The Eurostar is a high speed train, opened in the early 1990s, that connects London with Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and other cities in Europe. With a top speed of 200mph on some routes, it's a speedy way to get to the European mainland and avoid some of the unpleasantries of flying (more on that later). We've taken it over a dozen times now, and it is definitely one of our favorite ways to travel!
Check-in and boarding
The Eurostar has security and passport control, but not quite at the level of the airline equivalents. For economy passengers, final checkin is 30 minutes before departure. In our experience at St. Pancras, the London station, it has taken us around 10 minutes to get through, so we usually show up right at the 30-minute mark. The reality is, you can probably show up even later than that, but don't expect special treatment and skipping the line. After passport control, you wait to board the train, which usually opens its doors 20 minutes prior to departure. If you have large luggage or several items, you may want to be one of the first to board; larger pieces are stored at the ends of cars so you'll want to get on and snag a spot nearby. If you only have smaller bags, you can store them right overhead, similar to an airplane but without the size restrictions.
Is the Eurostar better than flying?
Even in the economy cabin, you have plenty of room to stretch out. The configuration is 2x2 with seat dimensions that are slightly larger than an airplane's. The tray table is also large, and acts as a great workspace.
It could be the comfortable seats, or bit of extra space, but I also think the flexibility and freedom to walk around really makes it a more comfortable journey. On a train, there is no need to be strapped in a seatbelt, you can walk through the cars if you get restless, or head to the snack car ad stand a bit to switch things up. There also isn't a change in air pressure or humidity the way there is in an aircraft cabin, so you won't have that groggy, gross feeling after a couple hours. Finally, no turbulence! So no bumping around, spilling your wine, or getting stuck in your seat right when you really need to use the restroom
If you have a cell phone connection, you have connectivity for most of the journey (read about our 6 recommended ways to stay connected while traveling abroad). It's only when you're in the chunnel or other tunnels where you won't. The newer trains and the refurbished ones both have Wifi connectivity as well.
For me, the entire experience of taking the train is lower stress than a flight.
Shorter Queues: Most of the time, the queues and waits are shorter; that includes getting into the building, going through security and passport control, and boarding. This means more time to spend in destination!
Train Stations: Train stations are also much smaller than airports, so there is less distance to cover if you are running late.
Baggage: With train travel, there is less concern about baggage because there is usually plenty of space, so no need to worry about being first in line so your bag doesn't get put in the hold.
Punctuality: You also have a lower likelihood of delays, with Eurostar's on-time performance at 82% of trains arriving within 5 minutes of schedule, and 91% arriving within 15 minutes. For comparison, not a single airline cracked 90% arrival within 15 minutes in 2016.
Better View: With the Eurostar you have large windows, looking out at the nice scenery as you pass through the towns and cities along the route.
City Centers: With trains in general, departure and arrival are right in the city center. Airports, especially those serviced by low-cost carriers, can be quite far, adding time and money to your journey. Once again, the Eurostar gives you more time in destination.
All of the new and refurbished Eurostar trains (which will soon be all of them) have wifi and in-seat power. According to the website, in the older trains there are "both U.K and European power points located in standard class in coaches 5 and 14 and in Standard Premier and Business Premier in coaches 7 to 12." Even if you end up on an older train, you still have cell connectivity as mentioned above. You also have a snack car on all trains, which actually serves a good selection of food and drinks at reasonable prices!
Like airlines, there are different classes of travel on the Eurostar: Economy, Standard Premier, and Business Premier. We've traveled on Economy most of the time, but every now and then there are great sales that make Standard Premier worth the purchase. With the upgrade you get a meal included in your ticket, a bigger and more comfortable seat, and free magazines. If you make the jump even further to Business Premier, you get added benefits like 10-minute checkin, use of the lounge, and a nicer meal and drink choices. Economy utilizes a 2x2 seat configuration, where Standard Premier and Business Premier both have a 1x2 layout.
Overall, we love the Eurostar. It's a comfortable, affordable way to travel between London and Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and other cities in France and Europe. Given the choice, we would always pick it over a flight for the added convenience and the fact that it gives us more time in destination. Eurostar are periodically publishing great deals on their Economy and Standard Premier fares, so signup for their newsletter to stay in the know!