Using Rail Passes in Belgium

Using rail passes in Belgium

As reservations aren't required on any train operated by the Belgian national rail company, NMBS/SNCB, you can hop on/off virtually any train in Belgium if you're travelling with a Eurail or InterRail Pass.

The only notable exceptions are the Thalys trains between Brussels/Bruxelles and both Antwerpen and Liege/Luik on which rail passes can't be used at all.

To get value for money out of your pass while in Belgium, it's a good idea to plan multi stop day trips - and to see more than one great city in a single day.

These feasible multi-city itineraries include...

(1) Antwerpen → Gent → Brugge → Antwerpen
(2) Bruxelles → Antwerpen → Gent → Bruxelles
(3) Bruxelles → Mons → Ieper/Ypres → Bruxelles
(4) Bruxelles → Gent → Brugge → Bruxelles


(1) Taking the ICE trains:

You can travel between Belgium and Germany on the 'ICE International' trains at no additional charge.

So if you have a rail pass, target these trains and avoid the Thalys trains (see below) for journeys between Belgium and Germany.

Paying the OPTIONAL reservation fees of  €5.90 if you have a 1st class pass, or €4:50 if you have a 2nd class pass, to guarantee a seat on these ICE International trains can seem comparatively expensive -  particularly for the relatively short journeys between Bruxelles/Liege and Aachen/Koln.

Though if you want to be sure of a seat on the longer journeys between Bruxelles and Frankfurt, it can be worth looking up the train you're planning to take on DB - the German national railways booking service.

Carry out the steps required to book a ticket and it will warn you if a particular ICE departure is likely to be exceptionally busy.


(2) Travelling on the InterCity Brussels trains:

Seats reservations aren't available on the 'InterCity Brussels' trains - so you won't pay any extra to travel with a valid rail pass by these trains on these two routes:

(i) Brussels/Bruxelles - Mechelen - Antwerpen - Breda - Rotterdam - Schiphol - Amsterdam

(ii) Brussels/Bruxelles - Mechelen - Antwerpen - Breda - Rotterdam - Den Haag/The Hague

So if you will be using a rail pass and travelling between Belgium and The Netherlands in either direction, target these trains and avoid the comparatively expensive rail pass reservation fees on the high speed Thalys trains - see below.


(3) Travelling on the Eurostar trains:

Rail pass reservations are now available on the Eurostar services between Belgium and the UK (not The Netherlands) and they can be booked online on B-Europe

The Eurostar reservation fee is a flat rate of €30 in 2nd/standard class and €38.50 in Premiere/1st class - the 1st class rate can be exceptionally good value, particularly when the most heavily discounted tickets have sold out.

Though Belgian and UK residents can only use the reservation fees on the first and last day that a pass is valid for, due to the InterRail validity T&Cs.

It's possible to book these rail pass reservations on B-Europe that won't be valid, so check your rail pass T&Cs carefully.


(4) Travelling on the TGV Bruxelles-France trains:

Rail pass reservations have to be booked before boarding the TGV trains between Bruxelles/Brussels and cities in France, other than Paris* including Avignon, Lyon, Marseille and Montpellier.

Though the comparatively expensive rail pass reservation fees are 1st class = €30; 2nd class = €20.

However, B-Europe does NOT sell the rail pass reservations for these TGV Bruxelles-France trains online and now Oui-SNCF (the French railways website) doesn't either.

So the booking options for rail pass users on these trains are:

(i) Book at a station in Belgium, ideally before your travel date, though you will be charged a booking fee per reservation.

(ii) Use the InterRail reservation service or the Eurail reservation service, though you will be charged a booking fee per reservation.

(iiI) If you will be travelling through Germany prior to arriving in Belgium, you can book reservations for these trains without paying booking fees at the Reisezentrum travel desks at the major stations.

If your travel itinerary includes direct travel between Bruxelles/Brussels one of these cities in France, south of Paris, the only viable alternative to taking these direct TGV trains, is usually to take a Thalys train to Paris and then to travel on from Paris by TGV trains.

The reservation fees on that combination of trains will be either:
- €30 or €40 if you have a 2nd class pass,
- €40 or €50 if you have a 1st class pass.

You will also have to buy a ticket for the RER trains between the stations in Paris because rail passes cannot be used on those trains.

So IF it's an option, taking these TGV Bruxelles-France trains will be cheaper AND you can avoid having to make the transfer across Paris.


(5) Taking a Thalys train:

Rail pass users have to pay comparatively expensive rail pass reservation fees/supplements on all routes by Thalys trains, so avoid them if possible.

Though the charges for rail pass users have been recently simplified, so that a set price is charged depending on the number of countries you will be travelling through.
As a result the rail pass reservation fees have been reduced for some Thalys journeys.

The new fees (in either direction) are:

Bruxelles/Antwerp/Liege - Paris*.
2nd class: €20
1st class: €30

Bruxelles/Antwerpen - Rotterdam/Schiphol/Amsterdam
2nd class: €15
1st class: €25
No fees are charged to rail pass users on the alternative IC trains.

Bruxelles/Liege - Aachen/Koln/Dusseldorf/Essen
2nd class: €20
1st class: €30
No fees are charged to Eurail and InterRail pass holders on the equally fast ICE trains on the Bruxelles - Liege - Aachen - Koln  route.

If you have a Benelux, Eurail or InterRail pass then reservations for the Thalys trains can be booked on B-Europe.
Click the ‘Interrail’ tab on the main booking window.

*You can avoid these Thalys reservation fees between Bruxelles and Paris by:

(1) taking an IC train from Bruxelles to Kortrijk
(2) taking an IC train from Kortrijk to Lille
and then either
(3) taking a TGV from Lille to Paris - if available the reservation fee will be €10s in 1st or 2nd class.
(3) taking a TER train from Lille to Amiens
(4) taking an IC or TER train from Amiens to Paris.

The journey via Amiens will be easier on a Mon-Friday than at weekends, but travelling via Kortrijk, Lille AND Amiens will take around 8 hours - the Thalys takes less than 90 minutes.

Or stay in Gent rather than Bruxelles, it's a nicer city and has direct trains to Lille.

Booking reservations:

A booking fee will be charged per reservation if you book at a Belgian station, so booking the reservations for the Eurostar and Thalys trains on B-Europe will save money.

How to use Eurail and InterRail passes in most other European countries including on which trains you do and don't have to reserve:

How to make the most of using Eurail and InterRail passes:

Our money saving tips for Eurail and InterRail Pass Itineraries:

Other tips for planning Eurail and InterRail Pass itineraries that will save you time and stress: