Train travel is a great way to get around Europe. Hopping between cities on the train network is super speedy and you can soak in the gorgeous countryside while enjoying your picnic of drinks and snacks in a comfortable seat.
For a recent trip to Brussels, we nabbed some relatively affordable seats on the Eurostar. It was very quick, easy, relaxing and definitely beat trekking out to Heathrow (or worse, Luton) in peak hour. Luckily, my workplace is a few tube stops away from King’s Cross / St Pancras so getting to St Pancras International for our 6pm train was very convenient.
There were a few needlessly panic-filled moments, but lucky for you, I’m sharing some tips so that your Eurostar adventure will be stress-free.
Booking/before your trip
- You can select your seats free of charge – the maps even show which seats are forward facing, near the food carriage, near the toilets and which seats have a table.
- The Brussels trip was booked on a whim, but I’ve been watching tickets to Paris for a specific weekend and they don’t seem to be changing much. Occasionally Eurostar have sales so keep your eye out for these. As always, travelling at a slightly more inconvenient time or day will save you a few pounds.
On the day
- Arrive at least 30 minutes before your train departs as you need to check in and go through security, just like at an airport. At St Pancras, the staff regularly announced the status of each departing train so we knew when to start checking in and boarding.
- Remember your passport and printed ticket (especially when returning – other stations may not accept the ticket on your mobile). It also helped to have our visa when coming back home.
- You’re able to take two suitcases on board but remember you will need to carry these yourself as baggage is not checked in. For more details check out the website.
- You can take any size of liquid on board – exploit this and take some drinks for the ride!
- Pick up some snacks / dinner beforehand.
- I was a bit early so grabbed some salads and wraps from Marks & Spencer.
- Take something plain to eat if you’re prone to travel sickness. The ride was very smooth but at some points underground I felt a little queasy.
- Take gum, as you descend/ascend quite quickly so your ears may need to pop.
On the train
- Try to get at the front of the queue when boarding to secure the luggage storage location of your choice. There were luggage racks in each of the carriages plus some in the entrance areas between carriages. If you want to keep a good eye on your gear, opt for the ones inside.
- Luggage storage is also available above your head – there are two rows, one slightly larger to fit a small carry-on style suitcase and the other to fit smaller backpacks/handbags.
- Compared to a flight, the atmosphere was a bit louder and people seemed to be having more fun. I think this was due to the fact that you can bring alcohol on board and that some seating (the four-seater/booths) were more conducive to conversation.
- You spend about 20 minutes in the tunnel. This is pretty boring, apart from the fact that you know you’re 75m below the seabed beneath the Channel. Cool.
- If you travel in the daytime, you will get an hour or so (depending on your destination) looking out at the French countryside.
- Unfortunately, I couldn’t connect to WiFi on the train and my phone reception was quite patchy, even on the UK side. Take a book.
Catching the Eurostar was the best way to maximise a trip away for the weekend. We were able to have a night out on Friday, experience the city for two full days then head home on Sunday evening without feeling too exhausted.