The train carriage clatters back and forth as I drift slowly off to sleep, somewhere in middle of nowhere Turkey. Rocked by the rhythm of the rails and snuggled under standard issue woollen blankets, I doze off quite peacefully – only interrupted at 3am as the gruff bearded immigration officer at the Bulgarian border compares the photo on my passport with my groggy face.
Aside from middle of the night border checks resulting in an interrupted sleep, taking a night train while backpacking through Europe has a lot of advantages. Here are five reasons why you should consider it:
You Save the Cost of One Night of Accommodation
If you are sleeping on a train for the night, you will not need to pay for a hostel bed that night – essentially killing both the accommodation and transport birds with one stone. Hostel prices can be expensive, especially in Western Europe, so this is a great option for the budget traveller.
You Won’t Waste Your Daylight Hours in Transit
If you have only a limited time to travel Europe, every day counts. You don’t want to spend those precious days on an 8 hour train ride, when you could be visiting art galleries, eating delicious food and strolling through medieval streets.
They are Pretty Comfortable
A night train might not be the Hilton, but it’s a relatively comfortable place to sleep for the night. You will have a bed to lie down in, blankets and perhaps even a curtain to close around your bunk for privacy. The train carriage doors lock so that you will be secure. It is a lot better than sleeping on a bus and the gentle rocking motion of the train actually helps to lull you to sleep.
They Take You From City Centre to City Centre
One of the great advantages of taking night trains in Europe is that they take you directly from the centre of the city to the centre of your next destination. If you fly, you will need to worry about getting from the city to the airport, then from the airport to the city when you arrive in your next destination. When you take a night train and it arrives in the city in the early hours of the morning – you don’t have to take any other transport because you will likely be within walking distance of your hotel accommodation or hostel. (Make sure you choose one with 24 hour reception that will let you check in early!)
Night Trains count as one travel day on Eurail Pass
If you are using a Eurail pass to travel around Europe, you should know that a night train usually only counts as one travel day. For example, if you took the train which leaves Rome at 9:30pm and arrives in Munich at 8:30 am– you will still be on the same travel day. This means that night trains can help you to get more out of your Eurail Pass and travel further for less.
These are just a few of the reasons why you should consider taking the night train when backpacking around Europe!