Lifestyle & Culture

Digital Nomad Beth Hoke: Skip the hotel and take Europe’s overnight trains

Traveling by trains in Europe is a wonderful thing. No need to arrive two hours early. No extra baggage fees. No baggage claim, long lines at passport control, or being held hostage by the seatbelt sign.

You get the added bonus of seeing some stunning scenery as you pass by crystal clear lakes, snow-capped mountains, and fairy tale villages. You can even take your bicycle, car, or motorcycle on board!

With prices that are often less than the total you would pay for the drive to the airport, parking, and the flight itself, train travel is definitely an appealing option. Especially if you take an overnight train.

SKIP THE HOTEL ROOM

In mid-March, I was on a whirlwind 6 cities in 7 days tour of Europe, with two of the nights spent on Austria’s ÖBB NightJet fleet. The ÖBB trains connect major cities in Germany, Italy, Switzerland, and (of course) Austria. 

They also have connections to six other European countries: Croatia, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, and Hungary.

Rather than paying for a hotel room on those two nights, my traveling companions and I took advantage of a current special (through 11 April) and paid only 99 euros for a private compartment. Six seats folded down and met in the middle to form three beds. Though the 99 euro price is a current promotion, the usual price is still an affordable 174 euros.

HERE’S WHAT YOU GET

ÖBB NightJet also offers four- berth and six-berth couchettes, and standard and deluxe sleeper cars with room for one, two, or three passengers.

While there are no special amenities in the compartments in the seating carriages, the couchettes come equipped with blankets, sheets, and pillows as well as a continental breakfast and bottle of mineral water. In addition to the blankets, sheets, and pillows, amenities in the sleeper car include a welcome drink, towels and toiletries, wake-up service, and an á la carte breakfast with free refills of coffee and tea.

Additional food can be brought from home or purchased from the dining car with delivery to all couchettes and sleeper cars.

Budget travelers staying in the seating carriages and guests in the couchettes have access to a bathroom with a toilet and sink at each end of the carriage, while passengers who book a sleeper car have their own bathroom with sink, toilet, and even a shower.

Travelers with special dietary needs or mobility issues should note these when making their reservation and the train attendants will make accommodations as needed.

ÖBB NightJet isn’t the only company offering overnight services in Europe.

Others include:

• EuroNight trains with multiple routes;

The Hellas Express that travels between Belgrade and Thessaloniki;

• INTERCITÉS night trains that cover the distance from Paris to Toulouse and Briançon;

Finland’s VR trains;

• The SJ night trains that journey across Sweden and into northern Norway;

Snälltåget’s winter service from Malmö in southern Sweden to west central Åre and their Berlin Night Express that connects Malmö to the German capital;

Thello, which runs from Paris to northern Italy; and,

Trenhotel’s domestic and international routes.

I can’t speak for any of the other overnight trains, but I have slept in reclining seats and in seating carriages on EuroNight and ÖBB NightJet train. I can recommend this method of travel for anyone who wants to travel affordably by eliminating the need to stay in a hotel, and for those who want to maximize the time they spend at their final destination.

The team at Dispatches Europe would love to hear about your experiences traveling on night trains! Do you have any recommendations or know of any other overnight routes? Comment below or send us a message on our Facebook page.

BETH

About the author: 

Beth Hoke rejoined the expat life after spending her childhood in Europe and the United States, then settling in Chicagoland to raise two daughters.

Now an empty nester, she is roaming Europe, armed with a TEFL certificate and an online position teaching English for EF.

Beth has been traveling around Europe for two years. She’s filed posts for Dispatches Europe from at least six countries including Italy, Germany, Croatia, and Madeira, Portugal.

You can see all her posts here.

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