Overnight Couchettes/Sleepers

Couchette sleepers on overnight trains are available to both first class and second class rail pass holders. A couchette sounds quite romantic no? Well don’t let the fancy French name fool you. Couchettes basically turn from uncomfortable seating during the day to uncomfortable sleeping bunks at night; actually they are not that bad. They are quite ingeniously designed. I remember being so confused when I first booked one as to how the bunks were going to magically appear. Lucky for me the train attendant and my fellow passengers were used to the drill.

Couchettes generally have bunks or “berths” for 4 or 6 passengers. Once the bunks are folded down you are provided with a sheet, a woolish blanket, and a pillow. Usually these are mixed gender so you just sleep in your day clothes or change under the covers. There are either 2 or 3 bunks on each side of the compartment. There is a ladder to help you climb up to the top bunk and there is usually a small space to stow luggage though it is best to keep it on your bunk. Bathrooms are usually located at the end of the car.

Couchettes have a door that can be locked and an attendant to keep an eye on things. Always make sure the door is locked before dozing off to bed.

If your train will be crossing borders the attendant will take your passport shortly after you board; don’t freak out when he doesn’t return it. The attendant will keep it and takes care of showing it to the border patrol so that you are not disturbed. They return it to you in the morning. The attendants usually speak English and you can check with them about arrival times or any other questions.

Couchettes are functional and do help keep your costs low so they are worth a little discomfort in my opinion. For a reservation fee that is usually cheaper than a budget hotel you will be able to wake up in an entirely different city saving time and a little money.

Overnight Sleepers

Sleeper compartments are available to first class ticket holders. There is a significant price difference between a couchette and a sleeper. I view the sleeper option as a bit of a luxury because it does stretch the budget. However, after a long trip with loads of miles logged in a couchette it is nice to reward yourself with a private sleeper.

Sleepers can be booked as a single, double, or triple. Unless reserved by couples or families these are single gender. They include a washbasin and a few toiletries as well as the sheet, blanket, and pillow that you would also find in the couchette.

The primary advantage to booking a sleeper is privacy. The bunks are also slightly more comfortable. The attendants also bring coffee in the morning.

The sleeper car attendant takes your passport after boarding to show border patrol agents and they will also keep an eye on the train car. The attendants can be quite helpful if you have any questions about arrival times, etc. Sometimes the train attendants are friendly folk and will even share a smoke with you.


This miniscule space qualifies as luxury
for the budget traveler.