Sleeper Trains Unveiled: Pros and Cons of Overnight Train Travel

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.

The Pros:

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.

Cheers from Munich!

Scenic Routes

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 view

Environmentally Friendly

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.

The Cons:

Cost Considerations

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.

Tight Quarters

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.

train hall

Limited Facilities

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.

Unexpected Delays

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.

Final Thoughts

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.


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14 thoughts on “Sleeper Trains Unveiled: Pros and Cons of Overnight Train Travel

  1. I honestly love overnight trains. I took many when I was backpacking Europe 12 years ago, and found the EuRail pass helpful for cutting the cost. Though, once I moved to Europe, I was paying full price. I really hope Europe continues to bring down the cost, so they can be a more affordable and eco-friendly alternative to flights. Great list of pros and cons about taking sleeper trains in Europe!

    1. I love the option of overnight trains too! I would love to plan a whole European trip around train travel—I would just pack less next time lol

  2. I love travelling overland & I’m a fan of sleeper trains. There’s definitely something romantic about train travel but it does take longer than flying and can be expensive. But it can also be a great way to see a new country. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  3. I guess it’s only us train lovers who are clicking and then commenting! Lol I love travel by sleeper trains too. I don’t mind if the views are sometimes limited as they are often fabulous. I also reeeally like it when the trains have a dining car with decent food! 😀

    I wish we had affordable sleeper trains here in Canada (they are soooo pricy here!)

    1. A couple of our day-time regional trains had great dining cars! But we didn’t board our overnight train until 11pm so it was right to bed for us lol

  4. We do love travelling by trains in Europe. But I must admit we don’t book sleeper cars for overnight travel. We generally hate to miss the scenery go by. But there are definitely some advantages. And when we can afford the time, we don’t mind taking a little longer by train.

  5. I’m a huge fan of travelling by overnight/sleeper trains! I find it can be less stressful than flying, plus it covers the cost of a nights accommodation! Great post!

  6. I know you’ve listed more cons but, to me, they don’t outweigh the pros of train travel. The experience on a train is so much more pleasurable, being able to move around more easily when in motion and wander to and from the restaurant/snack cars, for example, and being able to sleep horizontally. And the environmental benefits, too, are really important to consider. If the route is available, I’d choose trains over planes any day 🙂

  7. The ex Soviet Union sleeper trains are the best. Great network, inexpensive, never had such social travel. And they are clean and relatively safe, too.

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