 4-berth couchettes. This is a good thing. 4-berth is much more civilised than 6-berth, better for air-quality and space to move.

The bunks have proper mattresses, a big pillow and a real duvet. You make your bed yourself with linen provided. Thus, though sold as a couchette, it is more like a 4-berth sleeper. Each berth has a power outlet next to the night light. There is a shower at the end of the corridor.

Astra Transcarpatic Review Couchette

An upper couchette bunk on the Astra Trans Carpatic

​One of the nicest couchettes I’ve ever seen, on par with the Russian 4-berth sleeper running on the Moscow-Nice and Moscow-Paris services.

Astra Transcarpatic Review

Astra Trans Carpatic Couchette

​The Sleeping Cars

​Now for the sleepers. Each sleeper carriage has ten compartments with two berths each - Astra doesn’t do T3 berths. Two is the maximum amount of people in a compartment.

This is much higher welfare than the CityNightLine and Nightjet Comfortline carriages that squeeze two more compartments with three berths into the same ​26.4 meters of length.

Astra Transcarpatic Review

Astra Trans Carpatic sleeping car

​The compartment is carpeted and the walls are clad with faux-walnut. Anything not in faux-walnut is painted a similar ochre colour. The duvets are nice and long, so your feet are covered, and the pillows are a decent size.

Astra Transcarpatic Review

Interior of Astra Transcarpatic sleeper compartment

​Three of the compartments have a futuristic en-suite bathroom with a loo, a shower and a sink. Mine was spotless. Here’s one fun Eastern European hack Astra has done: Install an upside-down handdryer as a hairdryer​.

The shower was fabulous. Both hot and cold water at decent pressure, cool lighting, no funny smells. Obviously the equipment is new, but I hope they manage to ​maintain this standard.

Astra Transcarpatic Review

Astra Trans Carpatic deluxe sleeper compartment with en-suite bathroom door ajar

What I particularly like is the lighting. There is an array of switches over the door that controls them. Next to your pillow there are also light switches.

If you turn all the lights off you have true darkness, which is great - in most sleepers you are still left with some sort of LED shining in your face. The Nightjet sleeper has a little white button I feel compelled to cover, and PKP's new and refurbished sleepers have an appalling blue LED blaring all night.

Astra Trans Carpatic Review

Clever: the hair dryer in the Astra Trans Carpatic shower

​How Astra Trans Carpatic treats you

​Having described the train itself, we shall now have a look at the service concept on Astra Trans Carpatic.

Astra Trans Carpatic review

Corridor on the Astra Trans Carpatic Sleeper

​In the Evening

​After the train sets off the attendant knocks and wants to see your ticket. In my case it was a QR code on my smartphone. All the attendant did was look at it cursorily. No scanning, nothing. Of course, if you are in your compartment and no one else lays claim to it, and they have you on their list, there is no reason to go scanning QRs or looking at ID cards.

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One thing I missed on both my trips was complementary water. I think a bottle of water should definitely be included in the price of one's berth.

​On both my trips there were no towels ready in the compartment, but when I asked for them (​proSOP, vâ rog)​ the attendant gave me some straight away.​

Astra Trans Carpatic shower

The shower in a deluxe compartment on the Astra Trans Carpatic

​In the Morning

​In the morning ​they wake you with a knock on the door. On my arrival in Bucharest there was no breakfast - maybe because it was impossibly early (05:28 AM) or maybe because the attendant had forgotten.

On my arrival at Arad, on my return journey, there was ​weapons-grade instant coffee and a plastic-wrapped submarine sandwich with chicken and red pepper in it. I don't know what it tasted like.

​I digress

​As ​a sleeping car attendant who has made thousands of night train breakfasts and thrown away almost as many, I think breakfasts are a waste of workers' time, the punters' money and precious food. 

What people need is a hot drink and a small, energising snack to ​keep the wolf from the door as they drag themselves home or to the next bar. ​Wagon Slovakia, who do the night trains in Slovakia, get it right with their cup of coffee and waffle bar. No fuss, you drink your coffee lying down and eat or don't eat your waffle bar, or you take it with you for later.

Breakfast on the Astra Trans Carpatic

Breakfast on the Astra Trans Carpatic

Sleeping car people can afford not only to go in the sleeping car. They can also afford food allergies and paleo diets. Then there are vegans. There is no lowest common food denominator a rail company can fall back to, so it is better to keep breakfast as low-key as possible. The Russians have it only on the very best trains, and then it comes fresh from the dining car.

On my ​CityNightLines ​so much food was wasted. ​And it went everywhere as people ​​​​​​scrabbled about getting their mobile phones, neck cushions and babies' favourite blankets together.​​​

​But I digress.

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The ​Minibar

​The train is not long - only four carriages - and so it doesn’t have the length to support a restaurant car, sadly.

There is a minibar with all the usual stuff on sale - "drinks and light refreshments" is the technical term, I believe. I'd brought my own, so I didn't use it. Once I tried to get water, but couldn't chase down the attendant and lost interest.

Astra Trans Carpatic Corridor

My daughter tries to escape

​Lost Property

​As a blogger in the service of my readers I am prepared to go to extraordinary lengths. One of these lengths is to forget ​a mobile phone, a neck cushion and a baby’s favourite blanket on the train.

A shunter found me wandering around the sidings of Arad station. I explained in my ​best Romanian that I had lost my phone. He made some phone calls and asked my to wait by the ​casa de bilete.

Half an hour later an Astra Trans Carpatic worker appeared with all of the things I'd left. ​

Astra Trans Carpatic Review

The sink in the en-suite bathroom on the Astra Trans Carpatic Sleeper

​Why use this train?

​On the whole, most people on their way to ​Romania will opt for the Euronight 473 ​Ister ​from Budapest to Bucharest, or the Euronight 347 ​Dacia ​from Vienna to Bucharest.​​​​​​

My reasons for going on Astra Trans Carpatic were threefold:

1. I wanted to ​review it for the blog

2. Unlike the Euronights, it got me to Bucharest with ample spare time to change onto my onward train to Varna at 12:45 PM. The Dacia arrives too late, and the Ister at 12:05 PM. Only mad dogs and bahn.de think 40 minutes are enough to change onto a once-daily service in the Balkans.

