Intercite de nuit couchette

A comfortable couchette...

Buy tickets online...

www.raileurope.com (anyone).

www.thetrainline.com* (anyone)

* Can also sell Espace_privatif

Overnight in a couchette from €29...

It's the most time-effective way to travel.  Sleep your way from Paris to Nice, Cannes, Antibes, Toulouse, Perpignan, Latour de Carol or Portbou on the Spanish border from €29 including a bed for the night.  Formerly branded Lunéa, French domestic overnight trains are now Intercités de Nuit.

On what routes do they run?

Paris-Toulon-St Raphael-Cannes-Antibes-Nice (restored from 19 April 2021)

Paris-Toulouse-Latour de Carol (with connection to Barcelona)

Paris-Rodez

Paris-Briancon

Paris-Perpignan-Narbonne-Portbou (daily in summer, Fri & Sun in winter)

The French government withdrew funding for all Intercités de Nuit in 2016, leaving just a few running as socially necessary for the regions they serve.  However, there's good news:  President Macron has committed to the return of the Paris-Nice & Paris-Lourdes-Tarbes overnight trains.  The Paris-Nice Intercité de nuit returns from 19 April 2021, the Paris-Tarbes train will be restored from a date still to be announced.

What are the trains like?  Watch the video

Intercités de Nuit overnight trains have 1st class 4-berth couchettes, 2nd class 6-berth couchettes and reclining seats.  There are no sleepers, sleeping-cars with 1 & 2 bed compartments were withdrawn from all French domestic overnight trains in 2007.  But if you want privacy you can book a whole couchette compartment for exclusive private use, see the Espace Privatif section.

1st & 2nd class couchettes...

Couchettes are simple flat padded bunks each provided with a fresh clean pillow, individual reading light and special lightweight sleeping-bag - a great idea, replacing the traditional sheet & blanket.  Each passenger gets a bottle of mineral water, earplugs (if you really need them) & tissues.  French couchette cars have been modernised with quiet carpeted interiors & soft fabric bunks.  Only bona fide passengers with tickets & reservations are allowed onto the platform, and there are minimal stops between 00:00 & 06:00 for a smooth, safe & secure journey through the night. 

1st class couchettes have 4 berths per compartment, upper & lower on each side of the compartment.  They feel much more spacious than 2nd class couchettes, as there are only 4 people not 6 in a slightly larger compartment with slightly wider berths.  Great for families or a group of friends.  If you want sole or dual occupancy of a whole compartment, see the private compartment section belowCouchette numbering plan.

2nd class couchettes have 6 bunks in each compartment, upper, middle & lower on each side of the compartment.  Obviously, if you have any mobility problems ask for a lower berth, but the cosy top bunks up in the roof space give you more privacy and are my personal preference.  Having said that, although cars are air-conditioned with adjustable temperature control, bottom & middle bunks can be cooler than top bunks on a hot summer night.  You can book a whole compartment for just 4 or 5 of you if you like, see the private compartment section belowCouchette berth numbering plan.

In both classes:  Men & women are mixed in couchettes as you don't normally fully undress, but women travelling alone can book a berth in a ladies-only compartment if they like.  If you've children, you can ask the train staff for a child safety rail for their bunk.  Compartment doors have a security lock which cannot be opened from outside even with a staff key, and staff are on duty if you need them.  There are washrooms & toilets at the end of the corridor.

InterCite de Nuit train at Paris Austerlitz   Refurbished French 2nd class 6-berth couchettes   Refurbished French 1st class 4-berth couchettes

A couchette car on the Paris to Latour night train, at Paris Gare d'Austerlitz...

 

2nd class 6-berth couchettes showing sleeping bags...

 

1st class 4-berth couchettes with sleeping bags provided...

Reclining seats...

Intercités de Nuit also have 2nd class reclining seats, and you'll also find overnight TGV trains on some routes with non-reclining seats.  However, a couchette allows you to sleep properly lying down in a securely locked compartment, so is the recommended option and definitely worth the extra cost.  Travelling overnight in a seat is not recommended except in emergency.

