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Sweden Wants to Revive Europe’s Overnight Trains (citylab.com)
623 points by aaronbrethorst on Apr 2, 2019 | hide | past | web | favorite | 266 comments

Excited about this idea. I wanted to do an overnight train in a Europe trip I did last year, but the timing and quality never quite worked out. A lot of the time, trains between cities in western Europe are annoyingly long for a day trip, but slightly _too short_ for overnight trips - almost like an NYC->London red-eye, where you arrive just after you fall asleep. The couple of overnight trains I saw that seemed like they'd work out timing-wise, like Paris to Venice, had really poor reviews, but I assume that's down to the various companies running these services, who probably haven't invested much in them lately as budget airlines continue to compete so heavily.

Sweden seems perfectly set up to invest in overnighters, though, as the article notes some theoretical routes. Norway and Denmark would benefit too, I think; at one point I was investigating doing a trip that would involve going from Oslo to Copenhagen, and the only reasonable non-flight options were an overnight _ferry_ (which, all things considered, was surprisingly cheap, though I'm sure they gouge you on food and the on-ship shopping mall), or a 7 and a half hour train trip that'd take all day. If Sweden were running overnight service along that route through Gothenburg, connecting those countries, it'd be a pretty awesome way to get between places.

You write "_ferry_" like it's something weird, but it's a completely normal transport option for a huge number of Europeans -- usually for longer journeys, but sometimes to cover a short distance in 20-30 minutes. There are many ferry connections across the Irish, North, Baltic and Mediterranean seas.

Ignoring the price, I'd choose an overnight ferry over an overnight train. The worst room on a ferry is probably as large as the best room on an overnight train.

The food menu for Oslo-Copenhagen is [1], the prices seem in-line with what I'd expect to pay at a restaurant in either city, though I don't know what the quality is like.

[1] https://www.dfdsseaways.co.uk/onboard-our-ferries/copenhagen...

Interestingly enough in Europe there are places [1] where you can take a train which goes on a ferry, so you can take the ferry while you take the train

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vogelfluglinie

I've taken this train from Hamburg to Coppenhagen. It's fascinating to watch the train be put on the ferry and then you got a nice ferry ride and can marvel at the size of the wind farms off the coast. I would highly recommend it if you have the time.

I took this ride once but didn't actually know that was how it worked. I woke up in an empty car clearly in some kind of enclosure. It wasn't until leaving the car and going up a set of stairs that I realized my train was on a boat.

Until then, I wasn't so sure I wasn't in a rail yard or sci-fi movie.

I'm actually surprised they let you stay on the train. Both times I've taken that route they seemed pretty diligent about making sure everybody was off the train. I assume this is for safety reasons -- down in a darkened train on the lowest deck would be the last place I'd want to be if the ferry had any difficulties.

I really liked the ferry experience. The ferry part is only about 40 minutes, but it's just enough time to have a quick meal in the on-board restaurant. Unsurprisingly it's not exactly a bargain price for a buffet, but it did break up the train journey nicely. It's pleasant to sit in a comfortable booth and stare out at the sea for a bit.

I don't know, but perhaps I just overslept everyone else clearing out, but not long enough for staff to come by. It was pretty weird!

> it's just enough time to have a quick meal in the on-board restaurant

The pickings seemed pretty slim for vegetarians, though, which took me by surprise as nearly every restaurant these days has at least one vegetarian option. I ended up having some plain fries with ketchup.

Yes, I'm a vegetarian myself and also would have appreciated a better selection in that regard. Both times I ended up having meals that were heavy in the potato and cheese departments. The buffet had some fruit and cooked vegetables as well, but nothing that was really a main dish by itself. Still, I didn't go hungry or anything.

I have done this exact journey about a decade ago. It was a really good experience - made all the more memorable as I was not expecting the train to roll on to the ferry! The daytime ferry transit provided good views and I second the recommendation to try it.

Yep I took it from Gothenburg to Berlin (via Copenhagen and Hamburg) and those wind farms are seriously impressive!

Also a really cool view if you take the bridge from Denmark to Sweden, windmills in the sea almost as far as the eye can see.

You took the train from Gothenburg to Berlin?

Was the portion over the Oresund Bridge by bus then? It is indeed an impressive bridge. You get a good glimpse of it flying out of Copenhagen as well.

It's fun once then mostly just annoying (unless you are a smoker I guess). There is, or at least used to be, another train ferry between Trelleborg and Sassnitz as well.

The one between Trelleborg and Sassnitz is still used by the Stockholm-Berlin sleeper train.

I heard u liked transportation so we put a train inside a ferry so you can take the ferry while you take the train!

I have been on a few overnight trains here in Sweden and they have all been quite old, noisy and shaky ones. This initiative might give enough incentives for companies to invest in better overnight trains, but so far what we are being promised are more lines rather than better experience.

In contrast, overnight ferry has been mostly a delight. The room are smaller than hotel but much better than train, they don't shake (and I only appreciate a gently rocking movement of the ocean), and unless you buy the cheapest tickets you tend to get a mostly quiet night (the ac can be a bit loud through). The only drawbacks is that it is much slower than air travel, and the food prices in the restaurants are about as atrocious as those on planes and trains.

Sadly ferries is basically limited to traveling over the Baltic sea and Norway. I would very much like the option to travel to other costal nations in EU, even if it would take a day or two, but there simply isn't any lines.

There are in the Mediterranean. For instance between Morocco and Algeria it's one of the two options to cross the border, because the land border is closed (due to territorial disputes).

>I have been on a few overnight trains here in Sweden and they have all been quite old, noisy and shaky ones.

I've been on an overnight snabbtåg (SJ) from Köpenhamn to Stockholm to Norrköping and it wasn't that bad (however, I was the only one in my [train] car).

Overnight ferries are quite nice, I'll concede, such as from Holyhead to Dublin or Dublin to Cherbourg; however, that falls to the wayside when the seas are quite rough. In that sense, I would prefer the rickety train to the heaving ship.

You forget about the UK. There are ferries from the Netherlands, Belgium and france to different ports around the country

I'll second that overnight ferries can be great, and not just for Europeans. I've been on the one from Bari, Italy to Dubrovnik, Croatia which worked out really well. Another time I took one from Helsinki to Stockholm. If you take the ferry in the summer time you get an hours long never ending sunset.

Then of course there are the local ferries like you mention. IMO, one of the best ways to visit Venice is to stay in Rovinj, Croatia and ferry over for the day.

I took DFDS overnight from Sweden to Lithuania last summer and found it quite enjoyable. The tickets, including transport for your car, are reasonably priced (about the same price as plane tickets), we got to take the dog in the room with us and had a private shower. There's also a nice community of people to chat with out on deck during the night, everyone else is stuck on the ferry with you so you can have nice little parties.

Cell signals (at least in the Baltic) apparently travel super far over the water so you also get cell service for a freakishly longer time than you would expect. I think we had ours for about 3-4 hours after we left and 3-4 hours before we arrived back at shore.

Food was not great by any means, but edible.

The other kind of hilariously infuriating thing is that they wake you up at 7 am with an incredibly loud announcement that they are serving breakfast with an intercom piped directly into your room. And you can't turn it off. Was more funny than anything, though I can imagine that if it was a multiple-day endeavor that I could learn to hate it pretty quickly.

Remember getting Finnish reception on the Swedish shore opposite Åland.

Overnight sleeper ferries are a thing in China, I took one from Shanghai to an island in zhejiang once.

If you take a ferry up from Washington state to Alaska, they have sleeper cabins of course for the rich but you are also allowed to pitch a tent on top in a designated area.

A tent on a ship? Knowing how windy it can get at sea, that sounds terrifying, how do you secure it? Or are we talking indoors?


Tents all go on deck, looks like duct tape is used.

Since the ferries travel mostly between the coast and islands, it isn’t anywhere as windy as the open sea.

Honestly if the unfair competition from budget airlines doesn't stop I don't see overnight trains coming back in any significant way any time soon.

Edit: If you're wondering what I find unfair about it, I'm mainly concerned about the lack of taxes on kerosine.

What makes it unfair? Just curious. Is it subsidized in some fashion that trains are not?

In most EU states, there are VAT exemptions for the fuel used in domestic and intra-EU flights, while no similar exemptions exist for the fuel used in trains (and cars). Likewise, there exist VAT exemptions for plane tickets.

At least in Portugal, querosene is also exempt from the ISP (tax on the petroleum products). VAT and ISP make up more than half of the retail price of diesel and is almost 2/3 of the price of gasoline. Interestingly, the VAT rate of 23% is applied to the price with ISP included. So you effectively pay a tax on the tax. Finally, there's the fact that we're emitting free 2009/29/EC directive carbon allowances for aviation.

They really need to end these tax exemptions for planes. It makes no sense at all. But old treaties can be hard to end.

Actually, international train tickets are also VAT-exempt in many countries.

Portugal has a huge tax on petroleum products compared to other EU countries anyway. We paid 1.75€ per liter of gas last summer.

If they did't extempt kerosene, Spain would get its share of its tourists.

Here in the Netherlands 1 liter of gasoline was very low a few months ago at about €1,55. Now back up to €1,60 if you do your best or €1,78 on the highways. Portugal is not that bad :)

Compared: https://autotraveler.ru/en/spravka/fuel-price-in-europe.html

I remember reading that EasyJet and Ryanair get subsidies from regional Airport authorities. They also regularly threaten to shut down their bases at said airports when they don’t get their way with pilot unions and so on.

Then you read something construed.

