London Travel Service

london travel service

Thinking of Visiting London ? London has so much to offer visitors, probably more than you realise. London offers Museums, Theatres, Restaurants of all Cuisines, Sports, Shopping, Religion, Heritages and even Royalty.

London's Heritage Routemaster Buses - routes 9 and 15

London's much-loved Routemaster buses were a major feature of the capital from the mid 1950s until 2005. So great were the protests when these 'symbols of London' were retired from service in December 2005 that a small renovated fleet was quickly re-introduced on sections of two tourist-friendly central London bus routes. 

Safety in London - Overview

London is a remarkably safe city, and your chance of becoming a victim of any kind of crime while you're here is very low. 

The city is also, controversially, the world's 'CCTV capital', with trains, buses, stations, shops and almost every outdoor area covered by video surveillance cameras. Nevertheless, as in any big city, it is important to always be aware of your surroundings and who is around you, and to take the usual 'streetwise' precautions. Safety tips such as those from London's Metropolitan Police and Visit London(London's official visitor organization), are mostly common sense, but worth a read all the same.

Crime in central London is overwhelmingly opportunistic and of the 'petty theft' variety, so whereas your valuables are at risk from pickpockets and bag snatchers, physical attacks are very rare. By far the greatest cause of injury and death to overseas visitors is the traffic, which drives on the left (seeDangers for more on traffic issues and theft).

I have divided our information on Safety in London into six categories:

Public Transport

London's public transport system is safe and efficient, however the tube in particular is a hotspot for pickpockets. Most tube and rail stations have intercom 'Help Points' on the platforms, which can be used both to ask for travel advice and in emergencies. Mainline rail stations tend to be gathering places for beggars and 'undesirables', especially late in the evenings, but they rarely pose any danger and the stations are generally well policed at all hours. On double-decker night buses you may feel more comfortable sitting downstairs near the driver. Those who don't like noise and rowdy behaviour will find the same rule applies when the schools empty around 3-4pm!

The British Transport Police are responsible for policing rail, tube and DLR (Docklands Light Railway) services. Their website, and also the Metropolitan Police's website, both offer good advice for staying safe while travelling in and around London.

London on Foot

As noted above, overseas visitors unaccustomed to traffic driving on the left are particularly vulnerable to accidents, but otherwise pedestrians should have no problems walking around London by day or - with a little caution - by night (although potholes and cracked pavements can pose a minor danger!).

Obviously, it pays to stay alert and to avoid particularly dark or deserted areas. You'd be unwise to hang around London's parks after dark (with the exception of Regent's Park during the summer theatre season), but then there really is no reason to do so, and most of them are anyway promptly locked at closing time.

Hackney and Brixton are two somewhat 'edgier' areas that you might visit. Both are generally fine by day, but require a little more caution at night.

Crime... and the Tabloid Newspapers

Readers of London's tabloid newspapers may get the impression that London's 'knife crime' is 'out of control'. With gun ownership tightly controlled, knife crime does unfortunately exist. However, it is predominately gang and drug related and almost entirely confined to youths and criminals operating in the outskirts of London - areas that very few tourists would ever have even the slightest reason to visit. Don't pay attention to the sensationalist tabloid newspaper headlines you'll see pasted up outside newsagents. Vendors know that words such as 'mugging' 'shooting' and 'sex attack' sell papers! But read the article itself, and you'll rarely find it warrants the attention-grabbing headline.

And finally...

Having lived and worked in London and the surrounding area for over a decade I can say, hand on heart, that I have never feared for my personal safety. Both my children were born in London and I have never felt scared for them either (although they are still young, and I admit I may feel more cautious when they become teenagers). The only incidents I have ever encountered were a minor groping incident on a very crowded tube (I moved away) and an uncomfortable feeling one evening in Soho that 'something was going on' (we immediately left the area).

Of course you may be less 'lucky' than perhaps I have been, but the odds are heavily stacked in your favour. So read up on what to look out for, keep your wits about you, and most of all don't worry too much about safety. Enjoy London!

See also:


London's Museums by Theme

Do you want to pick one of London's 'best' museums? Find museums that are especially good for kids? Or you do have a particular interest in transport, archaeology, medical or military matters...?

Click on the links below for lists of London's museums and collections grouped according to theme/subject matter.

If you prefer to see the museums listed in alphabetical order, see London's Museums from A to Z.

Return to London's Museums (introduction).

London's Museums by Theme

Best London Museums - The Top 10

London's 'must see' museums, based on visitor numbers and international importance of the collections. All top class museums, and all offer free entry!

London's Best Museums for Kids

The top 10 museums for children in London, featuring engaging displays, interactive exhibits, trails and quizzes, plus child & family-friendly workshops, events and drop-in sessions.

Our very favourite museums - a personal selection

The editors' picks. While we don't expect you to share our tastes or interests, our favourites may give you some ideas if you are:
   A:   a museum lover
   B:   not very interested in museums
   C:   a child (and in particular a boy!)

London's Museums of Crime, Policing & Punishment

The site of a 12th century prison, Sherlock Holme's house and several police collections... just some of the museums that explore the darker side of London life.

London's Museum-Homes of Famous Figures

The London homes of famous figures, including Dickens, William Morris and Freud, preserved to celebrate their lives and works, plus homes with remarkable interiors created in a particular style or period.

London's Museums of Dance, Film, Theatre & Entertainment

From film props to ballet memorabilia, vintage radios to Elizabethan theatrical special effects, plus unusual magic and clowning-related collections.

London's Museums of Literature & the Written Word

Literary treasures at the British Library, Shakespeare's Globe, and museums to Dickens and Keats, plus Marxism, women's history, Japan's most famous novelist and more!

London's Museums of Music & Musical Instruments

Museums reflecting a huge range of musical styles, from rock and pop to Handel's Baroque masterpieces, and from ancient Egyptian percussion to automatic instruments and Eric Clapton's guitar.

London's Natural History & Horticulture Museums

The Natural History Museum is world famous, but London also has a number of other fascinating and very diverse plant and animal-related museums.

London's Sport & Sporting History Museums

From the world's oldest sporting museum, to exhibits at the iconic Wembley Stadium, London has collections of interest to fans of cricket, rugby, football and tennis, and motor racing too.


London's Museums by Theme

Do you want to pick one of London's 'best' museums? Find museums that are especially good for kids? Or you do have a particular interest in transport, archaeology, medical or military matters...?


Today, tourists and nostalgic Londoners can still enjoy the bumpy but fun experience of riding an iconic red double-decker Routemaster between Tower Bridge and Kensington on two linking 'heritage routes', number 9 and number 15 (information correct as of Summer 2012).