3. It was easy to book online.

Astra Transcarpatic Review

The shuttered art nouveau casino on the Constanța sea front

​​Pros of using this train

​1. It is the only overnight train from the West that gets you to Bucharest with enough time to change onto the southbound 12:45 PM ​​Romania ​service to Bulgaria and Turkey​​​

2. ​​Astra Trans Carpatic is a new, open-access operator, and like on Italo in Italy and Westbahn in Austria, ​it shows with the staff: they are exceptionally polite and motivated

3. It has brand-new, luxurious carriages

4. It is competitively priced

5. As mentioned above, it gets you all the way from the Puszta to the Black Sea without changing. Get on at Arad at 20:27, arrive Constanța at 10:35 the next morning.

Astra Trans Carpatic Review

CFR Steam Engine in front of Arad station

​Cons of using this train

1. You have to get yourself to Arad first. Currently, the latest train that gets you from Budapest to Arad in time for the Astra Trans Carpatic is the IC 75 Transylvania, leaving Budapest at 09:10 and arriving at Arad at 14:39. Any later service gets to Arad too late.

2. You then spend five hours waiting at Arad. However, I found time passed quickly. Lunch, a walk along the river and a small shop. People who like trams: Arad has second-hand trams from all over Europe plying its huge tram network. It's like a tram zoo out there.

Also, the time is well spent getting acclimatised to Romania, Romanian and Romania's plastic bank notes. 

3. You can't use Interrail or Eurail on Astra Trans Carpatic, or indeed any long distance international train tickets.

Astra Trans Carpatic Review

Arad is ideal for acclimatising oneself to Romania

​How to work the Astra Trans Carpatic into your itinerary​, eastwards and westwards

​Eastbound

​Going east towards Bucharest, you'll want to join the Astra Trans Carpatic either at Arad, like I did, or at ​​Timișoara, the next station up the line. ​​Timișoara is a bigger town with more ​for ​the tourist to see. There are no more trains from Belgrade to ​​Timișoara, so one must always come from Hungary.

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I have played around with the timetables and always end up with the IC 75 Transsylvania that leaves Budapest at 09:10 and Szolnok at 10:34. It reaches Arad at 14:39, and if you want to wait at Timișoara you change here onto the 14:44 R 2606 for Timișoara. Wherever you decide to wait, it will be five hours.

When you reach Bucharest the next morning at 07:05, you can get any number of onward trains.

Astra Trans Carpatic Review

Outside Arad station is this building belonging to Astra Vagoane with a communist mosaic on it, celebrating Romanian-Soviet friendship - these are rare in Romania, due to ​​Conducător Nicolae Ceau​șescu's fitful relationship with the USSR.

​Westbound

The new 2020 timetable has made the Astra Trans Carpatic more interesting for westward travel. Coming from Bucharest on your way west you:

  • arrive at Arad at 07:04
  • Get the 08:20 IC 78 Körös to Budapest
  • Reach Budapest at lunchtime, Vienna by teatime and Munich by suppertime.
Astra Trans Carpatic Review

IC 75 "Transsylvania" at the Romanian border station of Curtici, waiting to depart for Arad

​Yeah, great, but where do I get my tickets from?

​You can only get the tickets from Astra Trans Carpatic. Normal ticket offices run by Deutsche Bahn or ÖBB​ do not sell them (to say nothing of SNCF). In fact, ​Astra Trans Carpatic doesn't even appear on Deutsche Bahn's bahn.de online timetables, though it ​is ​mentioned in the European Rail Timetable.​​​​​​

At Arad and at Bucharest Gara de Nord Astra Trans Carpatic has its own ticket offices (casa de bilete). You can also just buy your ticket on the train with no surcharge.

I got my tickets online in advance. Unfortunately the ticket buying section is in Romanian only. Fortunately Romanian is one of the easier languages ​for winging it, especially if you know some French and Italian. Also, if you use the Google Chrome browser, you can have it translate everything quite accurately.

If you need help getting Astra Trans Carpatic tickets online subscribe to my blog to reach me by email or on Telegram, then I can talk you through it.

How much do​es it cost?

Astra Trans Carpatic has a very simple pricing system. Your fare consists of kilometers travelled plus the class of accomodation you want. Tickets always cost the same whenever you buy them. God I love it
Astra Trans Carpatic Price Matrix

If you like price matrices, enjoy this one. Here is what you pay for the distance travelled

Astra Trans Carpatic Supplements

...and here is what you pay on top for your seat/berth.

Pricing is in the Romanian currency, the leu (RON), which at the time of writing (15th December 2019) exchanges at €1 = 4.78 RON, £1 = 5.73 RON and $1 = 4.29 RON.

Thus Arad-Bucharest in a seat or couchette is 600km second class (97 lei / €20) plus 4.00 lei (80 cents) for a seat or 50 lei (€10) for a couchette - so altogether €19 sitting up or €28 lying down in a couchette, all the way from Arad to Bucharest.

In a sleeper it is 600 km first class plus the supplement for a double or single sleeper or a double or single sleeper deluxe (with the en-suite bathroom). That is 150 lei (€31) for the distance plus 60 lei (€12) for a double, 90 lei (€19) for a double deluxe, 120 lei (€25) for a single or 180 lei (€38) for a single deluxe.

In April 2018 I paid €92 for the double deluxe for my wife and me, from Arad to Bucharest. Our baby went free of charge. I think that is a fantastic deal. My wife said it was the best train she had ever been on.

​So what's the ride like?

​I'm glad you ask.

​It was great. The train goes quite slowly, first across the plains to ​Timișoara, then up into the South Carpathian mountains and through Wallachia.

