I have purchased train tickets from Delft to Brugge. There are 3 transfers Delft to Breda, Breda to Antwerp, Antwerp to Ghent, Ghent to Brugge. All segments are IC. The transfer in Breda is 5 minutes. There is a note, "NS International recommends all passengers to take enough time for changing trains. Take an earlier train to boarding station of your international train if possible". Does that mean that even though per my ticket, my train leaves at 11, I could get on an earlier train to Breda? There is one at 10:30.
Tickets from the Netherlands to Belgium or Luxembourg on Intercity or local trains (not Thalys) or vice versa:
You do not have to travel at a specific time. You do have to travel on the day on which your ticket is valid and via the route and border crossing shown on the ticket.
5 minutes is enough time to transfer if the trains are on time. If you miss a connection due to a delay you can always take the next train, but since trains from Breda to Antwerp are only once an hour that would indeed extend your trip by an hour.
With standard train tickets you buy the right to travel on a particular route, you do not buy a seat in a particular service. (There are no seat reservations on these trains anyway). So taking other trains on the same day is no issue. If you want to look around in Antwerp on the way you can do so. Have a look at your ticket: It will only show origin and departure, a date and a route, and not a particular train.
What I would do however is take the 10:49 to Rotterdam and change to the IC for Antwerpen there.
Did you buy an early bird ticket? I thought I remembered you were looking at getting that. With the early bird, I believe you do have to travel at the time on your ticket.
I booked this same route and time for Sept. 😊
That seems like a tedious trip, especially with luggage. It's another reminded to travelers who don't sketch out their trip on, say, Google Maps before they buy air tickets, that the Netherlands and Belgium are not the same country. And Brugge is a "spur" rail trip from almost anywhere.
[Edit: jules, of course I meant this "impersonally", not as a criticism]
I have found train platform signage to be very good in the Netherlands and Belgium, but on some local trains, I have had heard announcements that were only in Dutch. Once the locals told me they said "Get off this train and wait for the next one!" Not trying to scare you, it's not that hard to figure out.
jules, it seems likely to me that there are multiple trains an hour in Antwerp that go direct (not "non-stop") to Brugge, but in fairness, I haven't been there in ten years. You might do an un-ticketed search on the NMBS site, just to look into that. Most local trains in Belgium do not have end-of-car luggage racks, but only inadequate over-seat racks. I have sometimes had to sit on my bags in the (huge) vestibule of a double-decker commuter car, where someone with a bicycle might stand.
If I am wrong, you might do better traveling through Brussels, where all three Brussels stations should have trains to Brugge many times an hour.
@Tim, Thanks for your concern. Our entire trip is 3.5 weeks. We absolutely know that the Netherlands and Belgium are not the same country, we were not interested in spending almost a month in either country. I showed your response to my husband who said, this person does not know your process. I work with google maps. I actually have a large piece of paper with all the travel times mapped out for every city that we are interested in. My itinerary was planned before I purchased my airline tickets. We travel light and are used to train travel. We are using Brugge and Delft for home bases to make day trips from, and obviously there is not going to be a direct train route between these smaller cities. Brussels is out of the way from Delft to Brugge, and navigating a large station is more time consuming than a small station, anyway. At Antwerp we have a longish connection and I'm delighted to be able to see that train station.
I am not scared or concerned about that day of train travel. We've traveled by train in many countries in Europe. I'm not all that concerned about making the connection, I'm not concerned about finding platforms. The reason I asked is because I found that sentence on my train receipt. I had wanted to buy a 9:30 ticket but they were sold out at the lower price. It would appear, that I can take that route anyway. All I want to know is if I'm tied to the times on the ticket I purchased, because I had wanted to take the earlier itinerary. The link that Don provided has all the information we need.
Looking at the SNCB train site, routes from Brugge to Antwerp do go thru Ghent.
@WengenK, When I purchased the ticket on NS, I choose the ticket/route with the lowest price relative to travel time. I could have picked a route with Thayls for one of the legs but it was much more expensive and only saved a half hour. I think what you suggest is probably a good idea, but my understanding now is that, my ticket requires me to follow the route on my itinerary and on that specific day, but not necessarily at the same times. If I can use Rotterdam, it doesn't look to decrease my number of connections.