It's an informal subsidy at best in that local policymakers create these regional Airports in the first place, then struggle to find Airlines without large numbers of existing traffic. So they reach out to the likes of EasyJet and Ryanair, which are happy to book slots if the price is cheap enough. Their added volumes of traffic alone can make up for other costs an airport incurs (operations etc.) in that they can rent retail space for example. And it's a chance at attracting other carriers as well.

Every shopping mall (or new district) works the same way: Without anchor tenants (who attract large amounts of traffic) it's hard to get the venue off the ground. Which is why these anchor-tenants get huge discounts (for instance in German inner-city locations an ALDI gets to pay 3€/sqm, whilst the hair salon next door pays 20€/sqm).

The question of course is: Do these regions need Airports? Or is it morally flawed for urbanites to condemn flyover-people wanting to become better connected?

If an airline is using an airport cheaply and said airport continuously requires government money to not go bankrupt, that is a fairly clear subsidy. The "rent retail space and chance at attracting other carriers" doesn't work that reliably in practice, since those other carriers can play the same game of "we only come if we don't have to pay the actual costs", and can quickly shift to other airports if one stops playing ball. Sometimes it seems attracting airplane maintenance facilities is the most reliable source of income for such airports.

Especially since in many areas, long-distance air travel is pretty much a zero sum game: more small airports doesn't mean more people flying, it's just shifting people around between airports.

In truly remote areas I believe that's different and worth supporting (paying for infrastructure so people can travel more easily, when it'd otherwise be a day or two in the car to get to an airport), but e.g. in Germany there's a bunch of places that have good train connections to bigger airports, but regional airports with extremely limited air connections are still funded. E.g. one example I'm thinking of is less than 2 hours by train from 2 big airports, but apparently needs an airport that serves a few holiday flights each week. Every few years there's big announcements of new airlines coming in, which either get cancelled again after a few years, the airline goes bankrupt or ... While the running subsidies aren't that high, the initial investments were and IMHO would have been better used for other infrastructure.

"If an airline is using an airport cheaply and said airport continuously requires government money to not go bankrupt, that is a fairly clear subsidy."

Yes. But based on EU regulation this won't be allowed anymore in the near future. (2020? 2022?)

Depends on what externalities you count in. Is not taxing fossil fuel a subsidy?

I believe fossil fuel is taxed pretty highly in all European countries, let alone Sweden?

Sadly, aviation is often exempt from fuel taxes and even VAT. I don't know the situation in Sweden, it seems they started taxing aviation recently. I don't know how much though.

Not highly enough to account for its externalities.

Importantly, petroleum taxes are usually leveraged on consumers e.g. diesel and gas prices in europe are mostly special taxes (+ VAT), train operators pay taxes on electricity (possibly diesel as well, not sure about that one) but kerosene (and possibly bunker fuel) is free of both VAT and petroleum-specific taxes. And that's despite planes generally producing more CO2/passenger/km than cars by a factor of 30~50%.

> A lot of the time, trains between cities in western Europe are annoyingly long for a day trip, but slightly _too short_ for overnight trips - almost like an NYC->London red-eye, where you arrive just after you fall asleep.

Yeah, the sweet spot is definitely 8+ hours en route.

I took a fantastic service from Nice to Paris which ran about twelve hours, which was plenty of time to sleep. It was weirdly cheap at €87 for a first-class sleeper car, or €157 including an extra €70 supplement to be guaranteed to be the only occupant in a room with four berths. The service started at Nice (8pm), made a few local stops to pick up more passengers, finally got to Marseilles (10:29pm), then ran nonstop from 10:30pm Marseilles to 7:38am Paris.

I had been expecting a very low-key cut-rate service designed for locals to travel comfortably overnight in dedicated beds but got a very modern train instead -- apparently operated by Russian Railways (RZD) with 2014-built passenger carriages that RZD also uses for their Paris to Moscow service (same equipment as the "sleeping cars" shown here). The onboard shower was an unexpectedly nice touch and it was an awesome ride.

Sadly the train I took no longer exists -- when I took it in July 2016, the French government had already begun to withdraw subsidies for the service (https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2016/may/10/france-waves-... , https://www.seat61.com/lunea.htm ) and it vanished.

The logistics can work out really well. My calculus was that (1) I was in Nice visiting family and wanted to stay as long as possible, but I needed to catch a 10am flight out of CDG the next day; (2) it would have cost €300+ to book a flight NCE-CDG and an airport hotel, and departing the city center at 8pm let me see the city for longer than heading to NCE in the late afternoon.

Unclear if it was a good deal from a point of view of national priorities. My trip kept one person from taking one domestic flight -- is that a good deal considering the externalities of shorthaul plane rides versus train rides? I have no idea.

Once upon a time there was a night train Florence-Paris.

It left Florence (Santa Maria Novella station, in the centre) around 19:00-20:00 and arrived in Paris (Gare de Lyon) if I recall correctly around 9:30 the morning after.

The plane required:

1) being at the Pisa airport (which is a 1:30 hour train/bus away from the center of Florence) 1:30 before departure

2) roughly 1:30 boarding and flight

3) 15-30 minutes to collect luggage (if any)

4) 40-60 minutes from the Charles De Gaulle Airport to the centre of Paris

All in all 5-6 hours total.

Choosing the train (which - depending on the arrangement could also be cheaper, including the dinner, than the plane) was a no brainer for me.

That Venice train is great. Living near Paris, we can do a weekend in Venice with two full days on the ground but only one night in a hotel (which is handy since rooms start at around $400/night there.)

It’s a shame that they killed off the dozen other night train destinations from here over the years. If Sweden and Norway open up as possibilities, I’ll be dragging the family up there the first sunny weekend.

Huh, I came _very_ close to doing it, but saw enough negative reviews to put me off. To be fair, most of them seemed to be people who had bad experiences in the shared (hostel) sleepers, though, most of which seemed to not really be the fault of the train (just lots of complaints about snoring and such, which, like, is why I always have ear plugs when I travel), but some complained about broken AC and busted toilets which sounded like... well, a normal Amtrak experience, but not something I really wanted on my vacation.

completely off-topic but you could stay in mestre and take the very cheap train into SL; takes 11 minutes. for example Best Western Plus Hotel Bologna is right next to the station and when i went there in october was 84 euros a night...

Sorry which train is that from Paris to Venice? How long does it take?

I have visited every country in the EU, a lot of which by train, it has been a thing my friends and I have done over the last 10 years, going to a few countries each year, trying to use public transport where it is reasonable. Along the way, I have been on a number of overnight trains and a number of overnight ferries and I personally highly rate the experience. There is something almost romantic about falling asleep one place and waking up somewhere else. But also the social aspect, head down to the bar cart on the train, have a beer, chat to other people, most people are a lot more open to chating than normal and you find out about their life, their reason for travel and sometimes even end up seeing them once you arrive at your destination. On top of that, planes are typically really noisy (from the engine), cramped, and just difficult (okay, business class is a fair bit better and I can only assume 1st class even more so) where as the train is quiet and just a nice way to relax either on the way back from somewhere on to build the excitement when heading somewhere!

Then again, I have also travelled the length of the Trans-Mongolian railway (St Petersburg to Beijing) and across the States (California to New York) by sleeper train!

Traveling by train across Europe, specially if you are going from one city to the next, is quite nice.

On great way to do that is to buy an interrail pass: https://www.interrail.eu/en/interrail-passes/global-pass

I did it about 10 years ago when I was a student, I left the day before, with a backpack, a rough idea of the itinerary and a few tourist guide books, and visited in the course of 3 weeks Bruxelles, Bruges, Amsterdam, Lubeck, Copenhagen and Berlin (and a small stop in Cologne).

Definitely something I would recommend to any student in Europe.

I spent a year in Germany circa 1999 and then overnight trains were all the rage. For instance, Dresden to Amsterdam was an easy and inexpensive trip. Going east you could get to Budapest, going south to Innsbruck, etc.

At that point an American in Europe would ride the train as much as he could, but the Europeans I knew thought taking a plane was cooler and it was a good experience because the plane had competition from the train.

Train tickets are simply too expensive compared to flights. Sometimes over 3-4 times.

If you time your travels right, it often makes more sense to compare prices of sleeper trains to the price of a flight + one night at a hotel instead of the flight alone. Also trains often get you to city centres while most low cost airlines will take you to an off-center airport which is also worth something.

Just like with flights, you have to book early enough and check different times, and then additionally get the discount cards, and then you're looking at comparable prices quite often.

Note also that kerosine and plane tickets are exempt from sales/value added tax, but train tickets aren't

The Serbia to Croatia overnight train was fun, clean, vintage and reasonably priced. One to try?

>Western Europe

Try Middle Europe. Take a train from Prague to Vienna to Zurich and on to Paris .. or Berlin, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, I mean if you plan things properly, its a very, very comfortable way to ride around see Europe properly: slow enough to grok the landscape.

I've done Krakow to Prague and Prague to Zurich and both of those were fantastic experiences. I've also done Verona to Paris which I would rate less highly - the Thello is significantly more expensive for a less comfortable train, additionally we were stopped and all passengers checked on the French border, which hadn't happened entering either the Czech Republic or Switzerland.

The ferry isn't too bad, I've taken it between Stockholm, Tallinn, Helsinki, and St. Petersburg. It's not like an all inclusive, nice experience like American cruises, but more minimalist (taking people, cars, and trucks). It's extremely cheap in the baltic sea and way cheaper than flight + hotel. It's a good experience all in all. Prices on board for food and shopping weren't bad at all.

