Eurostar

Eurostar is the only passenger train running through the channel tunnel between the UK and the rest of Europe. While it certainly isn’t the only way to cross the channel, it’s quite a key route and has some extra quirks.

Please note that as of 31 October 2023 Thalys services are also branded Eurostar, the below information about needing a security check and/or passport is not applicable to those services. These can be boarded up to 2 minutes before departure with no issue. The reservations for those can be made the same way.

Passport & ID checks

Your documentation, reservation and pass will be scanned at ticket machines and border control before you are allowed onto the platform. Note that post Brexit an ID card for most people is no longer sufficient to enter the UK – you do need a passport. Finally your bag will be X-rayed similar to an airport – though you can take through as many liquids as you want.

To allow time for this you need to arrive at the station earlier than normal – you can check Eurostar’s recommendation at: https://www.eurostar.com/uk-en/travel-info/your-trip/check-in

Reservations

How much does it cost?

It costs €30 for all journeys apart from services to/from the Netherlands which cost €35 plus booking fee from €2 to €4 depending where you book.

As per 2024, it is now possible to book these reservations without a booking fee via Rail Europe (please note, when using this link to purchase a small percentage goes to us for server upkeep, as unfortunately this is not free). Just add your pass at the button called Rail pass (shown below), press confirm and select the route, time and dates.

How far in advance do I need to book reservations?

A limited quota of reservations is available on each train. This means that a train can sell out of reservations even though full price tickets are still available. How far ahead you need to book depends a lot on when you are travelling, for July & August booking a month in advance should be enough to give you a choice of most services. But trains absolutely sell out 2+ weeks in advance. During the middle of winter though there is normally space on most trains till 2 weeks before and some until 1 week before.

If you are travelling on a weekend of Friday/Monday reservations are harder to get, if you are travelling mid-week you can probably leave things a bit later. Services to/from the Netherlands also generally sell out first.

Finally if you are making a longer journey you’ll need to book sooner. For example if you want to travel from Manchester to Milan there will only be a limited amount of Eurostar trains you can get and make that journey in 1 day, but if you are just going from Paris to London and happy with anything then you can leave it later.

As always thought you might get lucky or might not – if a train selling out is going to massively screw up your trip – buy it.

How do I buy a reservation?

Reservations are available at stations served by Eurostar, using the Interrail reservation service (€2 booking fee per person per train) or through B-Europe: https://www.b-europe.com/EN/Booking/Pass#TravelWish (€4 booking fee per order, can include multiple people and return legs as well)

To book Eurostar reservations from B-Europe, you need a pass cover number. It’s printed on the paper pass. For mobile passes, you can generate one here:

Interrail: https://www.interrail.eu/en/book-reservations#/generatePassCoverNumber

Eurail: https://www.eurail.com/en/book-reservations#/generatePassCoverNumber

Trains are not visible in B-Europe once sold out – so its a good way to check availability before buying your pass.

Do I need to print my reservation?

No.

Are extra reservations available at the station when it says sold out online?

No.

Can I sit on the floor (even if it means a fine) if I don’t have a reservation?

No – you can’t get onto the platform without a reservation.

What to do when reservations are sold out?

First, check other destinations. Make sure you’ve established that there are no seats left to any destination – check Paris, Lille and Brussels. Where trains stop at both Lille and Brussels it is possible for reservations to be sold out from one and not the other. If there are really no seats left on your date, you can consider using a ferry.

Ferry alternatives

Check out the seat61 guide to ferries from the UK to mainland Europe.

Harwick to Hoek Van Holland

This is by far the easiest alternative. The rail connections at both ends are excellent with Harwich International station being located in the port at Harwich and metro line B servicing the port at Hoek Van Holland. At Harwich International a direct train leaves to/from London and is timed to meet the arrival of the ferry. There is a daytime and overnight sailing. You used to be able to get a 30% discount with interrail – though the page on the interrail site was deleted in August 2022- https://www.interrail.eu/en/plan-your-trip/tips-and-tricks/trains-europe/ferries/stena-line At time of writing the promo code “EURAIL” still gives a 30% discount. On the overnight sailing you are required to purchase a cabin.

You can book this route at https://www.stenaline.co.uk/ – you can also purchase a discounted ticket which includes both the ferry and the train to/from London at https://booking.stenaline.co.uk/ferry-to-holland/rail-and-sail – strangely this can work out cheaper then a foot passenger ticket only on the ferry.

Newhaven to Dieppe

This is normally the cheapest option when booking last minute – foot passenger fares are generally around £40 for a return ticket or around £30 for a single direction even right before departure. If you are on the overnight sailing you do not have to purchase a cabin and can choose to remain in the public areas, it is cheap but very uncomfortable. There are no assigned seats and you just have to find whatever corner is available.

The rail connection at Newhaven is reasonable – it’s about a 300m walk from Newhaven Town railway station to the ferry terminal. Do not travel to Newhaven Harbour station – this is located where the ferry terminal used to be.

The connection at Dieppe is less good – the station is about 2.2km from the ferry terminal, its around 30 minutes to walk. Taxis are available and https://www.ango-dieppe-taxi.com/ offers online booking. There is no way from the port to Avenue des Canadiens which is served by local bus line 1 (there is a cliff separating them). You have to walk along the Quai de la Marne main road. There is a pavement (though at some points it is narrow) for most of the walk but at a few points you will have to resort to grass at the side of the road. There are street lights throughout. The first bus stop you come to is on the eastern side of the Pont Colbert bridge (don’t go across it) – located about 1.5km from the ferry port. Bus lines 1 & 2 run from here to the railway station.

Note that some TER trains in Normandie now require a reservation.

You can check the timetable and book tickets at: https://www.dfds.com/en-gb/passenger-ferries/ferry-crossings/ferries-to-france/newhaven-dieppe

Dover to Calais

This is the shortest route – there are several operators and departures but only P&O Ferries (https://www.poferries.com/en#route) accept foot passengers and only on a handful of sailings – note that check-in closes 90 minutes before departure.

You can also get a taxi or walk in about 30 minutes. If walking the route to the docks is relatively good but don’t follow Google Maps. Make your way to Marine Parade (either walking along the A20 – busy main road but with pavement – or slightly longer off road route along the seafront and use the traffic lights to cross the A20 by the junction between it and Marine Parade (near the Premier Inn).

Follow Marine Parade to the end and it turns into a cycle path – go down this cycle path crossing 1 quiet road until you reach another set of traffic lights over Back Road West – this is the main road for vehicles boarding the ferry. Follow the well marked route past some coach parking spots and turn left and continue under the overpass. The passenger terminal is the first building you come to – you need to walk through the door labelled “arrivals” [it’s also departures] – https://goo.gl/maps/8d4tMN6DFfpvGTxx5

Do not walk down Dover exit Road – map

Once you reach Calais a free bus – Balad’in – links the port and Ville Railway station every 22 minutes in the morning and every 11 minutes in the afternoon. It runs Monday to Saturday between 0800 and 1900. More information is at https://www.sitac-calais-opale-bus.fr/page.php?rubrique=1&id=la-baladin You can also track the bus in real time using https://www.sitac-calais-opale-bus.fr/temps_reel.php

If you need to head to Calais Fréthun and one of the few SNCF options doesn’t suit you can also use line 6 which links it with the city centre – like the Balad’in this is free along with all local buses in Calais. It’s not that local buses in Calais are included in interrail – they are free for everyone.

Recent changes to this page

On the 30th October 2022 the bus service to Dover Docks was withdrawn