• Sleeper Fares in Europe

  • Tell us where you were and what you saw!
Tell us where you were and what you saw!

Moderator: David Benton

  by gt7348b
I know there is constant, shall we say, discussion about the sleeping fares on this board. I just wanted to provide information about sleeper fares in Europe and see what discussion resulted about whether fares really are too high. I'm temporarily in Brussels, so I picked up a Villes d'Europe guide that shows example prices between Brussels and various European cities, including overnight trains to:

1. Hamburg (De: 23:15 AR: 7:05)
2. Berlin (De: 23:15 AR: 8:18)
3. Warsaw - continuing on to Minsk and Moscow for the true adventure (De: 18:16 AR: 9:08)

Trains all have sleepers (single, double, and triples with and without shower/toilet, couchettes for 4, couchettes for 6, and coach seats), diner, and bar/cafe. Well, the Warsaw train doesn't have a triple room with shower/toilet. So except for the couchettes, these trains are roughly similar to the product line AMTRAK offers on its long distance services if you consider that you can book a roomette as a single, the triples as a family/deluxe room, and that AMTRAK provides all rooms with toilets - negating the with/without part.

Since I don't think I can post exact prices these are examples prices and are not the actual prices quoted:

A double room without shower or toillette to Berlin is roughly equivalent to a coach seat ATL-WAS on the Crescent (somewhere between 140-170 Euros). Of course, the double bedroom is a price per person, so for two people the price would be doubled. Prices to Warsaw and Hamburg are similar.

Interestingly, you can get a single with shower and toillette for a little under double the cost of the double without shower. Prices are similar to Hamburg and Warsaw. Also, coach seats are little over 2/3 the cost of a double bedroom with prices for the couchettes with 4 beds and 6 beds somewhere in between.

So, to recap, a double bedroom (without a toilet) in a sleeper between Brussels and Berlin is a little under the cost of a roomette for two people between Atlanta and Washington. Any thoughts about whether AMTRAK is adequately pricing its overnight products?

  by CarterB
While the prices quoted are 'correct' retail, most Europeans who travel more than just occasionally will have "Bahn Card" or equivalent with up to 50% discounts on posted fares.

The particular Brussels to 'everywhere' train has indeed the standard bedroom (1, 2 or 3 berths) depending on how many travel/buy that particular room, with a wash basin. The deluxe rooms do have the toilet/shower.

With the Bahn Card a single in a std bedroom (ala roomette) from Berlin to Brussels would be about $EU 221, or 'offprice' $EU 98, a single in a deluxe room would be $EU 248 or 'offprice' $EU 125.

Many Europeans traveling just a single overnight will use the couchette.

The 4 berth couchette with Bahn Card would be about $EU 105 and offprice $EU 23

The six berth is for the young, for sure!! However, I have travelled for many years all over Europe in the 4 berth couchette for just about $30 +/- accommodation charge over 2nd class. Only once in the 15 years I have travelled has there actually been 4 persons in a compartment. Over 50% of the time, I have had it to myself.

Now, as to Amtrak, yes the first class tariffs are about same as European 1st class IF you didn't use any discounts. There is no 'middle ground' available on Amtrak.

The prevailing thought, however, is 'market demand pricing' which prevails on Amtrak.

  by John_Perkowski
Granted, my experience with Deutsche Speiswagen und Schlafwagen Gesellschaft mBH is now almost 20 years distant, but...

Couchette surcharges (4-6 to a room) were extremely inexpensive, and the base fare was 2d Class (our coach).

Schlafwagen (sleeper) surcharges were rather more expensive. 3 to a room was considered 2d class travel; 2 to a room or just yourself was 1st class travel.

Longest run I took was pre-fall of the Curtain. Munich-Hamburg, or Hamburg to Basel Bad. Perfect overnight distance; trains typically ran at 140 kmph; average running speed (including mountains, terminal throats, etc) was around 100 kmph. That's a far cry from Amtrak's LD capabilities, particularly on the average rate of advance.

