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Coach vs Train between Lille France and Bruges Belgium

My husband and I are traveling to France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands in mid-October. After a few days in Paris we will be renting a car and driving through Normandy. We are returning the car at the train station in Lille and then heading to Bruges. I looked on both the Rail Europe and the Trainline websites and there is a big difference in the times and costs. The Trainline site also offers information on coach travel between the two cities that is much cheaper and faster than taking the train -- no need to transfer. I don't have any experience with either Trainline or Flixbus so would appreciate any insight.

Posted by
4932 posts

Agree that the OP should give the seat 61 website a thorough read. And as for the 2 sites the OP mentioned - they are 3rd party resellers and won't be completely accurate. Look at the website for the French train line, SNCF, as well as Thalys.

Posted by
23350 posts

...looked on both the Rail Europe and the Trainline websites.... Keep in mind that both of those sites are travel agencies reselling train tickets. You should be using the national rail site --- SNCF.com

Posted by
7048 posts

For a ride that short (1-1/4 hr) I'd be willing to take the bus, especially if it's cheaper and faster. I mean for that length of time how bad can a bus be? Long distance coaches in Europe are usually quite comfortable. I'm a train person and not fond of buses in general but they'll do if they are more convenient and less than 3 hrs. I have taken the coach transfer from Annecy to Lyon in France and from Cesky Krumlov to Prague. They were fine. Flixbus is well regarded.

Posted by
6924 posts

The train resellers are probably trying to push you towards the expensive high-speed route via Brussels. You could also travel from Lille-Flandres to Kortrijk (Courtrai), then on to Brugge (Bruges), in barely over 1.5 hour and for less than 15 euros.
If the bus times work better for you, there is no issue with the bus in itself, but it will not save you any time or money.

Posted by
6470 posts

Avoid resellers like Trainline and Rail Europe! For this trip, use SNCB/NMBS and you will find that it as mentioned is an easy trip with one change in Kortrijk and hourly departures. Also note that there are two stations in Lille, Lille-Europe used mostly by high speed trains, and Lille-Flandres used by regional trains, intercities and a few high speed trains.

Posted by
7371 posts

Since the two rail stations in Lille are connected by a covered passageway, they can be considered the same place. However, the amount of luggage you have to handle is a factor.

It appears that the faster train to Bruges is 1:35 with a change in Kortrik, and the longer ride is about 2:00 with a change in Brussels. I have not taken the bus, but I suspect it's fine. It's likely that some of your trains will be local commuter trains, without long-distance luggage racks, and maybe double-decker cars.

I've taken the train from Antwerp to Bruges twice, the train that came from Brussels.

I would observe that visiting Normandy by car (which is desirable) is quite far from Lille. Unless you have places to visit along the way, there is no reason for the long drive to Lille. Consider the train, via Brussels or Antwerp. Have you traveled in Europe before?

Posted by
6924 posts

Reacting to this:

I would observe that visiting Normandy by car (which is desirable) is quite far from Lille. Unless you have places to visit along the way, there is no reason for the long drive to Lille. Consider the train, via Brussels or Antwerp. Have you traveled in Europe before?

The train from Normandy to Belgium involves:
- train from Caen to Paris, 2.5 hours
- changing stations in Paris, 1.5 hour buffer advised
- train from Paris to Brussels, 1.5 hour
- Brussels to Brugge, less than 1 hour

If you already have a car, driving the 4.5 hours to Lille avoids the annoying bit where you have to cross Paris, so it is a good option in my opinion.

Posted by
7371 posts

Balso, your reply sounds quintessentially American, with a love of the mighty, independent, free-spirit auto; As the Firesign Theater said, "High on a clean windshield, and a full tank!"

We don't know what the actual car rental plans are for the OP. But if they were to return the car at CDG, they would be changing trains in Lille 51 minutes later, with no gas to buy, or tantalizing signs for all the nice cities they have no time to detour from the highway and stop the car in.

The real problem is pairing Bruges with (perhaps) the D-Day beaches. Despite both being on roughly the same body of seawater, they are not, even remotely, "close" together. We might, possibly, give better advice if they gave the overall vacation itinerary to us. Perhaps a cheap flight to BRU or AMS would serve them better. As I mentioned already, luggage handling is a factor in these decisions.

