There are two classes of service on the Thalys. Just like on an airplane, there’s first and second class. It’s called comfort 1 and comfort 2. We traveled in comfort 1, as the fare wasn’t that much more than comfort 2, and a meal is included. The difference between 1 and 2 is mainly the seats. Comfort 1 has wider, more comfortable seats with one seat on one side and two seats on the opposite side. A couple seats face each other with a table in between. Comfort 1 does require seat reservations at a small cost if you have a railpass. If you don’t have a railpass, you can also make seat reservations for comfort 1, but it’s much more expensive. If you don’t make a seat reservation for comfort 1, you are not guaranteed an actual seat, and in busy months, you may end up in comfort 2 if comfort 1 is full.
Gare Du Nord is the station we left from and is a very easy station to maneuver around and find your track. Everything is well-designated and easy to find. Bathrooms are on the lower level and cost 20 cents euro. It was one of the cleanest restrooms I've ever seen. There's a gift shop and a couple small places to grab a sandwich or soda.
There are a few steps you need to take before boarding your train. You must validate your ticket BEFORE boarding the train, or you will be fined by the conductor. At the start of your trip, go to a ticket window and have the agent stamp your ticket and add their initials. You will have to provide your passport to the agent, so keep it handy. At Paris Gare Du Nord, the ticket windows are on the left-hand side, right after you walk in. After the agent stamps your ticket, you’re job is not done. If you have a *railpass*, you need to write in the first date of travel in the box provided. Only write in that day... you will fill in the rest of the days on those specific days of travel, not before. If the ticket does not have the travel date written in, the conductor can charge you a supplement. I have no idea how much that is. (Too much for me, when I can avoid it by following the instructions.) Our conductor was very nice in explaining this to us, as our ticket did not have the first day written in. He didn’t charge us but kindly advised us for the future.
When you have located the correct track, you need to locate the correct car. Your ticket will have the car and seat number on it. You must look at each car as they are labeled separately, because cars are usually added and dropped here and there all along the route, ie, some cars may stop in some cities, and some cars may pick up other cars in other cities. You need to locate the correct car number or you may end up somewhere you don’t want to go. Don’t freak out, it’s very easy to determine which car you are in. You can always ask uniformed train personnel, who are outside each car, prior to boarding to check your ticket, or anyone uniformed at the station. At most train stations, there will be a display case with the location of each car and it’s final destination. This will tell you where on the platform, your car will be. Always check the reader board on each car to be sure. The reader board is outside each car, next to the door with the cars' destination, train number and car number. Painted on each car will be a 1 or a 2, for first or second class, respectively.
On our trip to Amsterdam, we took a 9:55am train in comfort 1 and were served a small breakfast. Much like on a plane, she came down the aisle with a cart with croissants, small sandwiches, pastries, juice, coffee, soda, etc. After we stopped in Brussels, we were served lunch too. A small tray with lunchmeats, goat cheese, carrots, and bread with butter was given to us. We also indulged in a small bottle of wine.
There is a bar/snack car on all Premier trains and they even have happy hour. If you crave something sweet or salty, head to the bar car for a snack or a cocktail.
It was a really nice, smooth ride. The seats were very comfortable, and the whole seat, not just the back, reclined. There were also fold-down footrests attached to seat in front of you. Airlines should take notice of the seats on these trains--perhaps they could learn a thing or two. Even the bathroom was nice... for a train.
Luggage storage is plentiful. You can store it at the back of your car(not recommended)or on racks above the seats. We had a huge suitcase and had no problem storing it above our seat. I don't recommend the rear of car storage because the train will make stops and someone can walk off with your stuff.
Train travel in Europe is a great way to see the country and relax a little. I recommend the Thalys or any other train for any destination. It’s usually much cheaper than flying and much more exciting. Grab a good book or simply watch the country go by.
Results 1-4of 4 Reviews
by Anton Ego
Paris, Ile-de-France, France
February 19, 2011
by wanderer 2005
May 31, 2005
From journal Right or Left Bank?
July 18, 2003
Ha! "Pride goeth before . .", you know the rest. When we arrived at the track we saw an immense crowd of people laden down with mountains of luggage all attempting to board simultaneously into each and every aperture of the lengthy train before us. Later we discovered the why behind the mess of people before us. EXAMINE your tickets! On them is the car number in which your reserved seats are located. Like us, most would-be passengers had not done so and/or were not advised to do so at the time they had purchased their tickets. The result was chaos and crush.
I shall never forget the towering giant of a man who was just behind us; he just lost his patience at two doddering, glazed-eyed females who were standing paralyzed just before us, as they puzzled about where to put their luggage. He awakened them in a stentorious voice that was partly a scream, "Get on with it! Stow it later!" With a jolt, they boarded, dragging their luggage behind them.
Embarrassed by his outburst, he explained to us that he and his wife had not slept in over 35 hours since they had left home in South Africa. At least 6’9", a commanding, immaculately business-suited black gentleman, his exhaustion had depleted his capacity for restraint. We were empathetically grateful that his outburst had broken the deadlock and the boarding line had finally begun to move onto the train.
Once aboard, we found the lovely seats, comfortably wide, the scenic flat countryside, beautiful, and the rapidity of our movement, reassuring, as we smoothly progressed in an hour and fifteen minutes towards Brussels Midi station ,very soothing -- all a comforting follow-up to the uneasy process of boarding we had endured. What a way to go! In a seat much more spacious than on an airplane, you relax, read, purchase a snack from the cart that attendants roll around, or even sleep a little. Our boarding-scene had been like a real cattle call; my claustrophobia had gone into over-drive, so I really appreciated that the rest of the Thalys experience proved so calming. Ironically, sometimes the most memorable travel moments are those most unpleasant when you experienced them!
From journal Striking Paris-Outdoor Artistry, Symmetrical City
by Jim Rosenberg
February 4, 2001
From journal Paris: An Affordable, Spectacular Destination