When travelling from the United Kingdom to Europe, there’s a decision to make.
Should I fly or take the train?
As you may know, I love to fly, but there is no better no way better to explore Europe than by train!
The most famous of all of Europe’s trains has to be the Eurostar. The high-speed train – that can run up to 300 kilometres per hour – connects London with Paris and Brussels.
On my recent trip to France, I decided to travel onboard the Eurostar from Paris to London in Business Premier.
In the past, I have travelled by both plane and Eurostar from London to Paris.
Flying is great. It’s a speedy forty-minute flight, but the combination of getting out to any one of London’s airports and then having to get into Central Paris from the airport is costly and time-consuming. Then, you need to be there an hour early for bag drop, immigration, and then boarding.
In comparison, the Eurostar takes around 2 hours 20 minutes from central London (St Pancras International) and travels to central Paris (Gare du Nord).
No need to get there early for baggage drop because all your items come on board with you – there is an option to check on excess or large baggage – and immigration is pretty breezy on the British side. I can’t say the same when departing France….
Best of all, before you board you, if you are travelling in Eurostar’s Business Premier, you can relax or have a quick bite to eat and drink in the passenger lounge.
What’s the difference between Standard, Premier and Business Premier?
Eurostar offers three classes of ticket – Standard, Standard Premier and Business Premier.
Business Premier is the top-tier of travel on Eurostar, and, unsurprisingly, the most expensive. It does, however, include a full hot meal onboard, access to the Eurostar lounge, and you need to have checked in just 10 minutes before departure. The main benefit is that Business Premier tickets are fully flexible.
Standard Premier and Business Premier share exactly the same seating but are seated in separate carriages, with very few differences between the service options. For example, Premier passengers tickets aren’t flexible, and the meals served are cold (think pastries and orange juice in Standard Premier, instead of a hot dish, yoghurt and pastries in Business Premier.)
After travelling both Business Premier and Standard Premier, honestly, if you can get a good priced Standard Premier ticket then buy it. Both times I travelled Business Premier it was because tickets were £10-20 more expensive (I was travelling during peak holiday season.)
Thinking of getting Business Premier for the WiFi onboard? Don’t bother. Each time I’ve travelled (2010, 2013 and 2015) the signal has been slow or nonexistent onboard.
There is free WiFi throughout both London St Pancras and Paris Gare du Nord.
While I haven’t travelled in Standard, fellow travellers who I have talked with have said that it’s not that much of a step down from Standard Premier.
It’s slightly more crowded (and as such, a little noisier), and seats are slightly narrower and have less leg room, but still sufficient for the 2.5-hour journey. Also, you’ll have to purchase your food and drink from the kiosk-style dining car.
If you want to get work done, there are only two Standard carriages have AC power for your laptop or other devices – those are cars 5 and 14, so if you need to charge up for your journey then make sure to book a seat in these cars.
Travelling Eurostar’s Business Premier, Paris to London
Unlike in London, where there is a fast-track check-in area for Eurostar’s Business Premier passengers, boarding the train at Paris’ Gare du Nord was a little slower, especially for non-Eurozone or UK passengers.
If you have time before boarding, take advantage of the comfortable Eurostar lounge for a snack or something to eat. If you don’t want to, or lacking time, there is a duty-free store, news agency, and cafe accessible to all.
Onboard, Eurostar’s Business Premier has a seating configuration set as 1-2. A single row of seats run down one side of the train, with paired seating across the aisle. There are tables of two (‘Club 2’) and four (‘Club 4’) available.
The seats are spacious and comfortable, with high backs and moveable armrests. They do recline, but won’t infringe on the space of your fellow passengers. If you want extra leg room, be sure to book in the ‘Club’ tables.
Every seat in Business Premier has access to an AC power socket.
Included in the price of your Business Premier ticket is a full meal.
During the service I was on, I was served afternoon tea. This consisted of a rather sad cheese plate, croque monsieur (there was a choice between two hot meals), and dessert.
Personally, I think the breakfast services are a little better. You get pastries, a hot dish, yoghurt, and orange juice.
Still peckish? There are two kiosk-style dining cars on the Eurostar.
Meal and immigration aside, the journey from Paris to London onboard Eurostar was smooth and comfortable. Arriving in St Pancras International, just steps away from London’s Underground at Kings Cross meant I could easily get onto the Piccadilly Line to head out to Heathrow for a stay at Yotel before my flight to New York the next day.
The benefits of train travel in Europe
1. Save time – train stations are often located in the heart of the city, meaning they’re easy to get to or from. Airports are often located a long distance from the city centre, and then there are the lines…
2. Save money – Airfares and train travel often cost a similar price in Europe, but when you consider the time and money it will take to get to an airport vs. the train station, the train station is often the best option.
3. Comfort – Large seats, no weight limit for your luggage and you can sit in a single seat, side-by-side, table of two, or as a table of four!
4. No Hidden Extras – In Europe, often the airlines with the best prices are low-cost carriers who may have cheap seats but will sting you when it comes to getting to the airport, baggage, seat allocation, priority boarding, and food.
With train travel, the only extra you need to pay is for food and maybe WiFi… or, if you’re in either of Eurostar’s Premier classes, nothing!
5. Rarely delayed – I’m not sure about your experiences, but I’ve never had a train run late when in Europe. On the other hand, I can’t count how many times my flights in Europe have been delayed…
Also, if you get to the train station earlier, I’ve never had a problem getting on an early train, providing there was room!
Destinations: Eurostar runs from London’s St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord and Brussels-Midi/Zuld.
There are extra services to connect you direct to Disneyland Paris, and beyond to the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland or other destinations in France or Belgium.
Cost: check the website for the most up-to-date pricing.