It is undeniable the desire of the Brazilians to travel by train in Europe. This is due, above all, to the fascination for the trails, which have been deactivated in Brazil for many years; to the convenience of traveling and the savings.
I have already had the opportunity to travel by train in the Old Continent and I can affirm that the trip itself is already one of the attractions, besides, of course, its final destinations.
See now the incredible reasons and destinations to plan a train trip in the European soil making the most of your time and money.
Here you will find useful tips to travel through Paris, France; London, England; Brussels, Belgium; and Amsterdam, the Netherlands; in a single trip!
Why should I travel in Europe by train?
I’ll start with the savings question. With the exchange rate variation, one of the greatest concerns of Brazilians is not to make a trip to Europe too expensive. For that, it is necessary to do a lot of research.
In this sense, the train is a viable way to travel without spending too much. But beware: for that to happen, it is necessary to buy the tickets in advance!
Three months before boarding is the ideal time to start purchasing the tickets, because most of the companies that operate the regional and/or international trains only provide the seats for online consultation up to 90 days from the departure date.
It is very important not to miss this deadline to save money. For you to have an idea, I have already paid €29 on a ticket in Italy (between Rome and Florence) buying 3 months before. On the day, the same ticket cost €75!
Another factor that cheapens your trip is that the luggage is free, which doesn’t happen on low cost European flights.
So be smart: even if the flight is cheaper, take into consideration the cost of dispatching the luggage (often more expensive than the ticket itself) and getting to airports in big cities.
Convenience is another factor that weighs heavily when choosing a train route in Europe. The stations are right in the center of the cities and it is relatively simple to move between them.
It is not uncommon to arrive late at night in a European city and nothing compares to arriving close to your hotel. At most, you will have to walk a bit, take the subway or taxi/Uber to your accommodation.
Moreover, boarding of the platforms is super simple. No endless queues, no baggage check or lots of check-in protocols. Everything is practical: you present your ticket printed or on your mobile phone to the controller, who is on the way up each wagon (or that appears in the middle of the trip), and that’s it!
Do you want to work or have a snack? You can go to the snack bar in the train or find a table to work, with a plug and wi-fi. The space in the train and between the seats is ample, quite different from the most crowded flights.
This is not any less important for those who dream of going to Europe for the first time. To travel the continent by train is something fascinating for us!
I confess that even though I can travel by other means, I often choose the train just to make the trip more Eurotrip-like! I loved some experiences like going from France to Italy, seeing some snowy mountains while passing through Switzerland!
Of course the landscape is not always so beautiful, especially if you add the high-speed trains (popularly called bullet train!), but it’s worth the experience.
Now, to help you in your planning, I bring a train route through Europe, passing by 4 classic destinations for your first time in Europe: Paris-London-Brussels-Amsterdam. All the routes are direct, fast and just as amazing!
Travel Europe by Train: from Paris to London
Travelling by train between Paris and London is an unusual experience, for Brazilians, as the countries are linked by the English Channel. And what does that mean?
That a section of the trip (around 50km) is made under the water! That’s right! It has an underground part.Obviously, you won’t have any amazing view.
You will notice that you have entered the English Channel when the wagon turns a little darker. Which means you’ll be in the Eurotunnel. In the deepest sections, it reaches a depth of 75 meters.
Another differential of this train route is that you will pass through immigration before boarding to the UK.
The whole process is very similar to the immigration at the airport and you will have to present travel documentation, the return ticket and other documents that may be requested by the authorities.
On average, the journey takes only 2:30 hours and you will arrive in the capital of England to enjoy the best attractions of Queen’s Land. The must-see are: the traditional Big Ben, which is at Westminster Palace; the entire London Eye area; Buckingham Palace; the beautiful Tower Bridge (worth a cruise) and Hyde Park.
If possible take the tourist bus, as the city is huge and the attractions are more distant.
Minimum: 4 days stay.
Travel Europe by Train: from London to Brussels
After visiting cosmopolitan London, on the way back between London and Brussels, you will pass through immigration when you are still in England, to be able to embark on the capital of Belgium.
This immigration control is only done when you are leaving or entering UK. In the rest of Europe, this does not exist.
Your luggage is placed in a specific area of the train (each wagon usually has its own). However, if it is a small luggage, you will be able to keep it closer, in the spaces above the seats.
The trip takes, on average, 2 hours by train, with a maximum speed of 300km/h. I like the comfort and speed of this trip!
Oh, and you can enjoy a great English tea in the train’s snack bar! After that, it’s all about Belgian cuisine: chocolates, waffles and French fries!
And attention: when buying your train tickets in Europe, pay attention to the arrival and departure station options. Sometimes, it is possible to choose a station closer to your accommodation.
