Can Eurostar train really beat flying from Europe to London?

I love train travel. I was pleasantly surprised that taking the Thalys train from the Netherlands to Paris was actually faster than flying while saving 90% on CO2 Emissions. When we traveled to Wales for our Pembrokeshire Coastal Walk, we thought about our options to get there. Would we fly from mainland Europe to London and continue to Wales, or would we take the train? In the end, we took the Eurostar to London and I was happy we did so. Here is my investigation if the Eurostar from Amsterdam to London can compete with flying to London.

Can the Eurostar to London really beat flying from Europe to the UK?

What is the Eurostar train to London?

The Eurostar is a French-owned railway company with the only direct, high-speed train connection between mainland Europe and London. The Eurostar uses the Channel Tunnel and has direct connections to and from Paris (France) and Brussels (Belgium). From London, you can also travel directly to Rotterdam and Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

Traveling on the Eurostar Brussels to London

Brussels, the capital of Belgium has several train stations. The Eurostar leaves from its own terminal building at the Brussels Midi train station. From here, approximately every 2 hours, you can catch a direct train to London. From Paris, it is even as frequent as once every half hour during peak time.

In Brussels, you need to swipe your ticket to get access to the international terminal at the train station. From there, your bag gets scanned and you walk through security gates.

You can bring bottles of water, 1l containers of shampoo and all the other stuff that is restricted when you fly hand luggage only. Obviously, the same safety precautions apply for traveling with weapons. Check the website for what you can or can’t bring on the train to London.

After security, you’ll show your passport at Belgium customs and continue to the British border patrol before boarding the Eurostar to London.

Eurostar to Rotterdam and Amsterdam

Since 2018, the train connection from London was extended to include Rotterdam and Amsterdam. From London, you can catch a direct Eurostar train and travel to the Netherlands. At the moment, the direct train only runs twice a day, and it will take 3 hours and 41 minutes in journey time between London and Amsterdam. From June 11th 2019, the service will upgrade to 3 times a day.

If you travel from Holland to London, UK, you can fly or take the Eurostar to London. Read my surprising comparison if the Eurostar train can beat flying
Super romantic station at Amsterdam Central

Is there a Eurostar from Amsterdam to London?

Sadly, at the moment of writing, you cannot take a direct train from Amsterdam or Rotterdam to London. Negotiations about an international terminal are still ongoing. Therefore, if you wish to travel by train from the Netherlands to London, you’ll have to switch trains in Brussels. Dutch railway service offers Eurostar tickets and they include the journey from any train station in the Netherlands to Brussels.

About me and my journey traveling on Eurostar

After traveling on the high-speed Thalys to Paris, I was very eager to try the Eurostar to London from the Netherlands. As I live in the south of the Netherlands, we boarded the international train to Brussels Midi train station, where we changed to the Eurostar to London.

On the way back home, we boarded the Eurostar at London St. Pancras train station and continued all the way to Rotterdam on the Eurostar. After this, the train continued to Amsterdam, but we switched to a regional train to get home. As we took the Eurostar as part of our 2 person vacation, we had 1 bag of luggage between us.

I was not paid or sponsored to write this post. I paid for everything myself and as always, all opinions and experiences are my own. This post does contain affiliate links. If you purchase something via one of my links, I’ll earn a small commission. This is at no extra cost to you.

Watch my journey on the Eurostar

If you don’t feel like reading, but like to watch the video of our journey on the Eurostar to London, click the video below! Make sure to follow me on YouTube and never miss a video from Probe around the Globe.

Comparison of Eurostar train to London against flying

With 5 airports in and directly around London, it is easy to access the capital of England from the sky. But the Eurostar train to London can rival with fast, frequent connections from mainland Europe. Leave Paris on the Eurostar and you’ll find yourself in London within 2.5 hours. Or board a train in Belgium and hop across the channel and you’ll find yourself on the wrong side of the road quickly. The Eurostar is the only direct, high-speed train to London.

But, critics of the Eurostar train often say that the Eurostar train takes much longer than flying. And it is more expensive. These were also my first impressions. After all, a flight from Amsterdam to London doesn’t take more than an hour and low-budget airlines offer cheap flight from € 19 onwards. Right?

Yes and no. As I love lists and spreadsheets, I decided to jot down exactly how long it takes to travel between Rotterdam and London and what the cost would be.

Yellow and blue high-speed Eurostar train riding the rails through a green countryside. Text overlay saying: Can the High-Speed Eurostar really beat flying to London? Probe around the Globe
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About my method of comparison

So why did I choose Rotterdam? Regardless of popular beliefs, not all Dutch people live in Amsterdam. For almost half the population, Rotterdam is a much easier hub to get to Paris or London than Amsterdam. This article can also apply to people living in Belgium and I figured it would cover a wider base.

