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Travel time from Brussels (Brussels-Midi) to Paris (Gare du Nord) is normally 1 hour, 25 minutes, for a distance of approximately 300 km. Peak speed is 300 km/h on a dedicated high-speed railway track. The LGV (ligne à grande vitesse) link with Charles de Gaulle airport allowed Air France to withdraw its air service between Paris and Brussels; instead, Air France books seats on Thalys trains. Thalys has been given the IATA designator 2H. This is used in conjunction with American Airlines and Northwest Airlines. American Airlines has a codesharing agreement with Thalys for rail service from Charles de Gaulle airport to Brussels Midi. The airline alliance Skyteam also has a codesharing agreement with Thalys for rail service from Schiphol Airport Amsterdam to Antwerp's Berchem Station and Brussels Midi.

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    • More +
      21.06.2013 11:36
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      For the route I take, it's a great option and good value if you plan ahead

      We're a long time past the Golded Age of rail when travelling the tracks was a chic and sophisticated thing to do. Way back in my student days I vowed that as soon as I could afford not to, I'd not be using trains ever again and I've pretty much stuck to that. The only time I now use trains is to get into London (where I am far too polite a driver to ever survive) and when I need to get between Amsterdam and Antwerp - something I do every couple of months.

      Europe has a number of famous high speed trains but I would guess that one of the less well known is the Thalys. The train runs from Amsterdam in the north, through Brussels and on to Paris. Side lines can get you to the French Alps and to Cologne but the main route is back and forth between Paris and Amsterdam. I take this train only between Amsterdam (either Central Station or Schiphol Airport) and Antwerp. When all goes to plan, the journey should take around an hour from Antwerp to the airport and just a few minutes longer to Central Station. Driving the same route takes more than twice this time, or considerably more when Holland does its rush-hour trick of turning into Europe's largest car park.

      I've taken the Thalys five times now and I signed up for a 'Thalys Card' and an online account so that I can book my own tickets. I travel this route for business and I'm not really supposed to do direct bookings but our UK-based travel agent can't book the Thalys and if I use the agency in Belgium or the Netherlands, I get stung with a lot of additional charges. I made a case to the procurement person in charge of travel and she agreed that it was OK for an exception to be made so that I can now book directly on line. I like to have the control to check out the prices and pick the best combination of departure time and service levels. On one occasion I was able, by booking in advance, to get the first class carriage for less than half the price of second, simply by delaying my departure by an hour.

      Most of my journeys have been in so-called 'Comfort Two' on semi-flexible tickets and a couple have been in 'Comfort One'. If you know your dates well in advance cheaper tickets may be available if you want to travel at lower demand times and if you book at least two weeks before. Mostly my tickets have been booked just a few days (or sometimes hours) before travel. The semi-flexible and Comfort One tickets both come with free onboard Wi-fi although you shouldn't be surprised if the first time you use it, it takes you half the journey to work out what to do. There are instructions on-line and in Comfort Two you need a special code which is printed on your ticket. If you don't qualify for free wi-fi, I would suggest to think carefully before paying for it as the service can be really rather rubbish.

      In Comfort two the carriage is configured four seats across in two pairs similar to a plane but with the exception that some of the passengers will inevitably be going backwards. I've never yet managed to get seats together with a colleague although if the train's not too busy, people are quite flexible about moving around to let others sit together. However several times I've had to throw someone out of my reserved seat and on one occasion I came up against two French women who refused completely to give me my seat. This can be an issue on this particular train. There are probably not two countries more culturally different than France and the Netherlands and there can be quite some tensions when you throw the two nationalities together. As a poor Brit observing this, you can't help sometimes thinking their parents should have taught them some bloody manners.

