Analysis, United Kingdom

How to consistently get London-Brussels or Brussels-London Eurostar tickets for €49 single

NOTE: this system has been replaced in 2022 with a new “De Connect” ticket. You can find out how that works in this new post!

I’m a regular traveller on Eurostar, and I often travel onwards from Brussels to Germany by train, so much in fact that I am used to booking tickets of DB’s website. In the past I happened to discover that through tickets from Germany to London were cheaper than tickets booked from Belgium to London. It seems DB is muscling in on the Eurostar business before liberalisation of the channel tunnel is due in 2013.

Here then is a guide to how to get the cheapest Eurostar tickets on the London-Brussels route, using DB’s website rather than Eurostar.com. The standard price is €49.00 single, sometimes a saving of 50%.
NOTE: there’s a worked example at the end of the post.

  1. You need to book tickets from London to Germany, or Germany to London, on trains via Brussels. Your best bet is to look for connections to or from Aachen Hbf, the first main station after the border with Belgium.
  2. Start first by working out what Eurostar trains you want to take, at which times and on which dates. You can do this using Eurostar.com or DB Reiseauskunft (also available in English). Don’t worry about the prices of these tickets, just concern yourself with the times and dates. Keep these window(s) with the train times open. Note that the price of the Eurostar leg does not determine the price of the total ticket.
  3. Next work out the train connections between Bruxelles Midi (the Eurostar terminus) and Aachen Hbf, using DB Reiseauskunft. You need to look for ICE trains only (not Thalys), and you can break your journey for up to 48 hours in Brussels. In other words find an ICE that leaves from Brussels to Aachen less than 48 hours after your Eurostar will arrive, or an ICE that arrives in Brussels from Aachen less than 48 hours before your Eurostar leaves. You need to find ICE trains that offer you a price of €19.00 for this connection. If you’re offered higher prices your total price to/from London will also be higher. The price of the whole ticket is determined by the price of the Brussels-Aachen part, so seek out that €19.00 ticket! Keep these windows open as well.
  4. Then put the two parts together, booking using DB Reiseauskunft. Make your starting station London St Pancras International and your end station Aachen Hbf (or vice versa) and – the important part – click ‘enter stopovers’ (Zwischenhalte angeben) and enter Bruxelles Midi. Enter the total amount of hours and minutes needed between the two legs of the journey, making sure that your Eurostar will connect with an ICE and not with a Thalys (or ICE connect to a Eurostar).
  5. This should give you €49.00 as the price for a single ticket, plus a €2.50 charge. This can then be booked off the DB website with a credit card, with a PDF file produced that you can print at home. These tickets do not work in the automatic ticket gates for Eurostar – you have to go to the desk beside the gates to get a boarding ticket.
  6. Of course there is no need to actually take the Brussels-Aachen leg of the journey.

If you have a BahnCard25 you can save an additional €5, making the ticket €44.00, plus a €2.50 charge.

What are the downsides? First, if you’re booking really long in advance, Eurostar.com might be a fraction cheaper. This trick works best for trains booked a month or so in advance. Second, it works only for tickets that cannot be exchanged. Third, you don’t earn any Carte Blanche points. Fourth, you do not get to choose your seat in Eurostar (although you can probably ask the people nicely at the terminal!)

Anyway, as the explanation above is not too simple to follow, here is a worked example. Click each screenshot to view it at full size.


The train I want to take – the 0827 from London – is highlighted.


The next available ICE at €19.00 to Aachen leaves at 1425, a little over 2 hours after the Eurostar arrives.


When I click ‘Enter stopovers’ I then enter Bruxelles Midi and 02:10 in the stopover time, and hit search.


Bingo – a €49 single ticket on Eurostar.

These trains are more than a month away at the time of writing, but a single for the 0827 departure on Eurostar.com is already £56. I have managed to book €49.00 DB tickets when the price of a single on Eurostar.com was more than £100, hence saving more than 50%.

