Eurostar is the passenger rail system connecting London to Paris and Brussels. This high-speed train service terminates in London at St. Pancras station and has calling points at Ashford International and Ebbsfleet International in Kent. In France, the train calls at Calais-Frethun and Lille, and terminates in Paris at the Gare du Nord. Trains to Brussels end at Midi / Zuid station. There is also limited service from London to Marne-la-Vallée-Chessy for those who want to visit Disneyland Paris.
Additional limited seasonal service is available to destinations farther south in France for summer holidays and winter skiing. In July and August, you can get service from London to Avignon, and in the winter skiers can go from London to Bourg-Saint-Maurice, Aime-la-Plaigne, and Moutiers in the French Alps.
The trains in the Eurostar service travel at up to 300 kph (186 mph), except in the Channel Tunnel, where speeds drop to 160 kph (100 mph) out of safety concerns. The Channel Tunnel is the only rail connection between the European mainland and Great Britain. The “Chunnel” was opened in 1994 and was named by the American Society of Civil Engineers as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. Service from London to Paris can is available 17 times daily (20 on Fridays). This includes six non-stop trains. From London to Brussels there are 11 daily trains, three of which are nonstop. One daily round trip goes from London to Disneyland Paris and back.
If you want to travel first class on the Eurostar, ask for “Business Premier” tickets. Some of the perks of traveling Business Premier class include faster check-in and meals served to you, plus nicer interiors in the carriages. Eurostar is making an effort to attract business professionals, and indeed, many have been chartering private carriages rather than individual seats.
When taking Eurostar, you will go through a security check that is similar to those in airports. Bags are scanned, and passengers must go through metal detectors and empty their pockets. But don’t worry: going through security for Eurostar doesn’t take as long as it does at major airports like London Heathrow. Eurostar travelers have to go through border controls since the UK isn’t in the Schengen Area and Belgium and France aren’t in the Common Travel Area. Also, if you’re returning from Brussels to Lille, you will be checked by UK Border Agency officials while you’re in Belgium since there is no way to separate the Brussels-Lille passengers from the Brussels-London passengers.
An estimated 9.5 million people traveled on the Eurostar in 2010, up 3% over 2009. If you have an InterRail pass to travel in Europe, you are eligible for discounts on Eurostar tickets. However, if you know your departure and return dates and are sure you won’t change them, you will actually spend less buying an advance ticket from the Eurostar website, which starts at only £39 one-way and £69 return. But there are no refunds or changes allowed. Your InterRail discount gets you a £57 one-way ticket or £100 return, but you can buy tickets on shorter notice and change travel dates if necessary.