John Perkowski

  by vector_one75
I was in Europe several months in 1969, and sleeper travel I believe is prettty much as it is now, excepty of certain cars aving showers. Unless you use one of 3 types of sleepers where a single person can be "officially" accommodated, to get a room by oneself is very expensive for the accommodation charge being siply double (European sleepers are sold on a "per berth" not "per room" basis, except for the special 3 types)

The German DSG company has now been incorporated into the Mitropa company after German Unification, and the Reichsbahn is now merged with the Bundesbahn as simply the "Bahn". The Wagons Lits company is gone from Europe, and its only remaining worldwide operation is the Cairo-Aswan sleeper in Egypt, which I rode in the 1990's. The sleepers were brand new less than a year since their consruction and petty much as CIWL went.

The only really comfortable sleepers for a single traveller were by DSG, roomette cars very similar to USA PRR "INN" cars with the veryu notyes difference that the roomette seats were back to back, allowing a sepentine corridor arrangement alternating "feet/heas" positions on opposite aisles which allowed use of the toilets at night without having to flip up the bed when nature calls. Why the USA Pullman and Budd builders never picked up on this. When I used to travel in the USA I always preferred to travel singly with slumbercoaches rather than roomettes because the slumbercoaches allowed use of the toilet at night, whereas the higher cost first class roomettes did not! These cars were also the basis od the roomette and (double slumbercoach) economy sleepers on Australia's "Indian Pacific" in 1970.

Those CIWL-type sleepers that have 3 berths can be economical since they only require a 2nd class ticket and only 1 berth charge. Since I was with a EurailPass, I only had to pay for berth bookings. There are no equivalents in the USA for couchettes. They are 4-berth (first class) or 6-berth (second class) with very low cost berth rates, but the berth you get is just the normal seat-back, no bed linen, just a pillow. Passengers share in mixed gender rooms, people sleep in normal outerwear clothes.

My routes included the London-Paris "Night Ferry" (sleeper n a channel carferry), Paris-Instanbul on he "Direct-Orient Express" (very down-market train by then!), the Italian "Settebello" with ver nice seating compartments, Rhinegold Express (the only dome cars I saw), Moscow-Paris "Ost-West Express" - very sombre crossing the Berlin Wall with a number of transit visas needed across the "4" Germanies if Berlin zones of occupation are to be considered, the "Lietuva" Vilnius (Lithuania) - Moscow, and on a number of unnamed, but with sleeping cars, services all around. At the time it was pretty much the cost of USA sleeper travel, with slumbercoaches and couchettes being the lower cost line.

It's on the diners in Europe that I found the major cost differences from the USA trains of that era. European dining cars were about double or triple price of USA diners, and there were very few lounge cars as were "de-riguer" on the mediocre to better trains in the USA. And of course, European sleepers did a lot more through switching between individual trains enroute than the USA trains ever did.

Yes, I know, I can't give you the answers you want as for curent prices, but I hope I was still able to give you some insights.

Vytautas B. Radzivanas
Perth, Western Australia

  by Gilbert B Norman
Oh well, Mr Vector--

There goes my"Night Ferry' monopoly.

I thought I was the only one at this board to have ridden it (June 1979 - several months before it was killed), welcome to the club.
Last edited by Gilbert B Norman on Fri Nov 18, 2005 3:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

  by John_Perkowski
Frankfurt am Main to Copenhagen is also a night ferry trip!!!

We did it in the spring of 1985.

John Perkowski

  by David Benton
sciliy to mainland Italy is also a train ferry trip , thoug i did it during the day .

  by george matthews
vector_one75 wrote:I was in Europe several months in 1969, and sleeper travel I believe is prettty much as it is now, excepty of certain cars aving showers. Unless you use one of 3 types of sleepers where a single person can be "officially" accommodated, to get a room by oneself is very expensive for the accommodation charge being siply double (European sleepers are sold on a "per berth" not "per room" basis, except for the special 3 types)
Unfortunately sleeper travel in Europe is fading away. Compare the Cooks European timetable of today with only ten years ago. Many long distance sleepers that lasted for a century (except during the wars) have vanished. The reason? Day trains have become so much faster. The second reason of course is that cheap airlines have syphoned off the passengers who used the sleepers - certainly the Couchettes.

Other reasons of course are that shunting is much less common. Trains nowadays are run as single units, and very often have no locomotive.

I used to go with an Inter-rail ticket and it was usually cheaper to take a couchette than to get a room for the night. One year I took the sleeper from Hamburg and spent a day in Switzerland and left on the sleeper to Paris. Now, one can't do that because all the trains to Paris are TGVs.

