In this review, we will take a Norwegian Railways night train in a private sleeper compartment from Oslo to Stavanger in Norway.
Trains instead of planes
No matter how much I like aeroplanes and flying, in some aspects the entire travel experience will never come close to the one you can have when riding the rails. I absolutely love travel by train. During the day, you see more than you would ever see from the sky as you can truly immerse yourself into the surroundings of a foreign country. Not many travel experiences are more relaxing than going for dinner in the restaurant wagon or listening to your favourite music with gradually changing scenery slowly passing by. Getting snug under the blankets in your berth and falling asleep to the rickety movements of the train is another special travel experience which you will only have on a train.
Needing to go from Oslo to Stavanger, it was quite obvious from the start that I would opt for the train instead of a plane. For a while I considered doing this journey by daytime, but as I would already take what are arguably two of Norway’s best train journeys (the Bergen to Oslo line, as well as the Flam railway) during daylight hours in just a few weeks time, I opted for the overnight service as it is more convenient and would fit much better into my schedule.
Booking a train ticket in Norway
It cannot be more easy to book a Norwegian train ticket online on the easy-to-use website of the Norwegian Railways, which is nowadays branded as ‘Vy’ after being previously called ‘NSB’ (an acronym which stood for the Norwegian State Railways, or Norske Statsbaner in the local language). Even though you can buy tickets last-minute at ticket machines and booking offices at the station, I would highly recommend buying your train ticket in advance if you need to travel on a fixed date or hour. Tickets for long-distance journeys are much cheaper if booked in advance, so don’t leave it for the last minute.
For a seat on the Oslo to Stavanger train, the full price ticket is a whopping 1,025 NOK (104 EUR), while book-in-advance ‘minipris’ tickets (also called ‘lowprice’) start at just 199 NOK (20 EUR). I bought my ticket a month in advance and had no problem securing a cheap minipris ticket at all. The only disadvantage is that minipris tickets are non-refundable, while with a full-price tickets you can hop on a later train if you want or change your ticket for free to a future date.
Buying a comfort seat or sleeper compartment
If you pay an extra surcharge on top of your ticket price (irrespective of the fact whether you have a minipris ticket or a full fare ticket), you can select one of the premium upgrades for night trains. I would highly recommend doing this for overnight journeys, unless you are a backpacker used to rough nights of sleep for whom the price is more important than the comfort. If you do not select one of the premium options, you will basically be travelling in a normal 2nd class seat which does not recline.
For overnight journeys there are two premium options. These are:
– Komfort, which costs around 220 NOK (22 EUR) extra
– Sove, which costs around 930 NOK (94 EUR) extra
The ‘Komfort’ option means that the seat next to you will remain guaranteed empty, giving you much more leg and shoulder space while trying to sleep. Interestingly, it also gives you a complimentary voucher worth 80 NOK (8 EUR) which you can spend in the dining wagon on food or booze. If you do not want to splurge for a private compartment, I would certainly recommend the Komfort option for budget travellers. However, since the rebranding of the Norwegian Railways from NSB to Vy, this option has seemingly been withdrawn, but by all means, check if it might be offered on your train!
Sleeping car option
Sove, which is the Norwegian word meaning ‘sleep’, is the sleeping car option. If travelling alone, you automatically get an entire two-bed compartment assigned all for yourself, guaranteeing a good night of sleep. If you book a ticket for two persons, you will both share the same compartment. In the end, my ‘minipris’ ticket and ‘sove’ sleeping compartment upgrade set me back 119 EUR in total. While this might seem quite a bit for a train journey, I actually think it is a steal – given that you will have your own private compartment included for a good night of sleep in a country which is not exactly known for its cheap accommodation.
On paper it all sounds great. So how is the Norwegian Railways sleeper train in real? Let’s find out!
