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Venice Simplon Orient Express

The luxury vintage train to Venice ...

If you can afford it, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is the most romantic and luxurious way from London or Paris to Venice. Its vintage carriages are a delight and the food & on-board service are truly world class. Unlike many expensive tourist experiences, this train really does live up to its five-star and you won't be disappointed. Watch the video!

COVID-19: VSOE departures were suspended in 2020, but plan to resume in 2021.

What is the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express?

Departure dates & timetable

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets

Can a 24-hour train ride really be worth £ 2,600?

The journey in pictures

  Video guide: A journey on the VSOE

Travel tips

FAQ

Orient Express books, gifts & souvenirs

Is this the original Orient express?

History of the Orient Express

Station information: Paris Est, Venice Santa Lucia

Also by Belmond: Eastern & Oriental Express, Belmond Royal Scotsman

The Venice Simplon Orient Express...

The Venice Simplon Orient Express (VSOE) is a privately-run train of beautifully-restored 1920s, 30s & 50s coaches, providing a 5-star luxury train experience between London, Paris, Verona & Venice, running roughly once a week from March to November. The journey from London to Venice takes 24 hours and costs over £ 2,600 per person one way, including meals. It's actually two trains, a historic British Pullman train from London to Folkestone and a Continental train of classic 1920s sleeping-cars from Calais to Venice.

It is run by Venice Simplon-Orient-Express (VSOE) Limited, part of Belmond, who also operate the equally luxurious Eastern & Oriental Express from Singapore to Bangkok, the Royal Scotsman cruise train and the PeruRail trains to Machu Picchu. The VSOE should not be confused with the real Orient Express, the true descendant of the original 1883 Orient Express, a regular scheduled train which was finally withdrawn on December 12, 2009, see here for an explanation.

The Venice Simplon Orient Express also runs occasional trips to Rome, Krakow, Budapest, Stockholm and even Istanbul once a year, in August.

Southbound dates 2021, London to Venice

2021: March 18, 25. 1, 8, 11, 15, 22, 29 April. 9, 13, 16, 20, 23, 30 May. 3, 13, 17, 20, 24, 27 June. 1, 8, 15, 22, 29 July. August 5, 12. September 2, 9, 16, 19, 23, 26. 3, 7, 10, 17, 21, 24, 31 October. November 4, 7.

Northbound dates 2021, Venice to London

2021: March 17, 24, 31. 7, 10, 14, 21, 28 April. 12, 15, 19, 22, 26 May. 2, 5, 9, 16, 19, 23, 26, 30 June. 7, 14, 21, 28 July. 4, 11, 17 August. 8, 15, 18, 22, 25 September. October 6, 9, 20, 23. 6 November.

Timetable ...

How much does it cost?

Fares ...

One-way per person, from...

2021 prices

London to Venice or Verona

£2,650

Venice or Verona to London

£2,379

Paris to Venice or Verona

£2,650

Solo travelers: The prices above are per person assuming two people share a 2-berth compartment in an LX-type type sleeper dating from 1927-1929. If you're a solo traveler, sole occupancy costs the same price if you book a single-berth compartment in a slightly less intricate slightly smaller mid-1920s-built S-type sleeper, but costs significantly more if you book a 2-berth compartment in an LX sleeper for sole occupancy, see the advice & explanation below.

Children: Infants under 2 sharing a berth travel free. Children under 12 sharing a compartment with a full-fare-paying adult get a 20% reduction.

The extra cost cabin suites & grand suites are explained below.

How to buy tickets ...

Can a 24 hour train ride to Venice be worth £ 2,650 per person?

The Man in Seat Sixty-One says: "I admit I doubted that any 24 hour train journey could be worth that. I was forced to change my mind after a journey from London to Verona on the VSOE in 2003. I thought I knew what to expect, but the Venice Simplon-Orient -Express exceeded all expectations, with its superbly restored coaches, excellent and plentiful food, beautiful Alpine scenery and the world class but surprisingly friendly and unpretentious service from the train's staff. And I got far more than I bargained for on that trip in 2003. Nicolette and I had been going out for just 6 months and we boarded the train with nothing planned or premeditated, but it weaved its special magic. Our future son's name was decided at night in our sleeper somewhere in France, and next day as the VSOE headed through the Brenner Pass in driving October snow we accidentally got engaged. And here I am now with wife, two kids, a mortgage and a cat. Powerful magic this train, so handle with care. I'd be the first to poin t out that the VSOE is not the 'original' Orient Express as there's no such thing, but this is one beautifully-restored and truly historic train, superbly run and an utter pleasure to travel on. If you can afford it, this is one train you shouldn't miss. "

Single travelers...

