I am traveling to Belgium in May. I need to get from the Brussels airport to Brugge by train. Do I need to buy my ticket in advance or can I just do it once I arrive - not exactly sure of my arrival time so dangerous to buy a ticket ahead for a specific train I assume. Will I need to change trains in route?
Some trains go directly to Bruges from the airport some require to change trains depending on the schedule. You don't need to buy a ticket in advance.
Every hour there are direct trains, others with a change in Brussels. Know that the latter is bilingual, Brussel in Dutch/Flemish and Bruxelles in French, Bruges is indicated the same as in French, but as Brugge in Dutch.
If you want to see the Grand Place it’s an easy walk from Bruxelles Central/Brussel Centraal, you can continue the journy later with the same ticket as long as you do that the same day it is issued and don’t backtrack.
If you want to see Grand Place (with your luggage) then you actually WANT to change trains in Brussels, at the Centrale station (one of three.) But perhaps the short answer to your question is that there are at least five, often more trains an hour from Brussels to Brugge, during the business day. So in view of uncertain arrival and immigration times, you do not need to buy these tickets in advance.
I personally have not take the direct trains from BRU to Brugge. But the change in Brussels is not that inconvenient, unless you have physical difficulty with your luggage. One question might be (and I don't know the answer) whether the direct trains have better luggage racks, or are they the same "commuter" cars as those five per hour I mentioned, with only hat-racks over the seats?
Local unreserved trains in this section of Belgium are easy to jump on, but because American credit cards often do not work in the ticket machines, you may have to stand in a line to buy tickets from a human.
We bought our ticket at the airport after landing. Just follow the signs. The station is a couple levels below baggage claim. Since we couldn’t figure out if we were buying the correct ticket at the kiosk, we just went to the manned booth. When we were there, there were no lines, but I’m sure that’s not always the case. In Bruges, the train station is about a mile from the historic center, but it’s an easy walk. As stated, there are direct trains every hour.
Many thanks to everyone for your kind and informative replies. I feel much more relaxed now and will not worry about buying a ticket ahead.