To compare price and time, I chose Rotterdam Central station as my departure point and I picked London Piccadilly Station as the final end point. For prices and times, I used the official time table for a date 4 weeks from now. If you book further in advance, ticket prices can be lower.

Eurostar Brussels to London via Rotterdam: how long does it take?

Now, let’s talk about some numbers. How long does it actually take to travel from Rotterdam to London on the Eurostar? As Rome2Rio often only shows actually travel time, I add in time to be on the safe time, transfer time and waiting time too. Here we go.

FromToActual travel timeReal travel time
RotterdamBrussels-Midi1 hour 10 minutes
3.59 h total
Brussels- MidiLondon St. Pancras2 hours 1 minute3.59 h total
London St. PancrasLondon Piccadilly7 minutesHalf an hour

When you purchase your ticket from Rotterdam to London online, it offers a good connection on Brussels-Midi train station. For all Eurostar trains, you need to be at the station at least half an hour before the train departs, so 45 minutes is a good cushioning. I took roughly half an hour to go to the Underground in London, buy a ticket or top up your Oyster Card and travel to Piccadilly.

Total time Rotterdam to London on the Eurostar: 4,5 hours.

For my example, I choose to travel on a Friday around 9 am. This means, with the time difference, you can make it to your lunch appointment near Piccadilly before 1 pm!

Eurostar London to Rotterdam or Amsterdam

As there is no direct line from the Netherlands to London, and you have to change trains in Brussels on the way to London, it takes 4,5 hours. If you decide to travel from London to Rotterdam or Amsterdam on the Eurostar, things go much faster.

Twice a day (at 7.16 am and 5.16 pm) you can catch the direct Eurostar London to Rotterdam train. It will take 3 hours and 16 minutes in total.

If you travel from Holland to London, UK, you can fly or take the Eurostar to London. Read my surprising comparison if the Eurostar train can beat flying
The hyper-modern state of the art train station of Rotterdam (NL)

Flying from Rotterdam to London, how long does it take?

But isn’t flying much faster? Maybe. Actual airtime will be roughly 1 hour, although airline like to play it safe and schedule 1.5 hours to always be on time. But let’s compare. To keep things the same, we depart at the same time from Rotterdam Station.

FromToActual travel timeReal travel time
RotterdamAmsterdam Schiphol24 minutesHalf an hour
Amsterdam AirportLondon Heathrow1 hour 15 minutes4.5 hours
London HeathrowLondon Piccadilly46 minutes1 hour

From Rotterdam, you first need to take a train to Amsterdam Airport. From there, you need to allow some delay time or extra safety time. Going through security can easily take half an hour to an hour. Then you’ll wait for customs and you need to find your gate. Even if everything goes smoothly, you need to be at the gate half an hour before flying to board.

Why does flying take so long?

Then you have de-boarding time, British customs at Heathrow and picking up your bag from the luggage carousel.

Maybe those 3.5 hours are on the lower side of things. But maybe you’re lucky. All depends really on the time of day and year how busy things are, but with flying, I always calculate with an extra 2 hours before the flight, and 1 hour after the flight.

From Heathrow, you can take the underground to get to Piccadilly, which will take roughly 45 minutes. If you take the Heathrow Express, time will be reduced to 15 minutes and some change, but this is much more expensive.

Actual time to fly to London.

Total time Rotterdam to London Heathrow by plane: 6 hours.

As you can see, with transfer time, extra time for boarding and safety time, the Eurostar from Rotterdam to London is actually quicker than flying.

If you travel from Holland to London, UK, you can fly or take the Eurostar to London. Read my surprising comparison if the Eurostar train can beat flying
London’s calling!

Fly to London from Amsterdam or Rotterdam?

But wait a moment, why did I choose Amsterdam Airport as the flight hub? Well, Amsterdam Airport offers the most frequent flights to London, not just Heathrow but it also services the other airports. But for argument’s sake, you are right, you can also fly from Rotterdam Airport.

But from Rotterdam Central station, you have to take a bus to Rotterdam Airport, that takes as much time as going to Amsterdam Airport. Hence the choice.

Actual travel time: Rotterdam to London

At first, I thought it would be a brilliant idea to make it a race. One of us would travel by train (me) and the other would fly to London. We’d meet at Piccadilly square and see who got there first. We would both depart at the exact same time: 8.45 am at Rotterdam Central Station.

According to my study, if I would take the 8.58 am train from Rotterdam to Brussel, switch to the Eurostar and take the Underground in London, that would have we walking around Piccadilly no later than 12.30. (Time difference in Summer).