I didn't see much, to be honest, as it was dark and I slept. But ​at times I awoke and peered out the window ​into nameless ​ravines clanking underneath bridges we were ​crossing, before drifting off again to the clatter of the wheels.

Astra Trans Carpatic Review

Some sort of stock night image looking eerie and Carpathian

The attendant had switched off the air conditioning for the night, so I opened the window and in rushed lush Carpathian air.

Much of Romania's tracks are still screwed rather than welded together, so you spend ​much of the journey immersed in this hypnoti​c ​haze of metallic rumbling that is great for sleeping.

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​Conclusion

​Astra Trans Carpatic have done something brave in starting up a night train service in this age of budget airlines and ​coaches. The European Union is still very much in love with planes, global warming be damned.

Astra Transcarpatic Review

The Astra Transcarpatic ready to leave Bucharest Gara de Nord

That is why it is so fantastic that there are people setting out to make money with trains, and indeed overnight trains.

Astra Trans Carpatic have a service that is very nice, reasonably priced and well thought out. I ​love their higher-welfare couchettes and sleepers with only four and two berths respectively.

People on their way to Romania from abroad are more likely to use the established Euronights simply because they are more convenient, but those who make the effort to get to Arad are rewarded with a great train service.

There is talk of extending the service to Budapest or even Vienna and I hope ​Astra Trans Carpatic ​take that plunge.​​​

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Nightjet; Night Train; EuroNight
Dec 14

Nightjet: 17 Lines of Night Train Awesomeness

By Edward | Night Trains

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Have you heard of the Nightjet? 

The Nightjet is an overnight train service.

Night trains differ all over the world. This post is about a particular brand of night trains in Europe, the Nightjet. What they are like, where they go and how to get tickets.

I hesitated for a long time about putting you through my take on the Nightjet.

Why? Because I’m too involved in night trains. I worked on them for six years. Night trains are my thang. I know so much that it is insanely hard to keep it short.

And the temptation is huge to descend into endless tales of my adventures.

Endless tales of my adventures

  • The time in Venice I drank two litres of Tocai on the hotel roof and the alarm clock fairy set my alarm for me.
  • My Milan-Munich couchette with 50 Albanians from the same village.
  • The time the Austrian police arrested a refugee family off my couchette. They wouldn't let the little boy keep his balloon.
  • The time at Stuttgart at 2 AM the police brought me a man and his 5 year old daughter. The man was so drunk he couldn't get onto the train. The girl had her little orange bucket and pink spade from that day's Bodensee outing.
  • Meeting my wife on platform 3 at Roma Termini.
  • Taking her to Milan with me in the guard’s van, just because I could.

But I digress.

Nightjet Euronight Night Train

Nightjet Sleeping Car

Nightjet Basics

First, some absolute basics.

Night trains are not just trains that run at night. Any train can run at night. Night trains are trains that cover vast distances over night, with beds and bunks in which you can sleep.  

There is also an attendant who ensures your safety.

Most continental European night trains have three types of carriage

  • seated cars, like on day trains. These are the cheapest, least comfortable option for a long journey over night. Fine if you have a compartment to yourself. Not fine if it is you and five other smelly people.
  • couchettes (say: cooSHET). From the French "to lie down". Carriages with four or six bunks per compartment in which you can take your trip lying down. Think hostel on wheels. Cheap, but you do get to sleep.
  • sleeping cars. Your hotel on wheels. One, two or three proper beds stacked over each other in one compartment. The compartment has a wash basin or even an en-suite bathroom.
Nightjet; Night Train; EuroNight

Nightjet Couchette Car

Enter the Nightjets

The Nightjets are trains like this. Here is a link to their website with 360° views of all types of carriage. The Nightjet is a network of overnight train services run by the Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB - Österreichische Bundesbahnen) in Central Europe.

It has its hub in Austria. The Nightjets go to the most glamourous cities in Europe: Vienna, Berlin, and Hamburg as well as Rome, Venice and Milan. They also serve Zürich, Düsseldorf and Cologne.

In 2019 Brussels was added, and in 2020 the Nightjet is expected to reach Amsterdam.

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What is the difference between Nightjets and EuroNights?

Very little. EuroNights are international night express trains that have a high service level. Great comfort, few stops, high(-ish) speed. EuroNight isn’t a brand, it is a service standard. “Make your train like this, then you can call it a EuroNight”. They used to run all over continental Europe, but there are fewer of them these days.

The Nightjet is a better EuroNight. 

In some countries it crosses, the departure boards display it as a EuroNight. The difference is that the Austrian Railways have branded “their” EuroNights. They have special livery, extensive marketing and a higher service level.  All coaches are air-conditioned and the attendants have Sound-of-Music uniforms.

Nightjet Destinations

Here is a map of all the Nightjet services. As you can see, its hub is in Austria.

The Nightjet network as of 15th December 2019.

Nightjet: How to get the best tickets

These are the easiest ways to get Nightjet tickets:

  • You can buy Nightjet tickets online. I favour nightjet.com and oebb.at. They are the same booking engine, run by ÖBB directly. I’ve always got the best deal from them.
  • Or download the ÖBB app. You can buy your ticket within the app. Then you can show your attendant a QR code.
  • The 1890s way to get tickets. Buy them at a ticket office or a licensed agent. However, not all of them can get you special promo deals. Thus you may end up paying more than necessary. Of course, nothing beats a real paper ticket to treasure as a memento.
  • Here is the full breakdown of everywhere you can get tickets.

You can get your ticket up to six months in advance. The earlier you buy them, the cheaper they'll be.

Nightjet Ticket Prices

The Nightjet has a dynamic pricing system. Below you will find the cheapest rates for all categories. I can't book six months in advance because I don't plan my journeys that far ahead. But if you do, you can get your berth for one of these prices.

The cheapest prices on the Nightjet

The cheapest Nightjet prices

I booked my last sleeper about two weeks in advance and paid €204 for a single deluxe sleeper. 

