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Old 27th December 2016, 10:37   #16
rf_ioliver
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Thank you, you've been very helpful. I think I'll follow your itinery
Given the sunrise and sunset times you can effectively forget about seeing any northern lights, unless of course we get some massive X class solar flare.

t.

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Old 27th December 2016, 12:17   #17
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Default Great idea!

Being Swedish, this seems like great time to stop just reading this forum and start contribute to it myself. So, hello everyone!

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Hi all, I'm planning what looks like a rather interesting rail journey during some time I have planned in Sweden in April. I'm looking to travel from Stockholm, Sweden to Narvik, Norway which is inside the arctic circle. I'm looking to use the direct sleeper train which takes around 20 hours. I have a few queries:

1) How punctual is the train at arriving into Narvik? I'm looking to get the train back the same day I arrive, which means I'll only have 4/5 hours in Narvik before my train back. However, if my first train is delayed I could have problems.
Since Botniabanan Härnösand-Umeå opened, the trains have been rather punctual. But things might happen, keep in mind that the northern part of the journey is around 700-800 km of single track partly in the middle of nowhere and a collisions with a reindeer or an elk can cause trouble.

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2) Has anyone done this journey, is it good/worth it? What is the onboard food like? How much, if any scenery could I expect to see? Any chance of seeing the Northern Lights?
There is a lot of scenery, and it is beautiful, especially between Kiruna and Narvik. Search for "malmbanan" on Youtube and you will probably find something interesting. Do not count on the northern lights though, it won't be dark enough to see them.

The food is decent, but could be a lot better. The last time I took the sleeper train the food was slightly better than on the trains in the south, but still salads and premade dishes heated on board. A bit like airline food. Do try the reindeer stew however if it's still available.

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3) Do any of the staff speak any English? I can speak French and Italian, but Swedish is a different kettle of fish and I currently have no understanding of the language. I'm happy to learn some basic phrases, but will the potential language barrier cause me any problems?
Most Swedes speak at least decent English, and the staff will likely speak more or less fluent English, so I wouldn't worry about that. The trains are after all very popular with tourists, both Swedes and foreigners. But learning a few Scandinavian words might be useful as signs outside the stations are likely to be in Scandinavian only (or in Scandinavian and Sami).

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4) Is the Swedish Rail system easy to use?
Yes, especially compared to the British system.

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5) I'm looking to travel in my own private cabin in at least one direction in order to use the shower, but would be open to doing the other direction in the normal seating. Is 20 hours in a seat comfortable and are the carriages warm/safe? I've only travelled on British sleepers in solo berths before so I have no experience of seated sleepers.
There are four kinds of passenger carriages in the train usually, 1st class sleeper, 2nd class sleeper, Couchette and ordinary 2nd class passenger carriage. I wouldn't recommend spending 20 h in an ordinary seat, I think the seats are mostly used by people doing shorter trips with the train.

The first class sleepers all go to Luleå (the train is split in Boden), so you will have to change carriage in or book 2nd class sleeper. However, Sweden is usually a pretty safe place and that includes the trains. And the trains are warm, remember that you are planning a trip northern Scandinavia and the trains are used in the winter with temperatures down to -30°C without problems. AC is however only available in the sleeper carriages, but that will probably not be a problem in april. And the 1980-style carriages used in the trains were built to take full advantage of the Swedish loading gauge, so they are very spaciuos. Especially compared to the trains in the UK.

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6) Is there a better/cheaper way to get tickets than through the Swedish Rail Company's website?
Not that I know of. Despite deregulation, sj.se is still the place to go for long distance train tickets.

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7) Any other tips or advice?
If traveling around Easter, book your tickets well in advance! And don't try to travel without a seat reservation.

And don't count on cell phone reception outside the stations north of Umeå.
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Old 27th December 2016, 16:35   #18
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Swedish signaller here!

1) How punctual is the train at arriving into Narvik? I'm looking to get the train back the same day I arrive, which means I'll only have 4/5 hours in Narvik before my train back. However, if my first train is delayed I could have problems.


The sleepers to Upper Norrland are not among the more punctual services on the Swedish network, however they have plenty of allowances in their schedules. You will either be on time or massively delayed in case something serious happens (broken down loco, freight train in the way, moose collision, signal failure, bad weather etc etc).

