Traveling by night train is a relatively inexpensive and efficient form of transportation. It’s also very different from flying, so you’ll need to keep a few key points in mind to ensure a stress-free journey and safe arrival:
Pack Light. Even private couchettes can be quite a squeeze on a night train. Digging through a large suitcase to find your toothbrush is much harder when your head’s pressed against the ceiling. Pack as light as possible, and prepare a small bag with your essentials such as a bathroom kit, money, and valuables.
Arrive Early. Platforms are typically crowded, and your departure point may change at the last minute. If in a non-English speaking country, don’t assume that signs will be conveniently written English – you’re the stranger here, remember? Arrive well ahead of time in case you need to ask for help or hustle to the other end of the station.
Beware of Thieves. If you’re sharing space with strangers, be especially mindful of your belongings. Some trains provide an area under the beds where luggage can be locked. Sleep with your valuables (another good reason for packing them in a smaller bag). Thieves have been known to pick the locks of coupes, so don’t assume that a closed door is a fail-safe deterrent.
Mind Your Manners. You’ll be rubbing elbows with other folks for at least one night, so getting off on the wrong foot can lead to an awkward 8-12 hours. Don’t stare, take up more than your fair share of space, or make comments about others (even if you think they don’t understand English). At the same time, don’t be shy about protecting your personal space or speaking up for yourself.
Sleep Well. If you don’t get a wink of sleep on the train, it’s a bit of a wasted journey- might as well have taken the day train and slept in a hotel! Make sure your iPod is charged, and bring a bottle of water and a snack. Find out ahead of time if pillows and blankets are provided; if not, make sure you’re well-supplied. Most people find the rocking of the train quite soothing, so odds are you’re get at least a few hours of shut-eye. Just make sure you don’t sleep through your stop.
Whether you’re boarding the Elipsos from Spain or the Twilight Express between Osaka and Sapporo, these five tips will help you prepare and enjoy the journey. Once you’ve experienced the convenience of a night train, you’ll never want to travel any other way.
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