By Andy Austen Destination Specialist

The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express: frequently asked questions

It’s the world’s most glamorous train, cosseting guests in unmatched style between some of Europe’s greatest cities. But, what should you expect from your time on board? Our specialists have pooled their collective knowledge to answer ten of the most frequently asked questions about a trip holiday on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express.

Why is it called the Orient Express?

Officially named the Orient Express in 1891, it was the first train service to connect western Europe with the gateway to the Orient – Constantinople. Of course, it being the late 19th-century, the route was anything but straight forward. The original journey departed from Paris’s Gare de l‘Est on 4th October 1883 and called in at Strasbourg, Munich, Vienna and Giurgui in Romania, from where passengers were shipped across the Danube by ferry. It was then on from Ruse to Varna before a final boat hop across the Black Sea saw weary guests finally into Constantinople itself. Today, under its new guise, things are a great deal simpler.

Take me to Istanbul

Istanbul, Turkey

Is the Orient Express still operating?

Yes it is, but not under that exact name. The original Orient Express was an international railway service connecting the cities of Paris and what was then known as Constantinople – today’s Istanbul. Now called the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, the celebrated modern-era train operates a number of routes across the Continent, taking in the likes of Berlin, Vienna, Prague, Istanbul and, yes, Venice.

Our Orient Express holidays

Where does the Orient Express route begin and end?

The original Orient Express route between Paris and Istanbul still exists and operates once a year in each direction. However, the most popular modern route, service by the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, is between Paris and Venice and takes two days with one night on board the train. 

Take me to Venice

Grand Canal, Venice

How much does it cost to go on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express?

That all depends on which route you take and which cabin you choose. For a classic London to Venice journey with a couple of nights tagged on at the end, you’ll be looking at anywhere between £4,500–£6,000. That’s travelling in a Historic Cabin. Upgrade to a Grand Suite and the price is around double that, with a Suite somewhere in between. Then, there are all the various routes, with journeys to Budapest, Prague and, of course, the classic Istanbul journey all commanding different fares. On the Venice route in particular, you might even choose to tag on a few night extra to your trip , perhaps in Lake Como or the Venetian Islands.

Cabins & carriages explained

Istanbul Grand Suite

Is food included on the Orient Express?

Yes, absolutely. Once onboard you can expect full-board gourmet dining throughout, with menus chosen to reflect type of ingredients found along the route. As such, you can expect the likes of salt marsh lamb from Mont St Michel, crayfish medallions, Italian lemon cake and some of the Continent’s finest cheeses. Breakfast is a typically European affair – fresh juice, coffee and pastries.

Dining on board the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

Are drinks included on the Orient Express?

For the first time in 2023, wine is included with lunches and dinner onboard. And, if you fancy a drink between meals, the bar is well stocked with handpicked wines from Italy and France, which you can purchase onboard for an additional cost. Of course, as you make your way across the continent, there’s nothing like getting to know your guests over a glass or two in the iconic bar car. Expect the very best spirits, the world's finest champagnes and cocktails mixed to perfection by your expert bar tender. 

Are there showers on the Orient Express?

In the entry-level Historic cabins there is no shower and the toilets are shared, with one at each end of a carriage. However, those upgrading to a Suite or Grand Suite will have their very own en-suite bathroom, complete with toilet and shower and kitted out in rich marble with a Murano glass sink. 

Grand Suite bathroom aboard the Orient Express

What is the dress code for the Orient Express?

Glamour is the name of the game, although in the daytime smart-casual is fine. However, when it’s time for dinner, it’s also the moment to get the glad rags out – suit and tie or full black tie for the men and a cocktail dress for the women. 

Sartorial elegance onboard

Do you need to tip on the Orient Express?

Tipping on board is, of course, completely at your discretion. If you do wish to tip – and with cabin stewards on hand to cater to your every whim you may well – then Euros are the generally accepted currency.

Cabin stewards in the famous blue uniforms

Can you do a day trip on the Orient Express?

Unfortunately not. However, day trips in the UK are available on the Belmond British Pullman, coupling sightseeing tours of the likes of Bath and Canterbury with delicious on-board dining and a selection of fine wines and traditional cocktails. These trips are a real treat for a loved one or for that special birthday or anniversary.

Board the Belmond British Pullman

The Belmond British Pullman