67 Comments

  1. Love it! Absolutely euro rail geeky 🙂

    Now we just need some programmers that fetch the data automatically and make a http://www.brussels-london-cheaper.eu website, reducing your 6-step guide to a one-click booking platform.

    Unfortunately the EU has not yet obliged each rail company which offers international services to provide pricing data via an API.

  2. John P

    Do you think this would work on London-Paris route as well?

  3. I have researched a bit and found two interesting links:

    Discussion on train APIs for Europe:
    http://stackoverflow.com/questions/919542/does-anyone-knows-any-train-table-api-service

    Google Transit Feed specifications – a read made specification that the EU just needs to adopt as official format 🙂
    http://code.google.com/transit/spec/transit_feed_specification.html

  4. @Brusselsblogger – it may eventually come. Did you see this?

    @John P – I don’t manage to get it to work for London-Paris. I tried the same trick, trying to book London-Saarbrücken via Paris, with Paris Est-Saarbrücken on an ICE and it doesn’t work, it won’t give me a price… Sorry!

  5. Hmm. The EurActiv article sound spromising but the plans seem not very ambitious: In this EuroparlTV video (watch first 5 minutes) they say the system will NOT force companies to share fare information (which is essential) and furthermore the regulation will only apply as of 2016.

    My proposal: force every airline, railway, ship and bus transport company to implement a public API according to the Google specifications which are already available for such purposes: http://code.google.com/transit/spec/transit_feed_specification.html

    The companies should get 12 months to do it, with a potential 6 months extension if they can prove that they did an effort but ran into problems.

    Standardising the computer systems is absolutely not required. They only need to make the fare and timetable data available in a common format.

  6. kevin doran

    NIce idea Jon – but it has to be the worst reservations system I have come across. Eash tiem I book a seat – it tells me that it is no longer available after all – and have to start over again

  7. @Kevin – you have something odd with your security settings or cookies or something. I have booked dozens of times with DB and never, ever got that error.

  8. Simon Field

    Am mystified about the €2.50 charge – have never paid that in three years of booking €49 / €44 London-Spezial tickets…

  9. @Simon – charge might depend on what type of card you use, and from what country. I have Visa and Visa Debit, both UK, and both incur this charge.

  10. Lizzie

    Thank you, that was brilliant! Used it to get tickets from Brussels to London – instead of the €197 on eurostar website, got them for €77!

  11. @Ursula – have you tried different ICE trains? Because the price of the total ticket depends only on the price of the ICE part… Also this trick works if you’re booking reasonably in advance – if you’re too close to the time of departure it’s not going to be any good.

  12. Ursula

    hmmm just tried it and found ICE but when I got to the main booking section only thalys available and the ‘ICE- Eurostar’ connections incredibly expensive!

    hope they haven’t ‘plugged’ this particular hole?

  13. The same trick also works on the NS HiSpeed website… Holland->UK is cheaper than Belgium->UK!

  14. Demetri

    Jon that’s great! However, is there no charge or cancellation since you don’t attend the first leg of the journey?

    Cheers 🙂

  15. @Demetri – how can Eurostar know if I have taken the Aachen-Brussels part or not? OK, the train guard would normally stamp my ticket in that train, but it does not always happen. So Eurostar could not make the stamp a criterion for letting you through…

  16. @Wim – excellent! I’ll have a go with that as well, if I don’t find a good DB connection… Now all we need is an equivalent trick for Eurostar trains to Paris too…

  17. Denis B

    Hey man,
    thanks a lot you made me save 50euros last month that’s awesome.
    For some reason when i try to do it again now it doesnt seem to give me the price details anymore.
    Does anyone have the same issue?
    Cheers

  18. @Denis B – just tried it for a date a month from now and it’s working for me!

    Glad you managed to save €50!

  19. Simon Field

    Jon, you need to revise your advice: availability of the €19 Brussels-Aachen fare does not/no longer guarantee/s getting €49 through from London.