A shiny red Routemaster bus: one of London's enduring symbolsA shiny red Routemaster bus: one of London's enduring symbols
The number 9 service runs between Kensington High Street and Trafalgar Square, and the number 15 service runs between Trafalgar Square and Tower Hill. Both services run approximately every 15-20 minutes, daily between 9:30am and 7pm. The entire route - between Kensington and Tower Bridge - is about 6 miles (10km) and can be travelled, with a change at Trafalgar Square, in around 60 - 90 minutes.

Standard Travelcards and Oyster Cards are valid on the heritage routes, as are standard bus tickets purchased from the bus stop ticket machines. You can also buy your ticket from the conductor, just as used to be the case in the Routemasters' heyday. NB: Try to have the right change for your fare as the conductors are generally unable to change anything larger than a £5 note (and sometimes not even that). Also, you don't pay as you enter the bus: instead the conductor will come to your seat once the bus is moving.

Routemasters in 'the good old days'

The open rear platform is one of the main features of the iconic Routemaster busesThe open rear platform is one of the main features of the iconic Routemaster buses
Despite the Routemasters' fame, and the misty-eyed memories of many Londoners, the buses probably had as many bad points as they had good ones. The open platform at the rear was great for jumping on and off between stops (particularly on congested Oxford Street, where they are greatly missed!), but wasn't very safe. It also encouraged fare dodgers who could leap off as soon as the conductor approached them. What's more, the high step up onto the platform, coupled with the narrow aisle and lack of luggage space, made Routemasters completely impossible for wheelchair users. They were also extremely problematic for anyone with mobility issues, and a nightmare for parents with young children in buggies (which had to be both fully foldable and small enough to fit into the tiny under-stair luggage cubby hole).

Routemasters were also noisy, often rather smelly, and offered a bumpy and none too comfortable ride. Overcrowding was a constant problem as the open back meant that it was difficult to limit access. The staircase to the upper deck, coupled with the open rear of the buses, was frankly dangerous - over the years we witnessed several nasty accidents. Nevertheless, there could be something rather wonderful and uniquely 'London' in the experience of speeding down a London street (Routemasters have surprising acceleration) while clinging to the pole on the crowded open platform!

The refurbished Routemasters

Don't attempt the stairs on the Routemaster bus without holding on tight to the handrail - especially if the bus is moving.Don't attempt the Routemaster's stairs without holding on tight to the handrail - especially if the bus is moving.
The buses used on the Heritage Routes have been refurbished with nicely upholstered seats, modern environmentally friendlier engines, improved lighting and sealed windows (the old crank handle windows were awkward to use and created terrible draughts in colder weather). Still, the buses retain much of their atmosphere, vibrations and shaky ride. It's wise to keep hold of something at all times, and especially while standing!

Boarding is still via the open platform at the rear of the bus, but these days the conductor is unlikely to let you stand on the platform while the bus is moving. If you're only going a few stops then you may prefer to stay downstairs, but most people - of course - head up the stairs to the upper deck. Do take extra care when you go back down the stairs to get off, especially if you're with children. Hold on to the handrail the whole time you're on the staircase: the buses can jerk quite violently when they brake. It is safest to press the 'stop' request button, then wait until the bus has actually stopped before venturing down the stairs. If you're worried that the bus will move off before you've had time to get off, call to the conductor who will signal to the driver.

Incidentally, the conductors are generally much more friendly than they used to be before the Routemasters became a tourist attraction. And not only are the drivers tolerant and patient about people taking photos of the buses, they're often happy to pose for you too.

There's usually competition for the front seats on the upper deck of a Routemaster busThere's usually competition for the front seats on the Routemaster's upper deck
There's always a scramble for the four seats at the front of the upper deck. Children especially love sitting here, as it's the best place to pretend to be driving the bus! From this position it's always a surprise to see how very close buses pull up to the vehicle in front when at traffic lights or in heavy traffic. There's often no more than a few inches between you and the bus in front!

Just as in the past, today's Heritage Routemasters are not wheelchair accessible, and they're as tricky as ever with buggies and pushchairs. However, the Heritage Routemasters run on routes 9 and 15 in parallel with modern accessible London buses, so wheelchair users and families with buggies can still travel the same route.

Highlights of the Heritage Routes

Paintings galore along the perimeter of Green Park on Piccadilly along the route of the Routemaster heritage bus route 9Paintings galore along the perimeter of Green Park on Piccadilly
Travelling west from the Tower of London, the Heritage Route first passes through the City of London. The banks, offices and shops are overwhelmingly modern, but the street - Poultry - retains its medieval name. The sharp-eyed will spot names on the narrow alleys to the left and right of the route that hark back to earlier times, including Bread Street, Milk Street and Shoe Lane. If you're riding the route on a weekend when the traffic is light, the bus can get up quite a speed on this stretch. For those seated on the upper deck, this can be slightly (though usually enjoyably) alarming, coupled with the bumps and vibrations of the historic suspension. St. Paul's Cathedral soon comes into view, then Fleet Street and the Royal Courts of Justice. Keep a look out for the River Thames, which runs roughly parallel to this section of the route, and can be glimpsed from time to time down lanes and cuttings between buildings.

The view from the Routemaster's upper deck approaching Trafalgar SquareThe view from the Routemaster's upper deck approaching Trafalgar Square
From the Strand, the bus lurches past Charing Cross Station and its reconstructed Eleanor Cross, and around Trafalgar Square. It then goes up to Piccadilly Circus, past Fortnum & Mason and the Ritz Hotel, and along the edge of Green Park. Here passengers on the upper deck have a good view of the hundreds of paintings (many of them pretty awful, but with the occasional good one) that set up daily on the park's perimeter railings in the hope of sales.

The bus then goes around Wellington Arch past the wall of Buckingham Palace's gardens - sadly the garden's trees and shrubbery mean that even if you're seated on the upper deck you won't see much. The route continues along the length of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, past the Albert Hall and the startlingly golden Albert Memorial, to its terminus on Kensington High Street. This is a good spot for a bit of shopping, or you can take a tube from Kensington High Street Station. Alternatively you may like to double back a few hundred metres and go into Kensington Gardens to visit Kensington Palace, have afternoon tea at the elegant Orangerie, or - if you have children with you - spend an hour or two at the wonderful Princess Diana Memorial Playground.

While we wouldn't go so far as to say the Routemaster Heritage Routes are 'must dos', it's a fun way to get across London, and much less stressful than taking the tube. And, of course, anyone with an interest in public transport will be proud to say that they rode on an iconic Routemaster!