 

Booking espace privatif in couchettes at Capitainetrain.com

How the Private Compartment option appears on www.thetrainline.com.

  Espace privatif on en.oui.sncf

How the Espace Privatif option appears on en.oui.sncf

Private use of a whole couchette compartment...

You can book a whole 4-berth or 6-berth compartment for 1, 2, or 3 people.  There are two ways to do this:

Option 1, buy multiple tickets...  Simply book 4 tickets in 1st class couchettes or 6 tickets in 2nd class couchettes to have sole occupancy for you and your companions.  Tip:  Use phantom children, not adults!  But there's a cheaper option, if it's available...

Option 2, pay the Espace Privatif supplement...  This offer doesn't always show up, but if it's available, 1, 2 or 3 people can book a whole 1st class 4-berth compartment and 4 or 5 people can reserve a whole 2nd class 6-berth compartment by paying an Espace Privatif supplement.

How much does Espace Privatif cost?

If you're travelling solo, you pay the 1st class couchette fare plus a supplement of €70 to have a whole 4-berth 1st class compartment all to yourself.

If there's 2 of you, you pay two 1st class couchette fares plus one €50 supplement.

If there's 3 of you, you pay three 1st class couchette fares plus one €40 supplement.

If there's 4 or 5 of you, you each pay the 2nd class couchette fare, plus one fixed-price supplement of €45 between you to get the whole 6-berth 2nd class compartment to yourselves.

How to book Espace Privatif:  First try booking at www.thetrainline.com, easy to use, in €, £ or $, overseas credit cards no problem, small booking fee.  Run an enquiry with 1, 2 or 3 passengers selected, find the overnight train and click to buy a first class fare.  At the next stage, where it asks you to choose a top or bottom couchette, look for Extras and select Private compartment.

You can also try the French Railways website en.oui.sncf, a little more fiddly, only in €.  Select the fare for a 1st class couchette and at the point where it asks you to select an upper or lower berth you may see the option to pay a supplement for sole occupancy at the bottom.

If that doesn't work, add a phantom kid (or 2 or 3) and buy 4 tickets as per option 1 above, that's always the fall-back option!

Luggage, bikes, food & drink...

You take your luggage into the compartment with you.  There's space for bags under the bottom bunks, on the rack above the window, and in the big recess over the compartment door projecting over the ceiling of the corridor.  Bikes can be taken for a small charge on some routes, including Paris-Nice, these travel in a voiture service in the centre of the train, which also houses the train manager's office (but for some strange reason you can only book a bike space if you book a 2nd class couchette, not if you go 1st class).  There's no cafe or bar car, so bring your own drinks & snacks (and perhaps a bottle of wine!) onto the train with you.  Have dinner before you board.

Evening meal before leaving Paris?

I'm not a fan of eateries at the Gare d'Austerlitz, but when heading south from Paris, why have dinner at the famous Train Bleu restaurant at the Gare de Lyon?  After dinner, it takes 10 minutes to walk over the bridge across the Seine from the Gare de Lyon to the Gare d'Austerlitz on the far bank.

Couchette berth numbering plan

In 1st class 4-berth couchettes, only the lower and top berth numbers are used.

Couchette berth numbering plan

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets...

New colours for French intercite de nuit trains   Sleeping bag on an intercite de nuit couchette train

With the replacement of the Lunéa brand with the new Intercité de Nuit brand, yet another colour scheme has now appeared...

 

Each couchette has a lightweight sleeping-bag, mineral water & pack with tissue, wipe, ear plugs & (in 1st class) travel socks.

Couchette car corridor   Washroom in French couchette car   Vending machines on Intercite de Nuit overnight trains

The quiet, carpeted couchette car corridor...

 

Washrooms & toilets are at the end of the corridor...

 

The vending machines in the voiture services have now been removed.

Bike space on French overnight trains   Reclining seats on an Intercite de Nuit French overnight train

The voiture services (on some trains) has space for several bikes, a small charge is made, see the bikes by train page.

 

Reclining seats on an Intercité de Nuit.  Sitting up all night in a seat is a false economy - always book a couchette.

bullet pointWatch the video...


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