French rail operator SNCF takes a unique approach to the provision of its overnight trains as it doesn't provide sleeping cabins in which travellers get into bed as they would in a hotel.
Instead there are only two types of accommodation options available, a bunk in a couchette compartment or travelling in a reclining seat.
Attributes of the train
Accessing the train
In common with the couchettes used on other overnight trains on continental Europe, passengers sleep in their daytime clothes on the bunks which are available on these French trains.
Basic bedding is provided, but if you'll want the extra comfort of an additional pillow etc, you'll need to bring it with you.
'First Class' couchettes have 4 bunks and 'Second Class' couchettes have 6 bunks, but aside from that there is no difference between the facilities in the compartments.
Pay a premium to travel 1st class and you will have more headroom between the bunks and will be sharing your compartment with less people (if you will be travelling solo, in a pair, or a group of 3).
Note that if you are in a travelling party of 1, 2, or 3 in 1st class, or 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 in 2nd class, you may find yourself sharing a compartment with people you'll meet when boarding.
For men, the only means of ensuring you'll avoid this scenario is to opt for a 1st class compartment when booking, and then take up the option of a 'Private Space'; it will cost a fixed price of €70 which is in addition to the price of a ticket.
You'll then have sole occupancy of the compartment during your journey.
Both 1st and 2nd class compartments are typically mixed sex, but there a limited number of compartments per departure for solo use by women, which can be selected when booking 1st or 2nd class, and don't incur an additional fee*.
*This a tad confusing as the info on OuiSNCF states 'free; but when SMTJ carried out some test bookings for a 2nd class journey, the price jumped by €14 when 'Solo Women' was selected.
Though if these spaces have already been booked on a departure, an option will be to book the 'private space' for an additional cost.
Each passenger in the 1st and 2nd class couchettes will receive a complimentary bottle of water and a travel kit which consists of an eye mask, ear plugs, tissues, a refreshing wipe and chewable toothpaste.
A somewhat bizarre collection of items, which reflects the fact that neither the 1st or 2nd class compartments are equipped with washing facilities.
The only alternative to the couchettes is to travel in a reclining seat, though no bedding will be provided, so if you think you'll need a pillow or blanket to ensure a good night's sleep, you'll need to take them with you.
All of the reclining seats are in open-plan saloons, no compartments are available.
The ticketing for these Intercités de Nuit trains is comparatively uncomplicated, there's no need to add reservation fees to the ticket costs as OuiSNCF will charge one total price for the seats, a space in a 4 bunk compartment (1st Class), or a space in a 6 bunk compartment (2nd class).
Using rail passes
Those reservation fees for the couchettes on these trains can seem good value compared to the fees payable by rail pass users on the other overnight trains in western Europe; and obviously it makes sense and seems like a good deal, to pay the same fee to travel in a 4 bunk (1st class) compartment if you'll be using a 2nd class pass.
But if you'll be planning an itinerary and considering the type of pass valid for a set number of travel days, and won't be making other journeys on the days you'll be departing and arriving on the Intercités De Nuit, those reservation fees may not be such good value for money.
The reservation fee of €19 can be available when the cost of travelling in a 2nd class compartment is €35, so if you can find that price, once you have paid the fee, you will only have saved €16 compared to booking the ticket.
These trains don't have any food/drink which can be purchased on board, though it possible to have a breakfast delivered to you, whether you'll be travelling in a couchette compartment or a seat.
Though you will need to order it prior to boarding; and it's an entirely separate process to booking a ticket.
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