It’s been said that taking the Eurostar (which runs under the English Channel, connecting London to Brussels, Paris, Lille, Rotterdam and Amsterdam) is much more like taking a plane ride than taking a train ride, and in many respects, I would have to agree.
Why? It’s swift, it’s non-stop and there is wonderful service and amenities for comfort as you drift along in either direction.
Today’s episode/post is for the first-time traveler choosing to take the Eurostar and especially for those of you like me, who don’t live in Europe or Britain and want to see as much of the two countries that you love during one trip with ease.
I booked my first ticket on the Eurostar in 2012, boarding in London, destined for Paris. Riding Standard (aka Coach) with my traveling companion, the ease of having your luggage with you, sitting in comfortable seats with spacious seating arrangements all the while knowing the only stop will be your stop eased my mind as it was the first time I had traveled abroad to Europe since 2000.
Fast forward to 2022, and I booked our Standard Premiere tickets (there are three classes – Standard, Standard Premiere and Business Premiere), leaving Paris, departing for London. The upgrade was lovely and worth the additional space, a bit quieter (although Standard was fairly quiet as well), and the upgrade in dining service was oh, so good. But I am getting ahead of myself.
How to Take/Book the EuroStar
1.Book online via Eurostar.com
Booking online is super simple as their website is easy to navigate. You will see all of the prices for each of the classes on the date you have chosen up front. You then continue through the process and can print out or email yourself the ticket. You can also upload your ticket on the Eurostar App on both Apple or Google, which I would recommend as you can receive notifications of any changes, etc.
2. Book as far in advance as you can, let me explain why – don’t worry you can change the time you depart
So I did a little bit of experimenting just to see if booking ahead was worth it, and found out that indeed it was. The earlier you book, the cheaper the tickets will be no matter what time of day. The closer our departure day came on the calendar, those same tickets kept inching up in price (Standard can be less than $100, and while Business Premiere doesn’t change as much as you near, it does increase; in comparison, in just one week’s departure, the Standard can be $200 or more). But here is why I encourage you to book early even if you are not certain about the time or even day you want to leave: Eurostar permits you to change your ticket for free up to 7-days before your departure; the only thing you would have to pay for is the difference if you change the class your ticket is in. So for example, I had originally planned for us to depart late in the afternoon, but then I realized, nope, we want to leave earlier and can leave earlier, so I went in and changed it. No extra fee, same ticket. If you change your ticket within 7 days before your departure, you will incur an exchange fee.
Arriving at the train station either in London (St. Pancras) or Paris (Gare du Nord)
Departing from Paris (Gare du Nord)
1.Take a right and then go up the escalator
Having had the opportunity just recently to travel on the Eurostar from Paris, I have to give much thanks to our taxi driver (Victor’s Cabs and G7). As soon as we arrived at Le Gare du Nord in the center of Paris on the right bank, he instructed us to take the right upon entering the doors and go up the escalator to the Eurostar. Phew!
2. Checking in takes place upstairs above the trains
If you have traveled in Paris and used the Metro you know that the Gare du Nord is a central hub for trains in the city, and many lines of trains run in and out of this station. The boarding for the local, within France, trains takes place on the lower level. The Eurostar loading platform and waiting room and check-in are upstairs on the second level which is accessible by both elevator and escalator. See my pic below of the view from this level after having just road up the escalator with our luggage. The trains you see here are the local trains, not the Eurostar trains. The Eurostar trains on the other side, left of these trains (and I neglected to take a photo – argh!).
3. You can only check-in when your time is welcomed (about 1 hour before departure)
You will have to wait in the open area just to the left of the escalators once you go to the second floor until your train departure time is welcomed. This not a bad place to wait as there is much to entertain the eyes (the photo above was captured while waiting here); however, this is helpful to know because you don’t have to arrive two hours early for example in fear that you will get through security lines earlier. They won’t even begin to process your ticket or begin security checks until your window is open for check-in.
4. The waiting area for EuroStar is separate from the other trains
Once you check-in and go through security, the large waiting area has many seats (although they fill up fasts when departure time nears (it was nearly packed just 15 minutes before we boarded – standing room only). There is also coffee and food, as well as a Pierre Hermé chocolatier shop.