The ferries are also known as booze cruises since Scandanavia has such high alcohol tax/gov. monopoly on alcohol, people buy a ton of it from the duty free store on board.

> The ferries are also known as booze cruises since Scandanavia has such high alcohol tax/gov. monopoly on alcohol, people buy a ton of it from the duty free store on board.

I've been on a few of these ferries and remember what looked like locals buying suitcase carts full of beer and liquor. On the ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn I met a nice couple who explained how it was cheaper to take a day trip to Tallinn to shop than it was to shop in Helsinki. Much like when Americans drive to the outlet stores.

It is such a phenomenon in Finland there is a great TV-series called M/S Romantic made out of the people going to the cruises.

If you get the cheapest tickets, some fights, noise, sex and/or vomit is something you'd expect... Of course you need to be very drunk to do that.

Next time take the ferry. The so called Danskebåten is an experience all by itself. Many Norwegians do round trips just for the party. Also you will be able to buy duty free and save a fortune (assuming you drink alcohol).

I took the ferry often as a kid, and a couple of years ago took it from Crete to Athens. It was excellent. Leaves around 9pm, gets in around 7am, and a private berth for two costs about the same as a hotel or flights, but you're essentially getting both in one.

It takes too long to get out of Sweden by sleeper train. High speed trains from major cities, as well as Oslo, and good regional routing that gets you to Copenhagen in ~3 hours would be a much better bet. Unfortunately that isn't happening anytime soon.

There’s a coach from Oslo to Malmö. Not sure if it goes on to Copenhagen, but it’s easy enough to walk to the train platform and be at Copenhagen in 40mins.

I can't stand to be in a bus for more than about an hour and a half (or on a plane at all), while I can be in a train all day and enjoy the ride. YMMV.

So back in Russia a trip from my home town to Moscow on a plane takes about 6 hours in total.

- get to the airport about 1 hour in advance - about 1.5 hour drive - The flight with all the procedures takes about 2 hours - All the exit procedures can take up to 0.5 hours easily if no longer - Wait for a train and ride to the city on the train - about 1 hour. - Once in the city get on subway and ride to destination - usually 1 hours as well.

Compare it to the train, the fastest one is 14 hours:

- 0.5 hours to get to the trains station in the middle of my hometown. (or less than 0.5 hours if you live near by) - 14 hours laying down on a relatively ok bed with clean sheets - BOOM! you're in the middle of Moscow

No check-ins, luggage management, no nothing.

6pm you lay down on a bed, have a much, read a book, go to sleep and next morning you wake up at 7 am, do your morning rooting and at 8 am you're almost in the middle of the city.

I take this train over a plane any day. The only problem with that is that it twice or more as expensive compared to plane tickets.

When I was a wee lad, we used to go to St. Petersburg for several weeks every summer, and one of the things I was most excited for was the train rides from/to Moscow. It was quite fun, since it meant that I got to stay up somewhat late (we'd usually take the last train in the evening) and got to see all the sights of the railroad and whatnot. Early next morning, we'd be pulling into St. Petersburg, and it meant that I had the whole day left to do stuff.

I also remember that it was always a painless experience. My mother, who is usually rather anxious, never really worried about the train rides, whereas airplane trips now freak her out because of all the crap that surrounds them.

I miss that sort of access to train transport in the US. It just doesnt feel as good to travel by train in California as it did in Russia.

> No check-ins, luggage management, no nothing.

RZD started checked luggage recently.

it would be fun to take a trans-siberian rail ... except it takes like what ...7 days? eats up vacation time pretty quickly.

In this case, the trainride IS the vacation. You don't take the Trans-Siberian primarily to get from Moscow to Vladivostok / Beijing, but to check out everything else along the way.

I've taken the TransSib (or TransMongolian, in this case) from Ulaanbaatar to Moscow. It's pretty much 4 days, just short of 100 hours. No showers, and the restaurant car was so-so; I mostly ate nuts and snacks: the train would stop some 10 minutes or so at stations, and there were kiosks on the platform to stock up. You really need to take some good books or good friends.

BTW, "The Man in Seat 61" has lots of info on it:


Isn’t that the charm?

My issue was more with recent tickets I’ve seen being pretty expensive.

Overnight trains are wonderful for traveling and saving a night's hotel. I used to take sleeper cars in China for distances that made sense (e.g. board at 9pm, arrive 7am). Some with shorter distances even optimized on sleep so that the train would stop for an hour outside the final station and arrive at a reasonable time in the morning. Unfortunately and similar with Europe, high speed rail has ended many of these schedules. On a side note, I've also failed to take this train multiple times in Japan due to its popularity: https://www.japan-rail-pass.com/japan-by-rail/travel-tips/su...

That's what I did when I went around northern Europe. Took the Stockholm to Malmo, and then switch to Copenhagen. Unfortunately, I don't think there was sleeper cars.

That train departed late evening, got us there in the daytime. I figured if I'm paying to sleep, I might as well be moving. I only wish that there was bunks on that train.

That Stockholm-Malmö night train is actually all sleepers except for one or two seating carriages. They tried to discontinue running it a few years ago but it’s becoming really popular so they might have just been sold out that night.

There are sleeper compartments on the SJ Night trains – I took one to Malmö, but they also run to the north and across to Göteborg.


> they also run to the north

I took the sleeper from Stockholm to Kiruna in Lapland not too long ago. Definitely takes a while but it was a really nice experience!

Western Europe is very different from Eastern Europe in this case.

In Western Europe, low-cost flights and buses essentially won the market.

But there are not as many direct flights between Central and Eastern European cities, and the roads are often not that good, either.

Therefore, in any direction from Budapest overnight trains are still very popular, and in countries like Ukraine it's probably the single most important way to travel long distances.

The overnight trains in Central and Eastern Europe are much cheaper, too. For instance, a seat in Budapest - Belgrad costs 15€, and a bed in Kiev - Lviv starts at around 8€.

The rise of Wizzair is reducing the appeal of long-distance train travel in Central and Eastern Europe. You can now fly from Budapest to certain destinations in surrounding countries for equal to or less than the price of the train if you book early or have little luggage.

Also, the launch of Polski Bus (a localized Megacoach) a few years ago means you can get between Poland and various Central European destinations for as little as 5€, again cheaper than the train.

And the national train operators are being challenged on their own turf by open-access operators. The days of sleepers are probably numbered in this part of the Europe. Wagons with convertible benches are uncomfortable both for sitting and sleeping. They're utterly uncompetitive vis-a-vis reclinable seats deployed by operators like Leo Express. Perhaps one day they'll start putting lie-flat recliners used in airliners on trains one day. That's more economical--and flexible--than having separate rooms.

P.S. Polski Bus has been absorbed into Flixbus.

The airlines have basically put trains out of business in Western Europe. Currently you cannot get from one end of Denmark to the other for a morning meeting by train.

Last time I checked the only way to have a 9:00 meeting in the center of Copenhagen, leaving from Aalborg (400km away) is by leaving at 23:00 the day before. It's a 6.5 hour train ride. Flying is 20 minutes and you have multiple departures and airlines every morning (granted you have to be at the airport 20 minute early and it a 30 min trip for the airport to the center of Copenhagen).

When people talk about how great trains are in Europe, I assume they never had to used them. Trains absolutely suck, they aren't fast enough, not frequent enough and they are expensive. It cheaper and faster to fly or drive.

> When people talk about how great trains are in Europe

When people generalize across Europe, which you've just done, it should often be ignored. They tend to pick the best or worst examples.

Denmark (and Greece) have the least favourable geography for land transport. That favours flying, but doesn't mean flying from Nuremburg to Berlin is necessarily the best option.

> Denmark (and Greece) have the least favourable geography for land transport.

Norway would like a word with you there. Denmark’s got a lot of annoying coastline but at least it’s flat, small and relatively densely populated. One of the things I miss most here on the Norwegian west coast is the lack of useful rail connections.

Never try to travel with a train in Romania. The infrastructure is totally wrecked. Trains are always late, even when weather is perfect, but if you're coming during summer you'll be late because "the rails are too hot" and in winter you're late because of the cold. It's a shame - we've reached the level where the average speed for trains is around 30km/h, lower than 50 years ago. Also, the trains are dirty and people inconsiderate of anyone else but their companions.

At the same time, I was delighted to travel with trains in Czech Republic when I lived there for one year. Not sure about other Eastern European countries.

I was disappointed when I checked if it was possible to do Paris-Warsaw by night train. I imagined entering the train at 5pm, eating something, watching a movie and waking up in Paris in the morning.

It sounded much better to me than spending an actual day commuting to/from far away airports and waiting in queues.

Unfortunately such train does not exist, but neither does the platform that would allow searching and booking such trips across Europe.

Paris-Warsaw (and then to Moscow) exists, and runs once a week.

There's no official (government/public run) website, so Seat 61 is probably the best resource.


The Warsaw to Paris trip on this train takes almost 21 hours... It's just a regular train, not particularly high-speed. There are a faster options available (down to 16 hours), but they require multiple layovers so I wouldn't say they're viable in practice. Overall, Europe is mostly dominated by cheap airlines, esp. in the Eastern part.

Actually, the Eastern part still has several useful and quite cheap night trains. In the west, lots are being cancelled because the train companies would rather have us take high speed trains.

Yep, but the distance that you can travel overnight is usually well under 1000 km... Which, even in Europe, is rather a regional and not a continental trip. The latter are practical pretty much only via air.

Seconded, it's a very well curated and updated site.