As a race is futile, I only did it on paper. But, if my boyfriend would set out at the exact same date and time, it would take him much, much longer.

Flying from Amsterdam to London

If he would take the 8.59 am train to Amsterdam, he’d arrive at 9.30 am at Schiphol airport. Because of security and customs and walking around the big airport, he wouldn’t be able to catch a flight to London until 11 am. On that day, the only flight after 11 am is a flight at 12.10 to Luton or the 1.15pm to Heathrow.

I calculated that I would have already had lunch, walked around Piccadilly for hours before he would arrive roughly around 3 pm!

But, let’s pretend there is an 11.30 am flight, that you’ll take. That will land him at Heathrow noon (UK time) and then allow for half an hour to beat me at Piccadilly. He’d have to be seated at the front of the plane, breeze through security, no luggage, and the Heathrow Express would be waiting for him. Even if everything goes quickly, I still would have a fair shot to beat him when I travel on the Eurostar train to London!

Eurostar to Rotterdam: travel cost

Ok, now that we have established that the Eurostar can actually be a faster way to travel to London than flying, let’s see if it is cheaper. With low-budget airlines offering flights for €19 one way, I don’t believe so.

To calculate these prices, I choose a Friday, 4 weeks from now. I picked the same date and time for the train as the flight, to have the same results for this study.

FromToPrice
RotterdamBrussels-Midi
Brussels- MidiLondon St. Pancras€172
London St. PancrasLondon Piccadilly3-6 GBP

Wow, train tickets from Rotterdam to London are not cheap! I checked for a date 4 weeks from now and chose a reasonable time to travel (9 am). Eurostar says their tickets go from €59 onwards, but they are scarce. But, you can book tickets 119 days in advance, so if you’re really on time with booking and you travel on the least popular day, you might be able to save some serious money.

Total cost Eurostar Rotterdam to London: €178 or GBP 157 or $201

I booked my tickets (2 returns from the Netherlands to London St. Pancras on the Eurostar) in February for our journey in May. I paid €216 in total, so that comes down to roughly €54 per person per single journey. The journey to London was on sale, the return journey was a bit pricier but I can’t find the exact prices anymore, so this is the average.

Flying to London: What does it cost?

Now let’s compare prices for flying. I just looked online for a flight, 4 weeks from now, around the same time as the train.

FromToPrice
RotterdamAmsterdam Schiphol€15,60
Amsterdam AirportLondon Heathrow€159
London HeathrowLondon PiccadillyGBP 25 or 3-6 GBP
Luggage fee23 kg hold luggage€25
Pick your seat
€10

That is funny though. When you add up the train ticket to Amsterdam Airport and the flight, it comes down roughly to €175. Almost the same as that expensive Eurostar ticket.

Add 25 GBP for the anytime Heathrow Express ticket, then flying is more expensive. Want to save some bucks, then you’ll pay 3 to 6 British pounds for the underground, depending on if you have an Oyster card or not.

However, this doesn’t include up to 23kg of hold luggage, only the 12kg carry on luggage. And you can’t choose where you’ll be seated.

Total cost Rotterdam to London by plane: €181- 202 or GBP 161-180 or $204-228

If you travel from Holland to London, UK, you can fly or take the Eurostar to London. Read my surprising comparison if the Eurostar train can beat flying
The Eurostar trains at St. Pancras Station in London

Low budget flights to London

Ok, I chose a € 159 flight, direct, from Amsterdam to Heathrow. But what about those very low-budget airlines that fly to other airports in London?

Recently, we visited London for Christmas Shopping. It was December and we flew to London Stansted from Amsterdam. I paid €112 for 2 return tickets. That is €28 per person per single journey.

However, I also had to add nearly €50 (GBP44) for train tickets from Stansted and it took us well over an hour to reach downtown London.

Yes, with roughly 55€ per person for flights and underground tickets, this is much cheaper but I wouldn’t recommend flying this way. Luggage fees and the price to sit together add up quickly. Plus the low-cost airlines only fly at 7 am or 11 pm.

Easyjet flies from Amsterdam to London Gatwick, Luton and Stansted but an average flight 4 weeks from now is around the 50 to 60 € mark for a single flight. To find the best flights to London, check skyscanner.net.

10 extra reasons why you should be traveling on Eurostar to London

So, I guess we boiled it down that the Eurostar train can be faster or is at least as fast as flying. And price-wise, they don’t really deviate that much from each other either.