The upper deck on a Routemaster bus - a bit bumpy and shaky and rather cramped... but fun!The upper deck on a Routemaster - a bit bumpy and shaky and rather cramped... but fun!
A number 9 Routemaster bus on route to Kensington High StreetA number 9 Routemaster on route to Kensington High Street


London Museums 

London for Kids

Exhibitions and Events

The Age of the Dinosaur
Review of 'The Age of the Dinosaur' exhibition at London's Natural History Museum (Summer 2011). Animatronic dinosaurs, fantastic fossils and interactive displays for kids.

Parks and playgrounds

Our Top Pick!
Princess Diana Memorial Playground, Kensington Gardens
The Princess Diana Memorial Playground in Kensington Gardens, London, is a truly wonderful space for children 12 and under to play, dream and have adventures.

Marylebone Green Children's Playground, Regent's Park
A great playground in Regent's Park, central London, with lots to offer children of all ages, including a big sandpit, swings & climbing frames. Popular & fun!

Paddington Street Children's Playground, Marylebone
A lovely local playground right in the centre of London. Shady and fun, and especially nice for younger children. Close to the shops of Marylebone High Street.                             

Eating out with children

Kulu Kulu Sushi
The Kulu Kulu Sushi restaurants are great place for a quick casual lunch, fun for kids, and non-intimidating for those trying sushi for the first time.

Indian YMCA Restaurant, Fitzrovia

The dining hall of London's Indian YMCA is open to everyone, offering tasty no-frills Indian meals and a dinner buffet at bargain prices. 

Each passenger is permitted a maximum of two medium suitcases (max. length 85cm) and one smaller bag. There is no weight restriction. All luggage must be tagged with your name and address.

Note that the rules are not applied as strictly as on planes, and in practice passengers are generally allowed to carry several smaller bags, particularly if they have just one - or no - suitcase.

A registered baggage service operates between the main Eurostar stations for additional suitcases (up to 30kg in weight) and bulky items such as bicycles and large musical instruments. Fees apply for this service and the baggage will be available for you to collect at the destination within 24 hours.

There is a porter service at the London, Paris and Brussels Eurostar stations. Fees apply. Self-service luggage trolleys are available at all stations.

Travel documents

Unlike most cross border European train links, Eurostar services between Great Britain and mainland Europe retain passport control and customs procedures. It is essential that you have the correct travel documents with you - you will not be permitted to check in without them. EU citizens may present either a passport or a national identity card. All other passengers must present a passport and - if required - a visa (note that entry to France or Belgium on a Schengen visa does not automatically guarantee entry to the UK). Non-EU citizens travelling to the UK are required to complete a declaration card (similar to an airline landing card), including the address where they will be staying.


Victoria Coach Station, London Victoria

Victoria Coach Station is London's hub for domestic and international scheduled coach services, and has been 'connecting Great Britain since 1932'. It is still housed in the original art deco building on Buckingham Palace Road.

If you travel by coach from mainland Europe to London, this is almost certainly where you'll arrive. And if you travel around the UK using the extensive domestic coach network, you are likely to make at least some of your connections and changes here. Victoria Coach Station is also the departure point for regular airport transfer services, a London to Oxford service, and several of London's bus tour companies (offering scheduled trips to tourist attractions around the country). Overall, many independent travellers to London will find themselves at Victoria Coach Station at some point during their trip.

Note: Don't confuse Victoria Coach Station with Victoria Bus Station, which is located a few hundred metres away directly in front of Victoria Railway Station, and is used only by red (local) London buses.

Information correct as of Summer 2012

Victoria Coach Station is still located in its original 1932 art deco building.Victoria Coach Station is still located in its original 1932 art deco building.

Coach companies serving Victoria Coach Station

Victoria Coach Station is served by more than 20 coach operators, the principal ones being the domestic services National Express and Megabus, and the European coach service Eurolines. Approximately 10 million passengers pass through the coach station every year, and there are nearly 200,000 coach departures annually. The bulk of services arrive and depart between around 7am and 11:30pm, although there are ocassional departures through the night.

The major services are:


National Express

National Express Coach in Victoria Coach StationNational Express Coach
Victoria Coach Station is the main hub for National Express, the UK's largest and best known scheduled coach company, with the majority of their services starting or ending here. National Express serves approximately 1000 destinations throughout the UK, including Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and other UK airports. For full information on National Express coaches and services


Megabus Coach outside Victoria Coach StationMegabus Coach
Budget inter-city coach service Megabus provides scheduled services between around 50 larger towns and cities across the UK, including regular services to and from London - famously advertised as costing 'from £1'. For full information on Megabus coaches and services see


Eurolines Coach in Victoria Coach StationEurolines Coach
Eurolines comprises 32 independent coach companies which together operate Europe's largest scheduled coach network. Services run to a wide variety of places all over Europe, linking over 500 destinations in total. For full information on Eurolines coaches and services

Oxford Espress

Oxford Espress Coach in Victoria Coach StationOxford Espress Coach
The Oxford Espress X90 service is one of two major coach services linking London and Oxford (the other being the Oxford Tube, see Green Line Coach Termonal). The X90 takes you from Victoria Coach Station to central Oxford in just 100 minutes. Coaches leave twice an hour from early morning to late evening, with services every 15 minutes at peak times. Oxford Espress coaches also stop at Marble Arch (both ways) and at Baker Street (Oxford to London) or Gloucester Place just a little west of Baker Street (London to Oxford). See for full information on Oxford Espress services.

Airport transfer services

Airport transfer coaches run from Victoria Coach Station to four of London's five airports: Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Luton. City Airport, the smallest of London's airports, has no direct transfer service from Victoria Coach Station and is best reached by a combination of Underground (Tube) and Docklands Light Railway (DLR).

Other services

Victoria Coach Station is a pick-up and drop-off point for many other services, including day and half-day tours, coach holidays and private hire. For a current list of coach companies which use the station seehere.

Getting to Victoria Coach Station

Victoria Coach Station is located about 500m south west of Victoria rail, Underground and bus stations. It is slightly 'out of the way', however the route between the two transport hubs is simple, and its an easy 5-10 minute walk. It's possible to walk most of the route under cover (via two shopping arcades) if the weather is poor. The route along the main road is well lit and safe to walk at any hour (assuming you follow normal safety precautions for a big city).

The following red (local) London buses stop right outside Victoria Coach Station: 11, 44, 170, 211, C1, C10, and N11 & N44 (night buses). To see the routes these bus services take see Transport for London's helpful bus 'spider map'.

