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Car instead of Train

Was originally planning to take a train with my family from Amsterdam to Paris. But am exploring the possibility of hiring a private driver/tour guide to make the journey a two day trip with one night in either Ghent or Brussels. Does anyone have any information where I could find a driver/tour guide for this adventure? Or thoughts on how challenging this would be for us to drive ourselves? Thank you so much!

Posted by
6994 posts

Driving yourselves is a no-go because renting a car in the Netherlands and dropping it off in France will cost hundreds of euros in drop-off fees (possibly 1,000+ even...), if allowed by the rental company.

As for hiring a driver... Why not just take the train from Amsterdam to Brussels, spend the night, and take the train to Paris the next day? The train from Amsterdam to Paris goes through Brussels anyway.

You could also spend the night in Ghent (there are frequent, easy train connections to Ghent at Brussel Zuid / Bruxelles Midi station), but for one night, I would keep it simple and stay in Brussels, which is worth a few hours of exploration.

Posted by
15972 posts

Why not just take the train from Amsterdam to Brussels, spend the
night, and take the train to Paris the next day? The train from
Amsterdam to Paris goes through Brussels anyway.

Ditto. We've taken a train from Paris to Amsterdam and it went right through Brussels so it's a straight shot with no need for a driver or a rental car. In addition to the issues Balso pointed out, with your time limited to a 1 night stay, you could depart directly from Amsterdam Centrale train station, get off the train in the middle of Brussels, and have a good amount of time to explore it. Maybe book a hotel near the train station so you can drop your luggage and have them keep it until check-in. I'm not personally a fan of leaving a car full of luggage unattended while sightseeing so that's another plus in my book for rail.

I would think that booking a guide and/or driver (not sure what Belgium's rules are but they are often not one-and-the-same; the tour guide is required to be specially licensed) for 2 days would be very, very expensive as you'd be responsible for their lodging and meals plus cost for them to return to Amsterdam.

Petrol, BTW, is currently very expensive: last I looked, the equivalent of $8.10 U.S.D. per gallon in Belgium, and $9.20 in the Netherlands, according to AAA as of 6/7/2022. Many have also written about the astronomical prices of car rental these days.

Posted by
3290 posts

We used Shuttle Direct in 2019 for the round trip between Luxembourg and Bastogne, and My Day Trip in April 2022 for a transfer from Salerno to FCO. Both companies were great, but they both would charge over a thousand Euros to take 4 people from Amsterdam to Paris (guessing on family size).

We've never rented a car in Europe, so I can't address that.

We have taken the train between Amsterdam and Paris, and that is super easy.

Posted by
1382 posts

“ But am exploring the possibility of hiring a private driver/tour guide to make the journey a two day trip with one night in either Ghent or Brussels. ”

You don’t need a private driver to make this journey a two day trip. You can very easily and safely do this on your own by train. There are direct trains from Amsterdam to Brussels and from Brussels to Paris.

Posted by
7486 posts

I wonder if you are thinking that the drive will be more scenic than the train ride. Actually, chances are the opposite is true. Although the fastest trains make it hard to see enough outside the window.

The idea of stopping in Brussels is a good one. But there are also high-speed trains via Antwerp, which some people find a more rewarding visit than Brussels. Either city has about 5-7 trains an hour to Ghent during the business day. No reservations necessary. It's not that I'm opposed to the luxury of a driver/guide (sometimes, two people), but it makes little sense to spend $800 or more a day for something that could cost $9 in train fare. Don't forget about the guide's hotel room, either.

This newsboard is very oriented to independent travel. That's why you don't have a lot of responses about hiring guides and drivers for such a long journey. You'll be paying for them to return empty, as well. Our host has a lot of hints if you feel nervous about traveling on your own (blue menu top left.) Or you could look at the front section of ANY of his country guides, in your public library. I mean, the general hints are almost the same, even if your library doesn't happen to have "Belgium and Netherlands" or "France" by Rick Steves.

Posted by
48 posts

I cannot thank everyone enough for taking the time to reply! Thanks as well to the poster who was wondering if I was considering this to see more of the countryside/small towns......that is exactly what I was thinking (with maybe a stop at a monastery!) But based on the thoughtful points from all of you, I think I will stick with the original plan to take a train to Brussels and spend a night and then on to Paris.

Posted by
7486 posts

I could have been more specific; I have rented cars in Europe and they are useful in places like the Loire and Tuscany. I even rented in Germany (really superb train options) when we wanted to visit three towns or more per day.

When I've had the car, I've passed swell signboards with lovely outline drawings of the next town's attraction. But when you follow the sign, you find that it's 15 minutes or more to get off the highway, into town, and near the attraction. If you don't have both a driver and a guide, you have to get into a paid parking garage, and walk from the garage to the attraction. All that gets reversed after you see what you came to see.

In the specific case of Belgium, the area from BRU to Ostend is so prosperous and developed that their traffic is almost as bad as in the USA. The lovely medieval city centers are full of one-lane, one-way, curved medieval streets, with little or no parking. They've dug up plenty of town squares to build multiple levels of underground parking, but it's still a time consuming chore. My wife used to drive from Antwerp to Beerse every day, and it was always bumper to bumper. And there are no tourists in Beerse. Why did she drive? She wanted her evenings and time off in Antwerp.

This is possibly the worst part to rent a car as it's useless in both Amsterdam and Paris. Moreover, parking in Brussels is a disaster (not sure about Bruges but I expect the same thing). Also, the train connection between these cities is great.

Traffic in Amsterdam is difficult but in very different ways than you're used to. Narrow streets and lots of cyclists. Keep in mind that cyclists and pedestrians going straight have priority when you make a turn. Parking is hard and very expensive.

Traffic in Paris is chaotic and incredibly congested. You'll see that almost all cars have dents there for example. If you don't want dents in your rental car, don't enter Paris.

As for the highways, it should be no problem at least as far as the Netherlands and France are concerned (Belgium is good enough still I suppose, but not ideal). They are in an excellent state and traffic is very safe.

You can't turn on red here BTW.

Posted by
48 posts

Good point, I have been to Paris many times and I cannot imagine driving there! I would be terrified, and I live in Washington DC!