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Train from Lille, France to Amsterdam vs rental car drop-off fees

Later this year, we will be traveling from Paris via Normandy and Bruges to Amsterdam, and we were planing to have a rental car for the entire trip. The rental car drop-off fees seem excessive (e.g., $57/day for Sixt), so as an alternative I was considering that we could back-track slightly from Bruges to drop off the car in Lille, France, and then just take a train from Lille to Amsterdam. But it appears that train travel from Lille to Amsterdam would involve a couple of transfers and would be very expensive. Am I wrong? Is there a better plan?

Posted by
16165 posts

Go to the Thalys website.
There are a couple of direct trains from Lille Europe station to Amsterdam Centraal with advance purchase nonrefundable tickets for 29 euro per person. Tickets go on sale 3 months before the departure date, so that is when you should buy to make sure you can get the sale price. There is a Sixt location at Lille Europe station.

Posted by
9110 posts

Sam's train scoop looks about right for the money part and is dead accurate for the routing.

You've got some kind of bogus number for your car info. Drop-off cost isn't expressed in dollars per day. What you do is look at the total cost when dropping it in the country in which you picked it up - - that's the basic cost of the car for the period. Next you look at the total cost of dropping it in another nation. The difference between the two totals is the second-country drop-off cost.

Compare Sam's cost (times the number of people) to whatever number you get from the preceding paragraph and you'll have your money answer. You'll have to figure your own time and pleasure cost by looking at how long it takes to get back to Lille from Bruges and what you may have wanted to see between Bruges and Amsterdam.

You seem adverse to trains for some reason. If you aren't, you might want to consider dropping the car in France and taking the train to Bruges enroute to Amsterdam.

Another option is to keep the car the whole time and drop it back in France after making one big loop. The drawback is the uselessness of a car in Amsterdam and the outrageous parking cost unless you use an outlying lot.

For the lurkers: This is an example of needing to look at the whole journey before committing to any portion of it. It's also an example of why mixed modes of transportation and open jaw sometimes makes no sense at all.

Posted by
4949 posts

I agree with the previous posts. I'll add that, having done so, I don't recommend dropping off a car inside the city of Amsterdam. There are a host of narrow bridges, curving, one-way, obstructed roads, in addition to the usual urban hazards of trucks dropping-off cargo, black-cars dropping off swells, and prohibited turns!

While I agree that a car is a convenient way to get from Normandy to Bruges, you are selling-short the excellent Belgian rail system. I suggest you consider adding another Belgian city to your trip, to make the Amsterdam train departure even more convenient. However, having taken the train from Antwerp to Lille, FR, I would describe it as slow and tedious.

A better idea might be to drop the car in Lille and take the Eurostar (or local trains) to Brussels (... I don't know if Eurostar sells that short journey. I know that the Chunnel trip from London to Brussels stops in Lille ... ), and take an easy daytrip to Bruges. Naturally, that requires denying the frequent statement that an overnight in the "most romantic" city in Europe is a must. But I don't feel that way about Bruges myself. I find Antwerp more attractive than Brussels, but trains are more frequent in Brussels. If it suits your needs, I think there is one daily no-change Amsterdam train in Antwerp.

Posted by
108 posts

Thanks, everyone, for all the great suggestions. I've traveled in Europe several times, and always used a rental car for flexibility and freedom, and also because I like driving in Europe. On a few occasions I have dropped off the rental car in a different location than where I picked it up, sometimes in a different country, and I felt that the drop-off fee (typically a few hundred dollars) in those cases was well worth it, for the best itinerary. But this is the first time that I am seeing (at least, at the Sixt car rental site) the drop-off fee quoted "per day" rather than a flat fee for the rental. Pick-up in Paris and drop-off in Amsterdam had a drop-off fee of about $57/day. Pick-up in Paris and drop-off in Lille had a drop-off fee of about $12/day. And for the heck of it I looked at pick-up in Paris and drop-off in Rome and that gave a drop-off fee of about $130/day! Again, this was all with Sixt. I looked at another car rental site (can't remember which one) and they simply gave the total rental car fee including drop-off fee. But anyway, thanks very much for the info about the trains, this was much better than what I had found. But I'm also still thinking, with the train fare for four people and the inconvenience of being constrained to a train schedule, simply driving on to Amsterdam and paying a few hundred dollars for the drop-off might be worth it. Still not quite decided. Guess I'm not a big fan of train travel. Also, I've driven in Bruges and Amsterdam before and didn't find it too bad.

Posted by
1147 posts

We did this in reverse in 2012. We rode a bus from Amsterdam to Lille, picked up our car and drove up to Bruges. Then we spent 3 weeks traveling in France. The bus was very inexpensive (less than $30.00 for 2 people), but took 6 hours versus 3 hours by train. We enjoyed the bus trip, so we did not mind. My sister and he husband are taking the bus from Amsterdam to Paris in September. 18 euros for 2 people. Just another option to look at.