EurostarEurostar links London and the South East to Lille, Paris, and Brussels on a daily basis, plus seasonal services to Disneyland Paris and Marseilles. Interchange at Lille or Brussels Midi stations for destinations in Germany, Benelux and France, or by changing stations in Paris for major French cities and selected stations in Switzerland, Italy and Spain (please allow sufficient time when changing trains and/or stations).
Booking early can save you money - Eurostar tickets are usually released 180 days before travel. For the cheapest fares, book off-peak tickets online as soon as they go on sale; the lowest fares from St Pancras are most likely to be available for departures from noon on Monday until the last service on Thursday, and for Saturday services from noon onwards. If you can't book that far in advance, check the very earliest and latest trains – with the limited number of onward connections, they tend to be less in demand. Middle-of-the-day services are also cheaper. Alternatively, if you are flexible of the time of travelling, book in advance with Eurostar Snap, identify the day you want to travel and whether morning or afternoon, and you will be notified of your train time 48 hours before travel.
An Interrail pass covering the country at one or other end of your Eurostar journey will entitle you to a discounted Eurostar fare.
Eurostar and some British train operators offer Eurostar tickets with through travel from 130 major stations in the UK. These are covered by 'Convention Internationale pour le transport des Voyageurs' (CIV) international railway conditions of carriage throughout, so if your UK connection is delayed you can take the next available Eurostar train - see The Man at Seat 61.
If you buy the connecting journey in the UK separately, make sure the ticket from your home station is to 'London St Pancras International (CIV)', 'London International' or 'London Eurostar' (not 'London St Pancras International'). The ‘CIV’ ticket guarantees you a seat on the next available Eurostar train if your UK train is delayed. Without a CIV ticket, unless your Eurostar ticket is flexible, you would have to buy a new Eurostar ticket. The CIV ticket allows travel to London St Pancras, including the tube if necessary. On some routes the CIV ticket is cheaper than a normal anytime ticket but has no time restrictions; on other routes both anytime (without time restrictions) and 'high saver' (cheaper but with time restrictions) tickets are available. The 'London St Pancras International (CIV)' and 'London International' versions can be bought with a railcard; the 'London Eurostar' version cannot, but is cheaper than the others. For more details and to buy tickets see The Man at Seat 61 – CIV tickets can also be bought from Raileasy or Loco2 or Eurostar, and can be bought at your station booking office (either on the day or before) if you show your Eurostar ticket or confirmation. They can not be bought from the normal rail ticket websites, ticket vending machines or by phone.
However some operators offer separate discounted fares to St Pancras labelled 'International Excursion Ticket' (ITX) - we advise against buying these because they do not offer protection against delay, and may be more expensive than CIV tickets.
Please View or Download our Eurostar Travel Survey report. The survey gave us a full picture of who uses Eurostar and why, how they book their ticket and their experience of travel on board and onward connections, so that we can campaign for improved services.
AirportsRailfuture completed a survey of public transport links to airports in 2012 – download the Airlinks report (612Bb).
HeathrowHeathrow Express (with a premium fare) and Heathrow Connect offer services to Paddington. Railcard discounts are allowed, but (aside for the Disabled Persons Railcard) only if bought from the ticket office, for travel today or up to 2 days ahead, and not on carnet tickets. Tickets on Heathrow Express can be bought on the train, but at extra cost. The Piccadilly line provides a cheaper but slower route to central London.
RailAir coach services connect with First Great Western and South West Railway services at Reading and Woking respectively – for the Reading service, it is cheaper to book rail and coach tickets separately in advance, and railcard discounts are available; for Woking, coach tickets must be booked separately and there are no railcard discounts.
GatwickGatwick Express offers a frequent non-stop service to and from London Victoria, but is more expensive and very little faster than the regular Southern and Thameslink services to London.
First Great Western operates an hourly service from Reading which is convenient for connections from the West of England, South Wales and the Midlands. FGW also offers a Gatwick Flyaway ticket from FGW served stations on routes not via London at a fixed price for a group of 2, 3 or 4 adults and up to 4 children.