If you plan to arrive by car, there is a multi-storey car park (operated by NCP) on Semley Place just south of the coach station. There is also metered car parking on the streets around the coach station, however the maximum stay is 4 hours, so it is only practical for drop-offs.

About Victoria Coach Station

Coaches arrive at and depart from different areas of the station. The main building houses the Departures area, while the smaller Arrivals area is to the north, across Elizabeth Street from the main building.

Victoria Coach Station is easy to navigate, with clear signs to the Arrivals and Departures areas, toilets etc. There are information desks in both areas. It is also baby buggy, wheelchair and rolling suitcase-friendly, with step-free access throughout.

The Arrivals Hall at Victoria Coach StationThe Arrivals area is basic but functional.


The Victoria Coach Station arrivals area is little more than a broad corridor and not somewhere you'll want to linger. However, there are fully accessible unisex toilets (there is a small charge - currently 30p), public telephones, limited seating and a mini cab booking desk. The information desk and a small snack bar are tucked away around a corner and easy to miss. There is also a hotel booking desk - see Hotel Boooking Service, below.

Licensed porters are available in the Arrivals area and will - for a fee - assist with transporting your luggage to the Departures hall for connecting services, to Victoria rail, Underground and bus stations, and to the Green Line Coach Terminal.

Onward travel by coach, bus, tube, train, taxi, rental car...

For onward travel on a connecting coach service follow the signs across the road (Elizabeth Street) to the Departures area in the main building. Once there, the timetable and information screens will direct you to the correct gate for your connecting service.

In addition to the mini cab booking desk in the Arrivals area, there is a taxi rank on Eccleston Place just outside. Red London buses stop on Buckingham Palace Road a few metres to the east of the coach station. For tube and train services you need to do the short walk to Victoria Railway Station. The nearest car rental offices are operated by Hertz (a short walk to the south at 200A Buckingham Palace Road) and Europcar (around the corner from Hertz at 12 Semley Place).

Hotel Booking Service

A hotel booking desk is located in the Arrivals area, near the Eccleston Place exit. It offers accomodation at a range of grades amd prices, from hostels and B&Bs to top hotels - useful if you're desperate for a bed for the night, but note that you will not necessarily get a good deal by booking at the last minute via services such as this. 


The Departures area is located in the main Victoria Coach Station building, with its main entrance on the corner of Buckingham Palace Road and Elizabeth Road, and another entrance opposite the Arrivals area on Elizabeth Road.

A walk-through of Victoria Coach Station's Departures area

The Ticket Hall at Victoria Coach Station.The Ticket Hall at Victoria Coach Station. There is almost always a queue and 'walk-up' ticket prices are high - much better to buy your tickets online in advance.

Tickets and timetables

The Ticket Hall is located at the back of the Departures area and is open daily from 7am to 10pm. The ticket office is run independently of the coach companies, meaning that it sells tickets on behalf of all the coach operators and services, and where a destination is served by more than one operator, staff will offer the full choice of services available on an impartial basis. Note, however, that last minute 'walk-up' fares can be very expensive - see below for information on getting cheaper coach tickets. Tickets for National Express and Megabus can also be obtained from ticket machines in the Ticket Hall and elsewhere in the Deaprtures area. For comprehensive timetable information look for the yellow timetable carousels that are in several locations around the Departures area and under the information screens in the main entrance area.

Getting the best deals on coach tickets

It is almost always cheaper to purchase your coach tickets online in advance of travelling. If you wait until you get to the coach station, not only do you run the risk of your preferred service being full, but you will also pay the 'walk-up' fare - that is, the most expensive rate. Most Victoria Coach Station operators allow you to book online and print out your own tickets. The further in advance you book, the cheaper the tickets are likely to be. There are some great deals available for those who are able to book early: Advance tickets can often cost less than half, and sometimes only a quarter of what a walk-up fare costs. Buying in advance also ensures that you will be able to travel on your prefered day and time.

To check fares and book tickets for the major coach services operating from Victoria Coach Station click on the links below:

The Eurolines continental check-in counter, adjacent to Gate 19.The Eurolines continental check-in counter, adjacent to Gate 19.


Passengers for most international services to mainland Europe and Ireland must check in at the continental check-in desk (adjacent to Gate 19) prior to boarding. Check-in opens 60 minutes before departure, and closes 15 minutes before departure of the service. Passengers are strongly advised to arrive at the coach station 60 minutes before their scheduled departure time to allow sufficient time for the check-in process. Note that all passengersmust have a printed ticket and applicable travel documents (passport or European ID card, visa if necessary) in order to check in. No booking reference numbers will be accepted in lieu of properly printed tickets.

Passengers for domestic services are advised to arrive at the coach station 30 minutes before departure and go straight to their departure gate. Gate numbers and departure information are provided on electronic information screens in the entrance are and throughout the coach station. 

Passengers queue to stow luggage and board the coaches at Victoria Coach Station.Passengers queue to stow luggage and board the coaches.


As in an airport, Victoria Coach Station operates on a 'gate' system. Each gate has a waiting area with seating. Passengers must remain in the waiting area until their coach is ready for boarding and an announcement is made. Tickets are checked and luggage is stowed as you board. With the exception of passengers who have pre-booked mobility assistance (see below), all passengers must be able to carry their own luggage to the coach.

Facilities at Victoria Coach Station

25 years ago Victoria Coach Station was a run down and - at times - slightly intimidating place. Thankfully it has had a facelift since then and it is now a much comfortable environment to spend time in, although it still suffers from low ceilings and a rather utilitarian feel. Despite the staff's best efforts to keep London's ubiquitous pidgeons out of the public areas, there are always some around (largely due to people ignoring the 'do not feed the pidgeons' signs and frequent announcements). Note the forests of wires on every level surface above head height (to prevent pidgeons from perching) and look out for ocassional low-flying birds!

The waiting areas at Victoria Coach Station are clean, safe and reasonably comfortable.The waiting areas are clean, safe and reasonably comfortable.
The waiting areas are fairly basic but clean and acceptable. The long glass windows between Gate 2 and Gate 21 have photo transfers of vintage bus and coach operators from the coach station's history. It's a nice touch and the station would benefit from more decoration and features like this. The entire station feels pretty safe (there are security cameras), but do keep a good eye on your belongings - luggage has been known to disappear when passengers' backs are turned, even for a moment. The rows of seating have been designed with 'armrests' between seats to stop people stretching out and sleeping. If you do need to sleep, the best you can do is to find a seat next to a pillar and rest your head against that. Take earplugs or headphones though, or the constant announcements will keep you awake. The public areas - waiting halls, shops and toilets - are open from early morning (about 6am, depending on scheduled services) to around midnight.

