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Train A’dam to Bruges & Bruges to Paris - any recommendations?

Hi, my family will be traveling to Europe in August (London, Netherlands, Belgium and Paris). About a week in each place. Train only by advance purchase for the high speed train journeys, but we won’t buy rail passes as didn’t seem to pencil out.

We will use Eurostar from London to Amsterdam. Then we’ll be taking the train from Amsterdam to Bruges via Antwerp (looks like that is an interesting city to visit for a few hours for a quick stopover). A week later we’ll be taking the train from Bruges to Paris via Brussels for another brief stopover for a few hours in Brussels.

I’m still a bit early to book our trains but if possible would like to use one train ticket booking site for booking of both journeys. Does anyone have any suggestions as to which train booking site is best: Thalys, NS International or Belgian rail? Or another? I looked up some hypothetical dates to check prices on both sites, and both NS and Thalys seem comparable but I didn’t actually click through to buy the tickets. I also understand that for the IC parts of both journeys that there is flexibility in terms of not having to take a specific train (as long as it’s the same day) which will allow us to stopover for a few hours. Is this correct?

Does it matter which train booking site we use in terms of prices or are there extra fees or benefits with one site versus another? Does anyone have suggestions or feedback if they’ve used these sites or travelled these routes via train In August ? I’ve been reading ‘the man in seat 61 ‘website for info but always appreciate hearing RS readers’ feedback too...

Thx much!
Maria

Posted by
19 posts

Thanks RJean. Using one site to book (Thalys) is easiest; just wasn’t sure if Thalys was cheapest. Good to know.

I also understand that there are discounts for Belgium trains for youths. I heard that you can buy Belgian train tickets in packs of ten, similar to carnets that you can buy for Paris metro maybe? We will be taking some day trips in Belgium (2-3 day trips maybe) and my two kids are teenagers so youth travel passes may be of use. Or summer train travel offers? Any thoughts on buying train passes or tickets for our Belgian day trip travel?

Thanks again,
Maria

Posted by
4656 posts

What you have heard about is the Belgian Rail Pass, which is somewhat misleadingly titled as it isn't a "pass" as such but a sharable ticket for ten journeys. You don't get a packet of ten tickets, you get a ticket with ten spaces on it in which you write the start and end stations and the date you travelled. Each of the ten lines corresponds to one person on one one-way journey. Note that this is only valid within Belgium.

Posted by
4701 posts

The Belgian Ten pass (good to ANY station in Belgium) is not necessarily the cheapest for the short (???) journeys you are likely to be taking (say, between Ostend and Brussels.) But they can save time in line to buy daily tickets at the train station. American credit cards often fail in the Belgian rail ticket machines, so you might have to wait in a slow-moving line to see a human agent. You have to view the August crowds and determine whether price or convenience is more important to you.

From Amsterdam to Bruges, you have the option to buy the ABS Any Belgian Station add-on to Thalys, which may or may not be cheaper than two tickets, one Thalys, one local unreserved. Note that the local trains can have double-decker passenger cars that are tedious with large luggage. Few local trains in that part of Belgium have "long-distance" sized luggage racks.

Thalys tickets are sold (priced) like air tickets, so check prices inside and outside business hours, and pretend that you are traveling tomorrow, just to see how much more the tickets can be.

Be aware that Brussels has three downtown stations, all priced the same, but there can be trains (like Thalys) that only stop at one of them. All the local trains stop at all three stations, and trains to Bruges are quite frequent, up to five an hour or so. I usually buy tickets from the national rail of the country I'll be departing from, but as long as you don't use a re-seller, I don't think it matters very much. I think Netherlands and Belgium have much less variation in price than, say, Germany and France. (Thalys is not "Netherlands" national rail, it's a special service.)

Posted by
19 posts

Thx for the great info Phillip and Tim. I think the ten ticket card will be good for us for Belgium as we can at least save time on some of our day trips. I’ll check the Belgian train site for prices of that.

And we’ll be searching the Thalys site for prices for our journeys ... I didn’t know that checking Thalys at different times of day would make such a difference either.

Thanks everyone,
Maria

Posted by
4701 posts

mariart, I meant (just as an example) that tickets FOR Monday 8AM might cost more than tickets FOR Wednesday 1PM. I didn't mean that LOOKING at prices AT those two times would be different. However, looking at prices Three Months Out would be different that looking at prices Three Weeks Out!!

Actually, many official rail sites now offer a useful grid of prices and departures and service levels. I haven't bought a Thalys ticket for a few years, but I have bought Eurostar quite often.

Posted by
19 posts

Ah thanks for clarifying Tim. I think I’ve looked at so many websites and postings for this upcoming trip that my mind has become especially clouded!

Yes I’ll be booking the Eurostar train from London to A’dam a bit sooner than the Belgian Thalys trains as I believe that I read that these can be booked 180 days out. Apparently, it’s good to not book right at the start of the booking window though as some train times are not yet posted then (That’s according to man in seat 61, who suggests that booking 3 months ahead of departure is usually good enough?).

I’ve also read that Eurostar and Thalys are merging routes in some way? Not sure of details or if that will impact pricing of routes. Just read a note on Eurostar website. Can only hope that prices for those fast speed trains become lower, though that is unlikely.

Thx again for great info.

Posted by
114 posts

I have done a similar trip and booked everything on the NS International site as it covers all the train options - Thalys, Eurocity and Intercity (IC or ICE) trains. See https://www.nsinternational.nl/en/train-fares-and-discounts. I always book at the start of the booking window for the best fares. We have had a minor train time change once but it happened on the day and just left Amsterdam 20 minutes late. it was the Thalys and easily caught up the time so was on time into Brussels.

Posted by
19 posts

Thx Aussienomad!

Another Belgian train related question: we’ll be visiting Ypres WW1 battle sites. I’m wondering if we should take a tour directly from Bruges or train to Ypres on our own and then catch a short tour from there. Any suggestions ?

Thx!
Maria