You don't have to be a couple to enjoy the trip, a trip on the VSOE is good for solo travelers too - you can either chill out in privacy of your own compartment or meet people in the restaurants and bar and have a blast. But listen up as solo traveler arrangements not explained well on the Belmond website ...

The VSOE consists almost entirely of luxurious LX-type sleeping cars built 1927-1929. But there is usually one mid-1920s S-type sleeping-car on the train with 10 compartments which it sells as singles for the same price per person as two people sharing a 2-berth in an LX. When booking at www.belmond.com with 1 adult selected you'll be sold sole occupancy of an S-type sleeper compartment if one remains available, otherwise you'll see a significantly higher price which is for sole occupancy of a 2-berth LX sleeper compartment.

The compartments in an S-type sleeping-car are very slightly smaller and have less intricate wood marquetry than an LX, but they are just as comfortable and just as historic - indeed, had you traveled from Calais to Istanbul in the 1930s you'd have traveled in an S-type sleeper rather than an LX-type, as the Calais-Istanbul car was usually an S, although the other (Paris-Istanbul) sleeping-car on the Simplon Orient Express was usually an LX. My advice? It's simply not worth paying so much more for a compartment in an LX if a single compartment in the S class is available. And if you're lucky enough to get S-type car number 3425, Mrs 61 & I got engaged in the corridor, send me a photo!

 

Day trips & dinner trips
on the Belmond British Pullman

from £ 210 per person ...

For a special occasion without going all the way to Venice, take a lunch trip (from £ 210), evening dinner trip (around £ 420), day trip (£ 210- £ 420), or (personally recommended!) Dinner on the Belmond British Pullman with a night at the famous Ritz hotel (£ 740 per person). The food and wine are truly excellent, these trips are an extravagance but they're worth it! There are also Venice Simplon-Orient-Express gift certificates ... What is it like on board?

Buy tickets online at www.belmond.com/british-pullman-train

Journey suggestions ...

Which is better, a southbound or northbound trip?

Either is great, but in my opinion the southbound has the edge. Although the northbound journey tends to be less popular, so often has better availability and sometimes better rates. But personally, the British Pullman train is the hors d'oeuvre, the Continental Wagons-Lits train is the main course, and I feel the journey works best this way round. And the arrival in Venice over the causeway is a fitting climax. You'll also see more of the Arlberg Pass in daylight in the morning from a southbound train than (depending on the time of year) in the evening from a northbound train.

London to Venice by VSOE, back by TGV & Eurostar ...

If you only take the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express one-way, you don't need to fly the other. Take Eurostar from London to Paris in 2 hours 15 minutes, have lunch at the amazing Train Bleu restaurant inside Paris Gare de Lyon, then take the afternoon high-speed TGV from Paris to Turin, a comfortable and scenic journey through the French Alps, see the video & photos here, arriving in the evening. Stay overnight in Turin, and next morning take a fast Frecciabianca train from Turin to Venice in just a few hours. This works equally well in either direction, see the London to Italy by train page for all you need to know. For the ultimate scenic ride between London & Venice, take Eurostar & a TGV-Lyria to Zurich on day 1, then take the wonderful narrow-gauge Bernina Express through the Swiss Alps to Tirano with connections for Venice on day 2, see the Bernina Express page. You can easily arrange this yourself, or you can ask custom-made tour agency www.railbookers.co.uk to arrange both your Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express trip and your scheduled trains and suggest some excellent hotels in Venice.

VSOE to Krakow, Budapest, Prague, Rome & Istanbul ...

As well as its regular London-Paris-Venice route, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express runs occasional departures to Krakow, Vienna, Budapest, Prague, Rome, Stockholm and sometimes even Istanbul (it leaves Paris for Istanbul on 26 August 2016, returning from Istanbul on 2 September 2016, 5 nights, £ 6,340 pp), see www.belmond.com/venice-simplon-orient-express or call Railbookers.

