Thursday, November 5, 2015

Train Ride 2015 - Brussels to Amsterdam, 4th Leg

Date of Travel: 11th October 2015

In Brussels we stayed at Ibis Hotel, as usual the hotel that Ane choose is nearby to most of the attraction and most importantly not far from the train station. We stayed there for 2 nights. Believing that our Thalys train will depart at noon, both of us were relaxing in the hotel room. At around 8.30 am, Ane happened to check the train schedule and discovered my mistakes which I take arriving time as departure time. We got so panicked but amazingly managed to get ready in 30 minutes. By 9.00 am we were already at the hotel reception, asking them to call a cab. 

At 9.05am, both of us tucked safe in the city cab heading towards Bruxelle Midi praying hard that we would not missed our 9.52 am train departing time. Within 20 minutes we safely arrived and rushing to check the terminal screen for a right gate. Lucky it was easy to find Platform 5 with so many Thalys, ICE, Eurostar, TGV signage inside the station. Rest assured that you wont get lose inside. As soon as our luggage were at the platform, I excused myself to snap 2 below photos. At the platform we met a Malaysian family, group of 5 also heading toward the same destination with us. Apparently, the were on the same train Thalys schedule from Paris to Brussels on 9th October that got cancelled. They opted to rent a car that cost them Euro700 and we told them of our cheaper option, by bus at only Euro58 for 2. 

Travelling by train from Brussels to Amsterdam is indeed very easy. The number of daily trains serving the route is more than doubled since this year (2015), so passengers on the route has nothing to worry about their preferred travelling time selection. You can opt for either a premium Thalys train or the more frequent but slower InterCity (IC) services train. The Thalys service must be pre-booked and each ticket includes a seat reservation. Just click on the shared link HERE to get your ticket booked online via Thalys, managed by SNBC. Prices are vary like air fares so you'll find cheap fares from around Euro27 (ours was  Euro29/person) if you book well in advance rising to around Euro80 if you buy on the day you wish to travel. Be mindful that Thalys tickets are only valid on the specific train you book, and the cheaper fares mean no refunds, no changes to travel plans. Otherwise, the IC trains option allows you to be totally flexible as tickets are not tied to a specific service.

Travel time between the two cities is just under two hours on Thalys and 3 hrs 20 mins on the IC service. You’ll see much striking modern architecture and, in the second half of the journey, even the occasional windmill stranded in urban settings. We do not take photos much as we got busied making friends with a group of lady from Argentina in the welcome bar. Please take on important note that tickets for both the IC and Thalys services will go on sale 3 months prior to travel, hence, Ane and I put a reminder to our calendar to catch that best rate.

Thalys trains on this route generally run at least every two hours, with extra services at peak times. Trains leave from Brussels Midi station and arrive in Amsterdam at Schiphol Airport before continuing to Amsterdam Centraal where they terminate and where we got down. Thalys trains make just 2 other stops en route, in Antwerp and Rotterdam. Due to its high speed condition, the speed is at 30 0km/hr between the 2 cities resulting Amsterdam-Brussels journey takes just 1 hour and 49 minutes. A passenger in front of our seat got excited when he made a right guessed, that we both came from Malaysia. He became so friendly and shared the story about his amazing business partner in Malaysia. He even called the lady to speak with us. People are really friendly, hence do not forget to smile at everyone. After all smile cost nothing.

Meanwhile, the IC service leaves Brussels Midi hourly and makes 11 stops on its journey to Amsterdam Centraal. The train serves both Brussels National Airport and Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. Other en route stops include Antwerp, Rotterdam and Den Haag. Much option when taking the Intercity Brussels, which runs hourly (16x daily) between Amsterdam Central and Brussels Zuid/Midi. The train makes stops at Schiphol, Den Haag HS, Rotterdam, Dordrecht, Roosendaal, Antwerp Central, Antwerp Berchem, Mechelen, Brussels Airport, Brussels North and Brussels Central. However, the Amsterdam-Brussels journey takes longer hour, just over 3 hours 20 minutes.

Travelling by train between Brussels and Amsterdam is certainly the best option in terms of time and convenience and gets you into the heart of the city centres fast enough. Should you want to skip Brussels, you may travel in less than 4 hours in the high speed Thalys service which runs from Amsterdam Central station to Paris Gare du Nord via Brussels Zuid/Midi station. The Thalys also stops at Amsterdam Schiphol airport, Rotterdam Central and Antwerp. 

Thalys train offers 2 classes of travel, i.e. Comfort 1 in 1st class and Comfort 2 in 2nd class. We were in 2nd class and I do not have any photo on how 1st class looks like. Comfort 1 includes drinks and snacks served at your seat, newspapers/magazines and free WiFi internet. Comfort 2 passengers can purchase food and drink at the onboard bar. All seats onboard have individual electric power outlets. Though wifi said to be free but it is taking forever should you want to use them in the 2nd class. Ane and I decided to go for coffee break while enjoying the scenery from the cafe bar. There we met a group of lady traveler from Argentina who offered to snap our below photo. Thereafter, there's a lot of noises coming from us, the combined group. 

Please take note that Belgium and Netherlands are members of the Schengen Zone agreement which does not require traveler or passengers to go through a passport control check when travelling between Amsterdam and Brussels. Unlike traveling in Asia side, we have to go through each immigration border check point. 

We arrived quite early in Amsterdam Centraal, i.e. at 11.42 am. The directions are equally easy in the station. In no time, we managed to get us a cab to the hotel, check-in and explored Amsterdam in the second half of the day. I will complete entries of the travels connecting the 8 cities stop in this 4th leg before writing and sharing the attractions that we went in those 8 cities.

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