Not Getting Railroaded: Train Safety in Europe

Sleeping on overnights trains in Europe is a relatively safe endeavor, but take a few sensible precautions to avoid pickpockets and thieves and sleep more soundly

The corridor of a second clas train car in Europe
Anyone can wander the aisles of European trains. Your best and most effective defense against itinerant theives is simply to make sure you lock the door between your compartment and the public corridor at night.

Couchette doors lock from the inside and can only be unlocked from the outside by a special key the conductor carries. This next bit should be obvious, but: always lock your door.

Feel free to underscore the importance of this to your fellow couchette buddies even if you have to pantomime it so that if they get up in the middle of the night to visit the bathroom down the corridor, they'll remember to lock up when they re-enter.

Remember: You're sharing a room with up to five strangers, so don't flash anything valuable. You should be fine. After 20 years and many, many overnight train rides, I witnessed my first robbery only a few years ago.

While we were both sleeping, the stranger who shared my couchette had his bag stolen from where it was hanging next to his head in the middle bunk. The door was unlocked when I awoke, but neither he nor I nor the conductor could figure out how it happened, unless the victim unlocked it in the middle of the night to nip out to the bathroom, forgotten to relock it, and was now stonewalling to cover his shame (or simple bleary forgetfulness).

I, however, felt secure because I had reserved the top bunk—which gets much hotter than the lower bunks, but puts you out of all but the tallest thief's reach. It allows you to sleep with your head right next to your bags, which are stowed in a niche above the door. I had strapped my pack to the niche's guardrail, so that no one could simply tug it down and run off.

Sure, I spent an extra minute the next morning extracting my bag from its cranny, but two of us walked out of that couchette, and only one of us still had his stuff.

The main rules

This article was last updated in January 2008 . All information was accurate at the time.
E-mail | Print | Bookmark | | |
About Us

Copyright © 2008