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Train help needed!

Hi all,
Planning our first time to the Netherlands (Amsterdam) and Belgium (staying in Ghent with day trips to Bruges, Brussels, etc.) and I’m so confused about the trains. Help!
My plan is to arrive in Amsterdam Schiphol Airport at 8am and take the train to Ghent for 4 nights to see Belgium before returning to Amsterdam for another 4 nights to see the area.

I was thinking of taking the Intercity train from Schiphol via Antwerp to avoid possibly missing the Eurostar due to an unforeseen delay somewhere here, there, or in between. This seems straightforward enough…will buy tickets at the train station. We obviously can’t check in early in Ghent, so the trip will not be a rush.
My issue is returning from Ghent to Amsterdam Centraal. It seems the only option is IC train Ghent to Antwerp and then Eurostar Antwerp to Amsterdam CS but with only a 7 min connection and arriving on track 1 and departing from track 22! Seems like a tight connection being that we’ll be unfamiliar with the station and if missed will be out the price of the Eurostar ticket. Thoughts??
Thank you for any advice!

Posted by
7025 posts

Where are you getting your routes from? I'm using NS International and finding lots of options for Ghent to Amsterdam. I took that same route back in 2018 and had no problems with train travel along that route.

And is there some reason you need to take the Eurostar? For example, you can take an IC train with a transfer in Antwerp. I found several with 20 minute connections. Without knowing the date and time, it's hard to approximate, but here is a dummy request for a random day in mid-April. Check it out and then replicate using your own dates.

https://www.nsinternational.com/en/traintickets-v3/#/search/BEGNT/NLASC/20240418/0525/0832?pax=A

Posted by
56 posts

Thanks, yeah I think I was all over the place with trying to figure it out and wound up confusing myself. I will definitely use the IC trains. Thanks again!

Posted by
2857 posts

Another option is to take an earlier train to Antwerp to allow for more time in making the connection. That’s what I did.

You might find the public transportation section of my recent trip report helpful as I provide tips for traveling in both Belgium and the Netherlands.

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/trip-reports/solo-in-the-netherlands-and-belgium-my-trip-report

I found traveling in both countries to be super easy. All the train stations have easy to spot signs directing you to the correct platform. And if you are unsure, don't hesitate to ask.

Posted by
7722 posts

Yes, you are overthinking things, it really is simple.

First, you have no need for Eurostar trains for your route, it may save you a few minutes, but at a higher cost and loss of flexibility.

If you like, you can purchase your Schiphol to Ghent ticket on the NS International App before hand, you are prompted to pick a train, but are free to take any IC, City Hopper, or Regional train leaving toward Rotterdam or Antwerp that day. Change as needed, and the same all the way to Antwerp and Ghent. You will definitely need to change trains in Antwerp, sometimes also in Rotterdam or Breda. You can look at the schedule when you arrive and choose the best option. (sometimes the train leaving soonest is not the fastest or easiest route)

Do the same in reverse, you can still use the NS International App, since the journey ends in the Netherlands.

By buying even just under a week ahead, you get a discounted rate, fares are slightly higher for weekend days. For regular fares, it is maybe around 40 euro pp, the discounted fare closer to 30 euro.

Have fun!

Posted by
56 posts

Thank you all for your thoughts! Much appreciated!