Oslo to Stavanger by Overnight Train
Private sleeper compartment – 119 EUR
Departure 10.25pm – Arrival 07.20am the next day (travel time 8h55m)
I arrived fairly early at Oslo’s central railway station (abbreviated as Oslo S on railway maps and online route planners). When I arrived earlier in the day at the station coming from the airport I wasn’t too impressed as the building seemed to be rather modern and nondescript at first sight, full of the ubiquitous retail stores and fast food outlets. I was however surprised to walk upon a “hidden” gem when I explored a bit more of the station before my departure to Stavanger.
The wonderful Østbanehallen (which literally means Eastern Tracks Hall) is an old covered railway terminus where originally the station’s platforms were located, from where the railway lines ran to the.. well, east of Oslo. Unfortunately, this magnificent piece of architecture fell into disuse in 1980 when operations were moved to the modern Oslo S railway station was constructed adjacent to the old railway shed, which had the advantage of being a through-station instead of a terminus.
The Norwegians however found a new use for the railway shed with its semi-circular vaulted roof as the Østbanehallen was turned into a shopping centre and hotel. There are plenty of options here for a meal or drink before departure at one of the many restaurants, as well as shops to stock up on supplies for your train journey. I grabbed a slice of pizza from one of the restaurants and went shopping for some essentials to have for an overnight journey (read: beer). Luckily, I found a nice shop with sold cold craft beer for normal retail prices. For those waiting for a train at Oslo’s station, the Østbanehallen really is the place to kill some time!
Boarding the train
My overnight train to Stavanger departed on track number four. Luckily the train arrived within minutes after I took the escalator down to the platform, as the temperatures and freezing wind on this winter night were quickly becoming unbearable. When booking online you get a PDF train ticket (or QR code) in your email which is your ticket. There is no need to collect a paper ticket from the station or to print it – the digital version on your smartphone will do. If you have a normal seat, you can directly go to your assigned wagon and seat. If you however have booked a compartment, you must go first to the train’s restaurant wagon. Here you must show your ticket to a train employee, who in turn will provide you with an electronic key card which you can use to open the door of your assigned compartment – just like you would do in a hotel.
The sleeping compartment
Each compartment has two beds, and is fitted with a sink, mirror, coat hangers and enough storage room to stow your luggage away. You can put your bags under the bottom bunk, or at a storage space above the corridor. There are no toilets in the compartments. Each carriage is fitted with two toilets – one at each end. Even though these toilets are shared – they remained remarkably clean throughout the journey.
I really liked the compartment from the start. It did not feel cramped at all, the bed was comfortable and there was a large working top near the window where you can easily work on your laptop. The temperature inside the compartment could be adjusted as well if you wanted some more heating or some colder temperatures. The only slight disadvantage I could think off is the rather small window due to the special wagons being used by the Norwegians for their overnight services. Given it was winter and it would remain dark from departure until arrival, it was however a really minor issue.
Another nice feature was the keycard – as this is something which is not common with a lot of other overnight train services in Europe which are fitted with a manual lock only. Even though you can lock your compartment from the inside when you go to sleep in such trains, it means that you cannot lock your compartment if you want to walk to the toilet or to the restaurant wagon – as these manual locks only work from the inside. With the keycard lock on the door of Norwegian overnight trains, the door will automatically fall into the lock if you leave the compartment and head for the toilet or restaurant wagon, which is a great plus. Just do not forget to take the keycard with you if you go out of your cabin at night for a visit to the toilets!
The overnight train was also outfitted with free WiFi, with each compartment having plugs as well to charge your electronic devices. Beds are by the way already made up when you enter the train so no extra work is required by the passenger. You can go straight to sleep if you want! The Norwegian railways also kindly provides two complimentary bottles of water in each compartment, which is another nice touch.
Breakfast and shower
Unless you pack your own breakfast or visit the restaurant wagon before arrival to pay for your coffee and snack, there is no breakfast service in Norwegian trains. Travellers in sleeper class do however get a discount for breakfast and/or shower facilities at a select number of hotels in Norwegian cities which are served by overnight trains, these being Stavanger, Bergen, Oslo and Trondheim. Inquire with the train staff if you want to make use of these services.