StanstedStansted Express offers low-cost advance and group fares between Stansted and London. Cross Country Trains operate an hourly direct service from Birmingham, via Leicester and Peterborough, taking 3 hours, but fares can be rather expensive - it can be cheaper and sometimes faster via London.
FerriesIt is sometimes difficult for rail passengers to gain access to ferries, so Railfuture lobbies operators of ferries, trains and buses to co-ordinate their operations to make it easier for passengers. In 2013 Railfuture completed a survey of ferry passengers to gather information about how easy or difficult it is, and to provide objective evidence to support our case – download the Ferrylinks report (465kB).
If you can provide information about other ferries useful to rail passengers, please email editor at railwatch.org.uk.
- Arriva Trains Wales offers Sailrail combined rail and ferry tickets to Ireland via Holyhead and Fishguard routes, available online, from any station booking office or by telephone 08709 000 773.
- Virgin Trains offers Rail & Sail combined rail and ferry tickets to Ireland via the Holyhead route, available online, from Virgin station booking offices or by telephone 08719 774 222.
- Scotrail offers Rail & Sail combined rail and ferry tickets via the Ayr and Cairnryan route to Belfast or Larne, available online, from Scotrail station booking offices, or by telephone 08457 550 033. However this involves a 75 minute bus journey between Ayr and Cairnryan, whereas by travelling via Stranraer only a 10 minute bus journey and a short walk from the town is required (there is also one bus per day directly between Stranraer station and Cairnryan). From Belfast rail services (for which a separate ticket is required) operate to Dublin.
Holyhead-DublinThe train takes rail passengers direct to the ferry terminal at Holyhead (North Wales) where check-in is easy. Irish Ferries provides a bus from the ferry terminal at Holyhead to the ferry berth. Stena Line, based in Holyhead, also operate on this route. At Dublin Port:
- a special bus takes foot passengers from the ferry terminal to the city centre. It costs 3 or 4 euros and you need to pay the exact fare. No change is given (the change machine in the terminal was out of action in September 2013).
- Dublin Bus number 53 (one an hour) also calls at the ferry port and takes passengers to Connolly station in the city centre. It cost €1.65 in September 2013.
- A taxi can cost €15-€20.
Fishguard-Dún LaoghaireStena Line operates the route. ATW operate the Cardiff-Fishguard Harbour rail service. Irish Rail operates the Dún Laoghaire to Dublin rail service.
Fishguard-RosslareStena Line operates the route. ATW operates the Cardiff-Fishguard Harbour rail service. Irish Rail operates the Rosslare to Dublin rail service.
Isle of ManSteam Packet operates services from Belfast, Birkenhead, Dublin, Heysham and Liverpool to Douglas.
FranceBrittany Ferries operates the following services:
- Portsmouth-St Malo
- Portsmouth-Le Havre
HollandStena Line operates a service from Harwich to Hoek van Holland. There are two sailings a day. The day sailings have through train connections to/from London to Harwich International with connections via Manningtree nationally.
The night sailing has through train connections to and from London via Colchester and to and from Cambridge via Newmarket, Bury St Edmunds and Ipswich direct to Harwich International. The night fares include a very comfortable cabin.
The transfer is direct from train to ship and vice versa. These ferries are amongst the largest in the world and very comfortable.
Stena Line offers Dutch Flyer combined rail and ferry tickets from any Abellio Greater Anglia station to any station in Holland. Available online, from London Liverpool Street station booking office or telephone 08445 762762.
Foreign rail travel
EuropeYou can travel to continental Europe by Eurostar train direct or by train and ferry. Once there, rail is a good way to enjoy your visit in comfort.
A new printed European Rail Timetable was launched in March 2014 to replace the version produced for 140 years by Thomas Cook. It is being produced by the same team that worked for Thomas Cook, led by John Potter. You can buy a copy for £22.37 including post and packing. A digital version is available for £13.99.
Loco2 have published The Great Train Comparison of how well European train companies meet the requirements of different types of traveller.