5. The order of classes on the train – which way to go to board
Initially, you follow the signs and everyone goes the same way (from the waiting area on the second floor and down the stairs), but once you are the train level, you have to know where you class is loading. You are looking for your Car #, but even that can be confusing on your first time if you aren’t sure. They do station employees at each door to each cab so you can check before you get on, but just know that Business Premiere (1st class) is the furthest down the train heading toward London, and Standard is the closest to the station.
6. Finding a Taxi upon arrival
Upon stepping outside of the train station in London, simply cross the street, then turn right, walking until you see the long long of taxi cabs. You will then go around a soft corner to your left and see the Taxi Queue to stand in (silver bars creating rows). Even if the line is long, it does tend to move quite swiftly. The pictures below is taken while waiting in the queue for our taxi and St. Pancras station is seen across the road.
Departing from London (St. Pancras)
1.Check-in is on the same level as when you enter from the street
You will easily see the long winding lines as you walk in the door and EuroStar signage. I found London’s Eurostar check-in area much easier to find than in Paris which is why I was grateful to our taxi driver. Once you are in line (they too will only let so many people in the queue determined by when you train leaves, you will have your ticket scanned and go through security (à la Brexit).
2. Waiting area
While the last time I waited in this space was ten years ago, I do know and saw at a glance this time around when we arrived from Paris, it is largely the same. Very modern, a bit smaller than Paris’, but I liked it. There is ample seating and food and beverage available. However, I would peruse St. Pancras’ entire station before getting in line to check-in as they have many, many shops (for news and books – they have a Hatchards bookshop now in the station which is quite lovely – look for the William Morris Willow Bough wallpaper in the shop, food and shopping).
3. Loading the train
The reverse is true as to where your Class car is located, but again, they have employees by each door to each cab to ensure you step on the correct one.
The loading area is the one with the ginormous bronze statue of the two lovers greeting each other in an embrace. I absolutely love this station. And be sure to visit the St. Pancras Brasserie, or Champagne Bar as it is often referred for sip and nibble before or after you arrive or depart.
A look of the side exterior of St. Pancras, captured while waiting in the taxi queue line (which moves quite quickly). Simply cross the street when you walk out the doors on the ground level, and you will see where all the taxis are going, and then the queue of silver metal rows.
Benefits of Taking the Eurostar
1. Sustainable travel
Eurostar states proudly that when you choose to take the train from London to Paris (or visa versus) you are emitting 93% less CO2 per passenger, to Brussels 92% and to Amsterdam 86%.
2. Fewer security limitations
There are no limits on liquids as there are on planes, even though you do pass through security checks, you and your luggage.
3. Luggage weight is not limited
While the amount of luggage you bring is limited (2 pieces + 1 personal for Standard and Standard Premiere; 3 pieces + 1 personal for Business Premiere), your luggage will not be weighed.
4. Delicious food – chef Raymond Blanc menu!
If you choose to purchase Business Premiere tickets, you will have the opportunity to enjoy a menu and meal created by chef Raymond Blanc (learn more about him here as I spoke about him previously here on the blog). Even with our Standard Premiere tickets we had a delicious meal, complete with drink service, alcohol before and during the meal – all part of the ticket price.
5. Friendly service
The service is more attentive as you go up in class, but all was welcoming and comfortable.
6. Comfortable seating
Spacious area to rest your eyes, read and simply watch the French countryside whiz by as you spend most of your time going through Normandy, and only about 20 minutes under the English Channel going through the Chunnel, and maybe 15 minute above ground in England.
7. A swift ride
The train ride length, non-stop, is just over 2 hours. I am always amazed as how fast this time flies especially as you will be enjoying a meal. Before you know it you have arrived in another country with your luggage right along side you (you place it in the front or back of the car you are in, and can also place carry-on above you).
Traveling by Eurostar is my way of traveling back and forth between the two countries that I love. I find it quite stress-free, enjoyable whilst on the train and delicious too! Learn more on EuroStar’s home site here.
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #338
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