      In Comfort One you get a lot more space as well as a free meal and drinks with a hostess service. The legroom is much more generous and the seats are configured three across with an individual seat on one side of the aisle and a pair on the other. Comfort One also offers you free newspapers and is altogether more like travelling business class. Once when I took this ticket type, it cost only about a third more than the Comfort Two ticket which seemed like good value even though I didn't take the free meal, only indulging in a couple of coffees and a friendly chat with the hostess. Another time when booking a few weeks in advance, I got Comfort One for less than Comfort Two so it's well worth hunting around the website to see what bargains you can find. The seats in Comfort One are larger versions of the red and purple seats you find elsewhere on the train. There are power points for charging your computer or phone and the wi fi didn't seem to need a code in that class.

      Comfort One also offers some extra goodies that weren't relevant to me such as on-board taxi booking for Paris and Brussels and access to special lounges in Amsterdam, Schiphol and Rotterdam

      Comfort Two can be a bit of a squeeze and on one trip I had to sit from Antwerp to Rotterdam with my suitcase squeezed in front of me because there was absolutely nowhere left to put it. After Rotterdam I was able to get space on the luggage rack but the first half of my journey was rather uncomfortable. In this class there's a trolley service selling food and vouchers for the wi-fi for those whose ticket doesn't include the service. There's also a bar carriage somewhere in the middle of the train although I've not used it.

      Prices are very variable depending on how long in advance you book and how much flexibility you need. If you are willing to commit to a particular train, a standard Amsterdam to Antwerp single could cost you 39 Euros whilst the same journey in semi-flex would be 70 Euros in Comfort Two or 74 in Comfort One. For a fully flexible ticket, you'll pay 93 Euros in Comfort One. There are special fares for young people (under 26), the over 60s, under 12s, kids travelling with adults, people with mobility impairments and their carers and for groups. I'd love to say it's complicated but compared to the trains in the UK it's both cheap and much easier to understand. I recommend anyone thinking of taking a train in the UK to just hand over their credit card and give up hope. These were prices I found back in April when I first wrote this review but may vary in the summer months when demand is higher.

      My first two Thalys experiences were late. The first train was nearly an hour late which is pretty poor on a train journey that only lasts an hour. We got stuck behind a Fyra (the local not-quite-so-high-speed-train) which had broken down. The service was so bad on the Fyra that they've now withdrawn the service completely which is a shame as we're now restricted to a Thalys only once every two hours.

      As an alternative to flying, the Thalys is very nice and if you can get a Comfort One ticket at a good price - i.e. on a Semi-Flex fare where it's barely more than Comfort Two - it's well worth considering it as an alternative. A no-flex fare from Amsterdam to Paris booked well in advance could be as low as 35 Euros and once you've added in all the time to go to the airport, hang around getting security checked and standing in lines and then gone through the hassle of collecting your luggage and travelling into the city at the other end, the journey time of three hours and 20 minutes competes well with taking the plane.

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      • More +
        19.02.2011 14:07

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        Since one year I have frequently used the Thalys line between Amsterdam and Paris. Out of the 12 lasts trips, 11 were delayed more than 20 minutes. About a third of the trains are delayed on hour or more. During the delays, information is nonexistent or false. Unfortunately there are few alternatives, although the car or even the bike will take you from Amsterdam to Paris more efficiently.

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      • More +
        01.10.2008 15:27

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        Buy in advance, reserve your seats and enjoy the ride!

        I travel in Europe a lot and whilst most times I fly, I do make use of the trains too. I have used the Thalys a few times between Den Haag and Paris and find it a simple and convenient way to go.

        If you book far enough in advance you can pick up some good deals, I have traveled in the first class part of the train (Comfort 1) for only a small premium over the standard class seat prices.

        For me the train has always run on time and if you're lucky enough to be in Comfort 1 you'll be fed at least once with some light snacks, pastries and plenty of tea, coffee, wine, beer and other drinks.

        The rolling stock isn't the newest you'll see, but the seats are comfortable. As with most international trains be sure to arrange your seat reservations in advance, I have seen people refused entry to the train despite having a valid ticket, simply because they didn't have a seat reservation.

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        27.10.2006 19:50
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        great train, great service - great journey!

        After my first review on Dooyoo has been about the Eurostar, this one is about the train which regularly takes me from Cologne to Brussels and back, and only makes it possible for me to travel on Eurostar. Up to now, I’ve used the Thalys nine times, with another journey coming next week.