When in Brussels
I arrived in Brussels Midi and took a subway to my hotel area, but there were other options. All you need to do is to choose the one that suits you, when you buy your ticket. Super convenient!
In Brussels, walk a lot around the Grand Place. It’s my favourite place in town, mainly because there’s always something going on: flower carpet (if it’s in spring), Christmas decoration (in winter) or cultural presentations. I’ve already picked up a kind of Belgian carnival with giant dolls, orchestras and everything!
The street food is great and the chocolate stores are beautiful. Don’t miss the visit to Atomium. If you don’t have much time, Mini Europe and the Manneken Pis, for me, are dispensable.
Minimum: 3 days stay.
Travel Europe by Train: from Brussels to Amsterdam
In 3 hours, you leave Belgium and arrive in the Netherlands. Its capital, Amsterdam, is a classic destination for the first time travellers in Europe.
And the explanation is simple: the city is unique. The water courses, flowers, bicycles and the whole lifestyle are so different!
The train can stop in Rotterdam, but there is no need to change trains. These stops are only to get in and out passengers. They never last more than 10 minutes, regardless of the route.
The city of Amsterdam is perfect to be explored by walking or by boat. Therefore, the best tours of the city will mix these experiences. If you want to experience everything more intensely, I recommend staying in a houseboat! It’s great!
If possible, stay in the city during weekdays, because Amsterdam is always more crowded on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. I prefer the city less crowded.
This crowd is responsible for keeping many people away from one of Amsterdam’s most relevant tourist spots: Anne Frank’s House.
The museum, which keeps the sad memories of the Jewish girl and her family, hardly has tickets for visits. So plan yourself ahead!
A good itinerary in Amsterdam includes: the Vondelpark, the Jordaan neighbourhood and the Heineken Factory. Your trip to the Netherlands won’t be complete if you miss Keukenhof (in spring) and Zaanse Schans.
Minimum: 3 days stay.
Travel Europe by Train: from Amsterdam to Paris
The final combo: Amsterdam-Paris! The City of Light is the dream of most travellers! This return trip is longer, with approximately 3h20 of travel time.
The train will probably stop in Brussels, but it does not take long, however there are many direct routes for the same price. Just look it up at the time of booking.
With many flights available from Brazil, the French capital is one of the easiest destinations to start and finish an Eurotrip.
Its rail lines connect many cities and countries, and you can schedule to enjoy Paris on the final days of your trip (even if it’s your point of arrival).
This is one of the best tips to enjoy your trip: start by going to the farthest places and enjoy the arrival place only at the end (that’s if you arrive and leave at the same place), so you don’t run the risk of missing your flight back to Brazil due to unforeseen events.
It is true that European trains are super punctual, but adverse situations can occur that put your schedule at risk.
Want a practical example?
I was in Brussels to spend 3 days and still had 1 and a half more days in Paris, to board to Brazil. On my last day in the capital of Belgium there was a strike of all transportation in the country (of course I only found that out when I got there).
From taxis to trains, everything was suspended. Result: I had to anticipate my return to Paris before the strike, because then there would be no more options.
What I mean is: the strike could make me miss my flight back to Brazil, in case my arrival in Paris was delayed by only one day! So, don’t risk it!
I had losses on the Brussels reservation that I paid for more days and that I did not use. I had to extend my reservation in Paris as I arrived earlier and still paid the difference by anticipating the train ticket. Not to mention the real pilgrimage I made, in several stations, to get my train ticket in advance.
Anyway, program yourself to be, at the departure city, at least 2 full days before the return flight.
The good thing about it all, is that I added another day to Paris and it has always something to do! There are so many attractions that I always come back to the city to visit something new! I don’t even need to mention the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, the Champs-Élysées and Sacré-Cur.
My favourite classic places are the Garnier Opera and the Montmartre district. If you can, visit Paris in December to check out the Christmas magic closely. It’s exciting!
Minimum: 4 days stay.
Europe for the First Time: Travel by Train
There are many other possibilities for train routes in Europe. An interesting combination is Portugal and Spain; Germany with the Czech Republic; Italy and Switzerland or even Austria and Hungary (the last one matches a lot with bus routes, subject for another post!).
Besides, I didn’t go deeper into regional trains, which are great to explore in a backpacking trip in a single country. Destinations like Italy, Switzerland and Germany have incredible cities.
There are also thematic routes on the routes, like the Romantic Route in Germany, the Loire Valley in France, Tuscany in Italy, the Alps, the Mediterranean, the Nordics and many other ones that are enchanting!
I hope you enjoyed this itinerary setup especially for Brazilians in Europe with classic and accessible destinations! In general, all these train trips can be done by paying only between 15 and 35 euros* (3 months in advance).
See you next time!
*values of 2020
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