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Experience with trains in Belgium? Help please.

Experience with trains in Belgium? Help please.

Jan 11th, 2009, 12:33 PM
  #1  
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Experience with trains in Belgium? Help please.

My wife and I are planning to use the train system in Belgium, several stops, and then train to Amsterdam. If any of you have done this and have general advice/comments I would appreciate receiving them. Specifically can you comment on luggage handling and what would be the maximum sized suitcase you would use? Thanks, Jim
genoajim is offline  
Jan 11th, 2009, 01:11 PM
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There is no luggage handling if by that you mean someone to do it for you. Similarly no formal weight or size limits - you manage your luggage yourself, so you will need to be able to lift it on and off the train yourself.
Nonconformist is offline  
Jan 11th, 2009, 01:19 PM
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J62
 
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I've seen travelers with 27" or larger suitcases on trains throughout Europe and while they can manage they do so with difficulty.

Carryon size (21" or 22") or check-in size (24") bags work just fine. The carryon size will fit into an overhead rack near your seat. The larger ones are usually placed in a luggage storage space near the doors.

Personally I like to travel with one bag that has handle & wheels, and a 2nd bag that is a nylon duffel bag. I can strap the 2nd onto the 1st and navigate my way through train stations, etc with relative ease.

When I'm alone I just use my carryon & a small backpack.
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Jan 11th, 2009, 01:24 PM
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Some tourists may get confused by the bi-lingual informations. So displays may alternate between the Flemish and the French name of the destination, e.g. Antwerpen/Anvers.
Otherwise there is not much to keep in mind, IMO. Trains run frequently, and there is usually no need to panic if you should miss one.
Cowboy1968 is offline  
Jan 11th, 2009, 01:51 PM
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Local and regional trains require no seat reservations (on some you may be able to reserve if you insist, others don't even have numbered seats), while the fast trains (like the one you will probaby take to Amsterdam) require seat reservations - they come with your ticket. So look for the carriage number and then the seat number as printed on your ticket. Stations have displays of the train compositions that show you in advance which carriage number will be where so you can wait in approximately the right area of the platform.

Through trains only wait for a minute or two, so be ready and swift at getting on and off. Know you arrival time, gather your things a minute or two before and move towards an exit so you can get off swiftly. The less luggage you have the more mobile you are.

Other than that - no fuss no muss, get on, get off.
DalaiLlama is offline  
Jan 11th, 2009, 01:53 PM
  #6  
yk
 
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Like others said, you're on your own when it comes to loading and unloading suitcases.

The trains can vary a lot depending on the routes you'll be taking. If you are taking slow regional trains, they are pretty basic.

Expect 2-3 high steps to get onto the train, and expect to store your luggage in overhead racks. If you cannot lift your suitcases to the racks above, you may want to reconsider how much you're bringing.

For the record, we were in Belgium last Sept for 1 week and we took 3 train rides (Bruges -> Ghent; Ghent -> Brussels; Brussels -> BRU airport). We managed on the trains just fine with 2 small day packs plus 2 carryon suitcases. One is 19" and one is 21".
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Jan 11th, 2009, 03:04 PM
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On trains I have ridden in Belgium, there were no ticket validation required before boarding. In fact, I didn't see any validating machines at stations. The conductors came around to validate tickets on board.

I am not sure this is the case for all routes. The Brussels-Ghent-Bruges line operated this way.
greg is offline  
Jan 11th, 2009, 05:59 PM
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We rode trains from Amsterdam to Delft and return, Amsterdam to Brussels, on to Brugge and back to Brussels, and Brussels to Paris. One thing sticks out in my mind above all else. Have change for the toilets in the train stations. You can't get in without paying. ON the train is free, but the stations either have pay toilets or an attendant that collects the money, Euro 50 generally. MAKE SURE TO HAVE CHANGE.
We had two 24 inch suitcases and a backpack each, so we did have to struggle some with them to get on and off the train, and place them in overheads or luggage areas. We were warned to keep our eyes on any luggage we didn't have very close by.
The Flemish/French language issue really was confusing. Also, in Brussels, there is more than one train station, so you need to know exactly where you want to get on and off and how it is spelled in Flemish and French.
The trains were clean, fast, comfortable and not terribly crowded in October.
One thing you may consider is getting to and from the train stations with luggage. We used a taxi from the train station to hotel, and were glad we did after riding the metro in Brussels. There are a lot of steps and it can be crowded at some times of day. And HOT, especially if you are bundles up against cold weather.
We had to show our passports when traveling between countries. The conductor validated tickets and checked passports.
We bought most of our tickets at the time of travel, except from Brussels to Paris. I think we could have saved money buying in advance, but I confess the train system websites were intimidating and we just waited.
Good luck.
Challiman is offline  
Jan 11th, 2009, 06:39 PM
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According to
http://www.b-rail.be/nat/E/tarifs/tr.../net/index.php
you can get a one week railcard that may suit your needs, and there is a 10 journey pass and, yet, another pass that will let you go from Bussels to Charleroi to Liege and one other location on a single ticket. I can attest that if you are polite and smile and don't look impatient, the Belgian Rail personnel were very, very helpful and speak excellent English. We even had one conductor who came up to us (inculding 3 teenage DDs) and began to talk with an obvious Cockneyed accent, then upon learning we were Americans, switched to an imitation of JR Ewing from Dallas. The passes listed above are avilable for a modest discount on-line, but buying the best option for you upon arrival in Belgium is a very good option, and then you can work out the best pass with the very helpful agents at that time.

docdan is offline  
Jan 11th, 2009, 06:39 PM
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There are two types of train service between Belgium and Amsterdam. There are the Thalys trains which can pick you up in Brussels Midi/Zuid station or Antwerpen Berchem station only. Less expensive is the International Express train which can pick you up in either of the three Brussels stations or either of the two Antwerp stations. Travel time differences are rather insignificent. See an intro to train travel on http://tinyurl.com/eym5b.

Luggage is no problem if you are traveling with carry-on luggage. You do it yourself on trains. Hoist your bag up on the ledge above your seat. Also, on the International Express trains from Brussels/Antwerp to Amsterdam there is a luggage section near the door with locks requiring a one euro fee.

Within Holland both trains, Thalys and IE, make a few stops. Baggage thieves make a good living there. Whenever the train is in a station, especially Schiphol, keep your eye or your hand on your luggage. The thieves board trains in stations, grab what they can, and jump off before the train departs. Laptop computer cases are especially juicy. The thieves work in teams so if someone on or off the train does something to distract you (his buddy is doing the crime) go on high alert.

spaarne is offline  
Jan 11th, 2009, 09:16 PM
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Don't worry too much about the French/Flemish thing being too confusing. If you have done your barest of minimum looking up, you will know that Brussels has three stations, and how hard can it be to figure out that Nord and Noord are, well, North, and Central and Centraal - hah, you guessed it. Leaves Midi/Zuid - tricky tricky, it stands for South. See? Piece of cake and commonsense.
DalaiLlama is offline  
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