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Train Talk: Dream rail trip advice from the expert on sleepers

Train Talk: Dream rail trip advice from the expert on sleepers

“Sweden was the best.” So says Monisha Rajesh, author of Around the World in 80 Trains – a globe-girdling, 45,000-mile adventure involving some of the more extreme rail journeys in North Korea, Canada, Kazakhstan and Tibet.

She says the world-leading night train is the one that departs from the Swedish capital at 6.10pm each evening, speeding through the heart of Scandinavia to reach its Arctic terminus at lunchtime next day.

“I took the train from Stockholm up to Narvik, just across the Arctic Circle border, and it was the most fabulous train journey I’ve ever done.”

On the You Should Have Been There podcast – which I present, along with Mick Webb – Monisha spelt out the joy of sleepers compared with air travel.

“I personally enjoy hopping on at the train station, taking as many liquids as I like, not having to go through scanners, being patted, being prodded, taking off my shoes.

“And I enjoy the fact that my adventure starts as soon as I get on board the train. I don’t have to have that long journey to an airport, I don’t have to fight for a taxi at the other end.

“I think there are a lot of people like me who enjoy the simplicity of train travel.” Simple it may be, but the costs involved in running an overnight rail operation mean it can be expensive.

“Factoring in cost is certainly something else to consider. But if you book far enough in advance or you opt to break up your journey along the way, or you want to have an ‘upright sleeper,’ then those options are certainly there.”

That trans-Scandinavian adventure, for example, comes in at a reasonable £95 for a seat on the overnight express. Yet for only £17 more you can get a bunk in a couchette compartment for six.

This option, concedes Monisha, is not for travellers who, like Jean-Paul Sartre, believe “hell is other people”. But she says: “I enjoy them because I like meeting people.

“You get given a pillow, you get a bedsheet, you get a blanket.

“You can also travel in actual sleeper compartments, which have one or two berths in them, and they’re private, you often get an en-suite bathroom, and it can be quite a fancy way of travelling.”

The night train to Narvik offers a place in a three-berth, en-suite compartment, for a modest £132. But who will your companions be? “Quite an interesting range of people,” the 80 Trains

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