London -> Haarlem via Eurostar +

I am traveling from London to Haarlem to pick up the RS 21 day tour at the end of August. Looking at the schedule on the SCNB Europe site, it looks like the best route is to take the Eurostar to Brussels Midi, change to a Thalys to Rotterdam and then an IC to Haarlem. I have looked at the map of the Brussels Midi Station and it looks like the Eurostar uses Tracks #1&2 and Thalys 5-8, so essentially right next to each other. I have 42 minutes for that transfer. I took a look at the Rotterdam Station and see 16 platforms. The change time there is 5 minutes which I assume is doable if I move quickly. I have not booked a train trip with connections before, so my question is...am I missing anything or does it look doable?

Thanks!

Posted by Rachel
Washington
229 posts

Pam,
I just made almost the same trip a few weeks ago but went to Delft via Rotterdam instead of to Haarlem.

Differences between UK and NL I noticed...in NL the overhead will only list destination and train time not train number. There should be plenty of trains between Rdam and Haarlem. If you miss yours check the easy to read print train schedules posted under glass. Check by time then destinations served. As long as your train is IC out of Rdam and not hi-speed I think you can travel on a similar train at a different time as long as you have a ticket. I was a little flustered in Rdam trying to find my track when a local pointed the schedules out to me. I think you can do it in five minutes if you hoof it but again should be plenty of trains if you miss yours.

In Brussels the WCs cost 50 cents euro to use. (The station is sort of dim and grim but they have good coffee in the "organic" cafe (forgot name of it) near the pharmacy in the center hallway with tall glass windows. And 42 minutes is plenty of time there.

And if I just told you stuff you already know, apologies! :)

Posted by Pam
Troy, Idaho, USA
1981 posts

Rachel, thanks so much! No I didn't know any of this, so I appreciate it very much. May I ask which website you booked your tickets thru and were you able to book all 3 segments at one time? I was a little confused because I did not think you could book the IC trains ahead of time. I will also look at the routing you took too.

I will have change for the bathroom as well! lol!

Did you take the 21 day tour and did you have a wonderful time? Or, actually I see you went to Delft instead of Haarlem so maybe you didn't do the 21 day.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
4868 posts

Here's the Man In Seat 61's page on traveling between London and the Netherlands: http://www.seat61.com/Netherlands.htm#.U4IUdyiGd8E

If you scroll down to "London to other destinations in the Netherlands" (it's almost at the bottom), you will see ALL the details about various options. The one that caught my eye is this:

*
"By Eurostar to any Dutch station from €60! It's back!! The popular ticket from London to Any Dutch Station by Eurostar and connecting InterCity train (not valid on high-speed Thalys), one-way from €60, return from €119. But it's currently only bookable, in either direction, at the Dutch railways website http://www.nshispeed.nl. You print your own tickets. In the search results you can compare prices with faster options via Thalys high-speed trains, and make a choice on speed versus price."
*

Posted by Rachel
Washington
229 posts

Pam,
I booked my Eurostar tickets on the Eurostar website. All others, including Thalys, on Rail Europe. For ES and Thalys you'll get a carriage and seat number. For regular IC trains like Rdam to Haarlem it will likely just be a ticket--no seat assignment. You do not need to validate tickets in Belgium or NL as you would in France. Thalys has it's own area and information desk at Midi-Zuid.

You can check schedules and connections on the DBahn site or Rail Europe site.

Another heads up, many of the IC trains in NL are bi-level so you may have to walk up or down a few steps to get to the seats on the train.

I did not do the 21 day but have been on other RS tours. I enjoyed them all!

Posted by Pam
Troy, Idaho, USA
1981 posts

Thank you both so much!

Harold, I was aware of the seat61 site, but I confess I got caught up on the rail sites yesterday and forgot to look at it so thanks so much for heading me in that direction. That pricing is awesome. I will look at it from the Dutch rail site and see what I can find. I really appreciate it. My travel date is 92 days out so I think I might have left it too late and missed the cheapest seats. I will check the cheaper vs faster figures. It also occurred to me that I should check the price all the way to Amsterdam and then catch the short hop back to Haarlem.

