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Buying Thalys tickets-questions

Good evening. I would like to buy tickets from Thalys for my family of 5 to travel from Paris to Ghent, Belgium for July. Our dates are not quite open yet and I have put an alert on my phone for the date that I can actually book, as there is quite a price difference after the initial cheap seats sell out. Just to check the price and make sure I understand the process, I have tried several times to complete a "test" booking but I have encountered some issues.

Looking at the timetable and schedules there are plenty of trains that go from Paris to Brussels then on to Gent.

When I go to book the ticket, the only choice I have for depart: Paris and arrival: Gent shows the one direct train between the two - very late at night. We are planning on departing in the late morning (ideally 11:25 train - but could go earlier or a bit later as there appear to be so many). I have successfully made it to the check out page with this route but can not seem to change it to an earlier time at any step of the process.

I have also made it to the check out page with any one of the many Depart: Paris and Arrival: Brussels (dropping off the Gent portion). Is this our only option if we want a choice of earlier times? Would we need to depart the train and go in search of local tickets for the remainder of the journey to Gent or is there something that I am doing wrong? We would like to remain on the same train if possible (traveling with children and luggage) but we are not sure if that is the case.
Also, do I need a special Thalys card or anything else to complete the transaction (on one test booking it asked for my Thalys card and would not let me proceed without inputting - but on subsequent attempts it went through without that) ?

Has anyone had any issues using a credit card from the US (AmEx or Mastercard?)
We plan on printing our tickets at home here in the states and bringing them along.

I still have two weeks before I can actually make my reservations but the devil is in the details and I don't want to miss out on the early fare discounts during the summer travel season. Any advice or help would be appreciated.

Beth

Posted by
1447 posts

Beth, at some point the train experts, Frank, Ken, etc..will be able to give you great advice. Until then, check out the website, seat61.com. You can check your steps against his. We haven't done it in 3 years, so I hesitate to try an offer too much advice. We did run into a problem with the credit card and in our case, the system would only allow a limited dollar amount per transaction. It was a fraud measure on their end -didn't matter that we'd already cleared it with our bank. We had book on two different days, but they may have fixed that by now.

Posted by
8906 posts

Which website are you getting the schedules from? RailEurope? If so, use the official site thalys.com instead.
Thalys only doesn't go direct to Ghent. When purchasing tickets use the ABS (any Belgian Station) option for your destination or just Brussels and purchase your Brussels to Ghent ticket at the station in Brussels when you arrive. The segment from Brussels to Ghent doesn't allow advance reservations so you can use your ticket for any departure. You may also want to check routing via Antwerp instead of Brussels as some connections might be quicker.
Ignore the Thalys card thing, it's meant for frequent travelers.

Posted by
13930 posts

The problem appears to be that there is only one train a day that goes from Paris to Ghent (and then continues to Bruges). So that is the only choice on that website. I went to the official Belgian train website www.belgianrail.be and a standard ticket from Brussels to Ghent is €5 for a child, €8.90 for an adult . . . but in another section it said that children under 12 travel free with an adult. I think your choice is either this train (leaves Paris 6.25 p.m. and arrives Ghent 8.27 p.m. - still daylight, sunset isn't until almost 10 p.m.) or pay the additional fare and transfer in Brussels.

Posted by
32 posts

Thank you everyone. I was on the official Belgium rail site as I have been advised to stay away from some of the other booking sites. We have determined that we will book the Thalys ticket to Brussels for a late morning - and then pick up an inter-country ticket for Gent to make the final leg. It does not seem too difficult but I was not sure if there was a work around to book the entire trip at one time in advance.

If the weather is nice and we are up for it, we may see about checking our luggage and getting out and about in Brussels for a couple of hours before going on.

We now will need to determine if our credit card will work with the site and permit us to purchase the 5 tickets online. Like I said, we still have some time before our dates are available.