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Planning a trip to London in 2020 and then on to Paris via Eurostar. Would like feed back on the train ride. I'm claustrophobic, but I think my kids would love that more than a ferry ride to Calais.


Posted by
16761 posts

If you are claustrophobic, how do you manage the flight to London, or are you on a transatlantic cruise?
Maybe you can pretend that it is night time. You are only in the tunnel for about 30 minutes.

Posted by
3811 posts

On Eurostar you spend about twenty minutes in the tunnel, at a steady 100 mph. It is very smooth and very uneventful, much more pleasant than a subway ride. If you worry, you can always head to the on-board café car and get yourself a drink or a snack to pass the time.
Going from London to Paris via train and ferry is a day-long ordeal with inconvenient transfers, buses to port terminals, risk of rough seas...

Posted by
168 posts

You could pretend it's a short plane flight at night if it makes it easier, since you are OK with flying, right? It's a smooth ride and if you don't look out the window at the blackness, you might just forget where you are. Try it - it's a easy, relatively quick comfortable way to make the journey. Enjoy!

Posted by
1017 posts

The countryside from London to the mouth of the tunnel is pretty, and the train seems to be efficient. Then, as you arrive to the mouth of the tunnel, you resign yourself to the fact that it's going to be dark outside the train for about a half hour. Darkness, a slight increase in pressure occurs, and you say to the kids, "Isn't this fun?!!--we're going UNDERNEATH the water!!!"

Twenty minutes later, you emerge into sunlight (or drizzle, or whatever), and the train picks up speed as you rush through the French countryside. You say to the kids, "Look!!!! We're going at 150 miles an hour! I bet you've never been this fast on the ground before, have you? Isn't this fun?" Then, about 35 to 50 minutes later or so, you pull into the Gare du Nord in downtown Paris. In 10 minutes, you are eating crepes with butter and sugar from a street vendor.

Downtown London to Downtown Paris in 2 hours and 20 minutes.

Or, you can travel from London to the ferry port, board a ferry to Calais, and then arrange for train travel from Calais to Paris. I suggest that will take the better part of the day, and kids sometimes lose their lunches on boat trips across the English Channel.

Speed, comfort, and convenience weigh in favor of the Eurostar. You really won't feel all that claustrophobic for the 20 minutes you are in the tunnel, but if you are nervous about it, pop a Valium or two and relax. ;-)

Edited to add: I don't encourage illicit drug use, and don't believe that people should medicate themselves willy-nilly. Nevertheless, a Valium tab prescribed by my personal physician made the trip across the Alps on a cable car tolerable and even fun. Don't mix Valium or other meds with booze, though.

Posted by
8889 posts

annamreed, It goes like this (approximate times from memory):

  • 10 minutes from St Pancras to the edge of London, series of tunnels at ~200Km/Hr (120 MPH)
  • 10 minutes under Thames (tunnel) and through Kent (1 short tunnel) at ~300 Km/Hr (180 MPH)
  • 25 minutes through the Channel Tunnel at ~200 Km/Hr
  • 30 minutes to Lille (short tunnel under city, none of the Paris trains stop here) at ~320 Km/Hr
  • 60 minutes to Paris at ~320Km/hr, slows down for approach to Gare du Nord.

10 + 10 + 25 + 30 + 60 = 2h15.

If you are using the tube in London or the métro in Paris you will be in a tunnel for as long. And large parts of the tube in central London are also below sea level.
I think (hope, think positive) that is OK for you. Bring drinks and snacks for the kids, a bottle of wine for the grown ups, and you will enjoy yourself. When you come out The Tunnel, get the kids to spot the first car driving on the "wrong" side of the road.

The ferry is frankly not a good alternative. Take all day, taxi transfers and the ferries are the cut price end of the market and do not cater for foot passengers.

Posted by
4 posts

Wow! Thank you everyone for the great tips! I'm not sure if I'll even be able to handle the flight from California to London, but I'm excited to be planning this trip! Wbfey1, you crack me up! You've comforted me already! So I can take my own bottle of wine and open it up and drink it?

Posted by
752 posts

So I can take my own bottle of wine and open it up and drink it?

You not only can, you SHOULD! Better yet, champagne. You're going to Paris, after all! Grab a bottle and some nice cheese and snacks at the M&S at St. Pancras.

Posted by
1249 posts

I can relate, but I love taking the Eurostar. The time in the dark tunnel is pretty short and I take a good book and pretend it is night time. I keep my eyes on the book and concentrate and suddenly the train car becomes light and you are in France and all is good.

