Holiday to Amsterdam in November

Discussion in 'International Transport' started by BluePenguin, 15 Oct 2019.

  1. BluePenguin

    BluePenguin On Moderation

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    My friends and I are going to Amsterdam next month for a holiday. After a long and stressful year of university we are all very much looking forward to letting off steam during an exciting and adventurous week of cycling, enjoying nice food, taking photos of the beautiful architecture and of course an obligatory boat trip.

    I am the organiser of the trip and have a few questions I would like answering by you helpful lot. Sorry this post is a little long, I have asked several circumstantial questions which some members may find difficult to answer without knowing all the facts in the right context.


    Getting there, meeting up and getting around
    We are going from the 7th to 11th of November. I had hoped that we would all travel together on the Eurostar although some of the group had other ideas. So, myself and one person will be going by train with the others having chosen to fly instead. Our Airbnb is in Harlem and has been booked by one of the people who will flying. Would be best for us to all arrange to meet at the station and then travel to Harlem together? None of us have been to Holland before and not sure how to travel around Amsterdam whilst we are there so options please!

    The outward leg on the Eurostar was only £35 each on 11:04 service, which is very reasonable. However, to avoid putting up with the many stag doos and hen parties which I expect will also be travelling on this service, I decided to purchase my friend and I Standard Premier tickets. Due to the long journey time it made sense to pay for a more comfortable journey with included food. I have never been on Eurostar before so have no idea whether it will be worth it or not, but I guess I will find out. I am interested to hear what we can expect?


    Dilemma
    On this note, I would ask to ask for advice on a dilemma. I will be returning from Turkey on the night of the 6th. I much prefer to take the Eurostar to Amsterdam over flying plus it is something I have wanted to do since the start of the service last year. However, the friend I will be travelling with is a budget conscious (although not poor) student who would have been happy to fly with the others from Gatwick to make a small saving. However, I said I would be open to pay the small difference in cost between flying and taking the Eurostar for him. The difference was £37 from what I remember so nothing major. Although, as I paid an extra £30 for him to travel in Standard Premier with me, do I still owe him £37 on principle of what I said before? As he made a fuss over saving a few pounds previously, I assume he would have not chosen himself to pay to pay extra himself. Standard Premier itself has value so should he be thankful I got him an upgrade and not expect a discount? The friend in question is a good one and I would hate to force them to pay more than they are willing to so could hypothetically forgive the difference.


    Return Journey
    There are engineering works on the 11th November so there are no Eurostar services from Amsterdam or Brussels. Instead a skeleton service from Lille Europe will operate. My friend I will be taking a local train from Amsterdam - Brussels and from Brussels - Lille. We decided to break up our journey a bit to visit Brussels and Lille before taking the Eurostar home from Lille in the evening. I had a look on Loco2 and found that a through ticket from Amsterdam to Lille Flandres is very expensive and that splitting at Brussels-Midi saves a decent amount. Prices from Amsterdam to Brussels range between £23.99 and £75.65. Brussels to Lille appear to be either £17.50 or £22.79. Are these fares tied to specific trains or are the flexible? Can they be reduced by splitting further anywhere? Lastly, Loco2 want to charge a fee so I am looking at buying them from Omio or TheTrainLine. Is there much to see in either Brussels or Lille? How many hours is needed to fully appreciate either? What are everyone's thoughts? I am not sure whether Brussels-Central might be better than Midi?


    Eurostar Snap
    The price of the return journey was £51 although this increased to £58 and is now £73.50 which is too expensive. I had planned to buy the £51 ticket although someone else now is coming. The 15:30 service is still £58 but we really want to get the 18:42 service to allow us the whole of our last day. Eurostar snap is offering tickets for £49 from Lille on the 11th. The question is, as there are only 3 services running what are the chances of us being allocated on the 18:42, our train of choice? It would suck to be booked onto the more lightly loaded 15:30.