Day trips in the UK by Belmond's British Pullman & Northern Belle ...

The VSOE's British Pullman cars run a regular program of day-trips, dinner trips and excursions around the British Isles, mostly around London and typically £ 210- £ 420 per person. Belmond also used to own (but have now sold) a set of more modern cars dating from the 1970s converted to classic Pullman standard which is used on Northern Belle excursions in the north of England, see www.northernbelle.co.uk for routes, dates, prices & tickets.

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How to buy tickets ...

Option 1, call Railbookers ...

  • Railbookers are train specialists who often have special rates for the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. They can also arrange hotels and regularly scheduled European trains to create a customized trip - for example Eurostar & high-speed TGV-Lyria from London to Zurich, 1 night at the superb Hotel Schweizerhof (first introduced to me by Railbookers, now a personal favorite ), onward travel through the Alps via the wonderfully scenic Gotthard Pass route to Venice, 3 nights 4-star hotel in Venice, then by fabulous Venice Simplon-Orient-Express from Venice to London, all from around £ 2,500 per person. Railbookers take good care of their clients, and they now have offices in the UK & US.

    UK call 0207 864 4600, www.railbookers.co.uk

    US call free 1-888-829-4775, www.railbookers.com.

    Canada call free 1-855-882-2910, www.railbookers.com.

    Australia call toll-free 1300 971 526, www.railbookers.com.au

    New Zealand call toll-free 0800 000 554 or see website.

Option 2, book at belmond.com ...

  • You can check dates, prices & availability and buy tickets online at the Belmond website www.belmond.com/venice-simplon-orient-express. If you feel like packing some lucky loved one off to Paris or Venice, you can buy Venice Simplon-Orient-Express gift certificates. Double cabin or Suite cabin? See the explanation here. However, I'd call Railbookers before booking, as sometimes Railbookers can offer VSOE plus hotels more cheaply than a train-only booking with Belmond.

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What's a journey on the Venice-Simplon-Orient Express like?

Check-in at London Victoria

The British Pullman train from London to Folkestone

Crossing the channel

The VSOE Continental train from Calais to Venice

The sleeping cars

The bar car

The restaurant cars

Dinner in the diner

Time for bed ...

Scenery through Switzerland, Austria & Italy next day

  Watch the video!

(1) Check-in at London Victoria ...

Passengers check in at least an hour before departure at the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express office on platform 2 at London Victoria Station. Check-in opens a couple of hours before departure. Inside the office is a check-in desk where you're given your Pullman car & seat allocation for the train to Folkestone and your sleeping-car letter and compartment number for the Continental train from Calais. You can check your large bags through to your final destination (but remember you'll need overnight gear for the train), or they can be checked through to Calais to be waiting for you in your sleeper compartment when you board the continental train. There are lounge seats and toilets in the VSOE office, and complimentary tea, coffee, water and juice is provided.

 

(2) The British Pullman from London to Folkestone ...

The beautiful train of restored 1920s / 30s / 50s British Pullman cars rolls into the platform perhaps 20 minutes before departure. Each car features plush armchairs in open-plan saloons, arranged as intimate tables for two each side of the aisle. It's strange how 80 years of ergonomics haven't produced anything as luxuriously comfortable as a 1920s Pullman seat. Most Pullmans also have an enclosed 4-seat compartment at one or both ends known as a coupé, these can be requested if you want privacy though I prefer the more convivial open saloon. You can read a brief history of each individual VSOE Pullman Car at www.belmond.com/british-pullman-train/british-pullman-carriages, worth checking as the history is fascinating, and many of the cars have links with famous trains or famous people. You'll find a booklet about the history of the Pullman cars at your seat on board the train which you can keep. Some cars were used on the Golden Arrow boat train between London & Dover, others on the Brighton Belle between London & Brighton, a couple were used on Winston Churchill's funeral train, and so on ... If one car particularly interests you, by all means request it! The British Pullman train leaves Victoria station, rumbles slowly across the Thames past Battersea Power Station, then takes one of several possible routes to Folkestone. Indeed it sometimes goes the long way round via Canterbury and Dover, dropping off day-trippers at Canterbury and doubling back along the coast to Folkestone. A 3-course brunch is served on the way to Folkestone with sparkling Bellinis, all included in the fare.

