Travelling by train in Belgium


General information


Welcome to our guide how to save money, time and stress when travelling in and from/to Belgium by train.

Click the links below for instant access for the info you need.

Or take time out to discover all you need to know about making your Belgian train travel experience as fabulous as possible!

THE TRAINS   THE STATIONS   THE TICKETS

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When compared to most of the larger countries in Europe, travelling around Belgium by train is wonderfully simple.

Which is convenient as what Begium lacks in terms of scenic journeys, it more than makes up for with a plethora of must see towns that can be reached on short and easy trips by train.

And because when travelling within Belgium, tickets cost the same price when booking last minute at the station as they do online - you can be spontaneous and head wherever inspires you.

Belgian trains may not be the most stylish, but they’re more than adequate for the relatively short distances involved – though inevitably it’s a good idea to avoid travelling at peak business hours.

Travelling by train in Belgium - 8 things that are good to know:

1. Seats can’t be reserved on national trains operated by SNCB, which is pretty much every train service within Belgium  - so it’s a good idea to avoid travelling at peak business hours.

2. Wi-fi also isn't generally available, but don't panic as very few journeys take more than 90 mins.

3. National train services tend to operate to a fixed timetable throughout the day  - meaning that departures are at the same minutes past every hour.

4. However, they operate to different timetables on Sat/Sun compared to the Mon-Fri timetable.

On Mon-Friday there are a minimum of two trains per hour on the most popular routes - a minimum of  3 x trains hour operate between Bruxelles/Brussels and Antwerpen/Brugge/Gent and Liege.

Virtually all other services operate at least hourly.

Trains generally operate less frequently at weekends, but the express IC trains still operate at a minimum of hourly intervals on all of their routes.

5. It isn't possible to make journeys between Belgian cities on international trains.

So you can't travel between Bruxelles/Brussels and Antwerpen on Thalys trains, or between Bruxelles/Brussels and Liege by Thalys or ICE trains.

6. Catering facilities aren’t available on train journey within Belgium.

7. A yellow band above the windows indicates 1st class coaches/seats.

8. Folded bikes can be taken on trains free of charge, but bike tickets that cost €5 need to be purchased before taking NON-folding bikes on any train.

Day bike passes are available if you will be making multiple train journeys with your bike in a single day.

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Belgian Stations - 7 things that are good to know:

TRAINS FROM BRUXELLES


1. What can be confusing is that as Belgian is multi-lingual .different names of towns and cities can be used on the electronic departure information at stations - particularly on the platforms.

The electronic departure information switches between French and Dutch - so be patient if you can't initially see your destination listed.

For example you may see 'Liuk' on a departure indicator, but the train will be heading to/calling at Liege.

The particularly confusing dual namings are:

Antwerpen = Anvers
Liege = Luik
Lille = Rijsel
Louvain = Leuven
Kortijk = Courtrai
Namur = Namen
Mons = Bergen
Gent = Gand
Ypres = Ieper (capital 'I' not 'L')

2. The electronic departure displays only list the final destination of the train and one or two of it's main calling points - they don't list all stations.

So if you can't see your destination listed, check the paper departure sheets.

The sheets with blue headers are for Mon-Fri and orange headers are used for Sat/Sun – be careful not to confuse the two.

3. These paper sheets can be particularly useful when changing trains.

Don’t leave the platform you have just arrived at until you have checked the departure details of your connecting train

4. For international trains, the train numbers are shown on the main electronic departure displays and paper departure sheets.

Which can be useful when you have tickets/reservations for international trains, as the train number will be printed on your ticket(s).

5. The electronic indicators on each specific platform will only show the details of the next departure – and your train many not be the next to depart.

6. Because seats can't be reserved on Belgian trains, the platforms/tracks at Belgian stations aren't zoned.

7. While Belgian trains may not have the wow factor, the main stations in Antwerp and Liege definitely do have it! 
And the rebuild of Gent-St-Pieters will soon be joining them on this list.

8
. The majority of domestic trains to/from Brussels/Bruxelles will call at more than one station in the city centre.

Bruxelles Central station lives up to its name with a city centre location and it has direct connections to metro/subway trains – metro connections are also available at Bruxelles Midi/Zuid.

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Belgian Train Tickets - 7 things that are good to know:

1. There is no need to book tickets for domestic journeys solely within Belgium online, they will cost the same if booked at the station.

2. The ticket machines at the stations are fairly easy to use, so you can avoid having to queue at a ticket counter.

3. Reservations are not available on SNCB'snational train services that operate wholly in Belgium.

So seats aren’t guaranteed, hence the advice to avoid travelling into big cities in the morning peak and from big cities during the evening rush.

4. Each adult ticket enables up to 4 accompanied children age under 12 to travel for free in both 1st class and 2nd class - you will need to be able to provide proof of the age of the children on request).

5. Children aged 12 and over have to travel at the adult rates.

6. Travelling on MOST of the international train services from/to Belgium is a different end to end experience, in comparison to travelling on trains solely within Belgium.

Reservations are compulsory on some of the high speed trains from and to Belgium and limited numbers of discounted tickets will be made available on most routes.

Hence B-Europe - a dediated online booking service for the international train services from and to Belgium.

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You can read more about this HERE.

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