I second the recommendation of Bahn.de. For like two decades now it has provided a way to search train schedules across Europe when the national rail companies didn’t bother to provide their own accessible interface.

I was thoroughly confused trying to book a French train yesterday when I realized that the regular SNCF website only lets you browse train schedules.

You had to lookup the schedule on another website (oui.sncf) to do the booking.

Then Iberia airlines kept showing a different date at the top menubar, which was a day before what I was actually booking. Thankfully the date in the body was correct.

Bahn.de is remarkable. You can search for Paris->Beijing if you want(202h with one change or 173h with three changes). Or you can look up the train schedule of a remote Scotish villages.

Off-topic, I remember reading about the history of the online Bahn schedule lookup, it apparently started with a guy, not affiliated with them, who put the contents of the Bahn's CD-ROM timetable online. IIRC that was 1998.

Edit: 1994! The page: https://www.remote.org/frederik/projects/railserver/history.... , and it was just an email address where you could send an email with a special syntax

     #FROM vonbahnhof
     #TO tobahnhof     
     #DATE mm-dd-yy
     #TIME hh:mm
and you'd get a reply telling you the train connections. From a cronjob that ran twice a day!

The (German) how it worked page is even more fascinating: https://www.remote.org/frederik/projects/railserver/technik....

"If we are at step 4 for a long time, I'm probably personally at the machine and doing some tinkering.". I love that there's no separation between a developer and productive system.

While you can generally search trips, last time I checked you couldn’t book anything that doesn’t either start or end in Germany.

You can book some trips that go through Germany but don't actually start or end there (e.g., Amsterdam-Göteborg).

Conversely, there are some trips that are best booked online on the web site of the national railway of a third country. For example, the site of the NMBS (Belgian Railways)[0] knows about some Dutch fare reduction cards that the DB (Germany) doesn't know about, while it also knows about more German stations than the NS (Netherlands) does, so some (admittedly fairly obscure) tickets from the Netherlands to Germany can only be bought online on their site.

[0] https://www.b-europe.com/

Warsaw on a warm summer evening. The sun is setting and there is a beautiful sky above the equally beautiful city. You relax into you sleeper cabin, and gaze out of the window waiting for the train to depart. 'Such a friendly city. Beautiful country.' you think to yourself. The train pulls out of the station. You watch the countryside pass as the night turns dark. You go to sleep.


You wake up at Gare du Nord. At least you think it's Gare du Nord. This can't be Paris, surely?! You think to yourself. You quickly leave the train to try and find out what horrendous 3rd world shithole your wrong train has taken you to... You immediately step in dog shit. You try to hop on one foot and clean it off. An tour group barge past you and knocks you over. A commuter flicks his cigarette toward the floor, hitting you in the face. He doesn't see you. Or maybe he just doesn't care. You can't tell. 'I need to get back to civilisation' you think to yourself as you get up and dust yourself off. You go to grab you suitcase. It's not there. It's in the hand of a Romanian running off down the platform. Welcome to Paris.

I thought the punch line would be that he'd wake up parked on a siding in a Warsaw suburb 8 hours later. If Amtrak was in charge that's definitely what would have happened.

Downvoted - your Romanian stereotype is unacceptable and you need to know this

+1 Internet offended point to you.

This sounds like something from '80 days'

I don't know, I just arrived in Paris night and immediately after stepping out of Garre Du Nord, I was walloped with an overwhelming scent of urine. Not that far off.

bahn.de used to be my go-to place (even for trains inside Italy) but these days https://www.thetrainline.com/ is the best for finding good train connections across Europe.

https://www.rome2rio.com/ can come in handy as well.

Transfer times are a bit too much. Rail doesn't seem prepared to international travel.

For longer trips, I like having longer transfer times, just to have some kind of buffer in case of delay.

> Rail doesn't seem prepared to international travel.

There is some truth to that. You used to be able to buy a single ticket from Lisbon to Kiruna, and travel leisurely all the way, knowing you would arrive there even if you missed a train somewhere; you could just take the next one. Nowadays, you can't. You'll have to split up your trip into several tickets, and if your first train is delayed and you miss the train on your second ticket, you cannot just jump on the next train with it: each ticket is treated as a separate trip.

Also, if you buy your ticket online, you will probably have to visit multiple web sites to buy the separate parts of your trip. International ticket offices in most countries on the continent can book an entire trip for you, but will charge you extra booking costs for that.

Actually, for really long trips it's probably best to buy an Interrail/Eurail pass.

I did exactly what you describe, about ~12 years ago, traveling Paris --> Florence, and Florence --> Amsterdam. We took a day train back to Paris from Amsterdam.

Bahn.de allows cross-Europe booking in general, though I’ve not tested that route.

Try cp.sk for searching.

My experience is that flying inside Europe tends to be cheaper than long-distance train. Does anyone here whether it's simply intrinsically cheaper, or whether it's all because of kerosine subsidies etc? In other words, if countries would subsidize long-distance train as much as they subsidize air flight, would the economics look different? Would train get substantially cheaper? I lack both the insight and the data to do this math.

Air travel is extremely tax-subsidized. If taxes on airplane fuel was similar to car petrol taxes in Europe that would be a good start. I hope there can be some sort of EU-wide agreement on that soon, because the current state of affairs is pretty silly and there is no way a single country can unilaterally impose high CO2 taxes on airlines.

Yeah, but I propose the opposite: don't cut air subsidies, but add train subsidies.

Basically, my understanding is that countries subsidize air travel because it's good for the economy. Business and trade and all that.

Now that long distance train becomes more fashionable and comfortable (and it does! A 1st class ICE across Germany is like a moving office, wow), you could make the argument that (long distance) train should be similarly subsidized for the exact same reasons: a country with great international train connections will be better at trade. I wonder what would happen to price and availability if that would happen.

Still, we want people to fly less and substitute for train wherever remotely possible (since climate). So I don't agree.

I'm not sure it's very subsidised in a cash sense - when I look at the breakdown on a cheap flight about half seems to be taxes. Whereas most countries railways receive direct cash from the taxpayer subsidies (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rail_subsidies).

eg in the UK

>Air Passenger Duty (APD) for flights leaving the United Kingdom, and not for inbound flights. You are charged £26 per person on short haul economy flights to most of Europe, and £150 per person on long haul flights

Though you could argue that air-travel is not billed for the damage to the environment it causes in CO2 which is an indirect kind of subsidy.

An interesting future tech may be electric airliners eg https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zunum_Aero which could be cheaper than both and greenish.

Kerosene (jet fuel) is not taxed (whereas fuel for e.g. cars is, heavily so). That's basically a subsidy.

trains are even more heavily subsidized so I don't understand the comment. the EU restricts subsidizing airlines and similar at all but the smallest fields and even has pursued having some airlines refund monies giving to them in violation of the rules. There are tax breaks in the form of not paying VAT for domestic flight routes but overall the cost for all air travel breaks is less than twenty billion Euros whereas subsidies for rail and worse the debts[2] for building and maintenance are ten to twenty times as much.

finally the one issue that stands out, is that while European members use rail at over five times the average of Americans it only works out to approximately 600 miles per year versus 100. Urban transport usage is only double the average use in American but that is a 120 uses per year versus 60. [1]

Then to make it even worse by focusing so much subsidies and expense on trying to convince people to take rail it has caused much more freight to end up on roads. In the US over forty percent of freight goes by rail, in the EU it is around eleven percent. So for the limited gains of moving people by rail are slaughtered by the losses in resulting environmental and financial impact of moving freight over roads.

The truth is many have this romantic view of rail travel which is not supported by facts. Politicians in the EU, where the lines are almost all government owned, love rail because its very visible and people don't look below the surface to see the reality of actual cost, debt load, and lack of real usage.

[1] https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/documents/3217494/5711595/KS-D...

[2] https://re.public.polimi.it/retrieve/handle/11311/1015984/18...

> the EU restricts subsidizing airlines

I didn't mean subsidized in the sens of "tax money is given to airlines" I meant energy taxes for other means of transportation are much higher than for airplane fuel, which pay very low CO2 taxes compared e.g. to cars. That is: they are given an advantage through the CO2 taxation.

If planes paid for their CO2 emissions, we'd be closer to having the train be cheaper than flying.

Obviously we want both more passengers and freight to go by rail. To get there requires investments in infrastructure. Sweden being the most blatant example of where in the last 2 decades, rail infrastructure maintenance was the first thing cut to compensate whatever budget hole needed to be filled. It's now decades behind, and that's the main reason I can't take a train between Stockholm and Gothenburg and expect to make my meeting in time - instead I have to fly or drive this quite short bit, even though both the the time it takes and the cost is similar. The train simply isn't reliable enough to use to go to an important meeting.

Unfortunately it isn't unexpected. It has been pretty clear that the current policy is favoring older domestic businesses over the cluster based "knowledge economy". The opportunity cost of having Bromma Airport taking up useful land is enormous. So is not investing in regional development.

> trains are even more heavily subsidized so I don't understand the comment


> Then to make it even worse by focusing so much subsidies and expense on trying to convince people to take rail it has caused much more freight to end up on roads.

Actually EU laws forbid countries to favour certain industries. That is exactly why freight go by road instead of rail despite causing more traffic and pollution.

Europe has extremely cheap prizes because the big airlines are trying to compete with the budget airlines. The real question is "why are budget airlines so cheap in Europe (they often cost about a third of what a budget ticket in the US would cost)?". Well, lots and lots and lots of reasons why.


