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Top tips for overnight train travel on sleeper trains for total beginners!

Contiki train travel in Asia

The absolute best mode of travel is one you don’t have to be awake for. Overnight flights? Genius! Beating jetlag before it even hits. Overnight coach drives? Amazing, you don’t have to drive and you’re still on the move. But you could argue the best of the best is overnight train travel because you’re saving precious travel time AND it’s a quick and sustainable option.

Train travel is a big travel trend right now, especially when crossing areas of Europe and Asia which are so well connected. Sleeper trains were huge in the past as well – ever heard of the Orient Express? – and it’s coming back! So, if you want to experience this easy and efficient travel option, these are our top tips.

Why travel by train?

Train travel is really great for a few reasons, and don’t get us wrong, we love our Contiki coaches, but sometimes it’s nice to switch it up and go for something new.

When you travel by train you get benefits like fast and comfortable travel (while you don’t have to do a thing), and you also get to watch the amazing sights go by your window. Have you ever seen the Swiss Alps when you’re smack in the middle of them? Or rice paddies flying by in all their green and twinkly glory? It’s amazing, and you’ll be able to gawk at them all on a train!

It’s also really social: you get to move around freely and chat to your fellow Contiki travellers, as well as any other travellers and even locals taking the same trip as you! You can pick up some handy local tips so that when you arrive, you’ll seem like a natural.

And with the addition of overnight train travel your rail vacation is made even easier and you’ll get to your destination in no time!

What does overnight train travel include?

When you book a sleeper train journey your bedroom suite is included as well as blankets and pillows. A ticket to a room includes access to shared restroom and, depending on your provider, you may even get shower facilities (if not you can shower at stations along the way), and you’ll also have a place to stow your luggage during the trip.

Different bedroom suite options exist. You can book a single or double bed, as well as fully private suites with their own facilities. These options depend on the company you book with, so it’s always best to check and book your tickets in advance so you can check out all options and even book exclusive offers.

Certain suppliers will also give you access to food on the train either in the form of a bar carriage where you can purchase easily re-heatable meals like pastas or sandwiches, or a full restaurant carriage – fancy! Some rides will also give you the option of having an included breakfast at stations, and access to bathrooms and showers, as well as lounge areas for you to stretch your legs as well.

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Is overnight train travel more expensive?

Overnight train travel is generally more expensive than regular train trips just because you’re paying for a room and 24 hour transportation. That being said, depending on how early you book or if you can snag yourself a super deal, sleeper train trips don’t have to break the bank.

And if you travel by train with Contiki, you’re paying for your transportation, experiences, and accommodation all in one!

What to pack

When preparing for train journeys it’s important to pack light. You’ll have a place to stow your main piece of luggage (i.e. all the heavy stuff), but in your cabin there will only be so much room for a suitcase so make sure you divide your luggage into what you need overnight and what can wait.

This is what we recommend popping into your cabin bag:

You know what’s a super handy packing tool? Packing cubes!

If you’re going to be travelling on the train all day (or at least for most of it) make sure you’ve got some comfy clothes with you like a sweat set. There’s nothing worse than sitting in tight jeans all day! You can always head back to your cabin to change before arrival.

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Overnight train travel etiquette

Seeing as this is a shared environment between many travellers from all over, sleeper train etiquette is much the same as hostel etiquette:

Glenfinnan railway in Scotland, UK

Image source:Contiki

How to get the best sleep possible

Even though the cabin suite will include a pillow and blanket, it’s definitely a good idea to pack an extra of each so you can be as comfortable as possible! Personally, I need at least 2 pillows to sleep at night, so this is a MUST.

Also, you’re on a moving vehicle, on rails. It’s safe to say that overnight train travel can get a little shaky and a little loud – though you could view the motion as the swaying of someone rocking you to sleep, aww. Earplugs and an eye mask will help you get the perfect amount of shut eye without too much disturbance.

Another helpful item is a flashlight so you can get around the carriage at night if you need to without turning on the big light and waking everyone up.


Okay, so we’ve got the basics now, but these are some extras to really help the time on the train fly by!


Obviously, you’ll have your Contiki crew with you so there will be lots of chatter. But if you don’t want to give up all the fun facts about yourself in one go, you’re gonna need some extracurriculars. Board and card games are perfect for this.

Keeping in the theme of packing light, we recommend easily packable games. A deck of cards never went wrong, or ‘I Spy’ remains a travel classic for a reason.

You should also note that, unlike aeroplanes, most trains don’t have any seat-back entertainment. So if you want to kill time with a movie or tv show, it’s best to download these ahead onto your devices. Most sleeper trains have WiFi of their own, but the connection can be quite tempestuous, so check that your downloads are available offline.


While there should be food available to you on your overnight train travels, it’s best to have some snacks packed. Firstly, you’re not always in the mood for a big meal, so nibbles are good. And, secondly, the bar and dining cars may not offer foods you like.

Plus having snacks is a great icebreaker because you can offer them to people on your trip in exchange for secrets (or something more normal).

You should also bring some beverages so you can stay hydrated during your travels.

Wet Wipes

Sleeper trains are like hotels on wheels and your room will be cleaned before you arrive and after you leave to leave it in the best condition. But, for some extra peace of mind, bringing wet wipes to wipe any surfaces you’re touching can be a good idea.

train through Thailand

Image source:Contiki

So, where can I travel by train with Contiki?

So glad you asked! Our train travel journeys are just as epic as our regular coach journeys, and they’ll take you all over Europe in style and ease. One starting point and one destination, but plenty of countries and cities in between! And just because it’s train travel, doesn’t mean you won’t be equipped with a trustee Trip Manager! We’d never leave you without.

Here are a few of our exciting options.

London to Budapest

You’ll whizz through 7 cities over 15 days on the London to Budapest by train trip with plenty of cultural sights and amaaazing food along the way. London, Paris, Berlin, and so many more – this 2-weeker might be for advanced train travel experts, so why not try the below and work your way up?

London to Berlin

9 days, 4 cities, all spent in amazing company. Promenade down Amsterdam’s central canal, have a food tour around London’s many markets, and enjoy the museums of Paris and all the incredible art. If you want to stick to Europe’s northern cities, London to Berlin is the one for you.  

Rome to Barcelona

This trip promises sunshine and the most incredible coastal views! You’ll be taken from the Iberian nation, to the French Riviera, and finally to the holy land of pasta and Aperols. Pure. Bliss! Rome to Barcelona is a 9 day heaven that you’ll get to experience completely care-free. Plus the train rides on this journey are spectacular: glittering blue oceans and colourful cliffside towns all the way baby. Enjoy!

train travel through the mountains with Contiki

Image source:Contiki

Some of coach-lead trips include some fun train adventures too!

These trips are classic Contiki – on a coach, that is – but they’ll give you a little taste of train travel here and there. Have you ever been up a mountain by cog rail? You can do it in Switzerland on the Jungfrau line and experience some snowy peaks all year round on our European Escapade trip.

If rice paddies, the fragrant smell of tea plantations, and lush jungle scenes are more your scene, then the famous train ride from Kandy to Nanuoya in Sri Lanka is the one for you. Trust us, it really doesn’t get much more beautiful than this!

And how could we forget the iconic ride in Scotland which you may recognise from a certain fantastical franchise… While you can’t hop on the Hogwarts express at the Glenfinnan Viaduct in the Scottish Highlands, you can watch it go by for some true magic.

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