More than a year ago, we travelled the scenic Europe using Eurail / Interrail tickets throughout our journey across the continent of Europe and really enjoying the freedom and excitement it brings. However, our trip would not have been complete without taking the sleeper train and having the experience of travelling and sleeping through the night knowing that we were on our way to Eastern Europe. We wanted to have the experience of travelling to our next destination using the sleeper train.
The sleeper train arrived as a big Behemoth on the platform, seemingly larger and more impressive than the other trains we have caught so far, it stood out on the platform ready to take is onwards. We were travelling from Zurich in Switzerland to Ljubljana in Slovenia.
When traveling on the sleeper train you need to make sure that you have an advance reservation which needs to be paid at the time of booking. You can do this online through the website and is pretty straight forward to do. Don’t leave it to the last minute as you are likely to increase your stress levels as you try to navigate the transport system.
Tip: There are train stations in Europe wherein luggage storage facilities are actually available in the train station. Make sure to do some research in regards to those stations. As to Zurich station, yes there is as, we managed to roam around during the day in the city before we catch the sleeper train at night.
One of the pieces of advice that I would like to give you, is that some of the Western European states (i.e., Switzerland) has a very organised system but as you move into Eastern Europe, things become much less clear. Make sure that you arrive in plenty of time before the train arrival for departure… and get ready to run!
You can choose the type of cabin in which you want to stay, so for example there is a gender specific cabin if you wish to share with others, and also if you are travelling as a group you can book your own cabin (for 3 people).
You also need to be aware that as you move through the borders, at various stops the border force will intermittently board the train and insist on your passport (or visa). You really do not want to encounter any difficulties here as you will be made to leave the train and be detained. Make sure that you have your tickets up to date, reservation information, and very importantly your passport and any essential visa documentation to hand (and make sure there is no room for ambiguity).
For the actual journey you may need to take some precautions in regards to anti sickness pills (it can be a shaky journey especially if you are on the top bunk!) It might not be a great idea if you have any anxiety difficulties such as claustrophobia as the space can be pretty tight. You also want to make sure that you don’t miss your destination – so set a timer and alarm for when you are to arrive. The staff are pretty good at coming around and knocking on the doors, and breakfast is served in the morning of your journey.
Once you arrive, it’s very simple – you disembark and leave the station as you normally would, carrying on your interrail journey to your next destination!
Personally, I am glad that I tried the sleeper train experience but it isn’t for the faint hearted. It can get hot, pretty cramped, and at times a shaky and noisy journey. There are also some practical difficulties with using the bathroom if you are on the top bunk (which is a normal train toilet down the corridor), as well as using the small sink which comes with the room. However, if you are up for a bit of an adventure – this can be an interesting way to travel!