I'd also love to see some detailed information on this. I recently flew within Germany, probably saving a few hours over the train, but much more importantly it cost half the price. Seems that for the vast majority of people who are price conscious, this is simply too significant to outweigh the environmental consequences.

It really depends.

E.g. people commonly compare cheap plane tickets to the "regular" train ticket price, not to a savers ticket (which is bound to a specific train) booked early, which is more comparable to how you typically book a plane ticket. Similarly, the rebate cards quickly can make sense if you're not only traveling once. On the other hand, it certainly does happen that you can find cheap plane tickets on a connection where the cheap train tickets are already gone.

Time also depends, e.g. on where you're going in the destination town etc. If you take into account time to go to the airport, waiting and security time there, time to get from the airport into the city, ..., the train often isn't that much worse than it appears at first. Especially since e.g. a 6 hour train ride means I can sit down for 6 hours and work or nap, whereas the plane alternative is lots of short trips/wait times, which I personally find more stressful. I've flown inside Germany, but think it only makes sense in exceptional cases or if it's making a connection to an international flight.

In my case I compared all options on the same day, with a couple of months' notice - plane still cheaper. I take your point though about "hidden" time costs. I'm taking a bus for a future trip because, despite being significantly longer than the alternative, it's over 3x cheaper and - as you said - I can just (try to) sleep on it.

Do you have a BahnCard? How much in advance did you book?

Currently you can go to most places with 30-50€ if you play it right.

I don't have a BahnCard, just looking at the site I'm really not sure I'd use it enough to justify it. Booked a couple of months in advance, and compared flight prices on that day to the train. Flights were significantly cheaper.

The test offer can be pretty useful:


(It's important to cancel immediately though.)

That isn't very useful if you're a tourist who's only going to use the card once or twice a year.

Train infrastructure is pretty expensive. Planes need much less infrastructure.

Do they really though? I don't know any numbers, but i would imagine that the airports at least make up some if not all of the cost of equivalent railroads? I get that the airport can service a lot more destinations than a trainstation( overseas etc ), but i'm not totally convinced that rail infrastructure is that much more expensive than for air.

The cost of airport security etc should probably also be thought of as infrastructure costs.

The new high-speed connection between Berlin and Munich cost about eight million Euros per kilometer. That was a bit on the high side because acquiring the land was expensive. Switzerland spends about two billion Franks a year on maintenance of its tracks.

Agree, but many railways are already there (needs maintenance of course). Not sure how decision makers count on this though.

Sleeper trains are doing fine in Central and Eastern Europe, despite having to contend with some long running times. Sweden is trying to revive them through Denmark, which hasn't hosted night trains since 2014 [1].

There's two viable, existing routes for trains between the Central Sweden and Northern Germany. One's through the Fehmarn Belt rail ferry, and another is the long way through Jutland. Both ways take a long time compared to the distance covered. Stockholm is already ~5 hours by fast train from Copenhagen -- this segment of the journey stays the same. It's after that things get complicated and slow. Operational issues remain with changing voltages and train protection systems (ETCS Level 2 will be built out in a few years), or with the ferry.

A Fehmarn Belt fixed link would be a boon for such a service, like the article says. But it remains to be seen whether that will be built.

[1] https://back-on-track.eu/night-trains-to-europe-new-opportun...

Re: Central and Eastern Europe, I took an overnight (sort of, 5AM to 5PM) sleeper train from Lviv to Budapest a couple years ago. It was quite pleasant and they managed the journey in a way I never would have expected. Instead of passenger layovers and shuffling between trains at subsequent stations, they just designated a whole car bound for Budapest and then detached & reattached it to different trains along the way. Made the long ride a surprisingly pleasant and restful experience.

They're called though coaches (Kurswagen in German) and used to be quite common. In fact, quite a few night trains are split and recombined during the night, but usually in chunks of three or four cars.

One of my most pleasant travel snooze memories is waking up in a very comfortable bunk bed, looking out the window to the morning sun rising over the Danube, a castle and some vineyards and fruit gardens rolling off into the distance, slowly coming to a two hour halt and having a mountain valley full of green life splayed out for the breakfast picture.

Regarding the Fehmarn link, construction has just started: https://femern.com/en/News-and-press/2019/March/New-activiti...

There's also the Malmö-Berlin night train that takes the ferry between Trelleborg and Sassnitz. It doesn't go all year though.

And it's either very limited or very popular. I tried to make a booking in June yesterday and there are only two dates available.

If I remember correctly, a night train from Stockholm to south Europe implies a change of train in the middle of the night in either Malmö or Copenhagen - which sort of ruins the the concept of sleeper trains.

I don't see why that would be necessary. They might have to switch locomotives a couple of times during the journey, but they can just do that with the same set of carriages, with the passengers sound asleep during the switches.

The invaluable Seat61 has loads on information on how and where to take sleeper trains at https://www.seat61.com/sleepers.htm

Thanks, I'm planning a trip to Europe later this year and this site looks like a fantastic resource.

This is a very good idea if it works reliably. However, from my experiences with sleeper trains in Sweden (via SJ), it's quite inconsistent. Just the other month, I took a sleeper from Stockholm to Kiruna and it was delayed by 9+ hours! Good thing this was an unplanned vacation so I had time. The customer service was excellent though, they were attentive and reimbursed me for the train tickets, hotels, food and car rental. I can't imagine myself using the sleeper trains for any business purposes though as I've had many delays with them.

Yes, I'm all for sleeper trains, but Sweden has the worst maintained infrastructure. They are trying to catch up after decades of neglect, but are open about expecting continuing disturbances for years to come. It is not only a nuisance, reimbursements or not; it's outright risky and a damn shame because we really need trains now

The "new economy" made popular round the turn of the millennium didn't deliver on it's promise of solving everything imaginable, just by turning maintenance of public assets over to lowest bidder private entrepreneurs. Go figure.

Also very cheap if you claim the refound! Last summer I traveled a lot with these trains and only payed for half of them. :)

My girlfriend and I travelled through Europe last summer and I was hoping to take overnight trains as much as possible, unfortunately the train strike in France killed a lot of that plan. Still, we were able to take two overnight sleepers. Rome to Turin and Budapest to Prague.

Rome to Turin would have been fine, except the air conditioning barely worked, which would have also been okay except (unlike 20 years ago) the window only opened about an inch. We had been backpacking all day in the hot sun. If you have trouble sleeping when it's hot, and you're traveling during the summer, this is something to consider. It made the night pretty miserable. I can't imagine how bad this would have been in a 4 or 6 person couchette. The Italian train was about $200USD total for both of us.

For Budapest to Prague we were able to book one of the three deluxe sleepers with a private toilet and shower. The trains were both newer, cheaper ($150USD total for both of us), and the AC worked better. Whether the deluxe is worth it is a toss up. You'll get bounced around a lot in the shower (part of the charm?) and having the private toilet, while convenient, gives the whole room a vaguely gross smell similar to sitting near a restroom on a plane.

- Sleepers will not save you money vs a cheap hotel + day train (although the 4 or 6 person couchette might save a bit), and the trains shake and vibrate a lot.

- Booking tickets is a pain until you get used to it (for each new country). The "English" version of whatever train site is often about 60% English at best (cough, ItaliaRail...). The Hungarian website (MÁV-Start) is a UX disaster. But you can often book on the destination country site, as well as the departure country. Luckily, we were able to book on the Czech site (CD) instead.

- You will sometimes need a printed ticket that can be physically stamped for part of the journey. Check in advance.

- Sleepers on popular routes book up quickly. They often either get very expensive or sell out completely at peak times.

- seat61.com is an absolute lifesaver.

Still, with all of the "challenges" there are tons of little charming elements about overnight trains: differences in the layout of the spaces, the adorable/offensive gendered gift boxes (I got a razor and my girlfriend got a pink sewing kit), disposable paper slippers that I ended using for 2 months...

Anyway, happy to answer any questions from my limited (but enthusiastic) experience.

I used overnight trains many times in my life. They are great, but if the revival is to succeed, we need better solutions for security. Theft was always a problem in sleeper trains. There needs to be a way to lock yourself in and have an alarm sound whenever someone opens the door with an override.

The European night trains I've been in all have physical locks that are only openable from the inside. Things could be stolen by other people in your compartment, but that's a lot less likely. I also have a preference for the upper bunks/beds, because you can stow your luggage in a nook above the wagon's side corridor, and thieves will have to actually get past you to get at your stuff (except for maybe the person on the bunk opposite you if you're in a couchette compartment). Seating compartments are to be avoided; I can't sleep in them anyway.

> all have physical locks that are only openable from the inside

Really? I thought all these locks can be opened from the outside by railway personnel using a "special key", which of course means that the thieves have access to that "special key" as well.

On DB's CityNightLine, you could lock the door. Of course, the five other people in the room could steal from you. I always just put my backpack against the wall. Would be impressive to have one of your five roommates open your backpack in darkness while reaching over you...

We've just upgraded our London to Scotland sleeper service recently. It's not cheap but's it's fun!

If you want to get into the Highlands it's a lot more convenient, too: Fort William is hours from a major airport.

Going from Edinburgh to London it's really useful as you end up right in the heart of the London.


Overnight trains are awesome and I am glad they are making a resurgence but is $5.3mm really "a major shot in the arm for Europe’s night trains overall"? That's not very much money for infrastructure. Perhaps the important thing here is that the Swedes are publicly announcing that they're spending money on this, in general.

The cooler night train story is what is going on in Asia -- lots of projects in the works such as an Istanbul-Baku luxury sleeper train and major new Chinese routes such as Dushanbe-Kashgar and Lhasa-Yunnan.

