The beginner’s guide to train travel in Belgium

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The Central Station of Antwerp (source)

Travelling by train is a simple way to get around in Belgium, and also to get to our neighbour countries. If I compare to other countries I’ve been to, I think it’s safe to say that a train ride won’t cost you that much in Belgium. Here are some tips that might help you.

– Tickets-

You can get your tickets online, through the NMBS/SNCB app, or in the train station itself. Make sure you have one before you go onboard. In Belgium they do check alot, and not being in the possession of a valid ticket might cost you alot of money. If by circumstances, you are very late and have to run to catch your train, go to the conductor. He/she can still give you a ticket on board, this costs more than one you buy in advance, but like this you avoid a fine.

For trains in Belgium you don’t need to make reservations, so no need to book in advance. This is not the case if you’re travelling by high speed train. You can buy tickets for first class and tickets for second class. Be aware you sit in the right carriage (marked by 1 and 2).

I recommand you to buy second class tickets, these are cheaper, and there is not alot of difference with first class anyways.

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(source)

Now you have many tickets and formulas.

You’re travelling with a small group or intent to go to more than one place by train:

  • Go Pass 10: this pass allows you to travel 10 times (single) in Belgium for 51 euros (that’s only 5,10 euros per trip). Be aware: this is only for people under 26 years old! You can use this for multiple people aswell. For example: you travel with five people, then you can buy this pass for two train rides each.
  • Rail Pass: this works exacly the same as the Go Pass 10, only this one is for people older than 26. A rail pass costs 76 euros (so 7,60 euros for each trip).
  • Go Unlimited: for this formula you need a MOBIB-card, which they can make for you in a train station, the costs are 5 euros. The Go Unlimited formula offers people under 26 to travel UNLIMITED during Belgian holidays for 12 euros a week or 25 a month! I would say this is very interesting if you’re here during the holidays.
  • Key Card: This one is only for short trips! It offers you 10 trips for 21 euros.Make sure you ask in the train station of your departure where you can travel to with this pass. If you want to use this pass in Brussels it’s better to use the Jump Card, more information here.

So are you under 26 and with a couple of people or intending to use the train more than once : use the Go Pass 10 or in the holidays Go Unlimited. For those older than 26 use the Rail Pass.

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(source)

You’re only going by train once, or you’re only with one or two people:

  • Standard Ticket: just name the place you are going and hop on the first train. For families with three kids or more there is a reduction possible.
  • Go Pass 1: if you’re under 26, you can buy a ticket for 6 euros to go anywhere. Make sure you check first if the Standard Ticket isn’t cheaper!
  • Weekend ticket: if you travel in the weekend your ticket (return) will be alot cheaper than during the week.
  • Discounts: kids, seniors, families with three kids or more, all get a discount ticket.
  • Be aware, if you’re taking a bike with you, you’ll need a ticket for the bike aswell (silly I know).
  • Group Travel: more than 15 people? get a group ticket and save money.

So this might all be a bit much, luckily there is a site which tells you what ticket is right for you. You can easily compare the different tickets here.

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Train station of Liège (source)

– Advantages-

  • Belgium is a small country, so mostly you won’t sit on the train very long. It’s easy to get pretty much everywhere by rail.
  • No need to worry about traffic, or finding parking.
  • Most parking are very expensive, taking the train might be cheaper.
  • You can relax, read a book to kill time, you don’t have to worry about anything.
  • You can take as much luggage as you want with you.
  • The main cities have good and regular connections.

– Disadvantages-

  • I must admit, punctuality is certainly a working point. Especially if your train has to get through Brussels, it might be that you have some delay.
  • The NMBS/SNCB also does strike alot.
  • Avoid the times when people go to and come from work. For my internship I travelled by train everyday towars Brussels. Only two times I was able to sit (during a period of 12 weeks).

– Duration-

Some distances to give you an idea:

  • Brussels <=> Leuven: +/- 20 minutes
  • Brussels <=> Ghent: +/- 40 minutes
  • Brussels <=> Antwerp: +/- 50 minues
  • Brussels <=> Bruges: +/- 1 hour
  • Ghent <=> Antwerp: +/- 1 hour
  • Brussels <=> Liège: +/- 1 hour
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(source)

– International-

From Belgium you can easily cross borders by rail. Be carefull: these are often high-speed trains, so reservations can be necessary!

  • Brussels <=> Paris: 1h 30
  • Brussels <=> London: 3hours
  • Brussels <=> Rotterdam: 2 hours
  • Brussels <=> Luxemburg: 3 hours
  • Brussels <=> Köln: 2 hours

For more information: check the website of Interrail

 

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