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yet another train question

NYC baby!
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yet another train question

I've scoured the posts here and found a lot of very helpful train ticket information, both general and specific, but thought if I asked about my exact situation, one of you kind experts would be able to help.

This is our train itinerary for our upcoming trip and I'm wondering what tickets we should get, if I can get all of them in advance online, and through what agency or agencies. I'm thinking that the Go Pass 1 might be part of this for my son, but don't know if/how to combine that with getting adult tickets in advance.

We are two adults and one 14-year old.

July 24, 9:15 am: Arriving Brussels National Airport

Local train from Brussels National to Brussels Station

Train from Brussels Station (which?) to Bruges.

July 27: Bruges to Amsterdam (don't care whether Thalys is part of this unless there is a huge time savings)

Is there an advantage to switching trains at Antwerp instead of Brussels? Antwerp isn't part of our trip but if there was any relatively easy way to get out at Antwerp and have lunch there before continuing on to Amsterdam, that would be great. Is there any safe and reliable small baggage storage available at Antwerp station?

We are flying home from Amsterdam so don't need a train return for this part.

Thanks for any advice!

Brussels, Belgium
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1. Re: yet another train question

1) BRU to Brussels - it doesn't matter which station you wish to get off at, among those served by this train (Nord, Central, Midi), price is €5.30 each. It is not worth using Go-Pass-1 on this route (it would cost €8.70, i.e. the flat-rate €6.50 plus Diabolo surcharge for the airport line, which is included in the €5.30 price!). Also no need to buy online in advance as it's the same price at the station.

2) Brussels (train travels through Nord, Central and Midi, in that order) to Brugge: cost is €13.50 per adult, €6.50 for youth with Go-Pass-1 which has to be purchased online: b-rail.be/nat/…index.php (once purchased, for a specific date, it is non-refundable). Apart from Go-Pass, no need to purchase online as price is the same at the station.

3) Brugge to Amsterdam: of course there is a time-saving with Thalys given that it is a high-speed train, which takes 2 hrs from Brussels to Amsterdam instead of 3 hrs with InterCity. But it is only if you would be taking Thalys that you might want to go via Brussels; if you are going by InterCity train you would always change in Antwerp (with Thalys, in Antwerp or Brussels depending on timing, as shown on any of the timetable websites; they give departure via Brussels when this is faster than via Antwerp). You might want to buy these online because if you buy INTERNATIONAL tickets at the station, you will pay an administrative fee (per purchase, not per ticket) of €3.50 for InterCity and €7 for Thalys or other high-speed train.

However, you could also purchase tickets from Brugge to Antwerp, which cost €14.10 per adult and again €6.50 for Go-Pass-1 (and international ticket from there).

Indeed, as there are 3 of you, one thing to consider is whether it would be worth your while buying a Belgian Railways 10-trip Rail Pass for €76, for use within Belgium. Cost of individual tickets for your journeys would be €15.90 plus €33.50 (using Go-Pass-1) plus, if you separate the Belgian part of the trip to Amsterdam from the international part, €34.70 (again using Go-Pass) = €84.10 (if my maths is correct, which is always debatable) assuming use of most favourable option i.e. Go-Pass-1 where available, which is of course more than €76. Therefore, personally I would not bother buying any of your tickets for travel within Belgium online, but buy a Belgian Railways Rail Pass when you get to BRU. You can then use this between you for your trips BRU to Brussels, Brussels to Brugge and Brugge to Antwerp; then purchase, online from http://www.b-europe.com/Travel or in person at Antwerpen-Centraal station, international tickets for InterCity or Thalys - whichever suits your timing and pocket - to Amsterdam.

NYC baby!
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2. Re: yet another train question

Thanks qaminari, I was hoping you'd answer because you always give such thorough and helpful info. I'm glad you pointed out the Rail Pass option because I hadn't thought of that. I did some number crunching (although I can only see fares thru late May at this point so maybe they'd be different for July?) and it seems that buying the 76E Rail Pass for the 3 of us to share for all trips within Belgium and then buying IC tickets from Antwerp to Amsterdam is almost exactly the same price (around 220E) as buying all individual tickets (including Go Pass for my son) in Belgium and the IC to Amsterdam. And that's even with one extra trip left on the pass since we only need 9. And it is way less than buying single one ways from BRU to Bruges and then Bruges to Amsterdam, which came out at something over 300E, unless I screwed up (which is would not be surprising!)

