I bunked with 3 strangers in a shared cabin on an overnight train in Europe. It was bumpy, cramped, and I wouldn't do it again.
Posted on November 8, 2022
I spent 11 hours in a shared cabin on an overnight train from Vienna, Austria, to Venice, Italy.
For less than $100, I got a bunk in a room of six beds with three other people.
I've traveled overnight on Amtrak but in private rooms. I didn't adjust well to the shared space.
I recently spent 11 hours bunking with three strangers in an overnight sleeper train from Vienna, Austria, to Venice, Italy, during a two-week trip through four European countries.
While it was my first time traveling in a sleeper car in Europe, I've spent 60 hours on overnight Amtrak trains in their 20-square-foot roomette and 45-square-foot bedroom accommodations, where I had private rooms to myself.
Read more: I've traveled in 4 types of Amtrak train cars, from business class to a private bedroom. Here's what each is like, and which offers the best deal.
I thought an overnight train would be the best way to travel through Europe so I could explore more during the day. But the bumpy ride made it hard to sleep and I didn't feel rested when I got to Venice.
OBB Nightjet did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.
Austrian Federal Railway's OBB Nightjet train is a rail line that operates overnight routes between Austria, Italy, France, and the Netherlands, and can go as fast as 143 miles per hour, according to its website.
Source: OBB Nightjet
Nightjet trains have regular assigned seats, couchette cars (seats that fold out into couches in shared cabins), and sleeper cars with bunks of four or six, which is what I booked. Some routes have private cabins, but mine didn't.
Source: OBB Nightjet
To travel by train, I bought a Eurail pass for $477, which gives access to most European trains for a set number of days. Some trains only require a Eurail pass, while others, including overnight trains, incur an additional discounted price.
This overnight leg of my European train trip, which came with breakfast, cost $44 with my Eurail pass. Without the pass, the ticket would have been about $84.
My journey began in Austria's Wien Meidling train station. I arrived about an hour and a half before my 9:35 p.m. train so I'd have ample time to find the platform.
The departure screens said my train was going to Zurich. At the information desk, I learned that unlike Amtrak the train's cars detach at various stations to go to different locations. I'd need to board my assigned train car; each has a number.
While waiting, I noticed OBB had a lounge. It's free for first-class OBB passengers traveling during the day and cost about $10 for all other OBB passengers. Since I didn't see any empty seats in the rest of the station, I paid for it.
I was surprised to find I was the only one inside the lounge since the rest of the station was full of people. There were plenty of tables and chairs available.
The lounge served complimentary refreshments from coffee to nuts and seeds. It was a smaller selection than I've seen at Amtrak's Metropolitan Lounge, which I've visited in New York, but I wasn't hungry so I just got a water bottle.
Source: I traveled first-class on an Amtrak Acela train and thought the perks were cool — but not worth the $270 price tag
I went to the platform about 20 minutes before my train's scheduled 9:35 p.m. departure. But when it arrived, I didn't have time to check the train car number before boarding. I just went to the closest car and asked an attendant for help.
Inside the sleeper cars, I saw narrow, dimly lit corridors full of small cabins with bunk beds.
My room had six bunks and a large window with a curtain. During my leg of the journey, one traveler was already there when I boarded and two others arrived within an hour. Two got off around 5 a.m., and the other stayed past my stop.
Source: Seat 61
At 74 square feet, it felt to me like a tight space — especially with everyone's luggage around. There was space for bags above the beds, but not enough for everyone. I couldn't image six people squeezing in there.
While my cabin was assigned, the beds were first come, first served. Since I've experienced more bumps on higher bunks on Amtrak trains, I chose a bottom bunk.
The train provided bed sheets and a pillow. I thought they weren't as soft and cozy as the sheets on Amtrak trains, but they were better than nothing.
Above the curtained door to enter the room were temperature and shared lighting controls. My fellow passengers and I agreed to turn off the lights once everyone was settled into bed.
There was an outlet and a tiny nightstand on the side of each bunk, as well as night lights above the bed. Without curtains around each bunk, I thought I had no privacy.
Other passengers in the room said hello to each other upon arrival, but other than that, the room was quiet. Some of us watched our devices, while others went right to sleep.
Before bed, I used one of two bathrooms for everyone in my sleeper car. I thought it was a typical train bathroom with a toilet and a sink. According to Nightjet's website, only private sleeper cabins come with a shower.
Source: OBB Nightjet
When I was ready for bed, I watched TV before going to sleep. The bed was stiff and uncomfortable, in my opinion. I woke up several times during the night to other travelers entering and exiting the room, or due to the bumpiness of the train.
An attendant woke me up with breakfast at 8 a.m., about 20 minutes before my stop in Venice. I got two rolls of bread with butter, jam, and coffee to eat in my bunk. There was no cafe car or common area onboard for passengers.
When I got off the train in Venice, I was exhausted from the lack of sleep. I thought it made my first day in the city less enjoyable.
Next time, I won't pick a shared overnight train. While sometimes it's about the journey, not the destination, in this case, I'd rather arrive feeling refreshed so I can enjoy where I'm going.