Rachel, I didn't know about the bi-level-ness of the NL trains. Since I returned to international travel last year after a many year hiatus, I have only traveled on UK trains which were not bi-level.

I appreciate your taking the time to help.

Posted by Laura
Rick Steves' Europe
8647 posts

My first choice would be to fly from London to Amsterdam on Easy Jet for about $60, plus an airport connection on each end.

Posted by Pam
Troy, Idaho, USA
1981 posts

Thanks Laura for chiming in. I particularly wanted to do the Eurostar (nutty, right?).

I wound up fiddling with the websites noted by Harold and wound up booking thru the SCNB train site. I did not get the cheapest fare, but realized for about 8€ more I could do one less change than what was currently showing on the schedule by taking the Thalys from Brussels Midi to Amsterdam Centraal and then doing the short hop back to Haarlem. The other day I came up with a routing showing just 2 changes with Eurostar/Thalys/IC but couldn't find that one again. The time will be about the same since there are so many trains leaving Centraal for Haarlem.

I also booked the old person fare. I could not find any information on whether that fare is restricted to UK or EU residents, so I went ahead and booked.

Anyway, reservation done, ticket printed and filed in the Big Trip file, lol!

Thanks for the help.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
12338 posts

Be sure to get to St Pancras International in London in plenty of time to check in on time.

Eurostar always strictly enforce a minimum 30 minute check in, and recent experience suggests that travelers who have 45 to 60 minutes are much happier. The deadline is when you are actually checked in, not when you are in the line to check in, and sometimes the checkin lines can be quite long.

As soon as you pass through the checkin you will go through a security check, then immigration and customs, then wait until your train is called before you go up the travelator up to your train. Be aware of what carriage (car) number you are in - the friendly folk at each door will help you get to the right place.

If you are doing the Thalys from Brussels there is a shortcut passage as you get off the Eurostar. If you miss it there is no problem; you just go downstairs like everybody else, and back up again to the Thalys platform.

Enjoy your journey

Posted by Pam
Troy, Idaho, USA
1981 posts

Thanks Nigel. I will look for the short cut when I get to Brussels. I am traveling on the August Bank Holiday and am usually compulsively early! I will get a taxi and am staying in the Victoria area. I was thinking that if I left my hotel at 7 for the 8:58 Eurostar departure that would give me way more time than I need. Is that right? I will want to poke around St Pancras a bit and pick up some food for the trip.

Posted by Rachel
Washington
229 posts

Pam,

Have a great trip! While it may make for a longer day than flying, I love traveling by rail, seeing the landscape and marveling at the massive wind turbines. (Northern France's farmland is particularly gorgeous.). For so many Americans mourning the loss of a decent rail infrastructure (I'm too young to remember the pre-AMTRAK days), there's a thrill to the efficiency of train travel. It may sound goofy to those who live in the UK or Europe, but I get a kick out of the sight of a cluster of travelers standing at Kings Cross, necks craned upwards waiting for the track numbers to appear. Only thing missing in the digital age is the great "tchtchtchtch" sound of the train board switching over. :)

Posted by Pam
Troy, Idaho, USA
1981 posts

Rachel, really, really just laughed out loud. I remember sitting in the departure lounge in Heathrow in the early 70s and being mesmerised by the tchk-tchk-tchk as the destinations rolled around. Wow, all those places I had never even heard of.

You hit the nail on the head about reasons for wanting to travel by train. I don't enjoy it here, but yes, all part of the experience there!

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
4868 posts

"Only thing missing in the digital age is the great "tchtchtchtch" sound of the train board switching over. :)"

You can still experience this in New York's Penn Station and Philadelphia's 30th Street Station, among other places. On the Boston to Washington corridor, the trains still run very frequently and LOTS of people still take them (particularly from New York to Washington, don't count on too many empty seats).