I have only been to Bruges from Antwerp, by train. We once rented a car in St. Pierre des Corps and drove through multi-night stays in Marçay, Dinard, and Bayeux. I should have returned the car outside Paris, but unwisely drove all the way to Paris, for a five-night stay there. I did once take the train from Antwerp to Lille, which was an unpleasantly long trip. I understand it's faster today.

Posted by
6924 posts

Tim, funny you should say that, as I am actually French ;-)
But yes, I'll definitely give you that however you proceed, Normandy to Bruges takes a full day!

Posted by
2 posts

Thanks everyone for all your fantastic input, I'm blown away by the thought you've all put into my question. We are picking up our car at Gare du Nord and returning it at Lille. We are spending three nights in Bayeux and then driving up the coast. We are spending the night in Rang Du Fliers so will have a short drive into Lille in the morning. I'm happy to hear there are plenty of trains between Lille and Bruges so we don't have to worry too much about timing and I appreciate hearing about the distinction between the two stations -- I'd wondered about that looking at the map. I have driven in Normandy before, but that was twenty years ago.

For those wanting to know more about our itinerary -- we are spending four days in Paris before Normandy, then following 3 nights in Bruges we'll spend 1 night in Brussels and then take the train to Bremen Germany where we'll spend four days with my newly married former exchange student. Then on to four days in Amsterdam before we fly home. This trip is a replacement for the one to the wedding mentioned above that was cancelled due to COVID.

Again, thanks for the help and happy travelling!

Posted by
203 posts

We went from Bruges to Lille this past summer. All of my research showed that the train was much longer. We took FlixBus and it was cheap, fast and easy. I normally prefer the train but this route seemed to show that the coach bus was faster. One caution is that buses can be subject to traffic. Ours was a bit delayed because there had been an accident on the highway coming into town.

Posted by
1808 posts

Bus and train are about the same time. Train is going to be more comfortable, and the added bonus is that the train runs every hour, and is flexible. So your ticket is good for all trains on the route. Just buy the ticket at the station. This is regional rail, and does not require advance purchase or reservation. Tickets cost 12.4 Euro, and if you want to buy them in advance (so as not to have to deal with the SNCF ticket office) just get them on www.b-europe.com. That website is operated by the Belgian Railways, who operates those trains. Buy ticket. Get on train. Travel. It is as simple as taking a subway. (In fact, this is commuter rail. Think Septa or Metro North)

Flixbus is for people who value cost over everything else, even personal safety. Flixbus does not run often, and often runs late. And there will be no information at the bus stop how much the bus is delayed.

Posted by
247 posts

I’ve taken FlixBus quite a bit throughout Europe. Their buses are really comfortable and for short rides they do the trick (I’ve even taken longer ones and haven’t had any issues). If the times/price work out better I see it as a viable option but if you buy, make sure you choose the country you’re traveling in in the drop down menu to pay in local currency and not dollars. For some reason the US/dollar version of the site has much higher fees and often the ticket prices are higher. When I went to Poland last year, I easily saved $10 or more on my tickets by buying in Zloty and having the site be in Polish over using the American version.

But as others have said, also check the local site for train tickets to make sure you’re getting more accurate prices and times for the train as well to make the best informed decision.

Posted by
7371 posts

The OP has what he needs, but I will add a comment about train delays, just for the record. I once had an advance-purchase return Eurostar ticket (first stop, Lille) from London to Brussels. My train was delayed (before departure, blessedly) for what eventually amounted to eight hours, because of a fatality on the French section of the tracks. This was during the time of the refugee encampment near Calais, but I have no idea who actually died on the tracks.

The jammed conditions at the Eurostar terminal in London made it clear that all the trains had been cancelled for the entire afternoon. I was lucky that Belgian rail held the "last" train to Antwerp (and beyond) from Brussels, so I did get back to my hotel there, around 1:00 AM.

Posted by
14580 posts

True about FlixBus, they run from here to Sacramento, obviously at a much lower price than that charged by CalTrain.