How to… organise night train travel

Night trains carry you over long distances while you sleep and can be a great way to save money

 

What to know about night trains:

Night trains are a great way to save time crossing a country/countries and save money by not having to shell out for a hotel room. There are arguments that you miss things like the scenery, but we think that this sacrifice is worth it, as you get an extra day exploring and sleeper trains are the ultimate transportation for time efficiency.

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 N38 Baku to Tbilisi

A night train could be a great option for you if flights to different countries are really expensive or depart at ungodly hours.

It’s advisable to book a night train as early as you can, as tickets sell out fast on popular routes, especially during peak seasons.

Reservations are compulsory for all night trains.

 

Compartments:

Night trains have several accommodation options, ranging from reclining seats to single cabins, some with private bathrooms. The more luxury you require, the higher the cost.

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Southwest Chief Train

Sleepers come in 1, 2, 3 and 4-bed varieties, though this depends on the route and type of sleeper.

There are also open sleepers, which are seats in carriages with a large group of people.

 

Things to consider:

Be organised

If you’re thrifty like us, staying on a night train can be a cheaper option than sleeping in a hotel room. The key here is to plan ahead. Don’t leave buying your night train compartment ticket to the last minute, otherwise you might find that tickets have sold out and you’ll be left scrambling to either buy a hotel for the night you were meant to be a on the train, or you have to settle for a carriage seat, which can become lumpy half way through the night!

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The Ghan

Even if tickets say they’re sold out…

It’s still worth arriving at the train station early on to check if there are any sleeper compartments available, even if a website says they’re sold out. We found this with Georgian Rail, which said that all the sleeper compartments were sold out on its website. It is important to note that Georgian Rail’s website isn’t very user friendly and people in the past had the same experience of tickets being sold out online, but then arriving at the train station to find tickets were in fact available.

Click here for the Tbilisi-Yerevan Train. Note that there are tickets for odd and even days, so make sure these dates will match up with the rest of your holiday.

 

Take borders into consideration:

On our Baku – Tbilisi – Yerevan trip, we went on two night trains: Baku to Tbilisi and then Tbilisi to Yerevan. It’s important to take note of political situations between countries, as there are reports and threads of people being refused entry into Azerbaijan because they have an Armenian stamp. Therefore, always research a route that involves crossing borders. Personally, we found that it was no problem travelling from Azerbaijan to Armenia, via Georgia.

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You may be asked to show a visa for the next country before boarding.

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Set your alarm:

When crossing borders on a night train, your sleep will be disturbed. This is because customs, border patrol, soldiers and police may all board to inspect your passport, compartment, ticket and possibly interview you. This was our experience with the Baku train.

From Baku to Tbilisi, soldiers and police board at 5.30am and customs and passport officer at 6.50am.

On the Tbilisi to Yerevan route, we had to disembark the train at 10.30pm for the Georgian border authorities to inspect our passport.

At around 11.54pm, Armenian authorities then boarded the train to ask us a few questions and enter our details into the laptop.

It might be worth setting your alarm 5-10 minutes before the crossings to get everything ready e.g, passports, tickets etc.

On both the night trains, train attendants banged on the door to wake us up before arriving at the border and at our final destination.

 

Are night trains safe?

In our experience, we had no problems safety wise. Obviously, just like everywhere, always take care of your belongings. We found that there were no plug sockets in our compartment on the Tbilisi to Yerevan route, but found a plug in the hall way outside of our compartment door. It goes without saying that leaving things is hallways are left there at your own risk.

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no.202 Tbilisi – Yerevan

We stayed in a first-class twin compartment, so we had good privacy. Post threads from travelers who have stayed in a four-person compartment have found these to be relatively safe too.

A first-class 2-berth sleeper compartment costs 75 laris.

A second-class 4-berth sleeper compartment costs 56 laris.

A third-class open sleeper costs 35 laris.

Lastly, on all the night trains we have been on, there have always been solid locks, adding to more safety comfort.

 

Tips

  • Take plenty of water for the trip and a few nibbles (packaged) for if you get hungry during the night. Remember not to take fruit/salad over borders.
  • Research to see if you’ll need a visa from one country to another. You might not be able to board the train if you do not have the necessary documents. Most countries in the EU, US and UK passport holders will not need a visa from Georgia to Armenia. Check out this page for more info for entry requirements. You may need a visa to enter Azerbaijan or crossing from there into Georgia. Click here for more information.
  • You might be able to have a cup of tea when you arrive at your final destination, at an extra cost.
  • Take toilet paper as the communal toilet roll might run out by the morning.

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  • Depending on the carrier, you will be given pillows and a blanket/sheet for the night for free or at a surcharge.
  • Arrive 15-30 mins before departure, allowing sufficient time for boarding.
  • Note that the term ‘first class’ will differ from country to country.
  • If you’re able to pick your compartment, try to be in the middle as this will be away from the engine noise.
  • Try to get money out for your next destination before boarding the train, as this saves you trying to find an ATM early in the morning when bleary-eyed in a new country.

 

Checking out C & J.

 

 

 

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