    I have no idea how widely read this blog is, but I have noticed zero availability of the €49 fare across a 10-day period at the end of August… In fact I couldn’t find anything for less than €99 through to Berlin, with/without multiple splitting. I use these tickets for their intended purpose!
    I gave up in the end and booked Stena’s Rail-Sail ticket from London to any Dutch station for £68, including bed on the overnight sailing. This will also save me the hassle and cost of early morning travel to St. Pancras to reach the 08:27 €* (the one with the three-hour wait for the ICE – thanks Railteam). From Hengelo, NL, tickets to German destinations can be had for €21.75 with BahnCard 25…

  20. Just tried for 4/5 October (i.e. 3 weeks ahead) and managed €69 single. Need to do more research… but I am travelling on a ticket on Monday that was booked for €49, admittedly booked some time ago though. I’m not yet sure that this doesn’t work…

  21. I wish that booking a train journey from UK to the continent were more like booking any other train journey, i.e. by going to the ticket office at your local station, asking for a single or return to your eventual destination and getting a ticket that’s valid on any train via any reasonable route. The way it used to be in the days of BR/Sealink, when you would get a ticket that looked like the one here: http://www.wallacehenning.com/notes/2011/3/30/british-rail-international-ticket.html
    One thing I really dislike about Eurostar is its horrible low-cost-airline-style ticketing system. Hopefully once competitors emerge, there will be a cross-channel passenger train operator that admits it is running a train service.

  22. Thanks so much! This just saved me over £100.
    remarkable! i have been buying Eurostar tickets for 9 years & life has just begun!

  23. @Eliza / @Sarah – glad to hear the guide is helpful! 🙂

  24. You are a hero. Thank you.
    Didn’t manage the €49 probably because it is quite short notice but I got a €69 ticket for next week!

  25. zoestella@hotmail.com

    Hi Jon,
    Just tried to book to Brussels for Friday 5th October and returning on Sunday using your method but it is telling me there are no fares available. Any idea why or am I doing something daft?
    Thanks

    • Firstly you’re a bit close to the departure date. Second you’re travelling on a weekend, always higher demand. So I just presume all the low price seats are sold out I’m afraid…

  26. Hello Jon,
    I tried several different options from 3 weeks in advance to the last available date on the german website and I couldn’t get the fare’s for the ICE train. Thus, I finish the process and the website don’t show an amount… Is the trick still working?

  27. @Fabio – just tested this for 15th November 2012, and I can confirm it does still work, however I had to look at a *lot* of ICE trains to find one that would work to give me a €49 single ticket.

    Bear in mind that this is one of the most read blog entries on my blog now, so maybe this trick is getting a bit popular!

  28. Hi Jon , I’m looking at getting some tickets for december but I’m only getting those at 69 euros,could it be that the prices have increased since?
    Still 69euros is better than eurostars 80 euros.
    Cheers,
    Hugo

  29. Hi Hugo,

    You might be after the ‘Fahrplanwechsel’ (timetable change) of DB – this is normally around 8th December. So I am not certain that €49 tickets will still be available. At least for November €49 tickets did still exist, but it has been getting harder and harder to get them…

  30. Rory Smith

    I’m finding the rare €59 ticket, but mostly €79 ones. Perhaps the era of the Eurostar bargain is closing?

  31. Does this still work? I’m having trouble trying to get these tickets on march 21st ti 22nd.

  32. @Layne – Yes, it does still work, but there’s very little chance to get it to work any less than 3 weeks in advance. So I’m afraid you’re just too close to the time of departure…

  33. Thanks for replying, such a shame I only saw this article today!

  34. Nicolás Giampaoli

    Hello Jon, i am Nicolas From Argentina,
    I tryed and actually works for a journey from Brussels to London 14 april 2013. Eurostar showed me a price of 105 €, and DB’s site ofered me a price of 69 € from Aachen Hbf to london entering an stopover in Brussels. But My question is (may be because i never traveled in european trains and i dont know the system), Could i get into the train just in Brussels with no problem, i mean, omitting the leg Aachen-Brussels?. To get into the eurostar, isn’t necessary to have the ticket sealed for the first leg?.
    Thanks.

