(james benedict brown) on the road

Take the train to Holland (for less than you think)

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 15 June, 2008

Ok. To clarify something I’ve been raving about for a year or so now, and to follow on from my trip to Haarlem in the Netherlands (see below). I travelled the whole way by train, and my ticket London – Brussels – Haarlem – London cost just £74 return, all inclusive.

Eurostar now sell through train tickets from UK train stations to a number of European cities; the faster journey from London to Lille, Brussels, or Paris means that you can reach almost any part of western Europe in a door-to-door time that is either comparable or only marginally longer than the equivilent door-to-door journey time of flying.

A Eurostar ticket from London to Brussels is automatically valid to any station in Belgium. This is neat, but here’s something neater. Eurostar.com can sell you a through ticket to Amsterdam and several other Dutch cities. But beware – these tickets are for fast connections from Brussels on the French / Belgian / Dutch Thalys high speed trains. These sell at a premium over regular Intercity, Eurocity and domestic trains. You can save a bundle and enjoy extra flexibility by telephoning Eurostar (0845 7303030 or 01233 617575) and asking for a similar but subtly different type of ticket. The “Any Dutch Station” ticket costs a flat £15 (for a youth or senior concession, and I belive £20 for an adult) more than than a London – Brussels return ticket. But it allows you to travel onwards to any station in the Netherlands on any train other than the high speed Thalys for twenty-four hours after your arrive in Brussels. Likewise, the return is undated, and can be used any time in the twenty-four hours before your return Eurostar leaves Brussels.

So I was able to stop off in Brussels for a night on the way out, and again in Antwerp on the return. Not only did I get a ticket from London to Haarlem for about the same as a plane ticket (including all taxes, charges and airport transfers) I got two free stopovers and utter flexibility to get around.

To get this ticket you need to call Eurostar – the website can’t sell it. Find the cheapest / most convenient London – Brussels ticket online, and then ask the telesales agent to book those trains with the “Any Dutch Station” add-on. Comfortable and reasonably fast intercity trains leave Brussels Midi every hour throughout the day for mainline stations to Amsterdam, and that is your stepping stone for a great train trip to Holland.

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