Tips for Making Your Trip as Comfortable as Possible
Keep this advice in mind when preparing for that eight-plus hour journey across Europe, and your travels will be-if not relatively pleasant-slightly less uncomfortable.
Taking the night train can be either an adventure or a nightmare, depending on how prepared you are for the long trip (and depending on how full the train is, but that’s just the luck of the draw).
What to Bring With You
- Eye shades: They only cost a couple of dollars and are available at most drugstores or department stores. (You can also get them for free from some airlines when you fly.) Interior train lights are usually dimmed or off, but total darkness will help you sleep better, especially when stopping at brightly lit stations. If you don’t have eye shades, sunglasses work well, too.
- Bottle of water: Stay hydrated when you travel; keep the bottle right next to you while you’re asleep, because it’s pretty much guaranteed you’ll wake up at least once.
- Light snack: When the conductors come around at five or six o’clock in the morning to check tickets, you’re going to have to wake up (and if you’re sleeping, they won’t hesitate to tap you on the shoulder or speak loudly). Chances are you’ll be hungry and won’t feel like heading down to the dining car, so grab something from a bakery the night before, or have a couple granola bars handy.
- Mp3 player: So it’s not a necessity, but if the noise of the train keeps you awake, it’s good to have a playlist of relaxing songs that can block out other noise.
- A pillow: Take a small sofa pillow (like the ones you can get cheaply at IKEA). If you don’t have one, even a soft, comfy sweatshirt or a towel will do, just as long as you’ve got something to support your head and neck. Some trains’ seats tilt a bit to resemble a lounge chair, but having that little something extra with you can save you from neck pain in the morning.
- Change of clothes/toiletries: Keep some essentials, like deodorant, a toothbrush, and a spare t-shirt and underwear, in the bag you keep closest to you (whether it’s a duffel or a handbag or even a briefcase), so that you don’t have to go digging through your suitcase early in the morning.
Other Advice for the Train Ride
Unless you’re willing to pay an extra 20 Euro for your own space lying down, you’ll be in a standard compartment. During the day, most train compartments fit six passengers. The seats can fold down to make beds, so the night compartments comfortably fit only three.
If you’re lucky and the train isn’t that busy, two other people— maximum—will be in the compartment with you. Ticket vendors assign passengers one by one to different compartments rather than filling one compartment at a time, so the chances of being stuck with more than two people are low unless it’s a busy holiday weekend.
If you need to change clothes and wash up before arriving at your destination, save 50 cents (the typical price at train station toilets) by using a train’s WC. Each train car has at least two toilets, so you probably won’t have to wait long, either. And remember, wear comfortable clothes and keep all money and IDs as close to you as possible.
Taking the night train may not be the most luxurious experience, but unless you’re stuck in a compartment with four or five other people, being prepared will make the journey far less unpleasant than it could be.