So, a few follow up questions:

All those prices are for 2nd class. If we can't reserve seats, is there any point in paying more for 1st class? I don't care at all about amenities on the train, or legroom, but really don't want to stand for any part of these trips. We'd be heading toward Bruges from the airport on a Tuesday morning after 10:00 am, and the earliest we'd probably leave Bruges for Amsterdam would be 10:00 am as well, on a Friday morning. That gets us out of rush hour crowds, right?

Finally, exactly where in BRU to we go to buy the Rail Pass? Is it clearly marked upon clearing passport control? We have no checked luggage so we'd be ready to go as soon as our passports are stamped.

Thanks so much for your patient and helpful answers!

Nashville, TN
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3. Re: yet another train question

"All those prices are for 2nd class. If we can't reserve seats, is there any point in paying more for 1st class?"

It nreally depends. We've traveled that route numerous times and never really had to stand up. However, on several occasions we did have to use the jump seats in the entryway. Second class tends to get more crowded especially on the IC to Amsterdam. A lot of the younger people are headed for the coffee shops and youth passes (for under 26) are often limited to 2nd class only. If your trip to Amsterdam is on a weekend, you might want to consider the 1st class option.

As your trip isn't until July, you might also check the prices on the Thalys. Fares tend to be low (at times lower than the IC) when they first go on sale (usually 90 days out). However, remember that on the Thalys, reservations are required (thereby guaranteeing you a seat) and you must travel on the date and time booked.

Brussels, Belgium
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4. Re: yet another train question

Sorry I thought you were going into Brussels on your day of arrival and not directly to Brugge (even if changing in Brussels). That means you would be paying €16.90 x 2 + (Go-Pass-1) €8.70 (total €42.50) instead of €15.90 plus €33.50 (total €49.40); and using 3 instead of 6 trips on Rail Pass. For BRU-Brugge, first class costs €24.90, and as there isn't a 1st class version of Go-Pass-1, you'd have to buy 3.

July is the main Belgian holiday month and trains to Brugge are going to the coast - but they may still only be crowded at weekends or weekday commuting times, so I don't know whether it is worth paying €74.70, or for that matter, €117 for first-class Rail Pass. As you say, timing of Brugge-Antwerp trip should not be a problem.

For Antwerp-Amsterdam, you don't need to go first class to get a seat: you could take Thalys, which is reservation-only. However, if you do so, ABS option (included by default if booking on b-europe.com) means travel from Brugge would be included and that would affect Rail Pass calculations. Booking opens 90 days before date of travel so it will be possible to look soon to see whether there are any special offers - they were running one for €25 in first class, not long ago (Brussels-Amsterdam, without ABS).

On arrival at BRU, after passport control you'll pass through the baggage reclaim area even if you aren't collecting anything, and then go through Customs. After that, you arrive "landside", fight your way through the crowd of meeters and greeters, and bear right in a 2 o'clock direction for escalators and elevators down to the station, which is signposted from there. Once at the station, you just go to the ticket office and ask for whatever sort of ticket or pass you have decided on (except, of course, Go-Pass-1, which can only be bought online).

NYC baby!
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5. Re: yet another train question

OK so now I'm a bit confused again! If we buy the Rail Pass option, doesn't that include all the train trips we make within Belgium? Does the shorter trip from BRU to the Brussels station count as its own trip or is that inclusive of the whole trip BRU to Bruges? Because yes, we are not staying in Brussels at all. The train trips we three are taking are:

BRU to Brussels Station

Brussels Station to Bruges (are these two really just one ticketed trip?)

Then if we just went Bruges to Antwerp that would be another 3 trips within Belgium. So is that either a total of 6 or 9 trips on the Rail Pass.

Then we'd buy separate tickets in Antwerp to Amsterdam on either the Thalys if there was a special or just on the IC.

6. Re: yet another train question

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