In addition to the ticket office, facilities include an information desk, numerous pay phones, a passport photo booth, cash machines and a bureaux de change (open from 6.30am to 10pm). There are also two souvenir stands for last minute shopping. Toilets and baby change areas are located by Gate 2 (accessed via a flight of steps) and by Gate 12 (step free). There is a small charge, currently 30p. There are also several disabled toilets.

A number of snack bars and kiosks offer the usual sandwiches, pastries, drinks and confectionery. There is also a small branch of Burger King and several vending machines. However, you'll find a better selection of eating options, and in many cases cheaper prices, in the surrounding area (see below). The Snax Café allows you to recharge your mobile if the battery is low (pricey but maybe worth it in an emergency), and has a small Internet café and sports TV, as well as an all day breakfast. The Departure area offers free WiFi.

In common with public areas across the UK, no smoking is permitted within the coach station.

A hotel booking desk (located by the Elizabeth Street entrance) can assist with booking all grades of accommodation, from hostels to luxury hotels. Note, however, that you will get a wider choice of accommodation, and in most cases cheaper prices, by booking online.

Left luggage

The Victoria Coach Station left luggage office, opposite Gate 6, is open seven days a week from 7am to 10:45pm. It's worth noting that the cost of leaving a bag here is cheaper than using the left luggage office at nearby Victoria Rail Station (although the rail station office has slightly longer hours, being open until midnight).

Mobility assistance

Travellers with disabilities and/or special needs can access Victoria Coach Station's free mobility assistance service. Note that this must be pre-booked at least 24 hours in advance of travel, eitheronline or by phoning the Victoria Coach Station mobility lounge on 020 7027 2520.

The service includes access to a special wheelchair-friendly lounge (located near the ticket office) with disabled toilet facilities, help with luggage, and assistance to and from the coach. The coach station is step-free and there are further disabled toilets in both the Arrivals and Departures halls.

The area surrounding Victoria Coach Station

On Elizabeth Street, next to the main pedestrian access to the Arrivals area and directly opposite the Departures area, is the Travellers' Tavern - an unremarkable but clean and friendly pub offering standard 'pub grub' (chips, pies etc.). Don't let this be your only experience of an English pub, but if you have time to kill between coaches it's a comfortable enough place to wait. Further along towards Buckingham Palace Road, in an attractive old single story building, is the Da Scalzo wine bar and pizzeria. The prices are reasonable and it's probably the nicest choice in the immediate vicinity of the coach station.

A Grocers shop, food outlets and a coffee bar are just outside Victoria Coach Station on Elizabeth StreetA Grocers shop, food outlets and a coffee bar are just outside Victoria Coach Station on Elizabeth Street
Also on Elizabeth Street, on the other side just a few metres from the Departures Hall, is the Victoria Grocers, a useful source for emergency essentials including nappies, tissues and packing tape. It also sells a range of magazines, newspapers and alcohol (though note that drinking alcohol is strictly forbidden on most, if not all, coach services - a rule that in our experience is enforced by removing the passenger from the coach). Further along from the Victoria Grocers are several places to buy fish and chips (both eat-in and take-out) and Bar Fratelli, a nice-looking coffee bar. The ARM Chicken Takeaway does a couple of veggetarian options including falafels.

Peggy Porschen cake shop on the corner of Ebury Street and Elizabeth StreetPeggy Porschen cake shop on the corner of Ebury Street and Elizabeth Street
The further you go down Elizabeth Street the smarter the area gets. At the junction with Ebury Street is the glamorous Peggy Porschen bespoke cake parlour. On nice days you can order a special slice of cake and a pot of tea to enjoy at the pavement tables.

Accommodation near Victoria Coach Station

London Victoria, the area around the coach station, is one of London's major tourist accommodation areas, offering hostels and hotels of a wide variety of types and price levels.

Essentials - Victoria Coach Station

Address: 164 Buckingham Palace Road, London, postcode: SW1W 9TP.

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7222 5600

Nearest tube: Victoria

Further information

Page last updated: Summer 2012 

Baggage allowance

Eurostar baggage allowance
Each passenger is permitted a maximum of two medium suitcases (max. length 85cm) and one smaller bag. There is no weight restriction. All luggage must be 


Table of contents

A lineup of Eurostar trains at St Pancras International station, LondonA lineup of Eurostar trains at St Pancras International station, London

What is the Eurostar? An overview

The Eurostar is a high-speed passenger train service that links Great Britain and mainland Europe via the Channel Tunnel under the English Channel, the passage of water that separates England and France. The Channel Tunnel, also known as the Euro Tunnel or 'Chunnel', is one of the greatest engineering projects ever undertaken, and has been declared a civil engineering wonder of the world by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

The Eurostar's main stations are London (UK), Paris (France) and Brussels (Belgium). Many trains make a stop in Lille (France), and some trains also stop in Ebbsfleet or Ashford in the UK, and in Calais in France.

From London there is a direct Eurostar service to Disneyland Paris (5 days a week, daily during UK school holidays), plus trains to Avignon in the south of France (every Saturday, summer only) and Eurostar 'ski trains' twice per week to the French Alps (winter only).

It is possible to book 'through tickets' between many locations in the UK and locations in France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland - see Through tickets for more information.

Taking the Eurostar has many advantages over flying between London and Paris, and London and Brussels. Not only does it offer - in most cases - shorter travel times, but Eurostar trains are also more likely than planes to arrive at their destination on schedule.

Eurostar map showing the routes from London to Lille, Brussels, Paris and Eurodisney (Disneyland Paris)Eurostar route map
Eurostar's convenient city centre stations and less time-consuming check-in processes combine to make it an altogether easier and more pleasant journey. Eurostar trains offer more comfort than economy class air travel, with more spacious seats and no restrictions on access to toilets and other facilities. Moreover, travelling by Eurostar is better for the environment than flying (the Eurostar CO2 emissions per passenger are a fraction of those of a plane on the same route), and the Eurostar company is actively involved in reducing its energy consumption and emissions, and developing responsible sourcing and recycling, with ambitious targets to be achieved by 2015.

Note: Taking the Eurostar is so easy and convenient it may slip your mind that you will absolutely require your passport (or EU national identity card) in order to travel. A New Zealander friend of ours is just one of many unfortunate people annually who find themselves unable to travel because of this. See Travel Documents.