I managed to have a great night of sleep in my compartment, waking up about an hour before our arrival in Stavanger. Eventually, the train even rolled into Stavanger station a good 15 minutes before our planned arrival, which I did not mind at all as I was completely ready to explore the city. If you have a bed in your own compartment, an overnight train journey does not only save a night’s accommodation, but also helps you to arrive fully refreshed at your destination. Although I would not recommend to make such a journey in a normal second class seat (in which case I would opt for the daytime train), I can highly recommend the Norwegian Railways night train and would gladly opt for it again if I were to visit Norway again.
Trip report index
This review is part of the ‘Siberian Shuffle – A Crazy Winter Trip Around Eurasia‘ trip report, which consists of the following chapters:
1. Review: Wizz Air economy class from Bucharest to Oslo Sandefjord Torp (Airbus A321)
2. A day in the Norwegian capital of Oslo
3. Review: Norwegian Railways night train from Oslo to Stavanger in a private sleeper (current chapter)
4. Review: Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Stavanger
5. A day in the city of Stavanger, Norway
6. Review: Stavanger Airport North Sea Lounge
7. Review: KLM Cityhopper business class Stavanger to Amsterdam (Embraer RJ-175)
8. Celebrating carnival in the Netherlands
9. Review: KLM Crown Lounge (Schengen) Amsterdam Airport
10. Review: Air France business class Amsterdam to Paris (Airbus A319)
11. Review: ‘Salon Paris’ business class lounge Paris CDG Terminal 2C
12. Review: Aeroflot business class Paris to Moscow (Airbus A320)
13. Review: Aeroflot domestic business class lounge Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport
14. Review: Aeroflot business class Moscow to Irkutsk (Boeing 737-800)
15. Review: Matreshka Hotel, Irkutsk
16. Exploring the Siberian city of Irkutsk
17. Review: Mayak Hotel, Listvyanka (Lake Baikal)
18. A Winter Trip to the Frozen Wonderland of Lake Baikal
19. Review: Ibis Irkutsk Center Hotel
20. Review: Domestic business class lounge Irkutsk Airport
21. Review: Aeroflot business class Irkutsk to Moscow (Boeing 737-800)
22. Review: Pushkin Hotel, Moscow
23. A 24-hour stopover in the Russian capital of Moscow
24. Review: ‘Moscow’ and ‘Jazz’ business class lounges Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport
25. Review: Aeroflot business class Moscow to Paris (Airbus A320)
26. Review: TAROM business class Paris to Bucharest (Airbus A318)
27. Review: TAROM business class lounge Bucharest Otopeni Airport
27. Review: Air France business class Bucharest to Paris (Airbus A320)
28. A short stopover in Paris
29. Review: ‘Sheltair’ business class lounge Paris CDG Terminal 2D
30. Review: Azerbaijan Airlines business class Paris to Baku (Airbus A320)
31. Review: Old City Hotel & Apartments, Baku
32. Baku: a captivating mix between old and new
33. Review: Azerbaijan Railways night train from Baku to Sheki in a private sleeper
34. Sheki and the Caucasus foothills
35. Visiting Azerbaijan’s second-biggest city of Ganja
36. Review: Shah Palace Hotel, Baku
37. Review: Azerbaijan Airlines business class lounge Baku Airport
38. Review: Azerbaijan Airlines business class Baku to Paris (Airbus A320)
39. Review: Air France business class lounge Paris CDG Terminal 2F
40. Review: KLM business class Paris to Amsterdam (Boeing 737-800)
41. Review: KLM business class Amsterdam to Bergen (Boeing 737-800)
42. Review: First Marin Hotel, Bergen
43. Visiting the Norwegian city of Bergen
44. The Bergen Railway from Bergen to Oslo
45. The scenic Flam Railway from Myrdal to Flam
46. Review: Saga Hotel Oslo Central
47. Review: SAS economy class Oslo to Brussels (Boeing 737-600)
48. Review: Diamond Lounge (non-Schengen) Brussels Airport
49. Review: TAROM economy class Brussels to Bucharest (Boeing 737-800)