Stay Safe on Eurostar
The days of clattering across Europe on a romantic long distance rail journey are still with us to some extent thanks to Eurostar - it's not quite the Orient Express but if you like travelling by rail this is one of the most enjoyable and relaxing ways to get from London to some of Northern Europe's top destinations.
These include direct services to Paris, Brussels, Lille, Avignon, Disneyland Paris and the ski resorts of the Tarentaise region, and there are also connections to the likes of Amsterdam, Bruges and Lyon.
The Train Now Departing...Travelling by Eurostar isn't your average Inter-City journey. Booking is straightforward enough and can be done either by phone or on-line (www.eurostar.com), the latter generally being most convenient as it allows you to better study the latest deals, specify the seat you'd prefer and maybe arrange accommodation and car hire at your eventual destination. There are also additional services for business travellers and frequent travellers.
Arriving at a glitzy Eurostar station is a far more exotic experience than hopping on the 8.23 to Amersham. You need to allow at least 30 minutes to check-in and an hour if you're travelling to Avignon or carrying skis.
But don't worry about having to hang around once you've checked in - Eurostar stations have lounges in which to chill out, shop, eat or drink, and it's also nice to be able to make your way to your carriage at a relaxed pace and maybe even check out the train itself - this is an impressive piece of machinery and somewhat removed from the usual tin boxes on wheels that serve many UK stations.
Lugging LuggageIf you're carrying a lot of luggage, or skis, bike etc. give yourself time to lug it through check-in and on to the train. Choose luggage that's sturdy and secure, yet easy to stow and move on and off the train. Your baggage may be stowed some distance from your seat, so ensure it's securely fastened, and ideally locked, as well as insured for theft/loss/damage (the latter being very unlikely).
You may want to use Eurostar's registered baggage service - whatever you register will be ready for collection within twenty-four hours of registering it - call 08705 850 850 for further details.
Once on the train you'll find that the seating and toilet services are very good and the buffet provides pretty decent food with a definite French influence, although you can save money by bringing your own picnic (note that there's a limit on how much alcohol you can bring on board).
Staff may not be UK nationals but they'll be fluent in English and announcements over the train's intercom are bilingual. You'll be given plenty of notice when you're about to arrive at your station, and once alighting from the train you'll find that station signs for taxis, buses etc. are in English as well as French.
TipsBook a window seat - you might as well enjoy those views of the countryside whizzing by.Eurostar doesn't operate sleeping carriages, so whilst the seats backs recline and eye masks are provided you can't really expect to arrive bright eyed and bushy tailed if you travel overnight.
That said, the overnight service allows you to spend the Saturday either end of your break at your destination (unlike most standard package deals), which gives you an extra two days holiday.
Currency exchange services are available at all Eurostar stations.