@Carrie, I thought you might be doing the same route, you and I kind of discussed that thru the forum a month or so ago. I'm not sure if my fare was an early bird fare, I paid 53 Euro for the both of us for Delft to Brugge. Total time 3 hours. You're right, I thought we had to travel at the specific times booked, but my receipt had that sentence that I stated in my query, and the link Don provided and what Wengen says does seem to confirm I can travel at any time.
It seems that you bought a ticket at the Early Bird fare. Tickets for the international Intercity trains to Belgium were not tied to a specific train on a specific time. Until recently!!!
To manage the crowds on these very busy international trains, a ticket bought at Early Bird fare is tied to a specific train. Given the fare you paid, you have an early bird ticket. However this only applies to the part of your journey that’s actually international. In your case that’s the train from Breda to Antwerp. The train from Delft to Breda and from Antwerp to Bruges are domestic trains. It remains possible to take any domestic train, but you must take the specific international train going from Breda to Antwerp. That’s why it’s stated on your ticket that you can (or should) take an earlier train.
So to recap;
Delft-Breda; take any train you want
Breda-Antwerp: must take the train you booked
Antwerp-Bruges: take any train you want.
@Dutch Traveler. Thanks for that information! Bummer, I thought maybe I could get to Brugge earlier. I think I may still take an earlier train from Delft just to make doubly sure we make that Breda train. Looks like NS International needs to do some updating on their website. I appreciate your assistance on this.
@Carrie, you were right! ;)
A couple of comments about some remarks made in this thread;
“ Brussels is out of the way from Delft to Brugge,”
It may seem out of the way on Google maps, but in terms of train travel times it really isn’t. Also in your opening post you didn’t mention anything about luggage. For those with luggage it can actually be much more convenient to travel via Brussel because it means one less connection at Ghent. So it really isn’t that odd that someone here would mention this to you.
“ and navigating a large station is obviously more time consuming than a small station. At Antwerp we have a longish connection and I'm delighted to be able to see that train station.”
I think you underestimate the size and complexity of Antwerp train station. Yes, it’s a beautiful train station and yes, I do think it’s worth a visit. But it’s much more difficult to navigate than the train stations in Brussels. The platforms in the train stations in Brussels are all on the same level. You arrive, make your way to the central hall connecting all platforms and locate your next platform.
At Antwerp train station, trains depart on 3 different levels. The international trains arrive on the lowest level, domestic trains leave from other levels. The signage isn’t always that clear and on more occasions than not I have found the escalators to be out of use.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t train via Antwerp, definitely not. But I feel you were perhaps a bit to quick to dismiss Tim’s excellent advice. I know the train stations in Brussels and Antwerp quite well and if I were to travel to Bruges with more than 1 piece of luggage I would definitely go via Brussels.
@Dutch Traveler, I did map out the routes between Bruges and Antwerp on both google and SNCB, most of them do go through Ghent. I would have looked at routing at least twice so I looked at it in terms of travel between the two countries and also when I was planning day trips. And I didn't just visualize the route thru Brussels. I looked at SNCB and honestly, it didn't gain me much. I do understand your point regarding the size of the Antwerp station and the number of trains that go thru both Antwerp and Brussels. I am going to save your response and review and use it the day that we go thru Antwerp. In the end, I can only purchase the itineraries that NS International is selling, especially if I want the better prices. Additionally, the tickets are purchased, so even if I wanted to make changes, I'm not sure I could. I will say that as someone that extensively plans my itineraries and researches various transportation options, that to be told that I'm just another person that thinks Belgium and the Netherlands are the same country and that I purchased airline and train tickets without looking at a map, did make me less inclined to take the suggestions. We travel with one rolling carry on suitcase, each. I didn't say anything about my luggage in my query because the question was can I take train times other than what is specified in the itinerary purchased.
I get so many private messages from people that are afraid to post on the general forum because of negative responses. When I respond, I feel like its unfortunate because if the query were on the general forum the information would be available to more people. Now, I'm feeling like I may start to do more PMing.