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        Thalys in general
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        Thalys is a European high speed train, connecting Germany, Belgium, France and the Netherlands. From Cologne, there is a direct train to Paris, with stops in Aachen, Liège and Brussels Midi. Furthermore, the Thalys-network includes Antwerp, Oostende and Amsterdam, with the latter having a direct connection to Brussels and Paris. Also, the Thalys stops at Marne-La-Vallée-Chessy – the train station at Disneyland Paris.

        Travel time from Brussels to Cologne is 2:20 hrs and from Cologne to Paris 3:55hrs. Every day, there are six possible journeys between these cities. From 2007, journey time will be cut down by approx. 50 minutes between Brussels and Cologne due to the new high speed track in Belgium, so the journey then will only take 1:30 hrs.
        A reservation is compulsory, but is already included in the ticket price. All Thalys trains are completely non-smoking.
        The website of Thalys is http://thalys.com/ - choose the country you want to travel from and English as language.

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        Tariffs
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        (As Thalys only operates on the continent, the prices are in Euros. However, if you book your ticket from England, the price might – unfortunately - be rounded up. 1 EUR equals 0.67 GBP at the moment).

        The tariff system is simple, clear and – most of the times – logical. Here are the most impotant fares:

        Youths between 12 and 25 get, just as seniors from 60, reduced ticket prices. The contingent is limited, so a booking should be done as early as possible to make use of it.
        Children under 4 years of age travel for free if they sit on an adult’s lap, for 4 to 12 year olds there is a set price from 10 or 16 EUR.
        All those tickets can be exchanged before departure – or completely refunded.

        If you book a return ticket, you can make use of cheaper fares. These tickets should be booked as early as possible as well, as only a certain amount for each train is available. Furthermore, these tickets can’t be exchanged and a 100% refund isn’t possible either.
        Be careful, if you travel with return tickets, on both ways you have to be able to show both tickets.

        As a special offer there is a fare called “Kid & Co”, which allows up to two adults, travelling with a child, to get cheaper fares.

        All the tickets are available for first or second class (Thalys calls that comfort 1 / 2). When you book your ticket – especially, if you can’t book it a long time in advance – you should make sure that you compare the prices between first and second class as well, as there are often offers for comfort 1 which might be cheaper than the regular ticket for comfort 2 – or only slighty more expensive. (Last time, I only would have paid 7 EUR more for a journey in comfort 1).

        An early booking is, as already mentioned, advisable.
        For example: An adult pays for the return journey between Brussels and Cologne 30 EUR if early booked. I paid 40 EUR just for the single journey between those cities as I only could book one week ahead. (40 EUR is the standard price between Brussels and Cologne). For youths this journey (single) costs 20 EUR, for seniors 28 EUR and for children 10 EUR.

        See the joke? If you are under 25 or over 60 and want to book a return journey anyway, then you should check, whether the cheapest adult fare is still available – it’s cheaper than the return for youths or seniors. The booking systems won’t show you these fared if you put your age in.

        In all prices, seat reservation is inclusive.

        Tickets for international journeys from/to Aachen are also valid in the whole area, for Cologne such a rule unfortunately doesn’t apply.

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        Where to buy your tickets
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        There are different possibilities to buy your Thalys ticket, depending on where you are.

        The most common one, if you want to buy your ticket when you are in the UK: The Raileurope website. You can either only buy the Thalys tickets or connectivity trains the same time. The tickets are sent to your home address quickly – I always got them within four days – and booking the journey is quick and simple. Also you can choose whether you want a windows/aisle-seat or even put in, if you want to sit next to a certain seat (e.g. if your friend has already booked a ticket and you want to sit next to them).

        If you are in one of the countries Thalys serves (Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, France) you can book the ticket via the Thalys website. Some tickets you can print off immediately, others are sent to you via post – but only to addresses within the countries mentioned above. Here you also get Last-Minute-Tickets for half of the price, usually one week before departure and only for certain connections.

