What to expect on a sleeper train: a guide for first-timers


Sleeper trains are making a welcome comeback and it’s easy to see why; they’re more environmentally-friendly and sustainable than air travel, as well as being a fun and, often, comfortable way of traveling. 

However, it may seem daunting if it’s your first time on a sleeper train. Avid train traveler Monisha Rajesh breaks down everything you need to know before boarding your first overnight train. 

Get trusted guidance to the world’s most breathtaking experiences delivered to your inbox weekly with our email newsletter. A sleeper train cabin, with two small bunks on the right-hand wall and a window looking out at the passing sceneryCheck images on the websites before you book so you know what to expect from your cabin © iStockphoto / Getty Images

What kind of seat should I book? 

Whichever country you’re traveling in, familiarize yourself with the different classes of accommodations offered by each service to suit your needs and budget. On America’s Amtrak the majority of travelers buy tickets in coach class where seats are wide and reclining with plenty of legroom. However, you’ll need to pack a blanket and neck pillow to have a restful night. Private roomettes contain two face-to-face seats that convert to upper and lower berths at night, and bedrooms offer the same number of berths with twice the space. Prices vary wildly depending on when you’re traveling, so book as far in advance as possible to find the cheapest tickets.

In Europe you’ll find couchettes and sleepers: the former are six- or four-berth compartments with bunks you make up yourself, and the latter feature pre-made beds, washbasins, and on some routes, private showers and toilets. Most countries’ rail operators will show clear images on their websites of what to expect, and again…

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