High Speed trains make a huge difference. If the Americans build a high speed network, they won't need them either.
Last edited by george matthews on Fri Nov 18, 2005 7:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.

  by Gilbert B Norman

  by george matthews
Gilbert B Norman wrote:Night FerryWith the recent bridging of the Orrsund between Helsingor, Denmark and Helsingborg, Sweeden, I believe that it is no longer possible anywhere in the world to ride in a railroad passenger car aboard a ferry.
There are still rail ferries in Europe.

Hamburg to Kopenhagen crosses the ferry Puttgaden-Rodby (though a bridge is being considered). There is an alternative via Flensburg and Padborg, using the Store Baelt bridge and Tunnel.
I am not sure if there is still a ferry from Sassnitz on the Island of Ruegen to Sweden at Trelleborg, but I think so. It was running as recently as 2001. The other Baltic rail ferry from Rostock to Gedser has ceased (it was originally the East german connection and has been replaced for Berlin Kobenhavn trains by going via Hamburg). I have taken all the Baltic ferries between Germany and Scandinavia.

Also the Sicily to Milan trains still cross, including sleepers. Will the bridge ever be built? It was authorised by the Italian government in the last month.

  by vector_one75

The article you wrote about the "Night Ferry" was pretty much the same experiences about the procedures, cars, and fittings as in my 1969 trip.

A few differences:

a) Major difference was in the diner of the French train. It had a full diner with very god fare. Being a train with a British clientelle, it had a full meny of hot cooked breakfasts including bacon and eggs and all the trimmings, in addition to the "continental breakfasts" that the French or Belgian clientele would probably eat in the morning. But as I mentioned in my earlier post, the breakfast was very expensive compared to diners of the USA in that pre-Amtrak era for a lot more oomph for the food items. I guess the few years difference in your later trip was the result of derogations of the service.

b) I was not aware of the channel rough seas, so it must also have been an unusually calm night. To me the experience of this service was to be asleep from British terra firma to French terra forma. After all, if I was to be up and around while the loading and unloading was being watched, the experience of a sleeping car trip would, for me at least, be a "non-event". For that I could have used the second class sit-up cars and then simly transferred on and off the ship on foot. So I chose to actually fall asleep before Dover and did not awake until after France. I did partly come awake in slumber in bed with the car being rolled and a bit of commotion by the crew which through the window appeared to be the docking operation, but I was still slumbering enough to not be able to figure out which side of the Channel this was. So I did what was "intended" for a sleeping car passenger to do, though of course this was to sacrifice a bit of railfanning in the process, but for me the experience of being a sleeping car passenger with a "no-transfer" night run over a ferry was a railfan experience for me itself, so while I'd liked to have to be up and around at dockside, I only had the occcasion once, so it was my choice to "railfan" as a passenger would have experienced. I did not feel tired after the trip, and I guess the state of one's comfort would be an objective matter.

c) The fare for the "Night Ferry" trip in the sleeping car was VERY high, but I was in a single compartment. preferring my privacy. I knew that all other trips would be very much shared compartments, so figured that I'd do the one big splurge!

Ans an aside, during 1969 there were a number of rail plus ferry crossings between England and "other side" ports across the Channel, and the "Night Ferry" was not the only route, though it was the only through train using a carferry for passengers to have a "same berth" service right from origin to destination. As I already mentioned, non sleeping car passengers on the "Night Ferry" train had to board and alight the ferry on foot, and the sit-up (coach, though not really?) cars were each domestic rolling stock at both ends of the run.

The premier day train between London and Paris was the "Golden Arrow" whose equivalent on the French side was the "Fleche d' Or" with all passengers on foot at both ports of cal, regardless of class. I believe that this train, both sides, had "Pullmans" (not USA pullmans, but a more opulent version of a parlor car in British/European parlance) as well as in second class. The route was a bit different from the overnight "Night Ferry". There were other rail/ferry services on different routes as well.

