As my time in Lisbon came to an end, I grew more and more anxious for the start of my study abroad program. Because I am a poor college student and also strive to experience new things, I opted to take the night train from Lisbon to Madrid, a 9-hour journey instead of a two-hour flight. The train ticket cost 24 euro, and the train left from the Lisbon Oriente Station at 9:30pm.
It was definitely not a luxurious experience, but I survived it well enough to be able to write a review, so here are the pros and cons of taking the Lusitania Hotel Night Train from Lisbon, Portugal to Madrid, Spain.
The most obvious positive thing about taking the night train in place of a flight or high-speed rail is the price. €24 is probably the cheapest way to get across an entire country. Sure, Ryanair can have really cheap flights too, but if you need to check a bag, the expenses will multiply rapidly. Another benefit in the realm of saving money is that by taking a night train, one can avoid booking a hotel or hostel for a night, saving another chunk of cash.
Besides saving money, another positive was just having a reason to go to Lisbon´s Oriente Train station. It is a MASSIVE complex of platforms, a shopping mall, and restaurants, an interesting spectacle with unique architecture that differs significantly from the rest of the city of Lisbon.
In addition, the trains are also fairly clean and there are no baggage fees for big bags, which is essential for someone studying abroad with a bigger, non-carry on sized suitcase. There is also a bar on board that serves alcoholic beverages, as well as snacks and coffee, and the prices were surprisingly low.
Comfort is the primary reason I would not recommend the night train from Lisbon-Madrid to all travelers. The seats do not recline much, and while they are bigger than airplane seats (slightly) they are not really compatible with getting any quality sleep.
The train is also a bit noisy, as compartments can house about 30 passengers, and people are coming and going as the train makes stops across the country. It can make for interesting conversation, as there were tourists of all nationalities in my train compartment, but it can also be extremely annoying if one is trying to get some solid sleep. The train rocks and sways on the tracks, which would be hard for someone who is sensitive to movement when trying to sleep.
The security on the train also isn´t fabulous for someone traveling alone, as there is no way to lock up luggage, so when I was walking around the compartments I had to worry about my belongings sitting unattended in the luggage rack. Luckily nothing happened, but it is very possible for thieves to gain access to people´s stuff with no one else being able to know.
Fortunately, I was able to get about 6 hours of shut-eye. I woke up about an hour before the train arrived in Madrid, enough time to gather my belongings and read a little before getting off. What was super convenient was that the train stop in Madrid is connected to the metro, which made it easy for me to take all my stuff to Plaza Eliptica to buy bus fare to Toledo.
Overall, I would do the night train again to save money, but probably only if I was traveling with friends so I could have people to watch my bags when getting up to walk around or go to the bathroom. I would also buy a neck or travel pillow to make the journey slightly more comfortable. The night train is a cool experience for someone who has not been on trains much, considering they are very uncommon modes of transportation in the United States.
Have any of you taken the night train? Where did you take it and how was your experience?? Let me know in the comments