For traditional international train tickets what matters is that you cross the border at the correct spot, as that is used to determine how much of your fare goes to each participating train company. Other than that you are allowed to take any routing that is permitted for local domestic trains.
With traditional tickets you also do not buy a ticket for a particular train. In the past we bought train tickets without even knowing the schedule, as our local train station did not have all the timetables of all of Europe. But they did have the distance tables, so could calculate the price, and that is all that was needed.
So even when starting a purchase by selecting a train out of a list of trains, that does not automatically entail that you have bought a ticket for that train. It is just used so that the booking system knows what you want to do and can find the right ticket. So have a look at the ticket. If it is an self print electronic ticket it will have 3 areas. The ticket area at the top, the "certificate area" down the right hand side (that is where the QR code is) and then the rest is just decoration. The ticket at the top is in the form of a grid that mimics the paper tickets of old. That is where you see route and validity data. If your ticket is only valid for a particular train it should be mentioned there.
If your ticket is flexible the only thing that matters is that you cross the border at Hazeldonk. You can take any legal route there so boarding the IC to Brussels in Rotterdam is perfectly legal.
Thanks Wengen, looking at the email and the ticket, I feel it is not very clear. There is the statement I quoted in the original query that was on the email. The ticket itself says From Delft to Zone Brugge., then "Early Bird", "Only valid on the listed IC train, not valid in Thalys and Eurostar, Valid in IC direct without supplement" Then it says, "your train connection(s), 11:42 Breda and 12:16, Antwerpen", it does say nothing about Ghent. Then in the list of conditions, there is this statement, "You can travel with any Intercity or regional train, provided that you adhere to the travel day, the route (border point), fare conditions and possible international off-peak. . ." and then says, "An Early Bird ticket is only valid on your booked train, route and date state on your ticket." Seems to me those two statements contradict each other.
I liked your idea of going to Rotterdam, but the only thing I'm sure of (I think, ;) is that I have to take the train, Breda to Antwerpen. It's not that big of a deal to just follow the itinerary, though I do like the thought of taking an earlier train from Delft.
Jules, not sure if this will help or not, but I just took a look at my ticket. I am 100% sure I bought an early bird as I picked that option when purchasing. When looking at the ticket in the app, it says at the bottom “Early Bird.”
When looking at the email I received after the purchase, it has the same message that you have:
NS International recommends all passengers to take enough time for changing trains. Take an earlier train to the boarding station of your international train if possible.
Then it shows my times and connections. And under that it says: Please note: An Early Bird ticket is only valid in the booked train. On this train you have free seating in the booked class.
Then further down, it says this:
DELFT - BRUGGE
1 x Adult met tarief Early Bird 1st class
BREDA - ANTWERPEN-CENTRAAL
1 x Adult with tariff with train binding
So, mine clearly shows it is an early bird ticket. Can you check your ticket in the app?
@Carrie, yes, I have an early bird ticket. It has the conditions stated above in my comment to Wengen. I think they contradict each other, but its not that big of a deal to just follow the ticket. When I initially asked the question, it was to ascertain if I could take the earlier route that I couldn't get an early bird ticket for. I'm not sure about the rest of the itinerary, but it seems quite clear that we must take the 11:42 train from Breda to Antwerp. So I can leave Delft earlier, but I won't be able to get to Brugge earlier, anyway.
It seems that WengenK is not up to speed about the recent rule change with regards to the Early bird tickets. These rules are explained on the website of NS International, the operator of the train.
The new rules now specially state that the Early bird fare is tied to a specific train on a specific time.
This is what it says on the website;
“ Early Bird tickets are bought for a specific train. Want more flexibility? Then book the full-flex fare, this ticket is valid all day”
So for the sake of clarity for Jules M, let me repeat;
Delft-Breda; take any train you want
Breda-Antwerp: must take the train you booked
Antwerp-Bruges: take any train you want.
I am aware of the new restrictions on the Early Bird ticket (which is why I asked about that).