As you can see, going by Nightjet is more expensive than going on a day train. But it is more work to run a night train. I gladly paid €204 so as not to use up a precious day of leave trapped in an overfilled, late ICE train with a toddler.

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Nightjet with a Eurail or Interrail pass

The Eurail and Interrail pass is accepted on the Nightjet.

However:

You need to reserve a berth on the Nightjet. It is now possible to do this online: check out my extra post aboutNightjets and Rail Passes.

Or do it at a ticket office, or over the phone under +43 5 1717-3.

Nightjet Eurail Interrail

What you pay on the Nightjet if you have a Eurail or Interrail pass

Newrest Wagons-Lits: Inventors of the Orient Express

Now about the staff in the Sound-of-Music uniforms:

The people working on the service are not Austrian Railways' staff. They work for the subcontractor the Austrians have retained to run these trains.

I haven't got a single decent picture of the Sound-of-Music uniform. You'll have to see for yourself.

So far, so sleazy, right?

No!

bottle of water

The free water you get on the Nightjet couchette and sleeper

In fact Newrest Wagons-Lits is the original night train company. In 1872 their founder, the Belgian Georges Nagelmackers, introduced the first sleeping car in Europe. He founded the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits (CIWL) and went on to invent the Orient Express.

Wash room Night Train

A wash room at the end of the corridor on a Nightjet couchette

In its heyday CIWL owned sleeping- and dining cars that travelled from Lisbon to Saint Petersburg and from London to Constantinople.

This is how famous they are.

After World War II the company declined and was bought and sold several times, losing its own carriages along the way.

Power outlet

Socket in Nightjet couchette

Although Newrest Wagons-Lits may only be a white dwarf after the star that was CIWL, they still trace their lineage back to the very zenith of the Grand European Expresses. They are the real thing.

I think it is fantastic that the Nightjets hark back to such a glorious past.

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Sitting up or lying down?

The Nightjet has three main types of carriage. There is only one type of seating car I know of, two types of couchette, and two models of sleeper carriage. Here come descriptions of the coaches used on most lines.

A happy and cheap way to travel

In Europe, compartments in seated carriages are disappearing. It's saloon everywhere. However, not so on the Nightjet. On the Nightjet the compartment rules.

When I was little an air trip was something so rare you got dressed up for it. The norm was to go by train and boat.

Seated Car on European Night Train

Nightjet Seated Car Interior

So when I was four my mother and I went to England by train to Oostende and jet-foil to Ramsgate.

I remember the orange seats on the train and that we pulled them out a long way. This gave us a huge surface to lie on. That was how we spent the night.

A huge communal mattress

And this is a great thing. The Nightjet seated carriages still have these seats you can pull out. And this gets you a mattress that takes up the entire compartment.

Seated Car on European Night train

The communal mattress in action

This is most comfortable if there are two or three of you. And less so if you are six, as you have to lie like sardines with your feet in each other's faces. Perhaps your Interrail-feet.

ÖBB allow you to book an entire seated compartment for yourself, even if it is just two or three of you. This is a fantastic idea. Your compartment is marked with a big notice "private compartment" in German, English and Italian.

Seat Car on European Night Train

More communal mattress. Notice the sockets above the rubbish bin

In Italy, the Nightjets to Rome and Milan are part of Trenitalia's Intercity network - that means that commuters and other internal passengers get into the seated cars. 

If you haven't booked a private compartment, expect to find your seat occupied. Be ready to insist on the occupant moving. This is a perfectly acceptable thing to do. Just say: Scusi, è il mio posto. (SCOOzy, eh il MEEo POsto).
European Night Train Seated Car

The seated car from the outside

There is no breakfast included in the seated car, so bring something with you or buy something from the staff.

Good couchettes and bad couchettes

Couchettes are a good thing. A couchette is the minimum level of comfort you should go for. They are cheap, and you get to sleep.

NIghtjet EuroNight Night Train Europe

Lower bunk in Nightjet couchette

But.

It is possible that the younger you are, the better you will sleep in them. 

NIghtjet EuroNight Night Train Europe

Upper berth on a Nightjet couchette

On my recent couchette trips on the Nightjet, I found the bunk very hard. I also hated the way it sloped towards the wall.

Fortunately, they are going to be phased out, starting 2021. ÖBB are working on new couchettes. They  allow more privacy and comfort. Here is what these are going to look like.

Nightjet couchette

Nightjet six-couchette setup

The Nightjet also has some old German couchettes with blue bunks. ÖBB snaffled these after DB took down its night network. These are softer and flatter. They usually run on the Vienna-Zurich and Zurich-Berlin lines. I've always slept well on those.

What I can say is this: on every one of my trips, the couchettes were pristine. Everything clean and fragrant and working.​​​​

Nightjet Euronight Night Train Europe

Freshly wiped floors in a Nightjet couchette

And believe me, it is hard work keeping trains clean and working.

Again, ÖBB allow you to book yourself a whole compartment for a flat fee. Even in Italy this will definitely be yours all the way. I have done this before and it is a great idea.

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The feeling is wonderful to look forward to your trip and know that you won't have a stinker or a snorer in your compartment.

On Nightjet couchettes breakfast is included. Coffee or tea, two rolls, butter (NOT margarine!) and jam. Most definitely the best couchette breakfast there is.

Sleeper

I know the Nightjet sleepers because I worked on this equipment for six years.

Nightjet Euronight Night Train Europe

Freshly made bed in Nightjet sleeper

Before they ran for the Nightjet, the carriages belonged to Deutsche Bahn. As a Deutsche Bahn night train manager, I got to know them well. In 2016, Deutsche Bahn closed down its night trains and sold the cars to ÖBB.

Nightjet Euronight Night Train Europe

Freshly made bed on Nightjet sleeper

Every time I worked as an attendant in a sleeping car, I drew a little line in a secret place - so that I would know how often I had had this car. Now these carriages roam Europe without me, but my marks are still there.

Nightjet Euronight Night Train Europe

Yet another freshly made Nightjet sleeper bed

The Nightjet sleeping cars are only about 15 years old - new by rail standards.

