Couchettes vs. Sleeper
A 1st Class sleeper is for 1 or two passengers
traveling together. A 2nd Class sleeper will
accommodates between two and four passengers. Both contain
berths and a private washstand, and are furnished with
pillows, fresh linens and towels. Sleepers are designed to
be shared by couples, families and travelers of the same
sex. Sleepers, in deluxe accommodations, include restrooms
in each compartment. Our statistics children traveling
with parents indicate that sleeper compartments are
preferred by families.
Sleeper rates are based upon a per person basis, whether it
is for 1st Class or 2nd Class, the
length of the route traveled and whether or not the travel
is on one of the premium train. Sleepers range from about
$29 to $390;
There are usually 6 couchettes [bunks] in a 2nd
Class compartment. Each comes with a blanket and pillow.
There are washrooms that are located at the end of each
car. The couchettes are smaller than the sleeper but the
comfort is about the same. Since the compartment is open to
both sexes, passengers sleep in their daytime clothing.
Couchettes cost about $29, in addition to your ticket or
Normally, a reservation is required. However, if there are
couchettes or sleepers available, they can be rented from
You should tip your attendant if heís done a good job Ė
he/she should bring you a European breakfast in the morning;
Couchettes are definitely not very comfortable; sleepers are
marginally more comfortable. However, both are much better
than sitting up in a compartment. Normally, there is a lot
of jolting about during night, especially going through rail
yards or stations where the train stops;
In some areas, there is a high probability of getting robbed
[Eastern Block countries, Italy and Spain]Öso find out from
the attendant exactly what time there will be an occasion to
awaken you [for border crossings, etc.]. Then, keep the
door to the compartment locked and do not open it except at
the scheduled times. If robbers try to enter, and the door
is locked, they will probably knock on the door telling you
itís the porter or passport control. If itís not at a
scheduled time, donít believe it and keep the door locked!
However, if you take reasonable precautions, the statistics
of train safety are in your favor.
If you must take a night train, donít try to sleep in a
regular compartment or seat. Do everything possible to rent
a couchette or sleeper; it will make your trip much more
enjoyable. Although you will be much more comfortable than
trying to sleep sitting up, after one trip in a couchette or
sleeper you will probably want to stay at a hotel in the
Passes must be validated on the first day they are used, at
the ticket window at the station, before boarding a train.
The validation must be within six months of purchase. Your
pass period begins the same day as validation.
The railroad official, validating the pass, will enter the
first and last date of the travel period on the pass. Do
not write on the pass, or fill in any of the blanks; that
will invalidate the pass, making it subject to confiscation
by railroad employees.
All passes are non-transferable; so donít let anyone else
use them. Again, they can be taken away should they be used
by anyone else.
Rail Pass & Tickets Before Boarding
If you have a rail pass, the date of first use, must be written onto
the form in terms of the day, month and year, [in Europe, one
normally enters the day, month and year in that sequence] before the
pass is used. A pen must be used to enter this data; never a
pencil. If this is not done, the conductor has the right to
confiscate the pass on the spot. Also, make sure that everything
on the rail pass [such as country of residence, names and dates] is
correct. Do not validate your rail pass yourself; a railway
official must do this at the railroad station. If you validate it
yourself, it could be confiscated.
Never try to alter and/or tamper with the pass. If the conductor
feels that the pass has been altered or tampered with, he can take
it from you and, you will be subject to a big fine that has to be
paid on the spot.
You should always carry your passport with you incase a railroad
employee wants to verify that you are the owner of the rail pass.
Keep both documents in a safe place, preferably a money belt.
Tickets Must be Punched
In the case of individual train tickets, they must be punched, on
the platform, before boarding the train. Yellow-orange colored
validation machines are available on the station platforms [quais]
for this purpose. Your ticket will have an arrow, at one end, to
indicate that this is the end to put into the machine. Once the
ticket has been punched, it must be used that same day.
You Forget to Validate
If the ticket has not been validated before getting on the train,
find the conductor and tell him that you forgot to validate it. If
you wait for the conductor to take the ticket, you may be fined a
statutory amount on the spot.
Should you be fined, or your pass/ticket confiscated by the
conductor, do not argue, refuse to pay or become belligerent. The
conductor, as the representative of the government, can have you
arrested. Your best approach is to avoid such problems by adhering
to the rules.
Reservations for Peak Times
Be sure to make all necessary reservations in advance. If you are
going to be traveling on a weekend or holiday, it is best to have a
reservation for any train.
To assist you in buying a ticket, where there may be a language
problem, write down exactly what you want so you can show it to
the ticket agent:
and destination city;
One way or round
Check for Discounts and
Always check with the ticket agent to see if there are age
related or student discounts or if there is a slower [and
cheaper] train going to the same place, or a cheaper time to
take the train;
Before boarding your train, you are required to individually
validate each ticket and/or discount voucher. When departing
from a suburban rail station in the Paris region, to take a
connecting train from one of Parisís main stations, you will
have to validate your ticket twice: once at the suburban
station and once at the main Paris station before boarding the
for Special Trains
Some European trains, such as the TGV and the French-Spanish
Hotel-trains, have mandatory reservations, which are
included in the price. On others, reservations are
optional. But, if the trains that donít require
reservations are full, you may not get on or if you do, you
may have to stand all the way to your destination.
If you are a non-smoker [non-fumeur], I recommend that you
reserve your seat to insure that you are comfortably
installed in a non-smoking compartment during your journey.
Smoking is much more prevalent in Europe than it is in North
If you are traveling during peak travel times of the year,
or the day, or if you are traveling with friends, you should
make reservations as early as possible.
You can make a reservation for the TGV trains [Trains ŗ
Grande Vitesse] as early as 60 days before and up to a few
minutes before departure. For other service, from 60 days
before until noon of the departure day, for departures after
5 pm, and until 8 pm, for a departure the next day before 5
pm. You can even make standby reservations under certain
Where to Make
Reservations can be made in any train station, at an SNCF
[The French Government Railroad] ticket outlet or at any
accredited travel agency. When trains are completely
booked, SNCF will often issue a ĎStandby reservationí.
Reservations cost about $11 and are non-transferable and