        Also, the local train companies (in France TGV, in Germany DB (deutsche Bahn) etc.) sell Thalys tickets. And last but not least of course several travel agents.

        Tickets can be booked three months in advance.


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        Punctuality
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        According to Thalys, in the year 2005 84.4% of all Thalys trains reached their destination with a delay of less than five minutes ( = on time).

        I can confirm that, out of „my“ nine trains seven have been exactly on time, one was about six minutes late, when it arrived in Brussels, and one had a delay of 30 minutes, when it arrived in Cologne. But both weren’t Thalys’ fault – the six minutes resulted from track works in Belgium and the second time there was something wrong with the catenary in Germany, so that the Thalys couldn’t move for half an hour.

        As soon as the train staff could foresee the delay it ways announced; also the reason for the delay was stated. If the train is slightly late in Aachen or Belgium don’t worry – during the journey it usually catches the time up again.

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        On the train stations
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        In Brussels the platform is well signposted; you find it in a slightly separate part of the train station. But due to a large amount of display panels and signs the correct platform is found easily. What I especially like about Brussels: Thalys offers a waiting room for its customers. Fair enough, it’s kept simple with a few chairs, but at least you don’t have to stand when you have to wait for a longer time. The waiting room is inside of the train station. Moreover, in Brussels Thalys has a service desk where they help you if you have enquiries or problems – or if you need a last minute ticket. The staff there is very friendly and helpful and they speak English as well.

        Also in Cologne the platform for the Thalys is easy to find – due to several screens telling you where it goes from. You also can check on the internet– or just remember, that it goes from platform 8, if there is no change.
        When you arrive, your first platform should be the one to the poster, telling you at what part of the platform your carriage will stop. The parts are labelled with the letters A to H and you identify the parts through the white-blue squares hanging from the roof.

        When the train is arriving, you don’t have trouble to find your carriage – there are displays at the outside of the train, right next to the doors.


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        On the train
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        After boarding, you find storage room for your bigger luggage on the right. All suitcases, bags etc. you want to store there have to be labelled.
        When you go from Cologne to Brussels you are the first ones to board anyway, so there always is enough room for your luggage.
        However, when you travel from Brussels to Cologne most people are already on board, coming from Paris. Sometimes nearly all the room is packed then, especially in summer. If that is the case, place your suitcase in front of the storage room. They say you shouldn’t do that, but what else should you do with your suitcase? Anyway, I had to do that twice and nobody has complained, so as long as your suitcase doesn’t block the corridor it seems to be acceptable.

        Once you’ve stored your luggage, you can go to your seat. The carriage number is displayed another time over the door leading to the carriage, so you can make sure again that you’re right. Before you enter the carriage pick up the latest Thalys board magazine “ThalyScope”, which is published every three months. It is written in English German, French and Dutch and usually contains some handy tips about the different Thalys destionations.

        The seat numbers are located above the seats. Also above the seat you find more storage room for your smaller baggage like rucksacks, small trolleys etc.
        The train is clean, at least when you are travelling from Cologne. If you board in Brussels and there was a little pig sitting on your seat beforehand you’re unlucky, the train is not cleaned there. (What, in my opinion can’t be expected anyway).

        The design of the train is purely a matter of taste. Mainly warm, dark colours are used, with red dominating by far. I couldn’t say that I find it overly brilliant, but the design of a train surely isn’t the most important thing for me if I travel. And it’s not that terrible that I would have to close my eyes for the whole journey.
        Most seats are the so-called “duo seats”, which simply means that there are two seats next to each other. For groups travelling together there are groups of four seats with a table in the middle. But mind those seats if you don’t need them – they are quite narrow.
        Apart from that the seats are comfortable – far more comfortable than those of the Eurostar. Footrests are available and you’ve got enough room, as long as you’re not 1.90m tall. Then you should consider booking a seat at the aisle.

        The journey on Thalys itself is pleasant. The train is going quietly, you hardly hear any noises, even not, when the maximum speed (of about 320 km/h = 199 mph) is reached. The train is air-conditioned.