Each carriage has twelve compartments with three beds. Nine compartments are standard, with a wash basin. Three compartments are "deluxe" with an en-suite loo and shower.

As I wrote in my viral tweet:

When booking the Nightjet sleeper, always book Deluxe (berths 32-36, 42-46, 52-56) if possible. If not, ask for 31-35, 41-45 or 51-55. These compartments have more space. Avoid 11-15 (next to loo) and 62-66 (next to kitchen - keys jangling, attendants cursing).

Click to Tweet

It only costs a tiny bit more for the deluxe option: between €10 and €20 per berth, but it is SO worth it. Because: 

  • You have more space. 
  • If you wake up at 3:37 AM and sort of feel you might need a pee, you just go to your en-suite loo. 
  • No obsessing about whether to get dressed and go to the loo at the end of the corridor or trying to sleep against your bladder.
  • Showers are also a good thing
Bed on Nightjet sleeping car

Another Nightjet sleeper bed

The carriages have pneumatic suspension (the car body lies on air cushions, rather than springs), and this makes for a smooth and silent ride. 

They are awesome.

An extensive breakfast is included, which I shall elaborate below.

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Want to use the Nightjet in your wheelchair?

Nearly all Nightjets have a compartment for people in wheelchairs, with walking frames or who have other special needs, such as sleep apnoea.

Wheelchair Nightjet PRM

The Nightjet wheelchair compartment

This is a lovely, spacious compartment with two beds in it - one for you and one for whoever is accompanying you. The wheelchair-accessible loo is next door. 

Wheelchair accessible compartment

The two beds in the wheelchair-accessible compartment

There is only one of these per trainset, so it is best to book it as far in advance as possible, but at least 48 hrs beforehand. By the following means:

Nightjet: A trip worth every cent of €204

I go to great lengths for you, my reader. One of these lengths is to book myself a single deluxe sleeper and travel in it. For added difficulty, I took my baby daughter with me. With a buggy.

Toddler sitting on bed

Oh this again 


All so I could report back to you what it is like to go on the Nightjet, and what the service is like. After all, I have worked on trains like this, so I should know, right? Well, maybe.

Getting on

We managed to get on. Somehow. In spite of all my experience, I managed to fluff getting onto the train with a buggy. Buggies and prams cause absolute mayhem on trains. I hate them. This isn't ÖBB's fault.

Sidetrack: since going to Bulgaria and back by train with a pram, I've come to love low-entry, wide-door trains. From Bucharest to Ruse I had one of those and it was such a relief not having to dismantle the pram. 

Prams shouldn't be anywhere near trains. As a train manager, one of my worst nightmares is the Eurocopter/SUV-style pram stuck in the corridor, with a throng of people trapped behind it.

Going to bed

The attendant had everything ready, including a small bottle of Prosecco.

I found a goodie bag which I liked so much I took it home untouched (apart from the prosecco. I guzzled that immediately). I took it home untouched and decided to do an unboxing video for you. Here it is. Don't laugh, and please don't cry, either.

Nightjet Goodie Bag Unboxing Video


There are all sorts of lovely little things in the goodie bag that make you feel pampered.

  • Slippers
  • a nice Nightjet towel
  • ear plugs
  • a refreshing wipe
  • little pretzels to go with your drink
  • a squeezy fruit thing

The breakfast interrogation

When I worked on sleepers, asking 30 people what they wanted for breakfast was tedious and took ages. 

After getting on to the sleeper, I found the following questionnaire, which I duly filled out. A very clever idea.

Nightjet Breakfast Menu

This leaflet is in German, English and Italian. Tick whatever you want. Brilliant.

I ticked all the stuff I liked and that I thought a toddler can eat and handed the form to the attendant. Then we were left to ourselves.

By now we were whooshing through the Rhine valley. By day, the Rhine valley railway is a wonderful trip. At night it is even more beautiful. The moon and the lights from the opposite embankment reflecting on the waves, the dark hills drifting under the stars.
Toddler on Nightjet bed

She loved the night light. On. Off. On. Off. On. Off. On. Off. On. Off. On.

I needed all of the space of the deluxe compartment. It isn't huge. Furthermore, baby stuff spreads out so quickly. I jammed the collapsed buggy and luggage into the nook behind the en-suite bathroom.

In the sleepers, luggage can go underneath the bottom bed, or in the baggage racks. These are high up. Try and have as little luggage with you as possible. In the smaller of the standard compartments (11-15, 12-16, 21-25, 22-26, 61-65 and 62-66) a big suitcase won't fit anywhere. It ends up blocking the floor.

Toddler asleep on Nightjet

She slept all night in this bed

Getting up and out

As always when I am on a night train, we were bang on time. I was woken up with a knock 45 minutes before we arrived.

The Nightjets have lots of extra time in their timetables. Firstly, so that you don't arrive at 4 AM, and secondly so that if the train is delayed it can catch up again. For this reason, the Nightjet stands about in sidings in the middle of the night quite a bit. If you notice you're not moving, don't worry. Everything is probably fine.

My breakfast pictures didn't turn out. However, my good friend from Twitter, @_DiningCar, helped me out and sent me this lovely picture:

Breakfast on the Nightjet

Breakfast on the Nightjet, photographed by my friend @_DiningCar. Check out his wonderful channel on Twitter

What I think of breakfast in sleepers

I've already written this in my post on Astra Trans Carpatic: I think breakfast is a waste of time, money and food. I've seen so much thrown away. I favour the Slovak model of weapons-grade instant coffee and Tatranký waffle bar.

However: The Nightjet breakfast is nice. The selection is staggering, and all the food is above-average quality. Even fussy people can find something on the breakfast menu. I think Newrest Wagons-Lits (the people working on the Nightjets, in case you skipped the Newrest chapter) have made a huge effort. It has paid off and they deserve credit for it.

The breakfast I served on the CityNightLine (Deutsche Bahn's moribund night train network) was not nearly as nice. Lucky passengers.