Eurostar trains travel at speeds of up to 186mph / 300kph, however the ride is so smooth that you will hardly notice. Many first-time passengers have concerns about how they will feel during the short time - around 20 minutes - that the train is in the Channel Tunnel. Having taken the Eurostar several dozen times, our advice is that unless you generally suffer from severe claustrophobia and anxiety in such situations, you really don't need to worry about the tunnel at all. Sensitive people may feel the change in pressure as the train enters and leaves the tunnel, but we haven't noticed or come across reports of anyone being badly affected by this. The time in the tunnel feels just like travelling at night, i.e. there is nothing other than the occasional light (in this case service lights on the concrete walls of the tunnel) to be seen from the windows. Sit back and relax, or head to the buffet car... The train will emerge at the other side before you know it.

Some people delight in jokes about fish swimming past the windows of the Eurostar while it is in the Channel Tunnel. For their sake we'd like to point out that the tunnel is bored through the solid rock deepbeneath the seabed. In fact there is an average of 45 metres of rock between the roof of the tunnel and the seabed above. The only sea life you are likely to see while on the Eurostar are the prawns in the bar-buffet's sandwiches and - should you be fortunate enough to be travelling Business Premier class - thefilet de merlu in your complimentary meal. Of course, it would be so much more interesting if the tunnel was in fact transparent and lying on the seabed... But that belongs in the realms of science fiction.

Additional notes
Eurostar is a passenger-only service and should not be confused with the Eurotunnel Shuttle, which runs car trains through the tunnel under the Channel - see for more information.

Also, do not confuse Eurostar and Eurostar Italia. Eurostar Italia is the name of Italy's high-speed intercity train service, and has no connection with the Channel Tunnel Eurostar services.

The Eurostar train link is jointly owned by the UK government, French National Railways (SNCF, who are the majority shareholders, with 55% ownership) and Belgian National Railways (SNCB).

Eurostar routes and schedules

The two main Eurostar routes are:

Paris to London / London to Paris

There are 15-18 Eurostar trains a day running between Paris and London: roughly one per hour, with extra services during the peak morning and evening periods. The typical journey time is 2 hours 25 minutes, with the fastest (non-stop) trains taking only 2 hours 15 minutes - not bad for a journey of about 300 miles (500km)!

The first Eurostar trains of the day on this route leave London at around 5:30am, and Paris at around 6:00am. The last services of the day leave London at around 8:30pm and Paris at around 9:00pm.

Brussels & Lille to London / London to Lille & Brussels

There are 7-9 Eurostar trains a day running between Brussels and London: roughly one per hour during the peak morning and evening periods, and one every 2-3 hours during the rest of the day. The fastest journey time (on a non-stopping train) is 1 hour 50 minutes, however most London - Brussels services make one or more stops along the way (nearly all trains stop in Lille, France, and some also stop in Calais, Ashford or Ebbsfleet.

The first Eurostar trains of the day on this route leave London at around 6:00am, and Brussels at around 7:00am. The last services of the day leave London at around 7:30pm and Brussels at around 8:30pm.

Days of operation and time differences

Eurostar services run every day of the year except Christmas Day (this is in common with almost all UK public transport which closes completely on December 25th - a fact well worth noting if you will be in the UK over the Christmas period).

While the travel time for a typical Eurostar journey is about 2 hours, as London is one hour behind Paris and Brussels, you will arrive in London only about one hour (local time) after you left the continent, whereas on trips from London to the continent you will arrive approximately three hours (local time) after you left - keep this in mind when planning your trip.

Additional notes
For information on connecting European train services to/from Paris and Brussels, we strongly recommend the timetable information on the website of German Railways: We consistently find this to be by far the best and most reliable online source of train timetable information for the whole of Europe.

Eurostar travel classes and ticket types

Eurostar trains have three travel classes: Standard, Standard Premier and Business Premier. Standard and Standard Premier tickets are available with fixed or semi-flexible conditions. Business Premier tickets are fully flexible. All Eurostar trains have the same configuration: carriages 1-5 and 14-18 are Standard class, carriages 7-12 are Standard Premier and Business Premier class, and carriages 6 and 13 are buffet cars. All Eurostar trains (and stations) are completely non-smoking areas.

Here is an overview of the differences between the three classes:

Eurostar Standard class

This is the cheapest Eurostar option and the choice of the majority of tourists and leisure travellers. It is comparable to second class on other train services, and economy class on planes. Standard class carriages are reasonably comfortable, with the seats offering somewhat more room than economy class airplane seats. Food and drinks are available from the buffet car, or bring your own (see below for notes on eating and drinking on board). The Eurostar on-board magazine Metropolitan, which has travel information and articles in English, French and Flemish, is freely available. Standard class passengers are required to check in a minimum of 30 minutes before the train's scheduled departure time.

Standard class tickets are available in two versions:
  • Non flexible: non-exchangeable & non-refundable
  • Semi-flexible: can be exchanged by paying a fee/penalty of £22 plus the price difference between the old and the new ticket, if the new ticket is more expensive.

Eurostar Standard Premier class

This is a 'mid-class' blend of second and first class comfort and facilities aimed at upmarket leisure travellers and business travellers whose companies don't permit 'business class' travel. Standard Premier carriages have the same seats and seating layout as first class Business Premier carriages (see Choosing your Eurostar seats), however the service has fewer features and 'frills' than Business Premier class.

Standard Premier service includes a complimentary cold meal served at your seat (a light breakfast before 11am, and a meal comprising 'three taster dishes' during the rest of the day), plus one complimentary drink (wine or beer, tea or coffee, or a soft drink). Children's meals are available, as are vegetarian meals, however these must be requested at the time of booking, and/or at least 24 hours in advance. A range of special dietary requirements can be catered for, but require 36 hours advanced notice. These include kosher, halal, vegan, diabetic, low fat, low salt, dairy/lactose free and gluten free.

Standard Premier passengers may choose from a selection of complimentary magazines and will find a power socket at every seat (suitable for both UK and European-style plugs). The check-in process is the same as for Standard class ticket holders (i.e. check-in closes 30 mins before departure), and there is no access to a special lounge.

Standard Premier fares are more expensive than Standard class, but cheaper than Business Premier. As with Standard class tickets, Standard Premier tickets are available in two versions:
  • Non flexible: non-exchangeable & non-refundable
  • Semi-flexible: can be exchanged by paying a fee/penalty of £22 plus the price difference between the old and the new ticket, if the new ticket is more expensive.