100% agree. Would have thought $5.3m is barely be enough to fund a proper advertising campaign.

As of 25 years ago this was THE way for a backpacker with a Eurail pass to see the continent during the summer. The cheap cars (ie 6 beds/room) were basically a youth hostel on rails. It was a fantastic way to meet other travelers and explore new cities together.

Yup, I did this for a month back in my student days - the ticket is called Inter-Rail if you buy it within Europe. I was incentivised to basically visit a different country every day because every night spent on a train was one you didn't have to pay for a hostel! Also, some places like Florence had a free campsite with wooden shelters, you just had to bring a sleeping bag, and the month's rail ticket included an overnight ferry from Italy to Greece. Happy days!

With the addition of the Fehmarnbelt Tunnel potentially coming in 2028, it would be much more attractive for people in all the Nordic countries to take an overnight train into central Europe and vice versa. It looks like construction will begin this fall in Denmark.


The hing about trains in general though is the pricing around it.

In Sweden a flight from the northern parts to the southern is about $100 and takes an hour. The train cost $100-200 and takes about 16h depending on where you depart from.

I believe a requirement for people choosing to take the train is that they add some facilities (you feel pretty nasty after 16h on a train) and reduce the price. Raising the price on flights won’t help unless it’s drastically, around 2-300%. And if you do this on domestic flights then nobody will afford international flights.

One benefit of sleeper trains is you can take into the account the price of a night stay at a hotel as well as the time saved (in the sense that you do your travel while you're sleeping, so you have more net waking hours available). I rode the Caledonian Sleeper from London to Edinburgh last Christmas and yes, the price was about the same as a flight but considering it saved me from paying for a night in a hotel it was actually a better deal.

Another point (not in Sweden) is that the rail operators are government-owned companies which often operate like the government does.

Couple of months back, I tried to buy a ticket to the car-train to Lapland (I can take the car with me to train in the evening, sleep in a cabin, wake up in the morning and set off for the remainder of the journey with my car). When booking the car slot, the booking system required me to enable flash and when it got started, it just rotated that thing on the browser window.

I got bored, checked out flights. In 5 minutes I had flight tickets, with extra bags paid, and a rental car, at half the total cost of what the car-train would have been. I returned to the booking window, it still had that rotating thing on the browser window. I closed the window and did not miss it.

The rail infrastructure is government operated, but train companies that are responsible for all customer interaction is not. SJ is just as government-owned as SAS. The rail is basically like the airport, and the train companies are like airlines.

The general problem is the lack of competition. Between two destinations you usually have the choice between multiple airlines, but for trains there is usually only one. Between malmö-göteborg-stockholm there is the fast train alternative but it is arguable if that actually serve as competition. With air-travel you got multiple airlines and multiple resellers.

Swedish rail operate like a monopoly, which is in my view the main reason why its both expensive and terrible at the same time.

Quite, though I think Swedish situation regarding competition is somewhat better than my experience which was in Finland - here there's only the government-owned VR (former Statsjärnvägarna).

Anecdotal argument: I rarely sleep as good as I do on trains, so 16h is not a problem - the price and frequent late arrival is.

There are some cost savings if you're traveling via rail regularly, though, via stuff like Eurail passes.

> That delay would be in order to wait for the construction of an 11-mile-long rail tunnel between Denmark and Copenhagen called the Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link, which would reduce the journey time by train from Copenhagen to Hamburg from five hours to just two.

The author meant to say "11-mile-long rail tunnel between Denmark and Germany" as Denmark and Copenhagen do not need to be connected with a tunnel since they are already quite closely connected.

Good in theory, but implementation was poor the one time I tried it. The 6-person sleeper car is extremely cramped (2 triple bunks), and with the passport checks at border crossings, it's difficult to get a good night's sleep. Personal safety and luggage theft was a concern as well. I canceled my return trip and booked a low cost flight instead. Maybe the extra funding will improve train conditions and process.

> The 6-person sleeper car is extremely cramped (2 triple bunks)

You get what you pay for. There was probably an option of a 4-person compartment (2 double bunks), or perhaps even a first-class option with a two-person compartment. FWIW, I personally have never had a problem sleeping even in the 6-person cars; people are generally respectful of each other.

> with the passport checks at border crossings, it's difficult to get a good night's sleep.

Where was this with passport checks with border crossings? Were you somewhere in Eastern Europe? There is plenty of room for overnight trains within Schengen where passports are not generally checked at border crossings.

Croatia to Germany is only a little less annoying with Slovenia’s ascent into Schengen.

But before that, it was stop for Croatian exit controls, deal with Slovenian EU immigration, then Slovenian/EU customs, then Schengen once entering Austria.

A lot of interruption for an overnight train when travelling solo.

Then the equipment problems where I had to board a coach train and transfer to a bus before getting on the sleeper some hours later.


That must have been some time ago, since Slovenia joined the Schengen area in 2003 (implemented 2007).

There are still occasionally passport checks at EU borders.

With the migration crisis, spot checks have been introduced at a few select crossings, but that still leaves plenty of possible train routes within Schengen where the authorities are not concerned about checking for migrants.

Or any excuse a Member State wants to justify their “temporary” checkpoint.

Don’t worry, MEPs won’t do anything more than talk about it.


I've also seen it done for drugs on the Swiss border (this was on a night train actually) and twice at Berlin airports. They're rare but still happen.

Also unfortunately in between Copenhagen and Malmö, although a European ID card is fine as well.

If you choose a 6 person sleeper car, you can't really expect much. It's a bit like a hostel - you choose it because it's cheap, not because you expect to get proper rest.

To me, the 140EUR would be very much worth a private room, bathroom, and shower. It's travel + hotel, or some decent approximation. If you booked other forms of travel and an overnight hotel, you'd surely spend as much money and more time.

Not sure if it exists still but in 2012 I took a round trip Berlin Paris in a 4 bunk bed room around xmas. It was about 200 euros per person. About 13 hours in train, not the best sleep in such room.

> a private room, bathroom, and shower

What trains have you found that offer this? As an American unaccustomed to such trains, I'd be super interested to try them.

> > a private room, bathroom, and shower

> What trains have you found that offer this? As an American unaccustomed to such trains, I'd be super interested to try them.

Just FYI, we have those in America on Amtrak long-distance trains; the Bedroom and Bedroom Suite (on both Viewliners and Superliners) have these features, as does the Accessible Bedroom on Viewliners. Roomettes don't have the shower (or the bathroom, on Superliners.)

Awesome, TIL! I live in Boston and have only traveled to New York often, but maybe I'll try a longer route sometime. :)

There’s a Boston to Chicago route that is pretty cool. I took it to Chicago from Albany for less than $100 a few years ago.

The only problem is that the schedule is kinda of aspirational. The train from NYC attaches in Albany, and the times often don’t line up.

When the economy is good, the westward tracks are busy with frieight traffic so you wait.

I enjoyed the trip though and got a lot of work done.

The Late, Slow Limited (Lake Shore Limited). Cool route through the rust belt. The shitty thing about the two East coast-Chicago routes is they dropped dining car service. Until recently sleeping car passengers got an actual on board full service restaurant prepared meal included in the ticket. They dropped this due to costs. Now there is just the cafe car and these airplane style meals included with sleeping car tickets.. not the same at all.

That is too bad. My experience was a few years back.

I’m built like a gorilla and airplane seats are often pretty tortuous for me.

The train experience is pretty cool in many ways, despite with the problems that exist. Even in NYC, I can show up 5m before the train leaves and be good to go, while airports have all sorts of bullshit to deal with. It’s a shame that the circumstances of the mid 20th century prevented us from having good, integrated transportation for passengers.

The Trump 2019 budget cut over $600 million from Amtrack's budget, and Amtrack was already not in great financial shape.

If there's a change in leadership and some changes in US mentality regarding trains vs cars/planes, there might be hope for Amtrack in the future. If not, then I would expect more services being eliminated until there's nothing left.

ÖBB Nightjet runs trains with that option, some pictures here: https://www.nightjet.com/en/ausstattung/reisekategorien/schl...

I travelled in a such a cabin in 2012 from Denmark to, I believe, Munich. Very relaxing, and with a complimentary bottle of sekt from the conductor.

Sleeper cars are great—I have fond memories of travelling up the coast of Norway in 1990, as well as travelling in the seventies in Sweden with my father.

You do realize that Amtrak long distance routes offer such accommodations?

I mean yeah, the trains themselves are slow as shit and might not go where you want, but superliners and viewliners have some interesting accommodations.

Train pricing is utterly insane, I have tried the last few years to find an affordable alternative to flying/driving by searching for long-distance or overnight Amtrak options (for Southwest area), but have consistently failed to find tickets less than $500, regardless of time of year.

Someone else replied already along the lines of "you get what you pay for", but I found some web pages with pictures:

- The 4 or 6 person compartments (couchettes) are quite cramped indeed, but the good part is they only cost 10 or 20 euros extra compared to a plain seat. https://www.vagonweb.cz/fotogalerie/SK/WSBA_Bvcmbz.php

- The actual sleeper wagons with 1 to 3-berth compartments cost more, with their prices around a hotel stay, but are quite comfortable in my opinion. https://www.vagonweb.cz/fotogalerie/A/OeBB_WLABmz-7290.php

Sleeper trains to Scandinavia were a thing not so long ago. When German DB scrapped their CityNightLine system around year 2014, Copenhagen was being served with a sleeper train that had carriages to Basel, Amsterdam and Prague. The carriages were shunted between trains somewhere in Germany. It only takes few hours to reach Copenhagen from most inhabitated parts in Sweden - actually Copenhagen's airport is the main airport for many leisure travellers in Sweden. Nevertheless, a decade or two earlier there was a similar sleeper service that reached Stockholm.

I'm finding it hard to believe that sleeper services are not economically feasible since Europeans think of them quite fondly but of course, if they were feasible they would not have lost to discount airlines and even buses. Maybe sleeper trains could be operated more efficiently or marketed and priced more aggressively? In addition, it's currently a lot easier to buy a plane ticket than to plan a long railway journey and figure out which companies will sell the tickets.

Most CNL trains were still well-filled when they were suddenly cancelled. It was just that DB didn't want to invest in them anymore (the carriages were 30-40 years old and needed to be replaced), they wanted people to take fancy high-speed trains instead. Also, some countries levied high track access charges. Blaming only cheap airfares is not entirely fair. ÖBB took over some CNL routes and marketed them a lot better, and has made profits on them.

> Sleeper trains to Scandinavia were a thing not so long ago.

There's still a Stockholm-Malmö-Berlin sleeper, though only in the summer. There's also a year-round Stockholm-Malmö sleeper, and in Malmö you just take a 20-minute ride by Öresund train to hop over to Copenhagen.

I took an overnight train in Sweden from Stockholm to Åre a couple of years ago. My experience was average at best, but possibly not good data. I was in a 6 person room (3 beds stacked on each side), and I ended up on the top bed.

It was pretty hard to fall asleep on a slowly, but slightly rocking train, then add in other strangers you are sleeping around, and it makes it even less comfortable.

I ended up just sleeping in 30 minute intervals, woken up by the rocking of the relatively smooth train. I would imagine it might be a good experience if friends/family took a cabin together, but with strangers it's not very comfortable (although some might disagree). Additionally, being on the top bunk made me subject to wider rocking then the people below me. I can imagine the experience being terrible if you don't have completely silent bunkmates like I got lucky with.

I think it might catch the attention of people who haven't done it before, but I didn't think it was anything to write home about.

> I was in a 6 person room (3 beds stacked on each side)

That sounds like a couchette (i.e. no real mattress, just a bunk). My experiences with those are also quite bad. A bed in a real sleeper cabin (with an actual mattress) is much more comfortable.

I'm traveling from Gothenburg to Berlin basically on at least a monthly basis. Ever since I moved to Sweden 2005 I was looking for night trains to bring me to the continent but there weren't any.

Early on I took day trains but they took so much time that I never had wiggle time and since the Deutsche Bahn got private they are notoriously late which meant that most of the time I wouldn't catch the last train from Copenhagen and needed to take a expensive taxi for the last hundred of kilometers late during the night after a 16 hour journey.

The weird thing is that the flights just go on time and even though it takes time to get to and from the airport it's possible to calculate the time when you will arrive, ect. which is really important with businesses. With Deutsche Bahn you basically never know if you will arrive on the day they promised or not.

I travelled Stockholm-Copenhagen biweekly for a couple of years, and flying was cheaper and faster door-to-door than the train pretty much 100% of the time. That includes getting through airport security and taking public transportation to/from the airports at either end.

I mean, I would have preferred to take the train, but I'm not going to pay more to get there slower...

With the train you potentially lose a lot less productive time. Air travel can't be made much nicer since there are too many hard limits. The train however suffers from a lack of investment in fundamentals. A lot of people live in the suburbs today, where the train doesn't stop. Stockholm central station is despite the many renovations not very nice. The trains themselves are getting old. The infrastructure and service isn't what it could be either. And maybe most of all everything is just expensive in Sweden, and the Nordics, these days.

If you could have a slightly faster train with first class airline interior and a matching, not too expensive, hotel on top of the train station it would be a competitive proposal. But while I can appreciate that people like to talk about trains on hacker news the story really is that the future isn't happening in Sweden. Rather we seem to be on a seemingly predictable path following countries like the US and the UK were we are incapable of making long term investments and everything of value is getting expensive.

There's a Stockholm-Malmö sleeper, which can at least get you to Copenhagen by the morning (there's only about 20 minutes between Malmö C and Copenhagen H). Useful if you need to get to Germany.

> a expensive taxi

You should be able to get refunded for that, if you had a through ticket, and maybe even without a through ticket if you ask nicely (for travel to/from Germany, DB sells through tickets to Sweden via their website).

It's just like a year ago that SJ tried to kill off the Malmö-Stockholm sleeper. I believe that this will work out when I see it.

As I read the article, the "revival" is more about the government trying to get people to reduce their carbon footprint when travelling, and less about popular demand.

That being said, I remember taking the sleeper from Stockholm to Elsinore in Denmark as a kid. Boarding the ferry while on the train was pretty awesome to a ten year-old. :P

I've read that travel on the Malmö-Stockholm sleeper is on the rise, especially by business travelers. Unfortunately I can find the source, but I think it was covered in SvD. I often travel Malmö-Stockholm for work, but quite often I'm not able to get a ticket because it's sold out.

I traveled from Stockholm to Malmö almost 5 years ago. I had a sit instead of a sleeping coach. It was a good experience. I got really early to Malmö without the stress of flying.

Last time I took such overnight train in Europe was Frankfurt to Copenhagen in 2013 by DB, and it was nice and comfortable. Trains always have more leg space and moving around areas than an airplane. With budget airlines they are trying to cram in as many people as possible, almost to the point of making you feel claustrophobic.

With trains there is no hassle of going to the airport, as they are mostly around city center. Also, I found people to be more friendly in trains, unlike in airplane, where most people have their headphones on, and do-not-disturb expressions.

I take this train 3-4 times a year going from stockholm-luleå and it's great. You can get a 6 person cabin when travelling in a company of 4 which is great when you have small kids. This way you a whole cabin for them be pains without disturbing anybody else and it's much more of an adventure and much more cosy. I would love to have more good alternatives to travel by night trains because I really dislike airports and flying. One of the problems is that it's much more expensive to travel by train than the flying alternative.

Whats the cost comparison for the SJ vs SAS to Luleå?

Yes please. I traveled this way a lot as a child, and have recently done so for recreation.

But when you factor in all the hassles of air travel, the opportunity to arrive well rested, possibly with some work done, the city center to city center scenario is superior to air (because though travel time itself is shorter, there's all the security hassles, getting to the airport, checking into a hotel for a brief nap, etc).

Note: I can sleep through stops, equipment changes etc. I don't know if that is common or not.

The Austrian federal railways (OeBB) is doing really well with night trains after the takeover. They even ordered new trains which should go into service in 2022. Really happy for this because the current rolling stock is just ancient and sleepers are a nice concept.

This is smart because it uses electricity during the lowest demand period of the energy load profile. If your country or one of its neighbours has high base load power generation like France does, it makes a lot of sense to run electric trains during the night because they'll use electricity which is otherwise sold at a discount or redirected to pumped hydroelectric storage or other storage options if they exist.

I'm not sure about "revive," since sleeper trains have been coming back in Europe for years.

There was a Wall Street Journal article about it recently.

Sorry the link is Apple News, but that's where I bookmarked it from: https://apple.news/AdFPGWf-GTmOabJK30Za0ZQ

Too bad I can't read WSJ, so I can't verify what they're saying. However, I haven't had much luck finding overnight trains here. It used to be that many existed and were popular, but they started disappearing and now few routes still have overnight options.

If this helps...

"In Europe alone, several new affordable options have materialized too, running more utilitarian services (no guided excursions, just overnight schedules). In 2017, the United Kingdom’s Great Western Railway (GWR) relaunched the Night Riviera, traveling between London and Cornwall, one of England’s sunniest corners. Also in 2017, Italy’s Trenitalia-owned Thello debuted new sleeper cars with en suite showers on their Paris to Venice route. And in June 2019, Scotland’s Caledonian Sleeper will debut highly anticipated new cars with routes from London to Glasgow and Edinburgh and Highlander routes to Aberdeen, Inverness and Fort William with en suite showers, double beds and plenty of whiskeys in the bar car."

"Relaunched", at least for the two British trains, seems to mean they refurbished the carriages and issued a press release.

I used both of these trains as a student (late 2000s), so I'm not convinced that they weren't affordable before the relaunch.

I also enjoyed "Cornwall, one of England’s sunniest corners" though it was admittedly mostly nice last time I was there. That said, might have been a useful option when I did a coastal walk last summer.

The German railway has shed practically all of its sleeper trains, but the Austrian Railway has picked up some routes and has been expanding.

"For years" is exaggerating. France is still cancelling night trains. The last few years, a small revival seems to have started, yes.

Low-Tech Magazine had a nice article about the trouble with the European rail network: https://www.lowtechmagazine.com/trains/

I love night trains. Trains a underrated in general.

I wish the EU would invest heavily in trains. There should be high speed and sleeper trains all over Europe. Single rail cars could have different destinations with automatic coupling/decoupling outside of cities. You can run trains easily on Thorium generated electricity, so the tech is future proof.

Cargo should also be moved to the tracks: https://www.cargobeamer.eu/

Swedish railways have been staggeringly mismanaged and neglected since the 1990s. I wouldn't be surprised if they're one of the worst managed railway systems in the entirety of what used to be known as the developed world.

But it would be wonderful to have them restored and have international overnight services added. Hoping, with some skepticism, that the politics translate to reality here.

You are right but it's not likely to be fixed. On the contrary, the government has extracted billions upon billions in dividends from the state railway company, in order to shore up the budget.