  35. Hi Nicolás – no, there is no obligation to use the Aachen-Brussels part. I’ve used this method loads of times, and it’s never been a problem. You just take your DB ticket printed off their website to the Eurostar desk at Brussels, and they give you a Eurostar boarding pass in return.

  36. Emma – there’s some sort of incompatibility of the barcodes between DB and Eurostar, so when you get to the Eurostar terminal in Paris, Brussels or London your ticket won’t operate the automatic gates. You have to then show the ticket to one of the staff there and they will let you through. NOTE: you DO NOT have to go and queue at the ticket office – just ask one of the staff by the barriers.

  37. Brilliant knowledge! It has successfully saved me some pennies and given me a huge sense of satisfaction at the same time! Is the pdf ticket with bar code I was emailed all that is needed to travel on the day?
    On a seperate note since you are one of the founders of bloggingportal.eu, may I say I’m a fan!
    Keep up the good work!

  38. Hey this seems brilliant..but each time I try all I get is the message “fares not available” on the DB site for a London St Pancras to Aachen (or Cologne–tried both) trip. I tried several different dates including booking 1 month+ from today’s date. I see it has worked for others…I’m booking from the UK…any clues? Thanks!

    • Seems odd… I’ve just tried it – as an example – for 7th May (1 month from now) and it works, although it gives me €79 single to Aachen (not exactly cheap).

  39. Ah. Figured myself out. Disregard previous comment! Thanks for the cool trick!

  40. pierre

    Hi, very cool trick, I believe the minimum prices have gone up though, cheapest fare is now 59 € (based on € 19 brussels Aachen leg). Did you see the same?

    Thanks,
    Pierre

  41. Pierre – you might be right. I now live in Denmark, and hence need to rely on this trick rather seldom these days! But I’m glad it works for €59 at least!

  42. Richard

    Seems the fares are brilliant until I put in the age of me and my partner. 33 and 36 years old and the fare doubles from 59 Euro to 119 Euro from london to Koln.

    Shame.

  43. Richard

    Ah silly me, it’s just the total fare for 2 passengers. oops. Sorry!

  44. Jon, thank you so much for the tip, I already saved $100 on my tickets going to Brussels. However, I’m a bit hesitant when it comes to purchasing my tickets back to London using the same method. You said that one would have to get a boding pass from a special counter at the station, so my question is, would it not alarm a representative in Brussels that we are getting our boarding passes there instead of the station where we should have begun our journey? I’m sorry if this is a silly question, but this is the first time i’ll be visiting Brussels and I’m not familiar with the rules or the station itself. Would be grateful if you could clarify the procedure of boarding the train on the way back to London.

    • No this is no problem at all. The tickets will be on separate PDFs, and Eurostar has no way of knowing. You’re not breaking any rule by doing this!

  45. HOWIE WILLIAMS

    Jon only just found your blog and must say it’s very informative. I tried your London-Acchen via Brussels route and did indeed get a fare of 55 Euro travelling from London 18/11/2013. As I would be travelling from Liverpool Lime St. I went on Eurostar and could book through to Acchen via Brussels for £53.50. So it may well be worthwhile people trying this method if they live a good way outside London. I think there are about 130 U.K. stations you can book directly from with Eurostar.

  46. HOWIE WILLIAMS

    Sorry *AACHEN!

  47. Tea Tor

    Thanks Jon, we have just managed to save £200 on London to Aachen via Brussels route. But unfortunately ticket is in just one PDF file showing whole itinerary on one page. We were initially planning to use just London-Brussels part as going on holiday in Bruges. Is there a way to get two separate tickets? or are we in any trouble now? Your advise would be much appreciated. Thanks. Tea

  48. @Tea Tor – The ticket you have for London – Brussels – Aachen (and I presume Aachen – Brussels – London) will be fine for the London – Brussels (- London) part of your journey, but for Brussels – Bruges you will need an extra ticket. The good news on that is that Belgian trains are quite cheap though – should cost you €15 single / €30 return or so. Also if you travel off peak or weekends there are all kinds of special tickets in Belgium. Best bet is to ask at the ticket office at Gare du Midi in Brussels for the info, although you might have to queue a bit. There are 2 trains an hour Brussels – Bruges, and it takes about an hour.

  49. Thanks so much for this – I was going to ask if it sill works but I see the comment abve was quite recent. Is there any advantage in booking a return ticket? Also I see I can’t book to Ashford/Ebbsfleet, but the Eurostar seems to suggest that I can board/disembark in Kent, as long as I have booked through to London, and the train stops there of course. Do you know if this is correct? I assume nothing is cancelled if the first leg from Aachen isn’t used… unlike flights. I’d like to give a go, as my first search saved almost £100!

  50. @Debs – I have never tried it getting off at Ashford or Ebbsfleet, but I’d be very surprised if it did not work as your ticket would be to travel further than you are going, and they cannot quibble with that. I can for definite confirm there is no problem if you do not use the Aachen – Brussels part, and I have indeed done this many times. I think there even is no way if Eurostar can even tell if you took that part of the trip or not as their system is not connected to DB’s.

    As for pros / cons of returns and singles – it doesn’t make much difference. A return is double the price of a single. Just might be worth bearing in mind that singles can be cancelled separately too, while if you cancel a return you have to cancel the whole lot.

    And yes, I can confirm this does all still work – I booked Berlin – London in April using this trick!

  51. PS I managed to get right to the end of the booking process twice and it told me the option was no longer available… do yo uhave any tips? Is it normal for DB to show tickets and then not sell them?

  52. @Debs – I’ve encountered that a few times, but then tried a few hours later and it worked. Never worked out why it happens… (FWIW you get that with SNCF all the time, DB much less prone to it…)

  53. Miriam

    If booked it like you suggested through to Aachen, where do I have to get the ticket at the Brussels station or in London? Is it easily marked???

  54. @Miriam – it’s a PDF for you to print at home.

  55. @Miriam – it’s a PDF for you to print at home.

  56. Thanks so much for this article… i’ve found my two fares and joined them up together, the DB website indeed promises a saving of over 50% from the Eurostar website.

    All amazing, but every time I reach the end of the booking process it tells me the tickets are unavailable. I’ve tried this again over several days now (after seeing your comment above) but no joy

    Is there any hope?

  57. Thank you so much, it worked. Only one way though, for the other, I can’t find a ticket at 19 EUR.

  58. Antwan

    A little update on this, at the date of 03/12/2014, this still works, but the “London Spezial” tariff is now 69EUR.

  59. Simon Field

    Still *from* 59 EUR according to DB website. The price varies according to demand and booking horizon…

  60. Lindsay

    I’m trying to book London to Dusseldorf. It initially comes up with a 59euro option but as others said when you get to the end of the process and click pay now, it comes up with “reservation impossible” for the Eurostar segment. Why is this? Why show a ticket available at the start if there aren’t any?! Can anyone shed any light please? The Eurostar website option is £129, so rather more.

  61. Lindsay – there’s some bug with the reservations on DB’s system. When it asks you for your reservation preferences (window, aisle etc.) just leave those blank, and then it normally all works.

  62. Alex Bomphray

    Got 2 x 59 euro tickets from Aachen to London for 13 March. Same price also available from Koln but we have Inter City Hotel day passes which get us to Aachen anyway.

    £56 each was the Eurostar fare from any station in Belgium, plus approx. £9 single Aachen to Welkenraedt, so saving around £20.

    Our outward journey didn’t give us an option, but travelling first from Edinburgh gave us no options other than 1504 from St Pancras and only 20 minutes stopover time in Brussels.

    Cheers

    Alex Bomphray

    • Simon Maarfield

      The flaw with that is that your Intercity Hotel pass is only valid on regional trains, not the ICE to Aachen. So you’ll have to leave Köln at least half an hour earlier and change in Aachen

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