Navigating through the high hills and lowlands of Europe could be a life-altering experience; with nature boasting about its grandeur on one hand, and cultural diversity blending across the continent on the other. However, the two undisputed cornerstones of Europe – London and Paris whisk thousands of tourists each year into their enchantment.
Since trains have been the most quintessential way of travelling in Europe, the Eurostar gives you with the best of both worlds, by offering an unmatched service across borders so that you can grab a window-seat and admire the beauty of the countryside.
1. What is the Eurostar?
The Eurostar is a popular high-speed railway service that transverses the Channel Tunnel, and connects London to various European cities like Paris, Brussels, Avignon, Marseille, Lille and Lyon. Commenced in the 1980s, the Eurostar has been one of the most preferred ways of shuttling between these destinations.
2. What is the speed of the Eurostar?
The Eurostar aces in Speed, Distance and Time. Known for its speediness, the Eurostar line travels at 300km/hour, making it extremely fast and convenient for travelers. For example, the 495 km distance between London and Paris is covered in a timeframe of 2 hours and 15 minutes. The train flashes through the adjoining cities, thus becoming the ideal method of transportation.
3. Which countries does the Eurostar travel through?
The Eurostar, also known as the Chunnel Train, travels through multiple destinations in Belgium, France, The Netherlands and United Kingdom. However, that doesn’t restrict you to visit an adjoining country. For example, if you choose to travel to Germany, the Eurostar service allows you to purchase a ticket of your desired destination, such as Frankfurt, Berlin, Cologne, etc. The ticket lets you alight from the train at Brussels, which is the closest station, and board a train to a German station marked in the circuit via another high-speed train, like ICE or Thalys within that day. The ticket cost covers the charges of the connecting train.
*route map – www.raileasy.co.uk
4. Where can I buy my Eurostar ticket?
The easiest way to buy your Eurostar ticket is by directly purchasing it online on www.eurostar.com. Since the booking window opens 6 months prior to departure, you may choose your travel dates and seats with ease. You can opt for paying for your tickets via a debit card (no charges) or a credit card (nominal charge).
You may also buy your tickets over a phone call; the numbers for which are:
08432 186 186 (UK) or +44 1233 617575 (overseas).
In both cases, once your booking is confirmed, you can print your ticket at home or use your booking reference number and collect your ticket from any of the Eurostar stations before boarding.
If you want to travel beyond any of the Eurostar stations, it is recommended to book your ticket for the onward journey together with the Eurostar ticket.
5. What is the price of a Eurostar ticket?
The Eurostar has a dynamic pricing system. The cost of the tickets escalate as the day of departure comes closer; much like the airfares. One-way or return tickets can be purchased across 3 classes – Standard Class (2nd class), Standard Premier (1st class) or Business Premier (1st class Business). The prices and amenities in each of the classes differ. A basic 2nd class one-way ticket from London to Paris on an average costs about €45. Where as a return ticket in the Business Premier class may cost up to €490.
Unlike the Eurail, there are no separate reservation fees. While purchasing a Eurostar ticket, you are ensured a seat which is included in the train fare.
6. How can I get cheaper Eurostar tickets?
Since the prices of tickets may get very steep, the Eurostar runs multiple offers and deals throughout the year, that can be found on www.eurostar.com. The simplest way to purchase tickets at a relatively lower rate is by booking your tickets 180 days in advance. The early bird discounts generally give the best deals. Other than that, it is recommended that you book your tickets for weekdays, thus avoiding the busy and crowded weekend rush. The cheapest return ticket of €58 can only be availed between midday Monday to midnight Thursday.
Children below 4 years of age can travel for free by the Eurostar. However, they must be accompanied by adults.
7. What are the different categories of a Eurostar ticket?
The Eurostar tickets fall under 3 main categories.
- Non-flexible: These type of tickets are non-refundable and cannot be exchanged.
- Semi-flexible: These tickets can be refunded or exchanged before and up to 2 months after departure. The difference of fare with the next available ticket must be paid, along with a fee of €33.
- Fully flexible: These are Business Premier tickets that have the leeway of being fully refunded or exchanged before and up to 2 months after departure.
8. What amenities do the Eurostar trains provide to their passengers?
The Eurostar is a train service that falls under a unique league of comfort and convenience. Depending upon the class you travel in, the Eurostar ensures a good set of amenities for a cushy and enjoyable journey.
The 2nd class comes with an access to two café-bars, a fully carpeted and well-lit coach, and free wi-fi in the newer trains. This is ideal for bag-packers and those who travel on stringent budgets.
The 1st class is for leisure, and travelers enjoy an easy 30-minute check-in, along with a more spacious coach, with partially reclining seats, as they savour a complimentary light meal and one round of drinks. In addition to this, they gain access to free wi-fi in the newer trains.
The Business Premier class, as the name suggests, is for those who like to travel in style. This class offers you a fully flexible ticket, 10-minute fast track check-in, access to free wi-fi and a sumptuous meal and drink of your choice. Travelers also gain access to the premium business lounges.
9. Is there a check-in procedure for the Eurostar?
Yes. The Eurostar has a check-in procedure similar to airlines. The check-in opens 1 to 2 hours before the train departs. Passengers must check-in at least 30 minutes prior to departure. (10 minutes for Business Premier travelers). In order to check-in, passengers need to place the barcode on their tickets against the scanner on the automatic ticketing gates at the entrance of the departure lounge. You may also use a staff check-in method, in case you want to change the seat already allocated to you, subject to availability.
Post check-in, all the luggage undergoes an X-Ray scanner and a regular security check. Once you have arrived at your destination, there is no hassle of immigration formalities, unlike those at the airports.
10. What is the baggage allowance on the Eurostar?
Fortunately, there are no weight restrictions on the luggage you carry in the Eurostar trains. However, there is a size restrain. Passengers are allowed to carry 2 pieces of luggage of up to 85cm each and 1 handbag.
Strollers, pushchairs, etc. are allowed free of cost and should be folded and kept in the storage rack near your allotted seat.
In case your luggage exceeds the 85cm mark or the standard allowance, you may utilise the Eurodespatch, Eurostar’s registered luggage service, which is available in London, Lille, Brussels and Paris.
11. Eurostar, Eurail or Flights?
A large number of tourists often tend to get frazzled while weighing their options among the Eurostar, Eurail or flights. In order to pick any one of the 3, it is imperative to understand that the Eurostar is a train service, where as the Eurail is body that sells passes for multiple European train services. If the structure of your trip is such that you would be exploring a variety of countries, you can get yourself a suitable Eurail pass. In case you would like to travel to any of the cities via the Eurostar, you can avail a discount by showing your Eurail pass at any Eurostar station.
Between the Eurostar and flights, there are a number of factors that come into play. Starting with the cost of tickets, prices of both the modes of transport depend on parameters such as how far in advance you book your tickets, peak season fares, time of travel, and so on.
While London to Paris via the Eurostar takes over 2 hours, the flight takes only 1 hour. But the twist here is that the Eurostar arrives right at the heart of Paris, unlike the far off airport.
If you are in an urgency or tight schedule, the flights may be a better option for you. But if you are on a vacation, the Eurostar bestows a pleasant journey amidst the enthralling European landscape, making it an experience worth having.