        The tickets are checked shortly after departure (make sure you always carry them with you when you move on the train) and the on-board staff was always very friendly and helpful. Furthermore, they are multi-lingual and speak at least French and English, most also speak German and/or Dutch. The announcements on the train are generally made in English, French, German and Dutch – the order depends on where you just are, but English usually comes last.
        Before departure the train number, the final destination and the stops are announced, during the trip of course always the next stop. This happens early enough, so that you have time to get you luggage and get ready to disembark.

        There are two toilets in every carriage, which I’ve always found to be clean. Twice they were without toilet paper, what I understandably weren’t too happy about – since the first time I’ve always taken some tissues with me, just in case.

        On board there is a bar – the so-called “Thalys bar”. Prices are, like on all on-board restaurants, relatively high, with drinks being the most expensive. But I must admit, that I’ve seen worse prices, at least for food.
        You can pay with Euros or your credit card.

        Some examples: (1 EUR ~ 0,67 GBP)
        Hot chocolate – 2.20 EUR
        Bio Natural Yoghurt – 3.00 EUR
        Hamburger or Hotdog – 4.00 EUR
        Tuna salad/gouda cheese/ham and emmental cheese bagnat – 4.50 EUR
        Salad bowl of the month – 6.00 EUR
        Tomato sandwich with ham and cheese (warm dish) – 4.00 EUR
        Pastabowl or bruschetta of the month – 6.30 EUR.


        I can’t judge about the quality, because due to those prices I rather take some food with me than spending a fortune on some packed sandwiches. Also available in the bar: tickets for the Paris and Brussels Metro.

        In comfort 1 a meal is inclusive, what you get depends on how far you travel and at what time. Between Brussels and Cologne you get one of the following meals:

        breakfast: a choice of drinks, croissants and yoghurt
        a light meal: a choice of drinks, mixed salad and bread
        a snack: a choice of drinks, a sandwich or sweet or savoury snacks.

        I can’t say more about that issue as, so far, I’ve always travelled comfort 2 and never had the chance to try it. In case I will ever choose to travel comfort 1, I will update this review.

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        What I think
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        My conclusion? Thalys – quite happily again and again and again and…. The train is comfortable and quick – you wouldn’t be quicker by plane, neither from Brussels to Cologne nor from Cologne to Paris (if you consider the check-in times and the fact, that the airports are far away from the centres). When the journey time is cut down further next year the train is nearly just as quick as a plane between Brussels and Germany.
        The ticket prices are – providing you can book early enough – very fair and Thalys is reliable and punctual.

        If you travel between Cologne and Brussels you can choose between the Intercity Express 3 (ICE) and Thalys – and I would always choose Thalys. I’ve travelled by ICE once and it was quite a disaster. Fair enough, the ICE trains look nicer (all wood inside, quite noble really), but that doesn’t help if the train is 40 minutes late. Apart from that, in Brussels there is Thalys staff you can ask for help, e.g. if your Eurostar was late and you’ve missed the connection train. Also, if that should happen, Thalys is running more frequently between Brussels and Cologne. And it is cheaper than the ICE!

        Coming from London, you reach several Thalys’ trains per day for your journey to Cologne, where you can get connection trains to many other big cities in Germany – and if you travel the opposite way you have direct connections to the Eurostar to London. Same goes for trains to/from Amsterdam.
        Here also applies, what I’ve mentioned above: You’re not much slower than by plane.
        Next autumn, when both trains, Thalys and Eurostar, will have cut down their journey time, it will only take a good four hours from London to Cologne – from city centre to city centre. I’m certainly looking forward to that!

        All in all, Thalys is an ideal way to travel, if you have or want to go to Cologne or Amsterdam or to the areas around those cities and don’t want to fly. If you want to go further – to northern or southern Germany for example - it’s not really an alternative to the plane as the travel time within the country would be too long.
        Thalys offers good value for your money as well as a pleasant journey – and that’s why it gets full five stars from me.

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