Boarding the British Pullman train at London Victoria platform 2. This is Zena, built in 1928 and originally used on the ocean liner boat trains from London to Plymouth & Southampton, on the Queen of Scots & Tyne Tees Pullman.

 

At one or both ends of each Pullman car is an enclosed 4-seat compartment or 'coupé'. You can request this for privacy if you like.

 

Pullman car Perseus at London Victoria. Each Pullman car has a unique decor, and a unique history. Built in 1951, Perseus formed part of Winston Churchill's funeral train in 1965.

 

Table for two in Pullman car Phoenix. Built in 1927, it burnt out in 1936, but rose from the ashes when rebuilt in 1952. Larger image.

 

Pullman car Ibis. Built in 1925, making it the oldest car on the train, but with one of the nicest interiors. Larger image.

 

Pullman car Minerva, built 1927 and used on the Devon Belle and later the London-Dover Golden Arrow...

 

Even the toilets are works of art. This is the floor mosaic in the toilet in Pullman car PerseusLarger image.

 

A 3-course brunch with a sparkling Bellini is served on the way to Folkestone. Mrs Seat 61 lunches in Phoenix...

 

On this trip, a fresh fruit salad was followed by smoked salmon with caviar, scrambled egg and crumpet ...

 

A band plays as the train arrives ...

 

All change at Folkestone West ...

(3) Crossing the Channel ...

The VSOE British Pullman train terminates at Folkestone West, a small station just west of Folkestone Central - it ceased going down the steep branch line to Folkestone Harbor station in 2007. At Folkestone West, passengers transfer to a fleet of executive road coaches which drive from Folkestone West to the nearby Channel Tunnel terminal. After a brief rest stop in the terminal they cross the Channel somewhat un-authentically on board a car-carrying Eurotunnel shuttle train though the Channel Tunnel. But it's quick and an interesting experience in its own right. Water and juice are served on board the coaches and if you need to charge your phone or camera there are UK-style power sockets under the tables. At Calais, the coaches drive off the shuttle train at the Eurotunnel terminal and head for Calais Ville station. Calais Maritime station, where the ferries originally arrived to connect with the trains to Paris and beyond, was closed and tarmacked over in 1994 following the start of Eurostar services via the Channel Tunnel.

 

Inside one of the executive coaches ...

 

The coach on the Eurotunnel shuttle train ...

(4) Boarding the VSOE continental train at Calais ...

If the British Pullman train was the hors d'ouevre, now for the main course ... At Calais Ville you board the VSOE's continental train of restored blue-and-gold 1920s Wagons-Lits sleeping-cars for Paris, Innsbruck, Verona & Venice. You've half an hour to take photos, the train normally leaves around 17:20 French time. The VSOE travels to Paris via Vimy, Arras & Longeau as this route is fully electrified, rather than the more traditional 'boat train' route via Boulogne and Amiens.

 

A line-up of train staff greets passengers at Calais ...

 

Blue and gold Wagons-Lits sleeping-cars ...

(5) The sleeping-cars ...

Your sleeper attendant greets you at the door and shows you to your compartment. The VSOE's sleeping-cars are almost all classic 1929-vintage LX-series cars with ten 2-berth compartments that convert to private sitting rooms with sofa and small table for daytime use. With their inlaid wood marquetry, the LX-types were the most luxurious sleeping-cars ever built for La Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits (CIWL, the original operator of the Orient Express), and the VSOE's restored LX-series cars were originally used on various CIWL trains including the Calais-Paris-Nice Train Bleu, the Paris-Rome Rome Express, the Paris-Berlin-Warsaw-Riga Nord Express. One Paris-Istanbul sleeping-car and the Calais-Trieste sleeping-car of the Simplon Orient Express would also have been an LX-type in the 1930s. VSOE also own one or two earlier 1927-built S-series cars, these have less fancy woodwork and slightly smaller compartments, so VSOE often use these for solo travelers - in the 1930s, the Calais-Istanbul sleeping car & Calais-Athens sleeping- car of the Simplon Orient Express would normally have been an S-type, not an LX. Indeed, I got engaged in the corridor of one of VSOE's two S-types back in 2003, car number 3425 ...