Eurostar Business Premier class

This is Eurostar's highest class of service, comparable to first class carriages on intercity trains and business class cabins on planes. Business Premier is aimed at upper level business travellers and the luxury end of the market. Ticket prices are high, however Business Premier tickets are fully flexible and refundable, i.e. they can be exchanged without penalty, and a full refund is available on unused tickets from the date of purchase up to two months after the date of departure. In addition, the normal Eurostar rule that check-in must occur a minimum of 30 mins before departure is reduced to a fast-track 10 mins for Business Premier ticket holders, and there is full access to exclusive Business Premier lounges with free Wi-Fi access, drinks and snacks.

Business Premier seats are spacious and reclinable, with extra legroom. A complimentary full meal, created with the help of Eurostar 'Gastronomic Ambassador' Alain Roux, and including tea, coffee, wine and champagne, is served at your seat. The meal varies according to the time of day it is served, however there is normally a choice of main course, for example a meat dish and a fish dish. Dinner comprises a starter, main course, dessert and cheese course. Vegetarian meals are available, but should be requested at the time of booking and/or least 24 hours in advance of travelling. Special dietary requirements can be catered for with 36 hours advance notice. These include kosher, halal, vegan, diabetic, low fat, low salt, dairy/lactose free and gluten free.

Additional Business Premier features include:
  • Power sockets (UK and European style) at every seat
  • Complimentary newspapers and magazines
  • Optional chauffeur service in London, Paris and Brussels (at additional cost)
  • Boarding guarantee (see Business Premier check-in)

The baggage allowance is the same for all classes of travel. See Baggage allowance.

Eurostar ticket prices

Eurostar ticket prices vary according to the class in which you travel, the conditions attached to the ticket (i.e. whether or not it can be exchanged/refunded), and how far in advance you make the booking.

Here are Eurostar's current ticket prices in British Pounds (£). You can also pay in Euros and US$, depending on where you purchase the ticket.

Eurostar ticket prices

(second class)
Standard Premier
('mid' class)
Business Premier
(first class)
Child (4-11)*£29-£50£49-£89£70-£81£123-£143
Wheelchair adult/companion*--£35£69--
Wheelchair child*--£25£50--

* Notes:
  • Children under 4 are free when sharing a seat with an adult (they are not entitled to their own seat unless a ticket is bought for them).
  • 'Passholder' tickets are available to holders of Eurail, Interrail or Britrail passes only. Not bookable online. For telephone bookings please call 08432 186 186.
  • Wheelchair and companion tickets are fully flexible and refundable.
  • There are also 'Youth' (12-25) and 'Senior' (60 and over) fares which offer a small discount over the cheapest adult fare, but they are only available until the cheapest adult fare tickets sell out, after which point a normal adult ticket needs to be purchased.

How to find and buy cheap Eurostar tickets

Unfortunately for budget travellers and those of us who appreciate a good deal, the popularity and success of the Eurostar service means that it has little trouble filling seats and so Eurostar deals, discount tickets and 'specials' are few and far between. Without doubt, the best option for buying cheap Eurostar tickets is to book as early as you can, as the Eurostar ticketing system for Standard and Standard Premier class works like that of an airline - ticket prices start low and increase as the cheaper tickets sell out. Thus if you want to get hold of the cheapest possible Eurostar tickets it is crucial to book as far in advance as possible.

Booking for Eurostar tickets opens 120 days (i.e. about 4 months) before the date of travel. If you book early for a non-peak day / season, Standard class 'non-flexible' tickets can be a very good deal: as low as £69 return between London and Paris or Brussels. Less desirable trains, for example those leaving very early in the morning or late in the evening, mid-week or on Saturday afternoons, are generally cheaper than those leaving mid-morning or early evening.

Prices tend to rise rapidly as the date of travel gets nearer and can become very expensive indeed. It can be especially difficult to purchase reasonably priced Eurostar tickets for peak travel times (Fridays, Sunday afternoons and Monday mornings) and busy seasons (in particular Easter, July and August, and Christmas). If your travel plans are flexible then try to avoid these times. It is often possible to buy Eurostar tickets on the day of travel, however depending on the time/season these 'walk up fares' may be extremely expensive, and only worth it if you have no option but to travel that day.

Special Youth, Senior & Passholder fares

For those aged 25 and under, or 60 and over, Eurostar offers 'youth' and 'senior' rates which give a (very) small saving on the cheapest Standard class fares (i.e. the £69 return fare is discounted to £66), but disappointingly only while the cheapest Standard class adult fare is still available for your chosen connection. As soon as adult tickets at this basic fare sell out, the youth and senior tickets disappear from the ticket system.

Holders of Eurail, Interrail or Britrail passes can buy flat rate 'Passholder' tickets (bookable by phone only - see notes in Eurostar ticket prices). These fares may or may not be a good deal, depending on the price of adult tickets at the time when you book.

Through tickets

Eurostar Through Tickets map showing some of the destinations that can be reached with Eurostar Through TicketsSome of the destinations that can be reached with Eurostar Through Tickets.
Will you be travelling simply to central Paris, Brussels or London? Or continuing your journey to a destination further afield? If the latter, then the best deal is usually a 'through ticket' - in other words a Eurostar ticket and connecting ticket combined. Through tickets almost always work out cheaper than buying Eurostar and connecting tickets separately, and offer the added benefit that if your first train is delayed, causing you to miss your connecting train, then you will be permitted to take the next available connection regardless of whether your ticket is exchangeable or not.

Through tickets are available between most larger UK stations and any station in Belgium and the Netherlands, many regional stations in France and Switzerland, plus Aachen and Cologne in Germany.

Note that, depending on your departure point/destination, Lille (rather than Paris) may be the best place to change to/from the Eurostar service. Not only may you save time by avoiding Paris, but in Lille the Eurostar services and most connecting trains - specifically the French TGV services - leave from the same station (Lille Europe), while in Paris you may well have to traverse the city to get to one of the other five main stations from which connecting services depart.

Eurostar Package Deals

Eurostar offers a number of city breaks and package deals, which usually comprise train ticket and hotel, plus optional extras such as car hire and tickets for shows. These packages offer convenience and some interesting options and hotel/travel combinations, but do not necessarily work out cheaper than booking your Eurostar tickets and hotel separately.

Booking your Eurostar tickets

Useful things to consider when booking Eurostar tickets

  • Eurostar tickets may be booked online from 120 days prior to the departure date onwards.
  • Eurostar tickets for Standard and Standard Premier classes are available at a wide range of prices. The cheapest tickets sell out first, so book early to get the best deals.
  • Both single (one-way) and return tickets are available. A return ticket is a little cheaper than two single tickets.
  • Open-jaw tickets (eg. Paris-London-Brussels) are not available. Such journeys must be booked as two single journeys (e.g. Paris-London and London-Brussels).