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What I think of the Nightjets

For two decades since the 1990s, the night trains in Europe have taken one beating after another. Railway company after railway company abandoned them. The Swiss, everybody's darling when it comes to rail travel, were among the first. Then in 2016 Deutsche Bahn finally axed its own CityNightLine network, after sabotaging it for years.

The Austrian Railways picked up the pieces of the CityNightLine and put it together with their own EuroNight network.

But not just that: they did much more. They devised a vibrant new brand, a fuck-off marketing strategy and lots of new ideas to accommodate 21st century tastes (e.g. the private compartments). In its very first year, the Nightjet network made money for ÖBB. 

Nightjet Advert on Tram

Fuck-off marketing strategy: Nightjet advert on entire tram car in Bratislava - well within Vienna Hbf's catchment area. Courtesy of my friend Martin Pavlík

The Austrians have proven that it is possible to run exciting, modern night trains as a sustainable, profitable business. 

Excitement and Indulgence

The Nightjet gives you that feeling of excitement and indulgence so lacking on most modern trains. From the moment you buy your ticket to the end of your journey you feel the tingle of European overnight adventure, even if it is from one boring German city to another.

This is why it is worth going on the Nightjet at every possible opportunity.

Have another look at Nightjet.com and see when it next fits your plans.

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Bogie change at Ukrainian border
Oct 31

The Future of Night Trains: at the Back on Track EU Conference in Hamburg

By Edward | Night Trains

This lovely image with the Polish night train at Kraków station is courtesy and © of my friend Martin Pavlík.

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Sup, Night Trains?

The Future of Night Trains was the main topic at the recent Back-On-Track EU conference in Hamburg. Back-On-Track.EU hosted it together with a group called Prellbock Altona, who are running a successful campaign to prevent Hamburg-Altona station from being demolished and relocated into the sticks at Hamburg-Diebsteich.

I've known Joachim Holstein, the organiser, since our nights at CityNightLine, Deutsche Bahn's night train service..

Neither of us have come to terms with our CityNightLine trains being closed down. I started this blog, Joachim started his NGO, Back-On-Track.EU for propagating night trains. Joachim fought like a lion to stop DB closing down CityNightLine. 

  • He dragged the managers in front of parliament multiple times
  • He uncovered the fudged statistics DB was using to make the CityNightLine look like a basket case
  • all to no avail.
Altona old station

This building was Altona's first main station in the 19th century. What better place to have a conference about trains?

Me as spontaneous interpreter

Joachim asked me if I'd like to tag along and perhaps do the odd translation. I ended up interpreting the three hour panel discussion in English and German from start to finish.

This year's Back-On-Track.EU conference featured a cool panel with

  • Patrik Nylander from the Swedish Ministry of Transport, 
  • Karima Delli, French Green MEP and president of the Commission on Transport and Tourism at the European Parliament (whose train from Paris was a staggering four. hours. late.)
  • Nick Brooks, Secretary General of ALLRAIL, the alliance of Rail New Entrants
  • Bernhard Knierim, representing the German grassroots organisation Bahn für Alle (Rail for all)
  • Carl Süß from #FridaysForFuture
  • Sven Pöllauer, ÖBB official, representing the biggest night train operator in Europe
The panellists were there to discuss from their various viewpoints what is to be done about night trains and how to get them back on track. 

All in all it is 14 videos. I include here Joachim's introduction in English. The panel discussion is in the first six videos.


And here, for shameless self-promotion purposes, is the part where I come in.


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Sorry, Ed, I can't watch three hours of videos!?!

Of course you can't.

Here's the gist of the panel discussion:

  • Patrik Nylander, the Swedish civil servant, spoke about the Swedish government's efforts to promote the future of night trains from Sweden to the continent. There are studies and commissions working on the most feasible model

    • should the Swedish government simply buy trains and pay someone to run them?
    • should they tender?
    • There are many regulatory and technical hurdles that complicate the running of international night trains. Example: Swedish trains are bigger and wider than continental European or indeed British trains.
    • How should modern night trains even be configured to accommodate today's tastes?
  • Sven Pöllauer, the Austrian Railways representative, thanked Back-On-Track for its support and spoke about ÖBB's ongoing commitment to the future of night trains and impending plans

    • ÖBB is spending €200m on new Nightjet stock with all mod cons
    • From January 2020, there will be a twice-weekly Nightjet service from Vienna to Brussels and back
    • From January 2021, there will be a Nightjet from Vienna to Amsterdam
    • You don't get rich running night trains, but if you do it well, you can run it as a sustainable business. Nightjets are regularly booked out.
  • Nick Brooks, the Secretary General of ALLRAIL, the new rail entrants' lobbyist spoke about how open access and competition can help revitalise night trains

    • If governments (like the Swedish) want night trains, they should definitely put them out to tender as the service will be cheaper and better.
    • There has to be competition among rail companies so that trains per se will become more competitive against planes and cars
    • Access to rolling stock would make it easier for new operators to start up night train services.
  • Bernhard Knierim, the Bahn für Alle man, spoke at length about the continued disadvantages trains face vs. planes and cars.

    • There is still no tax on flight fuel, but trains are taxed for their electricity and diesel
    • cars and coaches pay no toll on German motorways, yet trains have to pay track access charges
    • Booking train travel across Europe is not for the faint-of-heart. You need to know what you are doing
    • It must be possible to book all trains on one neutral platform. 
  • Carl Süß, the 16 year-old #FridaysForFuture youth, spoke for quite a while and made some valid points about night trains, astounding in their simplicity:

    • Its got to be easier to book trains. It should be as easy to book a train as it is to book a plane
    • trains have got to be cheaper
    • they have got to get better: the loos have to work and they have to run on time.
  • Karima Delli, the MEP, couldn't say anything about the Future of Night Trains as she was still trapped inside an ICE somewhere between Hanover and Hamburg. A tree had come down on her line. The blame for this can be put squarely at DB's feet for neglecting vegetation. 