Sleeper facilities: Each compartment has a large sofa convertible to an upper and lower berth at night, a footstool, small folding table. There's a broad luggage rack towards the ceiling capable of taking fairly large items. In a corner (either by the door or the window), two doors open to reveal a washstand with soap, towels, flannels and hot & cold water. Mineral water, slippers & dressing gown are provided, and (a modern addition) there are two plug sockets of the normal 2-pin European type. Authentic 1920s sleeping-cars don't have showers or air-conditioning, but you can wind the window as far down as you like, great for reflection-free photos of the scenery.

The correct term on a train is 'Compartment', not 'Cabin': Trains don't have bows or sterns or port or starboard. They also don't have cabins as that is what you have on ships. The correct term for an enclosed space on a train is a compartment. Travelers in the 1920s & 1930s would have known this perfectly well, travelers unused to trains & ships seem to use 'cabin' for everything these days and even Belmond themselves don't seem to know the correct term ...

At Calais, a sleeping-car attendant greets passengers outside his 1929-built LX-series Wagons-Lits.

 

Venice Simplon Orient Express at Calais ...

 

Sleeper, corridor side, washstand closed. Larger image.

Cabin Suites ...

LX sleeping-cars have ten 2-berth compartments, with an inter-connecting door between each pair of adjacent compartments which is normally kept locked. For a significantly higher price Belmond offer what they call a cabin suite, which is simply two adjacent compartments with the connecting door opened. Both of you can then have a lower berth, or you can have one compartment permanently set up as a sitting room the other permanently set up as a bedroom. But it's the same as a regular sleeper compartment, you just get two of them. Check prices online at www.belmond.com.

Grand Suites...

For the 2018 season, Belmond have created 3 luxurious Grand Suites with double bed and parlor area as well as en suite shower & toilet, by gutting one of their historic LX series sleeping-cars and designing & building these 3 new suites from scratch. There are just 3 grand suites on the whole train, very expensive of course, just remember they are a modern creation for the 21st century tourist market, they are not authentic - the real Orient Express of the 1920s and 1930s would have no such thing. If you want the authentic 1920s / 30s experience, stick with the normally unadulterated LX sleeper compartments - although of course there would be no bars car or piano on the real Orient Express either, just sleeping-cars and a restaurant car! Check prices for the grand suites online at www.belmond.com.

(6) The piano-bar ...

The place to go before or after dinner is the VSOE's lively bar car, with lounge area, cocktail bar and piano. Needless to say, the real Orient Express even in its 1920s & 1930s heyday would have not have had any such fripperies as a bar or lounge, let alone a piano, just sleeping-cars and a restaurant. It was a much more work-a-day train than most people imagine. The piano-bar-lounge has been created for modern-day tourists out of a former Wagons-Lits Company pullman car built in 1931 - but it's still great place to mingle. You'll find a small VSOE Boutique counter in these cars.

 

(7) The three restaurant cars ...

The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express has three restaurant cars, each with unique decor: The Cote d'Azur was originally a 1st class Pullman car, built in 1929 and first used on the French Riviera Pullman Express. With its lovely Lalique glass panels, it's my favorite. The Etoile du Nord restaurant car was built in Birmingham in 1926 for the Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam Etoile du Nord Pullman train, it was later used on the Edelweiss from Amsterdam to Switzerland and the Lusitania from Madrid to Lisbon. L'Orientale what originally a Pullman kitchen car, built in Birmingham in 1927 and also used on the Etoile du Nord and later the Lusitania, and it features Chinese-style lacquer wall panels. Soon after departure the maitre d 'comes down the sleeping cars handing out dinner reservations. You can choose an early (18:45) or late sitting, although if you're only going to Paris you'll need the early dinner. You'll be allocated a restaurant car but feel free to request a table in your favorite. Make sure you experience two different ones at dinner and lunch ...

 

The restaurant car Cote d'Azurat Paris Est ...

 

Cote d'Azur with Lalique glass panels. Larger image.

 

The Etoile du Nord restaurant car. Larger image.

 

L'Orientale with Chinese-style panels. Larger image.

(8) Dinner in the diner ...