If you’re not already convinced, here are 10 extra reasons to travel on the Eurostar from Amsterdam to London

If you travel from Holland to London, UK, you can fly or take the Eurostar to London. Read my surprising comparison if the Eurostar train can beat flying
Always enjoying my time on the train

1. A relaxed way to travel from the Netherlands to London by train

Travel in the most relaxed way possible. Wide chairs, bright windows, a cushion to rest your head. You can look outside, wander around and arrive relaxed at your final destination.

2. Less CO2 emissions than flying

One Eurostar train from London to Amsterdam will produce 8.17 kg Co2. That is quite a lot, but when you compare it with flying, it is 87% less. At 63 kg Co2 for 1 flight, you can take the Eurostar 7.7 times before you’ve added the same amount of Co2 to the world. If you must travel, consider the train to reduce your environmental impact.

If you travel from Holland to London, UK, you can fly or take the Eurostar to London. Read my surprising comparison if the Eurostar train can beat flying
Save CO2 emissions compared to flying

3. Arrive in the heart of London by train

Leave London St. Pancras station and you’re already in the heart of London. Catch a show, go shopping or take the underground for 3 or 4 stops and you’re at the Tower of London. No stuffy airports and expensive airport shuttles.

From St. Pancras station you can easily transfer to King’s Cross Underground station. Order your Oyster card online for cheaper public transport in London or buy it at the station.

4. Easily catch another train around the UK from the Eurostar

We arrived on the Eurostar and had 45 minutes before our desired train to Wales would leave from Paddington Station. We thought we would never make it, but decided to give it our best shot.

First, we took the wrong underground, waited for the right one, purchased our train tickets to Wales and bought some sandwiches and snacks at Paddington station. We had 10 minutes to spare and we did all this with 25kg of luggage too! If that doesn’t show it is easy, then I don’t know what is?

5. Get some work done on the train or catch up on your beauty sleep

Have you ever tried to open your laptop on a cramped airplane? Maybe when you fly executive class but not at those city hoppers that fly between Amsterdam and London.

On the Eurostar however, you have spacious seats with electric sockets and USB ports and a nice tray table to stash your belongings. I didn’t work on the Eurostar, but you could. I did what I mostly do on trains: take a nap. Because of the ear cushions on the side of the chair, this was actually quite comfortable. Try to do that on a plane!

6. Bring as much luggage as you can carry on the Eurostar

Within reason of course! One of the advantages of train travel is the less restrictive rules as with air travel. As long as you can carry it on the train yourself, you’re good to go. For convenience, I would suggest a tote bag or backpack instead of those bulky hard suitcases, but if you can carry it, you can bring it on the Eurostar.

7. Stretch your legs as you travel through the Channel Tunnel to London

Go for a walk, see what the other class sits like or go to the dining carriage for a fresh pot of coffee or tea. Or just walk up and down the aisle if you’re restless. The Eurostar from Rotterdam does travel at high speed, so be careful!

8. Have a sit-down lunch with wine on the train

Don’t mind if I do! Have a nice lunch and maybe even order some wine or beer at the train. Try to do this on board a plane and the prices will give you a heart attack, but on the Eurostar, I found food and drinks quite affordable. And you can buy sandwiches and bottles of soft drinks or wine at the station and just bring it on the train!

9. Start at any station in the Netherlands for your train journey to London

When you purchase your ticket from the Dutch railway website, the travel from London to any station in the Netherlands is included. So no worries if you want to continue your travel to Groningen or Utrecht, if you select it when you purchase your ticket, it is included.

If you travel from Holland to London, UK, you can fly or take the Eurostar to London. Read my surprising comparison if the Eurostar train can beat flying
The Eurostar trains are LONGGGGGG!

10. Seat reservation is included in the price of your Eurostar ticket

When you purchase your train journey on the Eurostar, you’ll get your ticket, with the seat reservation already included. When you book online for 2 persons, they will always seat you together as long as there are seats available.

Unfortunately, most airlines now charge you for your seat and if you want to be seated together, you must purchase the seat reservation when flying. Luckily, this is not a thing (yet?) on the Eurostar train.

Need more convincing? Why trains are better than planes

Practical tips for travel between Amsterdam and London

Traveling on Eurostar to London

Well, those are a lot of (good) reasons to choose the Eurostar over flying when you travel between London and Amsterdam or Rotterdam in the Netherlands. I hope I was able to show you that train travel doesn’t have to be slower than flying and it will cost you just as much or less. Add in the extra advantages of the train between Rotterdam and London, and you’re good to go purchase your Eurostar ticket!

Have you ever taken the train from mainland Europe to London? Or even traveled through the Channel Tunnel? What is the most important factor for you when you choose between flying and traveling by train to London?

Blue and yellow high-speed train riding grey rails through a green background with text overlay saying: Rotterdam to London Eurostar from Holland to Britain by train Probe around the Globe.
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