Delft - Brugge brings back some memories to me. I grew up in Belgium near Brugge, and studied in Delft. I've done that route tons of times in those days, and have passed through Antwerpen numerous times when they were remodelling it, which was quite impressive. (Especially to an engineering student like me).
Regarding the train binding: It is quite common that this is only applied tot the main long distance train of the trip, in this case the ICBA (Intercity Brussels - Amsterdam), and it appears only the Breda - Antwerpen part is fixed. Up till Breda any train can be taken, so boarding the ICBA in Rotterdam is perfectly fine, as long as you board the same one as the one you would have boarded in Breda.
So we are currently on our way to France. However, I thought I’d provide updates on out travel experience in the Netherlands and Belgium.
1. Trains in the Netherlands appear to be delayed on a somewhat frequent basis.
2. On our arrival day, we spent a half day in Amsterdam and then went to Harlem. When we got to Amsterdam Central we discovered that all trains to Haarlem were cancelled for track work. We had to take a train to a different station and then head to a bus pick up (with a long line)
3. The credit card tap in/out works great for trains, less so for buses. Several times I was unable to tap out.
4. Some small train stations (like Haarlem) do not seem to have employees. There are information poles with a “live” operator. We had a very positive experience with the helpful operator.
5. When we left Delft for Bruges, we decided that with train delays, there was no way we’d trust that we’d get to the international train on time. We had about 5 minutes to change so we decided to get take an earlier train. Then when we got to the station, all trains to Breda were cancelled due to an accident. The train employee told us to go to Rotterdam. She said we could take any trains we wanted, even the international leg. I confirmed this with another train employee in Rotterdam. It didn’t just apply to our day of travel. Both employees said it is always the case that passengers could take the trains at any time. (Incidentally, the international train to Antwerp was about 20 minutes late).
6. For our trip Bruges to Lille, France. The hotel staff told us that 10 minutes to transfer to the TGV in Brussels Midi was not enough time. So we took an earlier train out of Bruges. It looked like at least 10 people did not make our TGV train. They got to the train before it left, but they were not let on.
We bought both sets of tickets online in advance from the Netherlands and Belgium train sites in order to get the saver rates. The itinerary for trains and transfers are selected by the train company during the online process. Passenger only selects origin, destination and then picks from a list of times and prices.
Lastly, not directly train related, but, we wished we’d stopped in Gent for the evening instead of doing Gent as a day trip. It was neither time efficient or cost effective to do Gent on a day trip from Bruce. Buses to and from the train station were 2.5 euros. The train station was about 1.3 miles minimum from the city center in both towns. Plus, there is the train cost.
On the other hand, we did a day trip to Den Haag from Delft that worked really well for us. We took the train to Den Haag H S, walked to Van Kleef to taste Jenever and then walked to the Peace Palace and took the tram back to Delft.
Carrie, I hope you see this. Otherwise, will send a message.
Hi Juli, I appreciate the info. Thanks for taking the time to give a quick report of your experience. Not what I like to hear about the trains. Sounds like you ran into a bit of bad luck with track work and an accident.
Like you, I plan to take the earlier train from Delft for the first leg onto Bruges.
Any crowds anywhere?
Hope you have a great rest of your trip!!
Carrie, we did have some bad luck, but it all worked out. The biggest issue, was again, bad luck. It was 90 degrees In Amsterdam and Haarlem. Delft was fairly hot, too.
Delft wasn’t at all crowded, Bruges was very crowded tho we were there Thursday thru Sunday so that was part of it, I’m sure. None of the churches or museums were crowded, however.
The streets in Gent got pretty crowded.
Another comment on trains, they were hot, too. I don’t think there is AC except in 1st class.
“The credit card tap in/out works great for trains, less so for buses. Several times I was unable to tap out.”
Can you please clarify this? Why couldn’t you check out on the bus? There are usually 2 check in/out terminals at every entrance and exit on the bus. So if one terminal wasn’t working, you should have been able to use another one.
One tip regarding tapping out on Dutch busses. Don't wait till you are getting off. You can tap out as you are waiting at the door. The system automatically charges you till the next stop, even if you tap out slightly early.