Meals are included in the fare on the VSOE, and the food is truly excellent. Drinks on the Continental train cost extra, reckon on the cheapest half bottle of wine costing € 35, a full bottle € 50. A dress code applies in the evening, for men a dark suit is essential, but the majority of passengers bring a dinner jacket and bow tie as dressing up is part of the fun. You can't be over-dressed on the VSOE!

The main course, venison with cranberries ...

 

The cheese course: "A bit of everything, please ..."

 

The starter: Lobster with truffles, mmm ...

 

Dessert: Chocolate orange ...

 

Dinner in the diner, nothing could be finer ...

(9) Time for bed ...

You'll return from dinner to find your compartment converted into a bedroom by the sleeper attendant, with upper and lower berths. The beds are the most comfortable I have ever slept in on a train, in fact they're more comfortable than many hotel beds. There are toilets at each end of the corridor. The door locks securely with both a lock and security chain.

 

"Is it time for bed yet?"

Sleeper compartment in seats mode. Larger image.

 

Sleeper in night mode. Larger image.

(10) Scenery next morning in Switzerland, Austria & Italy ...

In spite of its name, the Venice Simplon Orient Express no longer uses the Simplon route via Lausanne, Brig & Milan. Instead, it runs overnight from Paris to Switzerland and you'll probably wake up just beyond Zurich. When I last took it, I found the train running alongside the sparkling waters of the Zürichsee or Walensee with a breathtaking mountain backdrop, heading for the Arlberg Pass then the Brenner - although from 2016 it travels via the Gotthard Pass to Milan, only using the Brenner and Arlberg northbound. A continental breakfast of excellent coffee, juice and fresh croissant is served on a tray in your compartment by your sleeper attendant. When I took it, the train clipped a corner of Liechtenstein and entered Austria via the wonderfully scenic Arlberg Pass - which once gave its name to the Paris-Switzerland-Vienna Arlberg Orient Express which used this route. The VSOE turned right after Innsbruck, and as a 3-course lunch was served in the restaurant cars we headed into Italy via the almost equally scenic Brenner Pass to Verona, passing Padua and Venice Mestre before finally rumbling slowly across the 2km causeway to Venice Santa Lucia station on the banks of the Grand Canal in central Venice, just 15 minutes walk from the famous Rialto Bridge or 25 minutes walk from St Mark's Square.

When I woke and lifted the blind, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express was running alongside the shores of the Zürichsee in Switzerland, then along the Walensee. The train then cut across Liechtenstein, passing non-stop through the little station at Schaan-Vaduz.

Mountain scenery and snowy peaks all the way, as the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express crosses into Austria then snakes through the fabulous Arlberg Pass, hugging the mountainside ...

 

Scenery in the Arlberg Pass ...

 

Turning right at Innsbruck, the VSOE now heads south to Italy via the Brenner Pass ...

 

... Look out for hilltop fortresses, churches with pointy steeples, and vineyards ...

 

Venice Santa Lucia station, on the banks of the Grand Canal, gondolas' n all ...

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Watch the video: A journey on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express ...

More videos: Arlberg Pass scenery video   Brenner Pass scenery video

These two videos show the scenery through the Arlberg and Brenner Passes which you'll see over breakfast and lunch on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. They were shot from scheduled trains on the route, but the scenery is of course the same!

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Travel tips ...

  • Request seats in your favorite Pullman car ... Before you book, read the brief history of each unique and individual Pullman car at www.belmond.com/british-pullman-train/british-pullman-carriages and request your favorite when booking, Belmond do their best to accommodate such requests. Personally, I think Ibis has the nicest interior decor, but Winston Churchill fans might prefer Perseus, and so on. There's no 'best' car, see which grabs your interest ...

  • Request a coupe or saloon seat on the Pullman ... If there are three or four of you and you'd like privacy, you can request a seat in an enclosed coupé on the British Pullman train. Though personally I like the convivial open saloons best.

  • Dress up! You'll need (for men) at least a dark suit and tie for dinner on the VSOE Continental train, but many travelers change into a dinner jacket with bow tie for dinner - indeed, you may feel under-dressed in just a suit. A significant number of travelers dress up in 1920s or 30s style, you won't feel out of place if you do! During the day dress code is smart-casual, you can't wear jeans on the VSOE.

  • Don't just sit there! After your meal on the British Pullman, take your camera and walk through the train admiring the different decor in each car. And don't forget to check out the loos - there's a different mosaic floor in each one.