Every time there is a major storm in Germany the German rail network grinds to a halt because trees along the lines have been ignored for too long and come down on the lines.

So, how does the future of night trains look?

Here is my understanding of what we can agree on:

The political climate is changing

Thanks to Greta Thunberg and #flygskam, a new urgency has been injected into trains vs. planes.

  • Sweden is already taking real steps to foster night trains. 
  • Everyone knows we are going to have to go more by train and less by plane.
  • For very long distances, the night train would be perfect.

So the next few years are going to be exciting.

National hurdles must come down

In the European Union, and in Europe beyond the EU, it is insane that every national carrier is working away on its own. Indeed, some of them have spent the last two decades sabotaging each other.

  • Track access has to come down and be harmonised across the EU
  • Approval, regulations and standards have to be unified. At the moment any given train has to conform to the regulations of every country it passes through.
My thoughts on this: We already had (and indeed still have) unified standards. Any RIC carriage can roam across the RIC railways. Nightjets use RIC carriages and FlixTrain is also concentrating all efforts on RIC carriages. It is just that in the market dominated by SNCF and DB, very-high-speed trains have been the flavour of the month. Locomotive-hauled RIC carriages have been unfashionable, in spite of their top speed of 200km/h.

Booking must become easier

  • There has to be a unified booking engine that can sell you one ticket from one end of Europe to the other, irrespective of which operator's train you are on
My thoughts: This also used to exist. In a world with only national carriers it worked. Now there are lots more operators offering super-cheap promo deals. There will never be "the one" booking engine for all operators. The sooner we accept that and move on, the better. There are already quite powerful booking engines (Trainline, Omio, Loco2) that have astounding reach. But they can't access all operators and their edgier promo deals.

By the way, this blog is all about travelling Europe by train and getting the best tickets. Consider subscribing. It is absolutely free and will make you a smarter rail traveller.

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The Nightjet is expanding

Austrian Railways are the most exciting thing in night trains right now:

  • They've got new night trains in the pipeline
  • from January 2020 they will be running twice-weekly between Vienna and Brussels
  • From January 2021 Amsterdam will be attached to the Nightjet network

More of my Thoughts: Private vs. Public

Flixtrain Nightjet

Flixtrain waiting at Cologne depot next to Nightjet

I used to be firmly in the national railways camp. Private was the devil.

Now I'm much more "whatever works". I want people to have attractive trains, and lots of them.

National carriers Deutsche Bahn and SNCF between them have destroyed a once vast night train network. While it is true that deregulated air travel has damaged international rail travel, DB and SNCF went out of their way to take down international night trains.

On the other hand Austrian national carrier ÖBB is running night trains at a European level, and doing it well. Russian Railways currently run the only night trains between Paris and Berlin and Berlin and Warsaw.

Russian Railways @RuRailways run the only direct train between Paris and Berlin and Warsaw. Makes yer think.

Click to Tweet
Astra Trans Carpatic Review

The yellow-green livery of Astra Trans Carpatic

Meanwhile, private companies RegioJet in Czechia and Slovakia, and Astra Trans Carpatic in Romania have launched competitive and exciting night train services in their countries. TransKlassServis has interesting propositions in Russia.

I would also watch FlixTrain: They have ambitious plans to roll out FlixTrains across Europe, using tried-and-tested RIC carriages. I believe that FlixTrain is going to make the likes of DB and SNCF look very silly very soon.

Now what?

For further reading, have a look at my Nightjet and Astra Trans Carpatic posts. Or subscribe to my blog for the password to my e-guide library and my sporadic emails about train travel in Europe.

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Nightjet + Eurail
Oct 16

Nightjet + Eurail Pass: How to Book Online

By Edward | Night Trains

First off: For "Eurail", read "Eurail or Interrail". I can't be bothered to keep naming the two individually. For the purposes of this post, Eurail and Interrail are the same. Both are rail passes. Interrail is issued to people who live in Europe, Eurail is issued to people who don't live in Europe.

If you have a Eurail pass, your life just got much easier.

Recently Austrian Railways made it possible for Eurail pass holders to book Nightjet supplements (seat reservations, or couchette or sleeper berths) online through their online booking engine. Several Euronight connections are also available.

Before then pass holders could only book by phone or on the ground at the ticket office. A terrible hassle it was, especially if you lived in Paraguay.

So it is thrilling news that you can at last book Nightjet berths in advance from the veranda of your Estancia as you sip Mate and watch your cows graze.

Nightjet + Eurail / Interrail Pass: 3 steps to your berth

1.

First of all, open up your browser and navigate to ÖBB's ticket website. Start the search with your date and directions. 

ÖBB Tickets Online

Start by entering your travel date and time. At this stage you have nowhere to declare your rail pass. Don't let this stop you.

You will see a selection of prices. Normal prices that is.

Nightjet + Eurail Interrail

This is what you see. Now comes the time to add your discount.

2.

Now if you look at “Adult” there will be a little link saying “Change”. Click it.


After the first search, notice on the right the new field "Who is Going", which shows "1 x adult" by default. Click "Change"


Now you can choose from a range of concessions. “Interrail / Eurail” comes last, when you have already given up hope. Select that concession.

Nightjet + Eurail

To make things easy for you, ÖBB has hidden "Interrail / Eurail - Globalpass" at the bottom of a pile of irrelevant niche discounts

3.

Now search again. You will be shown much lower prices.

Nightjet + Eurail Interrail

And here you see your options after setting the discount to Interrail / Eurail Globalpass

After that you go on to select the berth you prefer.

Nightjet + Eurail Interrail

Add the €14 basic supplement to your basket, then go on to choose your berth

Other European Night Trains + Eurail / Interrail Pass

You can follow the same procedure for several other Euronight night trains with a shred of Austrian involvement: 


  • Berlin-Przemyśl 
  • Vienna-Bucharest
  • Munich-Zagreb
  • Zürich-Budapest
  • Vienna-Kiev (see below)

Eurail Travel days and Night Trains: How to get it right

While we are at it, let me just mention how to manifest night trains on your Eurail pass.


