Exchange in Uppsala - Part 1: Travelling towards Uppsala

Exchange in Uppsala - Part 1: Travelling towards Uppsala
SJ night train

This post is the start of a series regarding my exchange semester in Uppsala, Sweden 🇸🇪

How did I get here?

I am studying Computer Science at the University of Magdeburg (OVGU). As of summer 2023, I am a third semester Master student. During the last winter semester, I decided to do an exchange semester because I heard from two friends of mine what experience they had during their exchange. It sounded really impressive and like a life impacting experience. Therefore, I applied for Erasmus+ in January 0f 2023 and was accepted as an exchange student for half a year at the University in Uppsala. Unlike our winter semester in Magdeburg, in Uppsala it starts in at the end of August and concludes in mid-January. Additionally, the semester is split into two segments. In each of them you do a few courses and afterwards write your exam. Therefore, at the end of the semester, you have fewer exams at the same time.

Planning of the journey

For the start of my exchange semester, I want to do some vacation first. Therefore, I took my mum with me on the journey towards Uppsala. We booked through the SJ a private compartment in a sleeper car. The idea was to have some privacy and also enough space to transport all the luggage for half a year.

The train itself connects Berlin and Stockholm. But it also stops in Hamburg, Copenhagen, and Malmö. For us, the best connection is through Hamburg because it would take more time to drive to Berlin first. Towards Hamburg, we can use a connection with regional trains via Uelzen. Luckily, as of May 2023, the Federal Government introduced the Deutschlandticket to travel only for €49 through Germany and this is a cheap option to reach Hamburg.

From Stockholm onwards, we can take a regional train that drives towards Uppsala.

We planned to start our journey in Magdeburg at 17:00 with a train to Uelzen. Then a second train departs there at 19:00 and arrives in Hamburg at 20:00. Afterwards, we have a switch over time of two hours till 22:00, when the night train departs. Arrived in Stockholm at 11:45 a regional train half an hour later departs and we would be in Uppsala at around 13:00.

Day One - Challenge: Travelling to Hamburg

Our journey started on August 6th, 2023 in Magdeburg at my mums place. The first challenge was to transport all the luggage to the main station. For that, I rented a car through teilAuto, and we put all our bags in the back of it. We travelled with 3 large size suitcases and one hiking backpack. The heaviest one of the suitcases weights 40 kg. And of course Freddy my cute little frog friend is also part of the journey:

Freddy in the car with the three big suitcases
Freddy and his suitcases

The transport of everything towards the station went flawlessly. I returned the car in time to catch the train, and my mum waited with the luggage in the station.

Magdeburg Hbf

And this was the start where the challenge to get to Hamburg began. As soon as we arrived at the station, we found out that our train had a delay of already half an hour. The new departure time was now 17:30. Additionally, at this moment it was no longer feasible to arrive at Hamburg at 20:00 because the connecting train in Uelzen could not be reached in time. So the new plan was to just take the next train in Uelzen and arrive at 21:00 in Hamburg. So now that we had an additional half hour in Magdeburg, I went to the bakery to get some rolls and we waited in the under passage for a few minutes before we went to the platform. Also Freddy was waiting with us and looked over our luggage:

As soon as we reached our platform, we found out that the train was even more delayed than expected. It finally arrived at 17:40 and departed at 17:50. So in total a delay of 50 minutes. Then there was some track maintenance in front of Stendal Hbf. Because of that an additional 10 minute delay was added. And now the best part comes. As soon as we had one hour delay and left Stendal, the train's final destination changed from Uelzen to Salzwedel. A small town in the north of Saxony-Anhalt. All other stops including the final one in Uelzen were cancelled to turn the train around so that it can be on time again in the other direction. The personnel used the PA to announce that and also to tell us that the next possible option to get to Uelzen is the next regular train in one hour. With that said, our new ETA was 22:05 in Hamburg Hbf, our buffer was completely gone, and it would not be possible or at least not safe that we reach our night train.


Arrived in Salzwedel the whole train emptied, and I tried to find the train personnel to ask if it would be possible for them to delay the night train in Hamburg so that we can reach it. Unfortunately, that was not possible for them, but they offered me a Taxi voucher that I can use to get to Uelzen. I took it and called a local taxi company to ask to get a ride toward Uelzen. They said it is possible and sent a driver to the main station. As soon as we got out of the station we saw a taxi and went to it. As it turned out, it wasn't the company I called, but there was another guy who just wanted to get to Uelzen too. They were already rushing to start the drive. Luckily, they accepted to take us with them.

Taxi to Hamburg

As soon as we got going, we found out that it wasn't possible to be in Uelzen on time to catch our next train to Hamburg. For that reason, we started considering sharing the costs of the ride to Hamburg. The driver told us that it would cost around €350 to get there. Pretty expensive, but we had no choice because we wanted to catch our train anyway and there was no alternative available. Fortunately, the voucher from the DB covered the costs to Uelzen (€110) and we only had to split €210. The ride itself was pretty fun and the time flew by. Also our ETA for arriving in Hamburg was around 21:20 with the taxi, so it was again feasible to catch our train. We arrived in Hamburg on time and said goodbye to the driver and the other passenger.

Afterwards, I got something to eat at the train station, and we were ready to board our train to Stockholm. And there was also the next hiccup.

Changes to our night train

A few days before departure, I got an email from SJ telling me that our train is replaced by another one. As it turned out the sleeper car we booked was defective and they replaced it with a couchette car. That meant, our private compartment was gone and we were switched to a 6 people compartment. Because of that I wrote the customer support to tell them about our luggauge situation and to ask them how in practice they handle the switch regarding private compartments. They said to me that luggage was not an issue and we should be in a private compartment anyway.

Boarding the train

As it turned out there were two other guys inside the compartment already. They were really kind and helped us with our luggage. We needed all the manpower (including mine) to put up the 40 kg suitcase. We talked a bit with them and found out that they travelled to Berlin because of some business appointments for their trucking company. And of course Freddy is also with us in the couchette car:

Couchette car from SJ


That concludes our first day of the journey towards Uppsala. It was a pretty exciting day with many ups and downs. We made it now into Denmark and soon we will wake up in Stockholm.