  • Ask for your favorite restaurant for dinner - and a different one for lunch next day. There are three restaurants on the VSOE continental train, each unique. The Maitre d 'will make a dinner reservation for you, feel free to request a table in your favorite restaurant - my favorite is the Cote d'Azur with its lovely glass panels by Lalique. Next day, request a table in one of the other two, to experience a different car.

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FAQ ...

  • Are there showers? Emphatically no. The VSOE uses authentic 1920s sleeping-cars, built in an era when hotel rooms didn't have en suite bathrooms, people didn't have to take a shower every few hours, and Sunday night was bath night whether you needed it or not. The sleeper compartments have a washstand with hot and cold running water which was a luxury for the 1920s, when many hotel rooms didn't even have this. Incredibly, Belmond tell me that the lack of en suite showers is the biggest thing that surprises many VSOE travelers even though they know they're going on an authentic 1920s train!

  • Is there WiFi? No, but there's decent mobile data reception all along the route, even inside the channel tunnel.

  • Are there power sockets? Not on the British Pullmans, no. But there are UK-style 3-pin sockets under the tables on the Folkestone-Calais road coaches, and each sleeper compartment on the VSOE Continental train has two European-style 2-pin sockets, one under the sink, one under the window. A post-1920s addition!

  • Special dietary needs ... You can request these when you book, yes.

  • Tuxedo ... The VSOE trains are all non-smoking, as is the road coach. Though ardent smokers may find a place for a quick smoke outside the train at Calais and in Paris.

  • Tips ... The fare includes service, although you can always tip a member of staff who gives particularly good service.

  • Dress code... As I say in the travel tips above, jeans & trainers aren't allowed on the VSOE. The dress code is smart casual during the day, and at least dark suit with tie for men in the evening. But I'd take a DJ (that's a tuxedo if you're American) if you have one.

  • Luggage ... One large suitcase per person can be checked in to your final destination, and one item of hand luggage plus a suit carrier or overnight bag can be taken into your sleeper compartment. In London, you can check your overnight bag or suit carrier in to Calais and you'll find them waiting for you in your sleeper compartment when you board the VSOE Continental train. However, don't worry too much about luggage limits as unlike airlines, VSOE seem relaxed about exact bag weights or dimensions, as long as you don't take the Mickey. There are small luggage racks above your seat in the British Pullman cars and a reasonably large luggage rack in your sleeping-car compartment.

  • Can children travel on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express? Yes they can, of any age, see the fares section above.

  • Do you have to go from London to Venice? Belmond will sell journeys from London to Verona or Venice, or Paris to Verona or Venice, and in the opposite direction. They no longer sell tickets between London & Paris.

  • Is a northbound or southbound trip best? See my answer here.

  • Does the train go across the channel? No, and the Orient Express never did. Today's VSOE journey is described above, it uses a road coach between Folkestone and Calais which goes through the Channel Tunnel on a car-carrying Eurotunnel shuttle train. Historically, the Orient express always started at Calais with a totally separate British 'boat train' and ferry providing a connection from London. The only passenger train ever to be physically ferried across the Channel on board a ship were the London-Paris (and later, London-Brussels) sleeping-cars of the Night Ferry, which start in 1936 and was discontinued in 1980, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_Ferry.

  • Is the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express the original Orient Express? You'd better read the next section!

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Is this the original Orient Express?See the Orient Express history page

  • No. Because there is no such thing as the original Orient express. The Orient Express was a service, not one specific set of coaches. The Orient Express used different rolling stock at different times in its long history, and at any given time it required more than one set of coaches to operate - common sense, really, as in the 1920s & 1930s the Simplon Orient Express left Paris every day on a 3-night journey to Istanbul so clearly required at least 6 separate sets of coaching stock to operate.

  • In fact, by the 1930s there were several different Orient Express routes, including the Orient express (Paris-Munich-Vienna-Budapest-Bucharest / Istanbul), Simplon Orient Express (Calais-Paris-Lausanne-Milan-Venice-Belgrade-Athens / Istanbul, as featured in Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express), Arlberg Orient Express (Paris-Zurich-Vienna-Budapest-Bucharest) and Ostend-Vienna Orient Express