    Brexit
    I am know that is a sensitive subject at the moment although I need to be aware of the facts. I have aimed to demonstrate strong and stable leadership in my planning of this holiday. However, I would like us to be prepared for any eventuality that may take place on the 1st November. Is there a possibility that our above itinerary could be affected? Of course I am sure visas will not be necessary on day one although it is a concern of everyone in the group. We are all looking forward to our week away and would hate to be disappointed


    Thank you to everyone in advance for your help, guidance and advice.
     
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  3. geoffk

    geoffk Established Member

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    The "facts" about Brexit are that there are no facts. No-one really has a clue what will happen or when. It's getting increasingly likely that there will be an extension beyond 31st October but, who knows?
     
  4. 30907

    30907 Established Member

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    On the ethical question - I think you should offer, but not till your friend has sampled the upgrade! You will get a light, cold lunch - nice but not large - and a quarter bottle of wine. Not sure whether the service is repeated after Brussels -ISTR it was at the first.

    On your return - tickets on the Benelux service are definitely flexible, and I would imagine the same applies to Brussels-Lille. Incidentally, I wonder if splitting at the last major Belgian station would be worth it?
    I would book at www.b-europe.be which doesn't charge a fee.
    Is 11.11 a public holiday in BE?
     
  5. WesternLancer

    WesternLancer Member

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    Hi - just replying to the bits I have some knowledge / views on

    "The outward leg on the Eurostar was only £35 each on 11:04 service, which is very reasonable. However, to avoid putting up with the many stag doos and hen parties which I expect will also be travelling on this service, I decided to purchase my friend and I Standard Premier tickets. Due to the long journey time it made sense to pay for a more comfortable journey with included food. I have never been on Eurostar before so have no idea whether it will be worth it or not, but I guess I will find out. I am interested to hear what we can expect?"

    All you need to know about what to expect is on seat 61, so have a good read:
    https://www.seat61.com/London-to-Paris-by-train.htm#Eurostar_classes_explained
    or all on this page
    https://www.seat61.com/London-to-Paris-by-train.htm

    I was on the 11.04 last week, no sign of any stags / hens in any class. I was in standard premier. Chap opposite me was a young banker, lots of other passengers either dutch people heading home, or indeed US tourists (mostly retired).

    If you got a good price it's worth it - definitely mores sense of space in the carriages. Food is OK, but quantity is 'modest', and it's a cold meal. I'd def have breakfast before getting the 11.04 earlier in the day for example. Basically, if you were starving hungry a eurostar standard premier meal would not keep the wolf from the door!

    Dilemma
    As he made a fuss over saving a few pounds previously, I assume he would have not chosen himself to pay to pay extra himself. Standard Premier itself has value so should he be thankful I got him an upgrade and not expect a discount? The friend in question is a good one and I would hate to force them to pay more than they are willing to so could hypothetically forgive the difference.


    Hmm, tricky one here. Has to be a judgment call on the nature of your friendship and their attitude. The Eurostar is so much better than flying I'd just tell my mates I'll be on the train and meet them there, but group dynamics are often more complex so not sure. If your mate can afford it they should pay in my view, but they need to want to go on the train too....

    Lots of diff questions here but:
    Return Journey
    There are engineering works on the 11th November so there are no Eurostar services from Amsterdam or Brussels. Instead a skeleton service from Lille Europe will operate. My friend I will be taking a local train from Amsterdam - Brussels and from Brussels - Lille. We decided to break up our journey a bit to visit Brussels and Lille before taking the Eurostar home from Lille in the evening. I had a look on Loco2 and found that a through ticket from Amsterdam to Lille Flandres is very expensive and that splitting at Brussels-Midi saves a decent amount. Prices from Amsterdam to Brussels range between £23.99 and £75.65. Brussels to Lille appear to be either £17.50 or £22.79. Are these fares tied to specific trains or are the flexible?

    You can see if fares are flexible on loco2 - but given the fees you may want to check out buying tickets from the national railway companies concerned (see seat61 for links) - buy as pdf tickets you can print AND / OR show on your phone - and print them out too so you have a back up if phone problem away from home.