An overnight train starts its journey on the evening of one day and finishes it on the next day. Does that mean that a night train needs two Eurail pass travel days?


No, it doesn't.

When using a night train with a Eurail pass, you only fill out one travel day: the day of departure. You get the morning after thrown in. Bam. Forget anything anyone ever told you about any 7 pm rule. The 7 pm rule is obsolete.

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Ukraine by Eurail / Interrail pass


Many night trains leave Vienna every night. One goes to Ukraine - one of Europe’s most interesting countries. There is a daily sleeper train from Vienna via Budapest to L’viv and Kiev. 


The bad news is that Ukraine is not a Eurail country.


Thanks to the tireless work of dedicated ÖBB managers (see @vorortanleiter on Twitter), it is now possible to book the Vienna-Kiev sleeper online and get your Eurail pass counted up to the Ukrainian border.


Combining your Eurail pass with a standard ticket into Ukraine used to be an ordeal. Ticket-wise it was a yoga-position into which only the best ticket sellers could wrench themselves. You needed time and patience to coax your ticket out of them.

Lviv Opera house

I took this picture of L'viv Opera House on my Un-Interrail trip to Ukraine when I was 20. Oh man. That was 140 years ago. Things were all in sepia then.


Not anymore. Now you can book the whole thing online with ÖBB. And can make an elegant incursion into Ukraine to see L’viv or even Kiev.


L’viv is a gorgeous central European city with cobbles and trams and coffee houses, while Kiev is the ancient capital of Kievan Rus’, the Mother of Russian cities and now the sizzling centre of independent Ukraine. No Eurotrip should miss this exciting European country.

Ukraine with your Eurail Pass: 3 steps to your berth

1.

Navigate to ÖBBs ticket website. Enter the details for your query.

Vienna Lviv Eurail

So go and enter Wien - Lviv. Up comes this price.

Prices for the Ukrainian train are always the same. They include the berth in a sleeping car. You can choose between T3, Double or Single. See my Nightjet post for what this means.

2.

Now if you look at “Adult” there will be a little link saying “Change”. Click it.

VIenna Lviv Eurail

In the bit about "Who is going" click "change".

Up pops the mask in which you can choose your relevant discount. Interrail/Eurail Globalpass is at the very bottom of a very long list. Type "Inter" in the search field, then it comes up straight away.

Nightjet + Eurail

To make things easy for you, ÖBB has hidden "Interrail / Eurail - Globalpass" at the bottom of a pile of irrelevant niche discounts

3.

The system recalculates the prices. Because you have a Eurail pass, you already have a ticket for the Austro-Hungarian section of your journey. What you still have to pay for is your sleeper berth and the Ukrainian section. 

Vienna Lviv Eurail

After adding the Interrail / Eurail Globalpass you get a much more humane price. This is for a T3 sleeper

Add to your basket, decide if you want T3, Double or Single and proceed to checkout. ÖBB has the brains to show you the following friendly reminder:

Vienna Lviv Eurail

ÖBB make it clear you have to print out your ticket at a ticket machine or counter IN AUSTRIA

This is crucial. It means that if you book, say, L'viv-Vienna, you have to print out your ticket at an ÖBB ticket machine or counter.

Why do I need a sleeper?

The Vienna-Kiev train is in fact one or two Ukrainian sleeping cars that are attached to a series of trains heading east. This is why you have to book a sleeping car berth. There is no couchette or seated car option. On the up side, it is not expensive and you get a proper bed. 

You may have realised I love Ukraine. While my school pals went on an Interrail tour, I spent three weeks on Ukrainian trains between L’viv, the Crimea and Odessa. Check out my fellow blogger Megan Starr for in-depth work on Ukraine, Eastern Europe and the Nordic countries.


Further reading


If you want to read more about night trains in general, check out my Nightjet post or my Astra Trans Carpatic post. Or join over 1000 other smart rail travellers and subscribe to my blog to download my free e-guides.

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Join my Rail Guide Europe Club FREE

Sign up now and gain instant access to:


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  • Ask me Anything status by email
Nightjet; Night Train; EuroNight
Jun 01

10 Exciting European Night trains and How to Use Them like a Pro @Amateur Traveler Podcast

By Edward | Night Trains

10 Exciting European Night trains and How to Use Them like a Pro – Inside Tips from a Night Train Worker

 

A whole day up in smoke

Is this you?

You’re on a eurotrip. You’ve been up since 4 AM to get this plane, having only just caught it because a taxi happened along. You’ve coughed up three times your air fare to take your suitcase with you. 

Now it turns out that this airport “Munich West” is very far west of Munich indeed – more than 70 miles. 

Thank God there’s a coach service, for which you duly pay twice your air fare. At 2 PM you finally reach your hotel and flop down and go to sleep. 

At 6 PM you’re finally on the Marienplatz, waiting to watch the clock dancers twirling. One day almost wasted.

It doesn’t have to be like this. 

Click here to read the full post on Amateur Traveler Podcast.

The Ultimate Guide to Russian Trains
Apr 06

The Ultimate Guide to Russian Trains @Misstourist.com

By Edward | Night Trains

Imagine this.

You have been on this train for ten hours and still have twelve hours to go. You’ve never been on a train this long.

Your coach is swaying and clanking through forests teeming with nameless streams under the expanse of the Russian sky. Just now you passed through a city with golden domes glittering in the sun.

Time is somewhere else. You are beyond the realm of time. You are drinking your thirteenth glass of tea and discussing fate and eternity with strangers – even though you can’t speak Russian.

A train journey is a must-do in Russia, like going on a gondola in Venice – except for the price of half an hour of Venetian gondola you get seven time-zones of Russian train.

The train is the cheapest, safest and most comfortable way to travel Russia. When you’ve finished this guide, you shall know all you need to know to make the most of your Russian train journey…

Click here to read my guest post on Miss Tourist’s blog.

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