Posted by
4660 posts

Don't mix Valium or other meds with booze, though.

But surely that's when they're at their best! ; )

I must confess to buying some Valium in Thailand (they sell pretty much anything over the counter!) for the return flight home via Mumbai. Popped it once on board the Mumbai to London flight and within minutes was fast asleep before waking just on the approach to London, blissfully unaware of any turbulence that would have had me white at the knuckles and praying to a god I don't believe in.

For the Eurostar however, not a problem. I'm more vertiginous than claustrophobic but I don't like confinement yet I found no issue with the crossing. It's so short and you really can take your mind off it by marvelling at the fact that you're travelling beneath the English Channel (or La Manche if you prefer). Before you know it you'll be exiting the tunnel and speeding through the French countryside.

Would I choose the ferry over the train? Absolutely not, the Eurostar wins hands down every time (unless of course I want to take my car across to stock up on cheap French wine).

Posted by
1804 posts

You'll do fine. It's a great experience.

Here's a couple of things to keep in mind. Standard class on the Eurostar is like business class on an airplane. The seats are large and comfortable. There's no need to spend more for premium seats.

Buying tickets in advance will really save you money. In May we traveled from Paris to London and by ordering in advance our tickets were a little more then $100 each. At the end of the week, some of my wife's business associates were going from London to Paris. They asked us about buying Eurostar tickets. I hope I didn't look too horrified when I discovered it was the day before their departure and they hadn't bought tickets yet. They ended up paying $250.00 a ticket because they needed to take one of the most popular departure times.

Posted by
464 posts

If the flight over (especially the part of the flight in the dark) does not result in you being tied to you chair in the plane then I don’t see much reason to have an issue with the train.

In both cases your stuck inside something you can’t get out of and in both cases you are in the dark.
But I suppose the thought of being under ground and water could be an issue. But realuse that they have an escape tunnel and the tunnel going the other way so in reality you can get out of the train if needed a lot easier then you can the plane,

If anything the train may be better because the cars have more room and you can get up and walk from one car the the next and go find the snack bar and such. So you actually have a left claustrophobic situation with the train.

But I know someone that is not claustrophobic but will not go underground for any reason. Be it a tunnel or a cave. But you could put them into a box that they can’t move in and they would not care. This person is so afraid of being “buried” that they are going to be cremated because even in death they don’t want to be underground. He really does no like to be in basements. Even walk outs. So I guess it depends on you person version of claustrophobia.

In my two trips on Eurostar I found that in many ways it was hard to notice when you were in the tunnel except it got dark. And even that I didn’t notice at first as I was reading a book. My traveling companion had to point it out to me.

So good luck and enjoy the trip.

Posted by
5697 posts

If you want to practice this beforehand, come to San Francisco and take BART under the bay to Oakland.

Posted by
4 posts

Thanks everyone! Truly appreciate it! Also, any suggestions on airfare? Trying to get the best deal from California to London.

Posted by
11286 posts

"Also, any suggestions on airfare? Trying to get the best deal from California to London."

Where in California? Which airport or airports can you fly out of? And what are your travel dates? Different departure airports and different dates will have different flight options and prices, so specifics matter.

To start, look at Google Flights or Kayak to get some ideas of prices. Almost everyone here prefers to book directly with the airline rather than a third party. However, not all third parties are created equal; some are reputable, others less so. If you can save a lot of money with a reputable third party, this can be a viable option.

As a general rule, people flying from the west coast to Europe who can't get a nonstop to their final destination much prefer NOT changing on the east coast or midwest. By going from the west coast to Europe in one go, you not only save time, but have a much better chance of sleeping on the plane, as well as having more options if there's a problem.

To London, there are nonstops from lots of western cities year-round (San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver, Phoenix, etc), as well as some, like Portland, with seasonal service. If you get a better price, you can also fly through Dublin via Aer Lingus or through Amsterdam via KLM, without much extra time expended.

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you so much for flight info. We'll be flying out of San Diego. Preferably a non stop. Crossing fingers!

Posted by
1249 posts

I also live in San Diego and am taking a short flight to LAX this fall and then Aer Lingus. I have taken Aer Lingus before and their economy section is the usual, but their business class is fabulous and usually less expensive than other airlines. I like to take business over so I can sleep and then economy back to save $$$$. Last year I took United to Chicago and then Aer Lingus and would NOT recommend that route. ORD is not my favorite airport and if I have to get stuck somewhere at least LAX is a close train or car ride home.