Just as the United Kingdom pulls away from Europe, the train service to the UK from the Netherlands starts up. Typical. Hopefully, Brexit won’t have any effect on the brand-spanking-new Eurostar service from Amsterdam to the heart of London. Fingers crossed! Unfortunately, the new service isn’t entirely up and running as the Netherlands and the United Kingdom still need to come to an agreement regarding customs and security. This means that enroute to London, you have to change over in Brussels. More on that later. On the way back, it’s a direct ride straight from London St Pancras station to Brussels, Rotterdam, and Amsterdam.
I took the Eurostar from the Netherlands to London last week. My first mistake was booking from Amsterdam instead of Rotterdam. My second mistake was booking the first train leaving Amsterdam just after 6 a.m. The problem? I can’t get to Amsterdam at that time using public transportation. I spent thirty minutes searching the Eurostar website to find out if I could embark in Rotterdam instead. Finally, I gave up and called. It took the operator a few minutes to confirm that I could indeed jump on the train in Rotterdam. Phew!
All went well on my outgoing voyage until I arrived in Brussels. I thought Eurostar was exaggerating when they recommended arriving 45 minutes in advance of departure. They weren’t! By the time I scanned my ticket, went through security and then two passport controls, I only had a few minutes to board the train. I just sat down when the conductor announced the train would be leaving in a few minutes!
Having started my journey before 6 a.m., I was getting thirsty by the time the train departed Brussels. This is when I learned my first lesson of traveling with Eurostar. Always bring snacks and drinks! I waited nearly an hour in line to buy a drink. (On a side note, I also purchased an Oyster card which did save some time when I arrived in London.)
I was a bit worried about traveling in the Chunnel. After all, elevators scare me! Surely, being in a tunnel under the English Channel would totally freak me out. Not at all. I’d forgotten that trains continuously go through tunnels. The Chunnel was just longer than normal. If you ignored the darkness outside, it was no big deal. It didn’t hurt that you can get up and walk around the train while you’re traveling through the Chunnel.
Arriving at St Pancras Station in London is pretty great. In addition to being a railroad station, it hosts an underground station. I merely walked off the train, through the hallway (oh look! English language bookstores!), scanned my Oyster card and before I knew it, I was sitting on the tube heading to my hotel!
The return journey was even better. After the hustle and bustle of the Brussels station, I arrived early at St Pancras Station. It was nearly like taking a flight. I couldn’t ‘check-in’ until 45 minutes before departure. Once the gates opened, it went quite quickly. There were several lanes open so a bottleneck (think Brussels) was avoided. I even ended up with a few minutes to sit and catch my breath before boarding the train.
On a side note, make sure your phone has plenty of data left as the WIFI wasn’t working on any part of my journey. Also, there are plug-ins everywhere, so you’ll want to pack your charger in an accessible area. Mine was buried in my suitcase, but I always carry a powerbank.
So, will I book Eurostar again or will I go back to flying? Despite the pain of the changeover in Brussels and the longer actual journey time compared to flying (3 ½ hour train journey vs. a 70-minute flight), I will. The journey itself is much calmer than flying. No need to remain seated with your seatbelt buckled! There’s also no need to go to the airport an hour or two in advance. There’s no worry of how much my luggage weighs and no limit on liquids. Plus, you arrive smack dab in London. I’m looking forward to my next trip already!