If you assume air travel is always the most efficient way to get from one major European city to the next, think again. The high-speed Eurostar train whisks you to Paris from London— or in the opposite direction— in as little as two hours and 16 minutes, traveling at speeds of up to 186 miles per hour. When you consider travel to and from the airport, complex security procedures, and waiting time until take-off, flying between the two capitals isn't necessarily quicker. This is especially true since Eurostar trains depart from and arrive in city centers, making it much easier to get around and start your urban adventure! Keep reading for full details on how to take the high-speed service, how to prepare for your trip, and make the most of your journey along the way.
Where Do Eurostar Trains Depart From?
On the London-Paris route, Eurostar trains travel between St. Pancras International Rail Station in central London to Gare du Nord in central Paris. London Underground (subway) and Paris Metro trains frequently serve the stations, making it easy to get to your departure point. In Paris, Gare du Nord is additionally served by commuter-line train RER B.
The high-speed trains travel at breathtaking speeds over land and beneath the Channel Tunnel (Chunnel), which runs below the English Channel.
Eurostar to Disneyland Paris: An Alternative Route
Thinking of booking a trip to Disneyland Paris? Eurostar runs directly from London and Paris to Marne-la-Vallée during school holidays and at other times. With the ability to take as much luggage as you want and the quick journey time, it can be an ideal way to give the children a treat.
From the Marne-la-Vallée station, it's only a two-minute walk to the park. You can then easily get to central Paris if desired using the RER commuter-line train A.
If you book the Disney Express luggage service you can leave your bags at the station.
Check-in Procedures for Eurostar Trains
Passengers are expected to check-in at least 45 minutes before the scheduled departure time and must do so in person (online check-in is not available). Either print your ticket in advance, use an e-ticket by downloading the Eurostar app on your phone, or print your tickets using your reservation reference at dedicated hubs next to the check-in kiosks. Entrance is through automatic gates; scan your ticket's barcode and go through.
You will be routinely scanned along with your bags. Most of the time, you will not be asked to take off shoes, but you will need to remove coats, coins, and other items from pockets and sometimes jewelry.
Once through the security area, you will need to present your passport to immigration authorities. Currently, you will have to pass through immigration checks with both French and U.K. border authorities.
Services at Eurostar Stations
Eurostar stations on both sides of the English channel are equipped with various services, including restaurants and cafés, duty-free shops, outlets for plugging in phones and laptops, and free Wi-Fi.
Business-class travelers and "Carte Blanche" members benefit from dedicated, fast-track lines and a Business Premier lounge. Meals, snacks, hot and cold drinks, newspapers, and power outlets at most seats are available in the lounges.
Hungry? Make sure to take a look at our full guide to the best restaurants in and around the Eurostar stations in London and Paris, and find something good to eat.
Other Eurostar Services and Perks
- There's an excellent 2-for-1 offer on many museums and galleries, which you can take advantage of by just showing your Eurostar ticket and your passport. Click on the Eurostar Plus Culture link on the Eurostar site.
- In Paris, there are offers on museums like the Musee d’Orsay, the Grand Palais, and the Jeu de Paume.
- Eurostar also offers Eurostar Plus Gourmet in partnership with a top table which gives you up to 50 percent off your bill in certain restaurants. Again just present your Eurostar ticket (and take your passport with you as well) when paying your bill. Check the site for the offers which change regularly. These apply to Paris, and to Lille.
- Eurostar Plus Shopping gives you 10 percent off your purchases at Galeries Lafayette in both Paris and Lille.
Top Advantages of Taking the Eurostar
There are many reasons to take the high-speed service when trying to get between Paris and London. These are the main advantages to consider:
Speed & Efficiency
- Trains to Paris can take as little as two hours, 16 minutes. Journeys are a little longer for trains that briefly stop at Ebbsfleet or Ashford in the U.K.
- Trains go from city center to city center, saving you time.
- Trains depart about once every hour daily, except on Dec. 25.
- If you wish to book for onward travel to other destinations in France beyond Paris, the Eurostar reservation system also allows you to reserve seats for high-speed trains to Avignon, Strasbourg, Lyon, Troyes, Antibes, Nice, and Bordeaux. Some are now direct from London.
Reasonable Fares & Good Deals
- Fares can be competitive compared to air travel, especially if you book in advance. You can even get good deals on first-class seats if you start looking several months ahead. While it's admittedly easier to find $30 one-way airfares, once you take into account the cost of transportation between airports and airlines taxes, the Eurostar can often prove less expensive.
Luggage Allowance & Check-In Procedures
- You are allowed two bags free of charge—far more than on many airlines these days.
- You can check-in as late as 40 to 45 minutes before your train leaves, so you won't have to spend hours inside the departure zone.
- Security procedures are generally quicker than in major airports—although this can depend on current regulations and guidance from local authorities.
Taking the train generates less pollution and carbon emissions than flying or driving do. In 2007, Eurostar launched its "Tread Lightly" initiative, aiming to make all Eurostar journeys to and from St Pancras International carbon-neutral and to eliminate the use of fossil fuels by 2030. They have new goals established that include reducing train energy use by 5 percent and plastics and paper usage by 50 percent.
History of the Eurostar
Eurostar runs through the Channel Tunnel (also popularly known as the Chunnel), a 31.4-mile undersea rail tunnel that goes from Folkestone in Kent in the U.K. to Coquelles in Pas-de-Calais near Calais in northern France. More than 200 feet deep at its lowest point, it has the distinction of having the longest undersea portion of any tunnel in the world.
The tunnel accommodates high-speed Eurostar trains and roll-on, roll-off vehicle transport, and international freight via the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle. It was way back in 1802 that French mining engineer Albert Mathieu first put forward an underwater tunnel.
It was an ingenious plan, envisaging a railway that would use oil lamps for lighting, horse-drawn carriages, and a mid-Channel stop to change the horses. But fears about Napoleon and French territorial ambitions put a stop to that idea.
Another French plan was proposed in the 1830s, when the English put forward various schemes. In 1881 things were looking up with the Anglo-French Submarine Railway Company digging on both sides of the Channel. But once again, British fears stopped the digging.
There were numerous other proposals from both countries over the next century, but it wasn’t until 1988 that the politics were settled and serious construction started. The Tunnel finally opened in 1994.
Given the history of the two countries and the byzantine politics in both parliaments, it’s incredible that the tunnel was built and now operates so successfully.