Newest Review: ... heading off. No checks or admin to go through. Overall I will have no hesitation whatsoever in travelling with Eurostar if I am going bac... more
How to get to Brussels dead fast by train!
Member Name: wildrose9104
Advantages: Easy straightforward travel, fast journey times!
Disadvantages: 1. Printing tickets at home didnt scan in properly. 2. Changing seats online caused problems checkin
I recently booked a trip by Eurostar from London to Brussels, as I was looking for a fast but reasonably priced option. Flying was out of the question as getting to the airport just added up travel time and travel costs.
I booked through Eurostar.com website, which was fairly easy. Often they do special £69 return fares but these sell out very fast, and as such I was unable to book one (2 months in advance).
I browsed a lot of different dates and fares, and found that to travel mid afternoon cost a lot more, but morning and early afternoon trains were cheaper. I opted for an early afternoon train for my outward journey, returning 3 days later on a very early morning train. The total cost was £109 for Standard Seats. An additional fee for insurance (about £11) is optional, but I chose not to have this, as I obtained travel insurance elsewhere. Standard seating is non refundable or exchangeable, so if you cancel your tickets you will not get your money back! And you also cannot change the date or time of your tickets - even for the same day!
When booking, you also have the option of choosing your seats, as they do tend to pack up the carriages full, but leave some carriages half empty. So i changed both my outbound and return seats to a quieter carriage. However there was one problem with this - on my return during check-in, the staff were unable to find my booking and said my seat had already been taken. After 5 minutes on the phone, however, I was then told my seat was fine and it was all ok. And upon boarding, all was fine.
I opted to print my tickets at home which was easy enough, although next time I will pay the extra few pound for them to be sent to me by post if i buy again, as you have to scan in your tickets at check-in, and both times, my tickets did not work, despite being printed high quality. But this was easily resolved as they also have a manual check-in desk with staff.
With Eurostar before travelling they advise you to get a doctor's letter for any medication in case they want to verify it. However, I was no prepared to spend £20 for a letter which I might not even need, so upon contacting Eurostar, they advised that I take along a prescription with those medicines, and or the original boxes, with the pharmacy label to check against my passport. Needless to say, on both journeys, none of my medication was questioned, but I would advise to have those things above just in case.
At London, Check-In is very easy to find at St Pancras in the lower concourse about halfway down. Check-In opened 1 hour and 20 minutes before my train was due to leave, so plenty of time. As mentioned above, you scan in your tickets at the barriers, however mine refused to scan, so I was sent to a check-in desk where they did that for me with no hassle whatsoever.
After this, you join one of 3 queues for security checks, where like at an airport, you must place all your bags, coats, scarves etc onto a conveyor belt for inspection, and you'll go through a body scanner. All easy enough, you collect your things at the other side and go through to Passport Control. After this and in front of you is the Eurostar Lounge. Once in the Euostar Lounge, there are lots of seating areas and places to get drinks and snacks. There are departures boards all over the place so there's no worry of missing your train! There are 6 platforms (numbered 5-10) on which the Eurostar leaves.
In Brussels, Check-In was straightforward (besides my ticket not scanning at the barrier and a glitch in sorting out my seats). Brussels Midi is a large station, however to find Eurostar departures, you want to be heading right. The main concourse (with platforms 7-22) will be on your left. You want to head in the opposite direction towards Sam's Cafe, and just a little further up opposite you will find the Eurostar departures. Here you will check in with your Eurostar Ticket, then you will go through the same Security checks as in London, then onto Belgian Passport Control, UK Passport Control and finally into the Eurostar lounge, which has a cafe and the usual facilities. There are only 2 platforms at Brussels, but I recommend llistening out closely for boarding announcements as I found these very quiet, and I was only able to realise that boarding was taking place when people started to move in the direction of the Platform. I think the announcement is made via a small screen in front of the 2 platform entrances and by very quiet vocal announcement.
All announcements are made in English, French and Dutch.
When your Eurostar starts to board, an announcement will be made 20 minutes before the train leaves, so that passengers can board in time. All platforms are clearly signposted and flat escalators (London) take you straight up to the platform and Eurostar train.
I found my coaches very easy to find and upon getting on the train it looked like any other standard train, with a bit of extra luggage space. I only had 1 piece of handluggage and a holdall. The luggage racks are situated above seating, with a large rack at the top for small to medium bags (can easily put a large holdall up there or a small case), and the smaller racks underneath were ideal for smaller bags, coats etc.
ON BOARD EUROSTAR
Well I can say that with changing my seat online, I had a quiet coach and on both outward and return journeys the seat next to me was empty. There was no 'food trolley' service brought to your seats, however there was a buffet carriage about 2 carriages away from me. I had not been to either of these as I took my own food (to cut down costs). As said above, all announcements were made in English, French and Dutch and were very easy to understand.
My Eurostar made 1 stop on the outward journey at Lille. On the return journey it made 2 stops at Callais and Lille.
When going under the Eurotunnel, this took about 20 minutes. I was really amazed at the speed of the Eurostar as well, it was fantastic. Sometimes it did make my ears have that 'pressure' feeling, like when you go by plane, but it wasnt anything unpleasant!
Brussels - Upon arriving at Brussels Midi, you walk onto the platform and down to the bottom and turn left. Here you will be met with lifts, to the left of the lifts a staircase, and to the far left another walkway. I decided to take the stairs - not many at all, and this was the quickest way to get down into the main station area as a lot of people were waiting for the lifts.
London - When arriving back into London St Pancras, I had to walk along with everyone else down to the front of the platform, where you go down a flat escalator. We were advised to have our passports and tickets ready for inspection, however once we were off the escalator, you turn left and out the doors into the lower concourse of St Pancras (Arrivals, to right of M&S), and there was no inspection.
Overall, my experience of Eurostar was very easy, straightforward and I would happily do it again. I was lucky to have purchased cheaper tickets, but I have seen standard tickets for up to £200 for 1 way and there is no way I would pay that much considering that the Standard seating in Eurostar is of a very standard quality. However, for £109, this is perfectly reasonable as it IS taking you from London to Brussels in just 2 hours!
Summary: Overall an easy straightforward experience, but online facilities could be better!