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Train Ticket Guides Using Rail Passes in Belgium
How to use Eurail and InterRail passes in Belgium

Using Rail Passes in Belgium

How to use Eurail and InterRail passes on Belgian train journeys and on international trains to and from Belgium

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Journeys within 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

Using rail passes in Belgium

On international trains:

How InterRail and Eurail passes can be used on international trains to and from Belgium differs according to which service you will be travelling by:

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 €5.30 if you have a 1st class pass, or €4 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.

the Thalys trains:

Rail pass users have to pay comparatively expensive rail pass reservation fees/supplements on all routes by Thalys trains, so avoid them if possible.
If you do want to travel on a Thalys, ideally book at least couple of weeks ahead of your travel, as rail pass reservations on Thalys trains can sell out, as a limited number of reservations per departure will be available to rail pass users.

A major recent change is that the rail pass reservation fees on the Thalys trains are now the same price, whether you will be using First or Second class passes.
Though users of Second Class passes will have to travel in Standard Class on the Thalys trains.

In contrast First Class pass users will be offered a choice of seating, depending on availability at the time of booking.
If Premium Class is still available then that will be offered, if reservations are sold out in Premium Class you will be offered Comfort Class (1st class), but if Comfort Class is sold out and
Standard Class reservations are still available, you will only be offered seats in Standard Class.

The new fees (in either direction) are:
Paris <> Bruxelles/Antwerp/Liege = €25Paris<> Aachen/Koln/Dusseldorf/Essen = €30
Paris <> Rotterdam/Schiphol/Amsterdam= €30
Bruxelles/Antwerpen <> Rottterdam/Schiphol/Amsterdam = = €20
Bruxelles/Liege <> Aachen/Koln/Dusseldorf/Essen = €25

You can book reservations online by using the Eurail reservation service or the InterRail reservation service ; though you will be charged a €2 booking fee per reservation, per person.
This method is the only online option if you purchase the mobile versions of the Eurail/InterRail passes.

If you opt to use the paper versions of Benelux, Eurail or InterRail pass then reservations for the Thalys trains can be booked on B-Europe
Though B-Europe will only offer 'mobile' tickets as a reservation booking option and it imposes a €4 surcharge for booking a mobile reservation

You can avoid these Thalys reservation fees by making indirect journeys with multiple changes of train.

the Intercity - Brussels (InterCity Direct) 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:
(1) Brussels/Bruxelles - Mechelen - Antwerpen - Breda - Rotterdam - Schiphol - Amsterdam
(2) 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.

the Eurostar trains:

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/or last days on which they will be using a pass, due to the InterRail validity T&Cs.

You can book reservations online by using the Eurail reservation service or the InterRail reservation service ; though you will be charged a €2 booking fee per reservation, per person.
This method is the only online option if you purchase the mobile versions of the Eurail/InterRail passes.

If you opt to use the paper versions of valid Eurail or InterRail passes by booking reservations with B-Europe; B-Europe is the international online booking service provided by Belgium's national rail company.
However, B-Europe will only offer 'mobile' tickets as a reservation booking option and it imposes a €4 surcharge for these.
So f you then use a paper pass to book with B-Europe, you'll have a 'mobile' reservation.

SMTJ has been made aware of instances when Eurostar reservations have been sold out for certain departures on the InterRail/Eurail reservation services, while still being available on B-Europe.

Before committing to a pass it's worth confirming whether the limited numbers of rail pass reservations are still available for the trains you want to take, and these can be looked up on B-Europe prior to booking your Eurail or InterRail pass.
However, the availability of reservations cannot be looked up on the the InterRail/Eurail reservation services, until the pass has been booked.
Avoid a scenario in which you:

  • Check the availability on B-Europe
  • Book a mobile version of the pass
  • Can't then find the reservations on the InterRail/Eurail service
  • But also can't now book them with B-Europe.

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.

You can book reservations online by using the Eurail reservation service or the InterRail reservation service ; though you will be charged a €2 booking fee per reservation, per person.
This method is the only online option if you purchase the mobile versions of the Eurail/InterRail passes.

If you opt to use the paper versions of valid Eurail or InterRail passes by booking reservations with B-Europe; B-Europe is the international online booking service provided by Belgium's national rail company.
However, B-Europe will only offer 'mobile' tickets as a reservation booking option and it imposes a €4 surcharge for these.
So f you then use a paper pass to book with B-Europe, you'll have a 'mobile' reservation.

The service is straightforward to use, except for the one quirky feature illustrated below.
Booking TGV reservations for Eurail and InterRail with B-Europe
This may be to do with SMTJ's settings on the PC, but we had to enter the county of residency manually, B-Europe initially pre-populated it, but it wouldn't stick.

The other booking options for rail pass users on these trains are:
(1) Book at a station in Belgium, ideally before your travel date, though you will be charged a booking fee per reservation.
(2) 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.

*Thalys provides the direct train services between Bruxelles and Paris.

The alternative to the direct TGV trains:

If your travel itinerary includes direct travel between Bruxelles/Brussels and one of those 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 also avoid having to make the transfer across Paris.

Author

Simon Harper

I wanted to share my passion for train travel and explain how anyone can take the fantastic journeys I have taken.

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