2) Has anyone done this journey, is it good/worth it? What is the onboard food like? How much, if any scenery could I expect to see? Any chance of seeing the Northern Lights?


Depends. The scenery is highly spectacular on the Iron Ore line north of Kiruna. The rest is rather dull with mostly forests and some farmland on the southern parts of the journey, but if you're not used to it, I guess you could say it's scenic. I wouldn't count on seeing the nothern lights, especially not from a train.

3) Do any of the staff speak any English? I can speak French and Italian, but Swedish is a different kettle of fish and I currently have no understanding of the language. I'm happy to learn some basic phrases, but will the potential language barrier cause me any problems?

English is spoken to some degree by almost everyone in Sweden, younger people are usually more fluent. Rail staff are often required to speek some English.

4) Is the Swedish Rail system easy to use?

No. It's deregulated and chopped into tiny pieces, rationalization has taken almost all staff away and there is absolutely no logic behind fares and tickets. Most stations does not even have a ticket machine any more, SJ (which is still the major operator even though the network is deregulated and operated on a completely open-access basis) prefers that you have an electronic ticket. There are currently 3 ticket offices left (except a few privately operated ones), Stockholm, Malmö and Gothenburg. Using these will yield a penalty fare of 100 swedish krona (about 10 UK pounds). You will be able to collect your tickets from the machine at Stockholm's Central station, but don't expect to find a machine anywhere else, and do not expect to recieve any help from station staff anywhere - there is none.

5) I'm looking to travel in my own private cabin in at least one direction in order to use the shower, but would be open to doing the other direction in the normal seating. Is 20 hours in a seat comfortable and are the carriages warm/safe? I've only travelled on British sleepers in solo berths before so I have no experience of seated sleepers.

I wouldn't do that trip in seated accommodation. The single first class sleeper is very comfortable and includes shower and breakfast, I highly recommend it. If you can't afford it in both directions, consider a shared second class sleeper or a "couchette". I can't think of a good term in English, it's a shared 6-bed compartment where you have to make up your own bed.

6) Is there a better/cheaper way to get tickets than through the Swedish Rail Company's website?
Nope.

7) Any other tips or advice?
As others have said, spend some more time in Narvik. You could stay in an hotel and take the next sleeper back, or leave on the morning day train.

If you wan't to travel in some more daylight, take the 11:00 Narvik - Luleå IC (train 95) and change to the Luleå - Gothenburh via Stockholm sleeper in Boden (train 91). It will arrive Stockholm at 06:30 in the morning so it's a bit early.
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Old 27th December 2016, 19:52   #19
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Sometimes i have the impression that UK persons think that the English language is limited to the island.

Below is a PDF file about the knowledge of English in the world from 2013. It is in English!

http://www.ef.nl/__/~/media/efcom/ep...ort-master.pdf
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Old 27th December 2016, 21:10   #20
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It's many years since i did the trip, but i would endorse whichever Norwegian variant is feasible.
The forested parts of Northern Sweden can be monotonous.
I think the Inlandsbane will not be operating when you are there, otherwise it would be an option.
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Old 27th December 2016, 21:19   #21
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The Inlandsbanan has no passenger service north of Östersund except for the tourist season during the summer, so unfourtantly it isn't an option.

It has, however, daily service year between Östersund and Mora, with additional services at each end of the line.
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Old 27th December 2016, 22:43   #22
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Swedish signaller here!
[I]
consider a shared second class sleeper or a "couchette". I can't think of a good term in English, it's a shared 6-bed compartment where you have to make up your own bed.
Couchette is the accepted English for Couchette!

We had to borrow it from French as there has never been an equivalent in the UK (partly due to the restricted loading gauge.) Personally I always enjoyed the simplicity of couchette travel, being able to lie down with a rug for warmth but also still be in an ordinary compartment.

Thus, you will find that well travelled Europhile UK enthusiasts will fully understand what a couchette is.


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Old 28th December 2016, 21:24   #23
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Welcome to the forum JonasB

Thank you everyone for the information, particularly Jonas B, Blillpers and Gronigen.

I will post an update when I have booked my tickets
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Old 28th December 2016, 23:41   #24
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Welcome to the forum JonasB
Thank you!

One thing that struck me is that no one has mentioned a stop in Gävle and a visit to the railway museum, if you have the time, I can really recommend it. It is a great museum well worth a visit.
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Old 2nd January 2017, 14:01   #25
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Iskra, I hope you're ready to do a massive trip report for this one as I'm already looking forward to the read!

I'm following this thread keenly as I really want to do this trip myself. Seeing the Northern Lights would just be amazing, and the trip itself well worth doing.

What occurs to me that I don't remember seeing in your plan was the option of jumping on a plane back down from Narvik. I've not looked into the public transport connections mind for that.
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Old 2nd January 2017, 14:14   #26
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Iskra, I hope you're ready to do a massive trip report for this one as I'm already looking forward to the read!

I'm following this thread keenly as I really want to do this trip myself. Seeing the Northern Lights would just be amazing, and the trip itself well worth doing.

What occurs to me that I don't remember seeing in your plan was the option of jumping on a plane back down from Narvik. I've not looked into the public transport connections mind for that.
It would be rude not to do a trip report Tech

I've just taken a look at flights and they could work out cheaper and less risky in terms of time and connections, but it would remove some of the fun of the trip for me. However, what does look like a better option is doing the circular route from Norway heading back into Sweden to Sundsvall and then flying to Stockholm Arlanda airport from there. Good idea and thanks for the suggestion.
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Old 2nd January 2017, 18:04   #27
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It would be rude not to do a trip report Tech

I've just taken a look at flights and they could work out cheaper and less risky in terms of time and connections, but it would remove some of the fun of the trip for me. However, what does look like a better option is doing the circular route from Norway heading back into Sweden to Sundsvall and then flying to Stockholm Arlanda airport from there. Good idea and thanks for the suggestion.
Oh I only meant fly there or back, not both ways which would have taken away the fun. Personally the way I would do things would be to fly over to Sweden, no doubt with Ryanair into Vasteras (then bus into town and be in a good position to jump straight onto SJ metals) then SJ either to Stockholm itself first (the EMUs they use on that line are actually quite decent) then head to Narvik or SJ all the way north via some weird choice of route. From there, do the exploration stuff then head to the airport and fly back south.

Of course I haven't actually researched any of this, and it would 99% certainly involve flying with Norwegian to/from Narvik. Yes it's 737-800s but it's *that* airline. Would I swallow my pride just to make the trip work? Well, one day, when I do the trip, you'll all know...

More importantly, I need to focus on organising my stuff for Tech's Big Bang 2017 this weekend, and to heavily research my moves for January's other big bash. I still haven't decided on my hashtag for that one actually...
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Old 2nd January 2017, 18:16   #28
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Of course I haven't actually researched any of this........
Start by researching Narvik Airport, and then come up with plan B

Edit: Oops, neither did I. From memory the only flights were by Wilderoe to Bodo. Norwegian do now indeed fly from Oslo to Narvik.

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Old 2nd January 2017, 18:48   #29
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Start by researching Narvik Airport, and then come up with plan B

Edit: Oops, neither did I. From memory the only flights were by Wilderoe to Bodo. Norwegian do now indeed fly from Oslo to Narvik.
Got to admit, I keep putting Narvik where Bodo is on the mental image of my rail atlas I knew Norwegian flew to Bodo as I had looked that up some months ago, but couldn't be sure on Narvik.

See now when I got into TPP Mode this badly last night, thanks to Kite159 and others, I ended up booking a Eurostar trip to Brussels, thankfully I can't do that with a trip to Narvik tonight!
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Old 3rd January 2017, 13:14   #30
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Oh I only meant fly there or back, not both ways which would have taken away the fun. Personally the way I would do things would be to fly over to Sweden, no doubt with Ryanair into Vasteras (then bus into town and be in a good position to jump straight onto SJ metals) then SJ either to Stockholm itself first (the EMUs they use on that line are actually quite decent) then head to Narvik or SJ all the way north via some weird choice of route. From there, do the exploration stuff then head to the airport and fly back south.
Starting in April 2017, there will be five airlines flying between Arlanda and London (SAS and BA to Heathrow, Norwegian to Gatwick, Easyjet and Monarch to Luton), so there should be no need to fly to Västerås or Skavsta.
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