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Eurostar and the rest of Europe

1/1/14

You want to go to mainland Europe but you don’t want to sit in a horrible plane, polluting the environment, paying full fare for your 3 year old, paying extra for checking in, having luggage, going to the toilet etc. And the idea of taking the ferry and adding to your exhaustion (and pollution) by driving doesn’t grab you either.  It’s got to be Eurostar. Eurostar trains run to Paris, Brussels and Lille (and occasionally a few other places). From these three places you can get ongoing trains to or near any destination in mainland Europe.

Eurostar trains run very frequently from London St Pancras.  You can get there fairly easily from Lewes either by going to Victoria and taking the tube or by changing to First Capital Connect services at Haywards Heath or East Croydon.  For some time to come there will be engineering works on First Capital Connnect Services in London, so Victoria may be best at weekends.  You have to check in at your Eurostar station half an hour before the train leaves, so you need to leave Lewes about two and a quarter to two and a half hours before the Eurostar goes.

But some trains pick up and set down at Ashford (although hardly any to or from Brussels) and there is an hourly train service direct from Lewes to Ashford. The route is often more relaxing and can be quicker.

GETTING THE BEST TICKETS

If you are not sure about the whole business you can get an agent to book the whole thing for you. One agent is Ffestiniog Travel This will not get you the very cheapest prices, but cuts out the work.

If you are just going to Lille, Paris, or any station in Belgium, book with Eurostarwww.eurostar.com

Like airlines, Eurostar prices tend to be cheaper the earlier you book in advance.  Booking opens four months before the date of travel.www.eurostar.com Not surprisingly weekend tickets sell out first.  Tickets to Paris sell out before those to Lille or Belgium and tickets from London are easier to get because there are more trains. If you can’t get the fare you want and you are booking accommodation you may find it cheaper to book the accommodation and the train together through one of the many agencies that offers short break holidays.

Further Afield

Don’t book any tickets further afield with Eurostar.  Their prices are expensive. You are better booking with www.raileurope.co.uk who will charge you in pounds and add a charge for posting your tickets and for credit card use or www.voyages-sncf.com which will charge you in Euros and deliver your tickets free without a credit card charge.  Both of these sites are owned by the French railway company.  For journeys involving travel through Germany you may find better prices at http://www.bahn.de/i/view/GBR/en/index.shtml The Seat 61 web site (see below) has special links for the cheapest Deutche Bahn tickets from London to any station in Germany.  Prices start at about 49e each way.  All of these sites will give you phone numbers if you want to speak to a person.

No one should plan a train journey abroad without consulting www.seat61.com which tells you all you need to know about train travel and was the inspiration for Travel Log Lewes. However they recommend Raileasy as an agent because they get a commission. But Raileasy does not give the best prices.

It may be cheapest to book Eurostar to Paris or the Belgian border and book another ticket with one of the agencies above to get the best price.

Fares to St Pancras or Ashford

You can book tickets on the British Eurostar web site which start at Lewes or any other British station, but only to destinations directly served by Eurostar.  For example you can book Lewes to Paris.  All these tickets are routed via St Pancras.  It may be cheaper than buying two separate tickets.  You can travel via Victoria or via First Capitlal Connect.

A further advantage is that when you book international rail tickets that involve a change of trains en-route, if you miss your connection the train companies have to put you on the next train which has vacant seats, even if your reservation is for a specific train.  So if you have a through ticket from Lewes to Paris and you miss your Eurostar because the Southern train was late, you will be put on the next available train.

You can buy tickets from Lewes to St Pancras CIV.  The significance of a CIV ticket is that if your Southern train is delayed and you miss your Eurostar connection you can get on the next available Eurostar.  Make sure that your ticket is for St Pancras CIV, not just St Pancras.

So far as I can tell you cannot get CIV tickets to Ashford.