Europe is a continent that is famous for its impressive rail network, which connects most of the major cities. The fantasy of taking a sleeper train across the European countryside is something that has always been in the back of my mind. There’s some type of romance to it. Right? So when I finally got the opportunity to take an overnight train across Europe, I jumped at it. We had to get from Paris to Venice, and while a flight may have been faster (and even cheaper), a train just seemed so much more romantic. But, it was not really what we expected. Here are some pros and cons to consider before booking your European overnight train journey.
See a Bonus City on Layovers
Unlike airports, most train stations in Europe are conveniently located in or near city centers. And since France, Germany, and Italy are all in the “Schengen Area”, we did not need to go through security upon re-entering the train station. This allowed the opportunity to venture out and explore the city during a layover. When we booked our train, there were options with shorter layovers, but we actually opted for a longer layover to explore Munich for a few hours before taking our final sleeper train to Venice.
Train journeys in Europe are known for their scenic routes, and overnight trains are no exception. You can wake up to stunning views of the countryside or picturesque towns.
Train travel is generally considered more eco-friendly compared to other modes of transportation, such as airplanes or cars. Trains have a lower carbon footprint and can contribute to reducing overall emissions.
Avoiding Airport Hassles
Compared to air travel, overnight trains can spare you the stress and inconveniences associated with airports, such as long security lines, baggage restrictions, and potential delays. Train travel generally offers a more relaxed and hassle-free experience.
Authentic Travel Experience
Traveling by overnight train can provide a more authentic and immersive experience of the local culture and landscape. You get a glimpse into the everyday lives of people in different regions as the train passes through various towns and villages.
It’s worth noting that trains can sometimes be more expensive than flights. For instance, our overnight train from Paris to Venice with a private sleeping bunk cost around $200, whereas a flight would have been around $75.But when you consider that it was actually both our transportation, AND our hotel for the night, it balances out.
Trains are Not Quiet
If you’re a light sleeper, an overnight train may not be for you. Aside from the general train noises, there are a lot of people shuffling around. And even in a private sleeper, the walls are thin. We could hear entire conversations of the sleeper next to us.
The Views Can be Limited
While the views can be spectacular, you only get the views when it’s actually light outside. On our 8 hour overnight train we took to Venice, about 7 of those hours were complete darkness.
The sleeping compartments in overnight trains can be quite small, and there’s not much room for luggage. If you’re backpacking, this is probably not a big deal. But if you have actual luggage with you, it can be difficult to store everything in the compartment.
Overnight trains may not have the same facilities as hotels, such as showers or toilets. While there are shared toilets on board, they can be cramped and not very clean.
Extended Travel Time
In most cases, trains will almost always take longer than flights. Airplanes obviously travel at higher speeds, covering long distances quickly, while train journeys often involve multiple stops. While overnight train travel has its advantages, those seeking a faster option may find flying more suitable.
Train travel can encounter delays due to a variety of factors. Mechanical issues, such as engine failures or electrical problems, obstacles on the tracks like fallen trees or debris can demand prompt resolution before trains can continue their journeys safely. This can obviously effect arrival schedules. Our train from Paris to Venice was delayed for two hours because of something on the track. So we arrived in Venice about two hours later than expected, which did end up effecting our arranged transportation.
In conclusion, overnight trains can be a convenient enriching way to travel between cities. However, it’s important to consider the pros and cons before booking your journey. If you’re a light sleeper or prefer more space, an overnight train may not be the best option for you. But if you’re looking for a unique and scenic way to explore Europe, an overnight train journey could be an unforgettable experience.