    Cheapest option might be simply to avoid fastest trains, look at local ones that cross the border, tickets will be cheap and almost certainly usable on any train, but slower.
    Use the DB on line journey planner to look for routes / times anywhere in Europe (see seat 61 for link), but you probably need a rail map to see the options - sounds like you enjoy train travel so I'd invest in one of these if you can afford it
    https://www.europeanrailtimetable.eu/rail-map-of-europe--folded-576-p.asp

    Can they be reduced by splitting further anywhere? Lastly, Loco2 want to charge a fee so I am looking at buying them from Omio or TheTrainLine. Is there much to see in either Brussels or Lille? How many hours is needed to fully appreciate either? What are everyone's thoughts? I am not sure whether Brussels-Central might be better than Midi?


    Brussels: You could spend days there! (allow a good half day to visit the Belgian National Railway museum if you like such things - easy to get to). Midi station area nearby is regarded as 'a bit dodgy' / Central station is right close to tourist central!
    (and even the on train announcement I was on recently going thru Brussels warned passengers to be aware of pick pockets and bag theifs who operate on the train in the city - stops are in close sequence so easy for theives to jump on a train, nick a bag, jump off 3 mins later I suspect - but don't let me put you off - keeping your wits about you is all you need to do and sensible precautions - valuables in zipped pockets, that sort of thing)

    Lille less to see but interesting (note that it has 2 stations and you need time to walk between them if changing there)

    In terms of what to see I'd drop into your local library and have a look over a Rough Guide type guide book for the areas and see what you think.

    Eurostar Snap
    No personal experience, but the reality is they are going to use that to fill the seats on the least demand service, so likely to be the one you least want, along with everybody else not wanting that time either....

    Brexit
    I am know that is a sensitive subject at the moment although I need to be aware of the facts. I have aimed to demonstrate strong and stable leadership in my planning of this holiday. However, I would like us to be prepared for any eventuality that may take place on the 1st November. Is there a possibility that our above itinerary could be affected? Of course I am sure visas will not be necessary on day one although it is a concern of everyone in the group. We are all looking forward to our week away and would hate to be disappointed

    Well, probably won't be a melt down! Continental trains will run as normal I'd say, if Eurostar is affected it will be delays to check in times and passport controls so more ques to get on, but if you have a ticket they will get you there / home some way or other. Juts be aware of the need for things that might change so for example:

    - do NOT sit in a bar some distance from the station, and turn up at the last minute of your eurostar check in not having checked any recent information

    - DO - keep an eye on eurostar website for updates and info, arrive in plenty of time for your advertised check in (by which i would say 1 hour is probably OK, but a bit more to be on safe side - or at least to go to the check in area or nearby and suss out what the queues look like etc - ticket will say check in closes 30 mins before train departure, so thus for example don't turn up 35 minutes before departure... )

    And
    Given you have a few trips planned, get a decent multi trip travel insurance policy and make sure it covers 'failure of local transport' at least if then things go badly wrong you have a decent chance of a claim being OK in the event of connecting trains going pear shaped (so probably best not to just buy the cheapest on line travel insurance you get on a comparison website...)
     
  6. AlexNL

    AlexNL Established Member

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    Regarding the journey from Amsterdam to Lille, you may be able to save some money if you're under 26 years of age.

    - Buy a regular ticket for Amsterdam - Noorderkempen on www.nsinternational.nl, which will cost € 20
    - Buy a 'Go Pass 1' on the NMBS website, which is a single journey between two Belgian stations for only € 6,60. Buy a ticket from Noorderkempen to the last station in Belgium - depending on your route that will be either Mouscron or Froyennes. Going via Froyennes will allow you to leave Brussels later while arriving into Lille at roughly the same time.
    - Buy a single ticket from that last Belgian station to Lille Flandres on www.b-europe.com. Either route costs € 6,30

    Total: € 32,90

    An alternative
    If you fancy a little adventure and visiting Brussels isn't that much of a deal for you, have you considered the ferry? Stena Line operate two daily sailings between Hook of Holland (near Rotterdam) and Harwich: one during the day, and one overnight.

    The daytime boat leaves Hoek van Holland at 14:15, arriving at Harwich at 19:45. The overnight boat leaves at 22:00, arriving at 06:30. These are priced very competitively, you can get a single from € 49 which includes onward travel to any Greater Anglia station.