Remember my school trip..denmark to italy. Drunk most of the way and still felt like being on a moving train hours after we got off.

One issue night trains face when being reintroduced/introduced upon routes would be Urban sprawl and development.

In many Major towns and along those routes can and do become developed upon. You then face noise factors that you did not have before in reintroducing night trains and for introduction upon new routes - more so potentially an issue.

Whilst night trains don't need to go full speed and for many, more viable for comfort and running costs to run them slower. But in area's of urban sprawl, and noise regulations can and will prove an issue in such usage. Which is a shame but a major consideration today.

But equally, many transport avenues are under utilised and overlooked. Canals for one were a big thing decades ago and all but now abandoned in many parts as a means of transporting goods. Which is a shame as sometimes you just don't need it moved as quick as possible.

Smart. Fly less, kill less nature with CO2, sleep more. Have always loved the night trains here in Europe.

Come to think of it, this could take off in the US too. I wouldn't mind taking a sleeper (to and from) between SF and Seattle. 807mi at 100mph = 8 hours and change. Pretty nice.

There are many overnight express trains in Europe. Cozy and not expensive, enough space for bikes. Warsaw-Moskow, Munich-Bologna, Paris-Tolouse, Kopenhagen-Hamburg just some examples.

Didn't know overnight trains had disappeared. When I lived in Europe as a poor student from the US I would take night trains every single time I could. I had an Interrail pass and once everyone was settled down for the night go look for an empty seating or sleeping area with a door. I could usually find one and then I would just lay down inside with my feet agains the door, use my pack for a pillow and go to sleep. I traveled a month like that and never paid for a hotel.

I welcome this idea. I look for an opportunity to take an overnight sleeping train occasionally but usually it fails because there is no connection between the cities I am interested in. Last time I used an overnight train I arrived after a good nights sleep in Genoa. Even if the train is slower than a plane, the fact that you travel while sleeping means you save time.

I took a first-class sleeper train from Budapest to Amsterdam 20 years ago and loved every second of it. It's saddened me that it's become too expensive: something I afforded as a recent graduate at short notice now requires you to either to shell out a lot of cash or book far ahead, like a tourist? At least, Austria still offers affordable sleepers. The sound of the train lulling you to sleep is a wonderful thing.

I was very excited by the idea of an overnight train in Europe but the reality was a bit underwhelming. We went from Cologne to Vienna which was roughly from 10 pm to 7 am which wasn’t super convenient timing on either end. Also the cabins were super claustrophobic for me when the beds were folded down. Fun once but I would probably fly next time.

I took an overnight train from Paris to Munich. Got on the train from Paris in the evening. My private stall had three seats with a folding table and a sink. The seats folds down and you can unfold three beds from the wall. I had a good sleep, woke up, got some breakfast delivered, took a shower and I was in Munich.

The last sleeper trains in Europe:

"A sleeper is the most civilised, comfortable, and romantic way to travel... " https://www.seat61.com/sleepers.htm

Paris<>Venice sounds tempting.

This will probably amount to nothing. Government injects 50 MSEK to make carriers schedule night trains. Will people use them? Time will tell. This is very similar to the same government's initiative to subsidise electric bikes. Gone after a year.

As good as this sounds in concept, price wins at the end of the day, and while I lived in Europe RyanAir, SAS & Norwegian were a similar price to trains, but faster. The exception is when you travel to smaller regions with no major airport.

For the same price I actually prefer night train to airlines, by far.

Sure, airlines are faster, but the time to go in and out of the airport, security checks, boarding, etc... Your one hour flight easily translates into 3-4 uncomfortable hours.

With the train, it is usually downtown to downtown, just hop into the train and you are done. The journey may last 10 hours, but it is relaxing. Trains are much more comfortable than planes and sleeping is less of a problem, even with a standard seat.

With sleeping cars, you have what is essentially a moving hotel room, making your travel time effectively zero.

As an American with little access to trains, I was excited to try a sleeper train from Vienna to Poland. But I was disappointed to find that it was pretty uncomfortable -- lots of stopping and ringing bells throughout the night.

I had a similar experience on a sleeper in Sweden. No bells, but stopping and rocking.

When I visited Europe many years a go I often took overnight trains with the intent of maximizing time to do things other than travel.

It was a great experience, maybe not the most comfortable, but I thought it was worth it.

It would be great to see more night trains but having taken several before, I've never really been able to fall asleep. I would love to see technical improvements to reduce rumbling and promote sleep.

Agree with you. I took a night train from Venice Italy to Paris. The next day in Paris I had essentially prolonged motion sickness where I felt as if I was still on the train rocking with the rhytmn of the tracks about to fall out of the top bunk I had tried to sleep in.

Second big train thread in two days: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19548272

I once took a sleeper from Budapest to Munich and the problem was the jolt of the train stopping waking me up. It was OK-ish otherwise. I do not know how people would sleep through that.

The Hokutosei from Tōkyō to Sapporo was a really good way to travel, but it was discontinued in 2015.

In my limited experience trains are both ridiculously expensive and impossible to find in Europe.

Let’s say I want to travel from Stockholm to Hamburg. It will cost an arm and a leg. And it will require a ridiculous amount of layovers (5 IIRC, with bus travel between some trains) if you can a website to actually plan such a route properly.

It gets even more ridiculous the farther you travel.

I just plugged those two cities into the Deutsche Bahn website, and can now buy a ticket for a train leaving Stockholm in 8 hours (6:25 local time).

2 transfers (although routes exist with only one), 11:37 travel time. Saver fare still available: 99,90 € (regular would be 225 €). And it's not the only connection tomorrow.

That said, your point somewhat stands: it really depends on the route if good options are available, I've also looked at trips that seemed possible but I couldn't make work at all. Biggest problem is often the lack of overnight connections/night trains, which mean you're limited to what you can do during the day unless there's one of the exceptions on your route. Not fun if the only overnight "connection" means spending 2:30am to 4:45am on some train station.

Just plugged it in to SJ.se (Swedish rail). Doesn’t even have Hamburg as a selection.

So I need to somehow know that Deutsche Bahn ofers the search capability. True two to three train changes, 90 to 220 euro.

I guess I’ll use bahn.de from now on (and learn some German :) )

bahn.de has an English version fwiw. But yeah it's non-obvious that it's the de-facto pan-Europe rail search engine. Other European train companies generally have pretty spotty cross-border information, while DB has almost everything. Even with tickets it can't book for you, it still usually has timetables and can show you an itinerary.

The best option should have one change, since there are direct trains from Stockholm to Copenhagen, and from Copenhagen to Hamburg (this train goes on the ferry). I would expect an additional change in Malmoe could reduce the cost and increase the time.

If you search for "now", it's 22:52, so you may get odd connections as the journey planner tries to make an overnight journey.

>(this train goes on the ferry)

Wow, how does a train go on a ferry? A full, long train with many cars? Then the ferry would have to be that long too, which seems unlikely. Or is it that one or a few cars of the train go on each trip of the ferry, and the cars are all connected back together when back on land?

The Denmark-Germany ferries on that route are ~150 m long, and fit a train of up to 100 m length (or something in that ballpark).


Larger ferries on other routes have multiple rails next to each other, and long trains are split up across those.

>The Denmark-Germany ferries on that route are ~150 m long, and fit a train of up to 100 m length (or something in that ballpark).




>Larger ferries on other routes have multiple rails next to each other, and long trains are split up across those.

Great idea.

Or low-tech -- the first train ferries like this ran in 1842.

As the Wikipedia article says, there are very few routes left in Europe, although there used to be a lot.


Interesting, didn't know. It felt like high-tech to me, anyway, since I had not seen or heard of train ferries before, although I did know about ferries that can take cars (automobiles) on board. Been on one such ferry in Goa, and my parents had been on some while visiting the US and Canada, I forget in which city.

There's some rail replacement service in some of the offered routes, I assume that's why it's not only one change.

Interesting that they don't support that at all, but yes, getting the data (and more importantly, the ability to book) shared across companies and network has been annoyingly slow and incomplete.

seat61.com will tell you which site to use for which route.

reiseauskunft.bahn.de knows several languages, including of course English.

There are also some pan-European booking sites, like loco2.com, happyrail.com and a few others. But these don't always manage to find the saver tickets, so you're sometimes stuck with full price.

But wait. If you plan to travel a LOT with a train within Europe, and you are a European resident, check out the Interrail passes.

For non-residents, check out Eurail instead.

I've no experience with Eurail but Interrail worked fine back in the days and saved a lot of money, too. As horribly cliché as it may sound, it truly was a great eye-opening experience which made me appreciate Europe (culture, people, cuisine, geography, history, and so on) more than I did before.

>For non-residents, check out Eurail instead.

My cousin (Indian) had toured Europe a lot, cheaply, back in the day, on Eurail, when working for the Indian Tea Board in Brussels for 3 years.

>I've no experience with Eurail but Interrail worked fine back in the days and saved a lot of money, too. As horribly cliché as it may sound, it truly was a great eye-opening experience which made me appreciate Europe (culture, people, cuisine, geography, history, and so on) more than I did before.

Cousin said the same about the experience.

Uh, no? Stockholm to Copenhagen on the X2000 then an overnight train to Hamburg. Not the cheapest, but it’s totally feasible.

AFAIK, the Copenhagen->Hamburg night train is seating only, it's not a sleeper train any more.

Hasn't been since 2014 or so. But taking the night train from Stockholm to Malmö, then a local train to Copenhagen and the intercity to Hamburg works great.

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