Travel

Europe’s best night trains for a good night’s sleep

The big-budget ticket price for the Venice Simplon Orient Express might be worth it if you want to guarantee sleep.

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Given the noise disruption and lack of legroom of a long-haul flight, many travellers are curious to try a night train to ensure a better night’s sleep.

With proper beds and eco-credentials, sleeper trains certainly seem conducive to drifting off peacefully.

So how do Europe’s night train services compare and which is best for dozing undisturbed?

Here’s what traveller reviews on TripAdvisor and other websites say about sleeping on a sleeper.

The small cabins on the Venice Simplon Orient Express are worth it

It may be the big-budget option, but the Venice Simplon Orient Express boasts glowing reviews on TripAdvisor – 674 out of 870 are five star.

Reviewers wax lyrical about the Champagne on arrival, opulent cabins and attentive service.

One UK passenger called the beds “so comfortable and the linen crisp” while another wrote, “The decor is fabulous and it’s like stepping back in time and your world slows down a little.”

The few negative comments about the reduced space of the cabins were justified by the train’s heritage status.

Reviewing a standard cabin, one passenger described it as “not big”.

“It has no shower, just a well-designed and hidden basin and no toilet. The seats convert to bunks whilst you are at dinner,” the user wrote.

“If you have done your homework (and I strongly advise to ask lots of questions before you book) then you will know all this and accept it as part of the charm.”

If you need more room, splash out on one of the grand suites for an extra lounge area and marble ensuite bathroom.

The Caledonian Sleeper is cramped but cosy

The Caledonian Sleeper from London to various destinations in Scotland gets top marks for the views out the window and is one of the most pleasant ways to journey the UK.

But despite being billed as a hotel on wheels, passengers should manage their expectations.

Euronews journalist Lottie Limb described the room as not much bigger than a large closet but where the efficient use of space is one of the most impressive features.

“It is extremely cosy and even when some jolts budged through my dreams, it was soothing to be reminded of where I was,” she said of the sleeping experience.

Other travellers express similar views in TripAdvisor reviews. “You’re paying to sleep in a bed, that’s pretty much it,” wrote one user.

They found the WiFi unreliable and the breakfast dry and cold, although the bed was comfortable and they appreciated the snacks and complimentary set of ear plugs and eye mask.

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“We splurged on this more so as a one-time experience [than] a new method of travel,” they added. “We probably won’t pay for it again but it was really nice to not sleep in a train seat.”

One contributor from Inverness found sleeping more of a challenge.

“The carriage rattled and lurched all night, you could hear every time somebody went to the bathroom as the flush is so loud,” the one-star comment said.

“Needless to say neither [of us] got any sleep. Considering how expensive it is, the cost of a five-star hotel, you would expect something better.”

Several users also found the cabins cramped and the bunks narrow with poor-quality mattresses.

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The European Sleeper is no frills but lots of fun

Recently extended to Prague, the European Sleeper whisks passengers through the night from Brussels via Amsterdam.

The train is made up of 15 vintage carriages from different countries and decades which give a jumbled but joyful appearance.

Again, this isn’t the service if you’re expecting the glamour of the Orient Express, though. One reviewer on Trustpilot described the carriages as “very rattly” and “ancient”.

Another commented that the heating was too high and the toilet in their wagon wasn’t working.

Journalist Limb describes it as a “no frills operation” with no shower, WiFi or dining car.

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Her experience was of a sleep interrupted by “some juddery points along the track that would test even the deepest dreamers.”

“I’d recommend bringing sliders or slippers, hand sanitiser, and of course a comfy eye mask and ear plugs,” she wrote.

However, many Trustpilot reviews still remarked that the experience was much better than flying and a service they’d use again.

ÖBB Nightjet offers sleep but poor maintenance

ÖBB’s Nightjet service operates on an extensive network around Europe, but sadly many travellers report poor experiences.

Many customers complained about the standard of the cabins, where they found showers and sinks out of service and no air conditioning.

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Those who booked cabins without a bathroom found the communal toilets locked at points during the night and poorly maintained.

Others were unhappy with the bedding. “The pillow provided is only fit for a toddler and I’m dubious about whether the blanket they give you has actually been washed prior to use,” one user wrote.

Several travellers also reported difficulties obtaining refunds for late or cancelled services.

Positive reviews noted that despite compact cabins, it was possible to get a good night’s sleep.

Night train travel may not be for everyone. The compartments are small and the en-suite bathrooms are cramped, no matter how you look at it, especially when two people are travelling together,” one reviewer concluded.

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“These are not equivalent to deluxe hotel rooms, and they are not cheap. And there is the constant train motion and noise. However, [the] key advantage of overnight train travel [is] you actually can go quite far during the 10 plus hours that you spend on the train.”

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