The following links may help:
- Loco2 Makes booking tickets for combined UK and European rail journeys simple
- DeutscheBahn Plan journeys anywhere in Europe, and buy tickets for journeys in Germany
- GoEuro Plan and book combined rail and air journeys in UK and Europe
- Rome2Rio Plan and book multi-modal journeys combining rail and air travel
- Russian Railways Rail timetable information for Russia and other CIS states can be found in English
- Irish Rail Plan journeys in Ireland and buy tickets
- Ferrysavers may offer cheaper tickets than the ferry company websites, but does not offer the combined rail and ferry tickets which are available for some routes from the rail companies.
- InterRail The InterRail Global Pass allows five days of rail travel, within a 10-day period, across 30 countries - and a reduction in Eurostar travel and sometimes in ferry travel. It costs £264 per adult, £200 for those aged 12-25. Passes are also available for longer periods and for individual countries. There are restrictions, which vary between countries, on the use of this ticket on High Speed and Intercity trains, and in most cases reservations are needed for these trains.
- TGV.co.uk Book travel on high speed trains in France, with connections throughout Europe
- The Man in Seat 61 Independent advice on travel by train worldwide, including advice on sleeper trains
- Trainline (previously Captain Train) sells rail tickets for 22 countries across Europe.
- Railteam links you to high speed operators in at least 8 countries and contains a helpful journey planner linking stations in Britain with station in those countries.
- Europe by Rail The Thomas Cook guide features route planners and city maps, as well as tips for budget accommodation and eating places.
- RailTourGuide sells international rail tickets. Based in Newcastle, it can be contacted by email at sales at railtourguide.com or by phone at 0191 246 0708.
- Sketch map of high-speed rail connections in Britain and Europe (235kB).
- Railways through Europe Information and maps for rail enthusiasts about European cross-border lines
- Shift to Rail How the European Commission is trying to promote European rail integration
- Rail World More international rail websites
Any EU citizen over 65 years old can travel FREE anywhere on the Hungarian Railways domestic network. Yes, unlimited free travel in Hungary! You still need to go to the ticket office and get a free ticket to your chosen destination, and you must still pay any fast train supplement. Or you can book online at www.mavcsoport.hu/en, looking for the 'Full fare' drop-down menu and selecting 'Person over 65'. If you want 1st class you must pay the difference between 1st and 2nd class fares before boarding. Trams and buses are also free if you're over 65.
AmericaFares vary hugely in America but an economical option is a USA Rail Pass from Amtrak which costs $689 for 30 days, during which you can take 12 “segments” or point-to-point journeys. You pay extra for anything more than a seat and you need to make reservations. You are restricted to four stops on any one line. A 15-day pass for eight segments costs $459.
Travel agentsTravel agents who can deal with rail trips in foreign countries include:
- Ffestiniog Travel Sells rail tickets throughout the world and scored top in the mystery shopper exercise in our previous Eurostar survey.
- Deutsche Bahn UK Booking Centre. Tel: 08718 80 80 66 (8p per minute).
- Voyages-sncf.com Book tickets online or phone 0844 848 5848. Previously branded Rail Europe.
- Trainseurope Book tickets or InterRail and USA rail passes. Tel: 0871 700 7722 Fax: 01354 660444 or call at St. Pancras International Station, East Midlands Trains ticket office, Desk 1
- Holidays by Rail Rail holiday specialist and Amtrak ticket agent. Sackville Place, 44-48 Magdalen Street, Norwich NR3 1JU. Tel: 0800 033 7960
- Rail Canterbury Continental rail specialists, 39 Palace Street, Canterbury, Kent CT1 2DZ. Tel: 01227 450088. Email: rail at rail-canterbury.co.uk]
- The Association of European Rail Agents is a group of 11 travel agents who specialise in international rail travel.
European Passenger RightsPassengers travelling by plane, ferry, train and coach have certain rights in the event of travel disruption. For further details see www.ec.europa.eu/passengerrights.
Planning your journey | What type of ticket | Finding the best price | Getting to and from the station | Making the journey easy | When things go wrong | Rail tours