I have a question. I live in the middle of the desert in Phoenix, Arizona, USA. Been here my whole life, and the only trains (other than AMTRAK, which costs more than planes) we have are cargo trains. I have a few questions.
I found some good sights like rail Europe and what not for booking. I have some more basic questions, you know stuff you Europeans learned when you were 3 or 4 years old.
I am going to Paris next March. I decided to go up to Amsterdam because I have about 5 days extra. I figured I would spend 2 of those days in Brussels then on to Amsterdam for 3 and fly back to US. My question is this. Obviously, its the same route. We will stop off in Brussels on the way to Amsterday. Can I buy a ticket to Amsterdam and just get off at Brussels and get back on two days later?? Or should I buy one way ticket to Brussels then one way to Amsterdam? I don't think the pass would really benefit much beause I won't be using the train for anything else. Except I might go to Bruges one day. In that case should I just get a pass?? It looks like there are trains every 1 hour at least in the fall leaving Brussels to Amsterdam during the day. Does that sound about right? Don't get mad at the silly American, we just don't have a lot of trains in the South West
Generally the ticket Paris-Amsterdam should be cheaper than two one-way tickets. Whether you are allowed to stop for two days in Brussels or need to buy two tickets is something the French can tell you when you buy your ticket. Don't bother with booking ahead through an agency, it will only cost more. It is correct that there are trains almost every hour. Don't bother with the pass, but check for special offers on train prices a few weeks before you go on the French railway website.
More info: www.sncf.fr, www.voyages-sncf.com
Check out www.skyscanner.net for flights from Amsterdam back to Paris. Be aware that Paris has two airports - pick a flight that goes to the airport from which you'll fly back out to the US. Book that flight early to get the best prices.
[ Edit: Edited at Jul 1, 2006 8:12 AM by t_maia ]
I'm sorry, I didn't explain myself very well. I am staying in Paris for 5 days then going to Brussels/Amsterdam. I am flying to America from Amsterdam. I will have to ask about getting off in Brussels...hopefully the ticket officer speaks a little English. I guess I better start practicing my French!!
Generally speaking tickets are only valid for a single day. International tickets might have slightly different conditions which I don't know about, but I don't think they would in this aspect.
Luckily, the cost difference between Paris - Brussels + Brussels - Amsterdam, compared to Paris - Amsterdam, should be quite low.
As for your possible side-trip to Bruges (from Brussels), it's probably cheaper just to buy a single ticket from Brussels to Bruges.
A few hints to pay less for that ticket :
1. try to go to Bruges in the weekend, if that's possible : you'll get a two-way ticket for more or less the same price as a one-way ticket on a week day. I've checked it for you : for the trip Brussel-South to Bruges, a 1-way ticket on a week day is 11.80, and a 2-way ticket in the weekends is 12.60. (www.nmbs.be)
2. If you're under 26, and you're travelling with some friends who are also under 26 (preferably 2 to 4), you might want to buy a Go Pass, which costs 45 €, and gives you the possibility to do 10 one-ways to anywhere in Belgium. This pass is not personal, so you can use it yourself, or you can share with your friends : if you're 5 young people, you can go to 1 place together, and back.
In the case of your trip to Bruges, it would be 4.50 € one-way. Evidently, this is not the best ticket if you're alone and only going to use the train twice.
3. If you're over 26, a similar Pass exists : "Rail Pass", which is exactly the same principle, but it's more expensive : 68 € for 10 one-way trips.
Maybe also a hint for the practical side of taking a train in Belgium/France : in France you'll have to "composter" (that's the French word for it) your ticket in an orange or yellow (depends: the new ones are yellow, the old ones orange) machine before getting in your train. It simply means you have to put your ticket in the open spaces, and it will mark it (by a stamp or a hole). Just look at how the French do it, it's really not complicated.
In Belgium, you DON'T have to do this, but a "guard" will pass to check your ticket in the train.
Oh, and in Belgium, don't be afraid that people won't be able to help you because you don't speak French or Dutch : most of the desk people (and also the passengers) speak at least some basic English, especially at the very internationally oriented train Station of Brussels South.
I can understand all this seems scary, but don't worry. Just try to arrive early, so you can take your time (and observe others ;-)), and if you're not sure, ask other people around you, most of them will be glad to help you.
If you have some other questions, just ask me !
[ Edit: Edited at Jul 3, 2006 5:58 AM by myo ]