    Some things to remark:
    - To travel on the overnight boat, you are required to book a cabin. This is not included in the price, a 2 person cabin with bunk beds costs € 55.
    - You can also buy train travel from 'Any NS station' to Hoek van Holland, but only if you have a Dutch address at hand and know how to use the Dutch version of the website. Travel from Any NS Station to Hoek van Holland costs € 15 per person.

    Stena Line NL website in English: https://www.stenaline.nl/en-GB-nl/england/rail-and-sail
    Stena Line NL website in Dutch: https://www.stenaline.nl/engeland/ferry-en-trein-londen
     
  7. WesternLancer

    WesternLancer Member

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    Other advice - if you have not already done it - is to look at a seat map of eurostar on seat61 site, work out where windows are - and use the seat selector on eurostar site to get a decent window seat (if 2 of you, a pair of decent seats with windows) - you don't want to go all the way to Amsterdam at premium fare and have a carriage pillar instead of a window. You can move your seat after booking too. Seat61 site explains how to do it. Simpler if you have booked with eurostar website I think, but IIRC also poss with a loco2 booking ref.
     
  8. AlexNL

    AlexNL Established Member

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    It doesn't really matter where you booked it, all you need is the booking reference (6 character code printed on the tickets and in the confirmation mail) and the last name of one of the parties in the booking. You can change the booking via https://managebooking.eurostar.com/
     
  9. WesternLancer

    WesternLancer Member

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    Yes, but some booking sites do not generate a reference that the Eurostar seat selector recognizes, so in those case it does matter - eg I booked a DB sparpreis through ticket which has a booking reference that eurostar seat selector website does not recongise so you can't change your seat on their website (tho luckily it gave me an excellent seat by default so had no need to change it).

    It also generates a ticket in that instance that has a QR code Eurostar check in gates don't recognise either, you have to go to the manual check in point, where I was then given a new 'boarding card' after my DB issued ticket had been checked.

    More info here (tho obv most bookings will work ok)
    https://www.seat61.com/London-to-Paris-by-train.htm#Choosing_your_seat_on_Eurostar
     
  10. BluePenguin

    BluePenguin On Moderation

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    Thank you very much to everyone for you help and advice. Another friend of mine decided they wanted to come too at the last minute. I managed to book the Eurostar legs for each of us on Omio and was able successfully change our seats on the Eurostar website by entering the booking confirmation number. 15% cashback is not bad either.

    I told my friend the total cost including for Standard Premier and he was happy to pay it so all is well ends well. Going on the ferry sounded interesting to me but not to the others.

    Thanks @AlexNL for your instructions, I really appreciate the huge saving. As we are not travelling to Noorderkempen, Mouscron, Froyennes I haven't managed to find an itinerary to match. Is it okay to board any train in Amsterdam and Brussles with the combination you suggested? I had a look on the website but couldn't quite work out which trains are allowed and which aren't. Please could you explain a little more? Only my friends and counting on me to get this booking right and I feel a little nervous :)
     
  11. AlexNL

    AlexNL Established Member

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    If you're buying tickets for the combination I gave you before, you're buying open tickets and you can use any IC or TER train to complete your journey. Please note that you are not allowed to use the red Thalys trains, those need separate tickets.

    Assuming you wish to leave Amsterdam around 9:00 and want to catch the 18:12 Eurostar from Lille Europe to London, I can suggest you the following itinerary:

    Leg 1: Amsterdam to Rotterdam:
    D 09:25 Amsterdam Centraal, platform 15a
    A 11:16 Antwerpen Centraal, platform 23

    Leg 2: Antwerp to Lille-Flandres
    D 11:37 Antwerpen Centraal, platform 1
    A 13:50 Lille Flandres


    This will give you a few hours in the city of Lille, which is well worth a visit on its own. Just make sure to be at Lille Europe (700m walk from Lille Flandres) in time for your Eurostar.