There was an also unusual service London-Paris "Silver Arrow" / "Fleche d' Argent" which was a somewhat faster rail / air / service. British rail would take the train from London to Gatwick Airport (as opposed to the much closer Heathrow Airport via the London Underground), then an airplane would go across to Le Touquet Airport just across the Channel, and then the French train would take it to Paris. I am not sure thisd service lasted too long, aince the combination of air and rail somehow to me didn't seem to really been able to compete with an all-air service where most passengers would tend to be wanting speed. But I guess that the British and French railroads were trying to see how to make an equivalent as you say "rough crossing" by staying on rail as long as one could and not having the ferries.

Also interesting in my trip in Paris itself, I rode the close to final chapter on Parisian suburban steam. The last steam operation in Paris suburban rail was out of Gare de Bastille which by that time was the only service out of that terminal. The overhead catenary was aready up and only a few months after I rode it it was in electrical operation. I used the line because I had been staying with my Godmother and her hiusbant who lived in Parc Ste. Maur suburb. The electrifiued line would bypass Gare de Bastille and would be abandoned once electrical operation were to be in place. The small steam tank engines were no longer being maintained. When one bit the dust, its sceduled services were simply crossed off the timetable. It was a very tearful experience to see that while even the fact of steam's last stand in Paris had to be witnessed with such disgraceful disrespect to the locos in their dying days. I'm not sure whether Gare Bastille is used otherwise ir if it went to the wrecker's ball.

I only had a trip in the "night ferry" from London to Paris. I had come to England on my trip from New York on the SS United States via Southampton, as a means of getting a fothold in English in Europe before going on. My "base of operations" was of course in Paris with my Godmother, and took 2-3 weeks at a time to "wash my linen" in Paris and then go on the next trip for a few weeks, etc. A highlight of course was to be in Lithuania, my ancestral homeland, at the time under Soviet rule, and was promptly arrested for straying outside the city limits of Vilnius. The USSR authorities had restricted "foreigners" in Lithuania to 5 days in the capital city only, and of course most would come by air and use up a day each direction for the bureaucracy of arrving and departing. So by travelling by rail on sleeping car schedules, arriving in Vilnius gave me an extra day at each end of the 5 days to see the countryside as well as just the capital city. But when they arrersted me, their interrogations wasted a preciuos 20% of my time to be there. Train photography was forbidden, but a local cousin of mine managed to get a photo of me with the name of the train (Lietuva [In Lithuanian]- Litva [in Russian]) at the top letterboard. There were a lot of "interesting" adventures to get there and back but would take hours of writing to relate!

After about 3.5 months, I got back to New York on the SS France from La Havre. Both ships were in their final season, so I just managed to get into this trip before a lot of stuff started unravelling in "civilised" travel fashion. In 1970, I went to Australia where I married my wife (Sydney to Perth on the brand new "Indian Pacific" on the brand new standard gauge transcontinental line), and took her back to New York via Expo 70 in Japan (Bullet Train Tokyo-Osaka), then from LA via San Francisco-Chicago-Cincinnati-Roanoke-Lynchburg-Washington on the San Joaquin Daylight, City of San Francisco, James Whitcomb Riley, Pohahontas, an N&W Bristol-Lynchburg local (one of the ex of the Bristol trains), a Southern Railway local, then the Penn Central, all this to still be able to do before the end of the non-Amtrak era. My wife, well she lasted 12 yars an New York and got homesick for Perth. We had our argument as to where to live and she won, as the ladies always do. I returned to the USA about every 2 years while my mother was still alive. Then my operation and stroke came in 2002 and that's the end of my overseas travel. But in my earlier days, I did travel in Canada (Ontario and Quebec) but never got west of that, and I did get to go into Mexico, though I wouldn't really think that Tijuana is the real Mexico!

Vytautas B. Radzivanas
Perth, Western Australia

  by Gilbert B Norman

I believe this topic has evolved in manner that best renders it placed at the Rail Travel Forum.

So, here is comes over to you, Mr. Benton


  by Scoring Guy
Allow me to recommend the web site seat61.com as an excellent single resource for European and world wide train travel.

  by CarterB
Ditto the recommendation on the website "The man in Seat Sixty-one" http://seat61.com/

An excellent source!

Also to plan your European rail trips the online timetable on:
http://reiseauskunft.bahn.de/bin/query. ... equest=yes&
the Deutsch Bahn site.

And for those interested in night trains:

You can download the entire German night train timetable from: