The Eurostar is the train running from London to mainland Europe and back beneath the English channel. Travel on the Eurostar that goes to and from London requires a separate ticket from any Eurail pass you may have, but some passes will give you discount Eurostar tickets. Learn more on that below:
Where Does the Eurostar Go?
The Eurostar runs from London to Avignon, Brussels, Lille, Lyon, Marseille and Paris, and vice versa.
You can even take it to Brussels and get a single train ticket from there to Amsterdam for an easy London-Amsterdam trip.
Your Eurostar ticket also nets you a free ride from anywhere in Belgium to the main Midi Brussels train station within 24 hours of the Eurostar's departure or arrival.
Check out a Eurostar map to begin planning your route.
Where Can I Buy Eurostar Tickets?
You can buy Eurostar tickets online through the official website before you leave the U.S. (up to four months before your travel date), and it's not a bad idea to do so -- the train does fill up fast, and prices are increased the longer you leave it.
Your ticket includes a seat reservation, just like with an airplane, and has many of the same restrictions (a terrible refund policy, etc.) If you're going to be getting a Eurail pass for your time in Europe, you'll be eligible for a "pass holder" fare on the Eurostar, which is roughly $130.
You can't book this pass holder fare online -- you can only get it from Eurostar terminals or by calling the Eurostar booking center on +44 (0) 1233 617 575.
Be sure to check out the prices of tickets on the Eurostar website before committing to this, though, and they can sometimes work out to be cheaper than $130 if you're booking several months in advance.
How Much Do Eurostar Tickets Cost?
A one-way youth flexi voucher (below) bought in advance from the U.S. is around $100. A round trip youth ticket bought under restrictions at the station is a bit over $100, so it's definitely worth making a return journey if you can.
Over the age of 26? Full-fare tickets are around $200 each way if you leave it to the last minute, but are significantly cheaper if you book far in advance. Some are even as cheap as $70!
What's a Eurostar Youth Flexi Voucher?
Youth flexi vouchers are discount Eurostar tickets that are valid for 60 days; you must be under 26 to buy one (learn more about how to get student travel discounts) and it comes in at $98. This voucher can be exchanged for a Eurostar ticket at a London St. Pancras train station window, in the Paris Gare du Nord train station or at the Brussels Midi station near the Eurostar terminal.
What's the Check-In Process Like?
Aim to arrive about 45 minutes before departure in order to pass through the security procedures and get on your train to settle in before the journey.
Much like on a plane, you'll pass through security and your bags will go through an x-ray. You're supposed to limit your baggage to two big carry-ons (your backpack is small enough to pass for a carry-on bag) and one small carry-on. You will need to show an arrival card on the way into the U.K. from the EU (more on that below), and you'll also get your passport stamped.
There are luggage racks above your head and at the end of each car, where you'll be able to place your backpack. I recommend placing them above your head if at all possible, so you can keep an eye on them throughout the journey.
What Documents Will I Need?
The Eurostar, and any onward trains you may board, travels within the European Union, so as long as you can gain access to the Schengen, you'll be fine to travel from country to country.
In this case, you'll just need to pack your passport and remember your Eurostar ticket.
If you'll be traveling from the EU into the U.K., you'll need to complete an arrival card at the Eurostar check-in in order to enter England. There'll be a stack of arrival cards and pens at the check in desks, with a crowd of people filling them in, so they should be easy to find. Fill yours out and have it ready to hand to the attendant when you check in. You'll also need to show them your passport and ticket, and then you'll be reading to board the train.
What's the Eurostar Like Onboard?
If you've traveled by train in Western Europe before, there won't be any surprises for you.
The trains are clean, modern, and run on time. The seats are comfortable, and you'll have access to both power sockets and the internet if you want to get online. You can buy meals throughout the journey in the dining cart, and there's a smoking carriage if you're craving a cigarette.
Is There Another Way to Cross the English Channel?
if you don't want to take the Eurostar, you can also take ferries across the English channel and you can also fly. Europe has some extremely cheap budget airlines, like easyJet and Ryanair, which often make flying far cheaper than going overland. Of course, you won't see as much when you're up in the air, but if you're all about the destination rather than the journey, go for it to save some cash!
This article has been edited and updated by Lauren Juliff.