    So for tickets, you would need:
    1) A single from Amsterdam Centraal to Noorderkempen, www.nsinternational.nl
    2) Noorderkempen to Mouscron (Moeskroen), Go Pass 1, for sale on www.belgiantrain.be (only for those younger than 26)
    3) Mouscron to Lille Flandres, www.b-europe.com

    All tickets allow you to travel on any chosen train* on the day.

    (* Except Thalys/Eurostar, as those trains require a special ticket.)
     
  12. BluePenguin

    BluePenguin On Moderation

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    So far our trip is going well. We have done a fair bit of sightseeing and enjoyed a bit of sun the other day. Pouring it down with rain today though, our cycle ride will have to wait.

    Thanks for the example @AlexNL it looks fine to me. There has been a change of plan and we have decided to visit only Brussels instead and have a quick browse around Lille if there is time. Would it be best to go via Mousron or Froyennes? Our Eurostar from Lille is at 18:42 so we have time to spare. A quick journey would be great is possible.

    Our accommodation in Haarlam is quite out of the way and involves taking a bus and then a train into Amsterdam. What operators can we use with these tickets? I am not sure what TER means. There seems to be some nice Intercity trains and also Sprinters. I am wondering whether the £12 saving is worth it over the through ticket 3 hours over 2 hours makes a difference.

    Also, we bought the 3 day pass from the travel centre for €35.50 so I assume we could save by buying a ticket further on from Amsterdam Centraal?

    Again, thanks Alex in advance. Your help is appreciated.
     
  13. AlexNL

    AlexNL Established Member

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    "the 3 day pass from the travel centre for €35.50" does not mean much to me, I'm afraid - I'm not exactly familiar in the area. Do you happen to have a name of the ticket you were sold?

    If you are departing from Haarlem, you should plan your journey from that station. You can use the journey planner on www.nsinternational.nl.

    Re. journey advice and visiting Brussels: if you want to visit Brussels and travel the cheapest way possible all the way to Lille, you have no choice but going via Froyennes. The route via Mouscron does not go via Brussels and the tickets which I adviced you before require you to take the shortest possible route. (Break of journey is allowed, however).

    Due to the engineering works going on around Brussels this extended weekend, this means journey times are extended. This is the itinerary I get for a journey from Brussels South to Lille Flandres via Froyennes, this Monday:

    Screenshot_20191109-221812_DB Navigator.jpg
    (The journey planner I've used is the DB Navigator app from Deutsche Bahn)

    As you can see, this itinerary gets you to Lille Flandres at 17:21 - well in time for your Eurostar connection. Getting from Lille Flandres to Lille Europe involves a short walk along a well signposted route.

    However, as most services in Belgium are timed at hourly intervals this does mean that everything must go according to plan. A missed connection most likely leads to you arriving in Lille an hour late, and you'll be late for your Eurostar.

    TER is a train category in France.
     
  14. duesselmartin

    duesselmartin Member

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    TER French regional train. No reservations. Fully flexible ticketing.
     
  15. radamfi

    radamfi Established Member

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    There is the Amsterdam & Region Travel Ticket for 36.50 for three days.
     
  16. AlexNL

    AlexNL Established Member

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    If that is indeed the ticket you're holding, you can use this to travel from Haarlem to Schiphol Airport and pick up a train to Belgium from there. As the ARTT is valid until Hoofddorp, you can buy an international ticket from Hoofddorp to Noorderkempen. This will save you a few euro's compared to a ticket from Amsterdam Centraal.

    Keep in mind that prices for the international leg of your journey will now be higher than quoted before, as the booking window for the cheaper international tickets has closed.

    To get from Haarlem to Schiphol Airport, use www.9292.nl/en to plan your journey.
     
  17. radamfi

    radamfi Established Member

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    I'm guessing the quickest route is generally changing trains at Amsterdam Sloterdijk, but if it is of interest to the OP the 300 bus is direct between Haarlem and the airport via Hoofddorp and is the longest dedicated busway in Europe. It includes tunnels, viaducts and railway style level crossings.

    https://wiki.ovinnederland.nl/wiki/Lijn_300_Haarlem_Station_-_Amsterdam_Bijlmer_ArenA
     

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