Choosing your Eurostar seats

Eurostar seating planEurostar seating plan
The Eurostar has a combination of airline-style seating (i.e. you sit facing the back of the seat in front) and groups of four seats with a central table. Standard Premier and Business Premier class carriages also have single airline-style seats and pairs of seats facing each other with a small table. You can see a detailed Eurostar seating plan here.

When booking your Eurostar tickets you will be asked to specify whether you want a window or aisle seat. You are also given the option to choose your exact seat (carriage and seat number) from the seating plan.

Note that if you are travelling alone, you will not be able to do an online booking for a seat in a group of four, or in facing pairs of seats in Standard Premier and Business Premier classes. If you are travelling as a pair you will not be able to do an online booking for seats in a group of four in any class. But don't worry - if you would like to book seats that are unavailable online (e.g. if you would like the table space or extra legroom a group of four seats provides) you can do so by booking by phone on 08432 186 186 (from outside the UK call +44 1233 617 575).

Useful things to consider when choosing a Eurostar seat

  • If you are travelling with a baby or small child(ren) you may wish to choose seats in the designated family carriages, numbers 1 and 18. See Travelling with children/babies below.
  • There are two wheelchair places on each Eurostar train. See Travellers with disabilities/special needsbelow.
  • There are power sockets at every seat in Standard Premier and Business Premier carriages. For an at-seat power socket in Standard class you will need to book a seat in carriage 5 or 14.
  • Eurostar trains have an equal number of front and back-facing seats. If you would prefer a seat facing in the direction of travel check the seating plans which clearly indicate which way the train will be travelling. Eurostar trains always leave London with carriage 18 at the front of the train, and they always leave Paris and Brussels with carriage 1 at the front of the train. If you suffer from motion sickness on trains read this helpful guide on preventing motion sickness.
  • If you will have a tight connection to make, book a seat towards the front of the train (carriages 1 & 2 or 17 & 18, depending on the journey) to avoid a long walk along the platform on disembarkation - the train is about 1200 feet / 400 metres long.
  • If you would like a seat with a clear view from a window (rather than a seat next to one of the pillars between the windows) look carefully at the seating plan before making your choice.

Eurostar e-ticket machines at St. Pancras International Station in LondonEurostar e-ticket machines at St. Pancras International Station in London

Printing out / collecting your Eurostar tickets

Once you have completed the booking process you can choose, in most cases, to either print your ticket on your own printer, or to collect your ticket at the station you will depart from.

To collect tickets at a Eurostar station you will need to either go to the ticket counter, or use one of the e-ticket machines. If you choose to collect tickets at the station, do allow plenty of extra time in case of queues or problems. Note that you will need your booking reference number, and you must present the credit or debit card that you used to make the payment.

Buying via a Eurostar agent

Eurostar's online booking system is available to customers worldwide, not just those resident in the UK, France or Belgium. However, if you prefer to buy your tickets locally, you can do so via one of Eurostar's agents. Be aware that tickets bought via an agent are likely to be more expensive than those bought directly from Eurostar, as most agents charge a fee (which may be hidden in the total price).

Major Eurostar agents:

Checking in for your Eurostar journey

Although Eurostar's check-in process is simple and generally hassle-free, it can take time as it involves not only a ticket check but also security and passport control processes. Unlike other train services, youcannot turn up five minutes before departure and board the train moments before it leaves.

Check-in for each train generally opens 60 minutes prior to a train's departure (extended to 90 minutes at some Eurostar terminals). Even though Eurostar recommends that passengers travelling Standard or Standard Premier class arrive at the station 35 minutes prior to their train's scheduled departure time, we strongly recommend giving yourself at least 45 or even 60 minutes for the check-in process, especially if you still need to pick up your tickets at the station, have any mobility issues or require special assistance, or are travelling with young children. Note that queues for the e-ticket machines and to pass through the ticket barriers can be slow moving and substantial. Business Premier passengers have different check-in rules - see Business Premier check-in. Should you find yourself with time to kill once you have completed the check-in process, all the Eurostar stations have cafés and adequate seating areas where you can wait in comfort.

Important - the 30-min check-in rule

If you have a Standard or Standard Premier ticket, check-in officially 
closes 30 minutes prior to your train's departure time (this is reduced to a slim 10 minutes for Business Premier ticket holders, who can also benefit from a boarding guarantee - see Business Premier check-in). If you arrive at the check-in desk less than 30 minutes prior to your train's departure time you may be allowed through (however, you may have to push your way to the front of multiple queues - at check-in, at the security check and at passport control...). However, it's possible that you will be refused check-in. It's not worth the risk - allow plenty of time.

Business Premier check-in

Business Premier passengers may check in up to 10 minutes prior to their train's departure (although we would strongly recommend giving yourself more time if possible). Business Premier passengers also benefit from a boarding guarantee, meaning that if they are running early or late Eurostar will find them a seat on another train of the passenger's choice (although this may not be in Business Premier class).

Automatic ticket barrier at the Eurostar check-in at St. Pancras International Station in LondonAutomatic ticket barrier at the Eurostar check-in at St. Pancras International Station in London

How to check in

If you do not already have your tickets, go to the e-ticket machines or Eurostar ticket counter to collect them. You must present the credit or debit card that you used when making payment, and you will need your booking reference number. Your card must be chip & pin enabled for you to be able to use the e-ticket machines. While most European cards have smart-chip and pin code protection, most North American cards don't have this function, so will not work at the e-ticket machines and tickets will need to be picked up at the Eurostar ticket office.

If you already have your tickets then proceed straight to the ticket barriers. Insert or scan your ticket at the automatic barrier, or ask a staff member to do a manual check-in. There are always plenty of staff on hand if you have any problems.

Security check

Next comes an airport-style security check. Unlike flying, there is no separate check-in for luggage and you must keep your luggage with you throughout your journey on the Eurostar (see Baggage allowance). All suitcases, bags and purses, overcoats and the contents of your pockets must be placed on the conveyor belt and pass through the scanner machines. Passengers then proceed through an airport-style body metal detector gate. Note that there are no restrictions on carrying liquids on the Eurostar, and no need to present liquid items separately at security.

Passport control

All passport procedures are completed at the time of departure. EU citizens may present a passport or national identity card. All other passengers must present a valid passport and visa (if necessary). Non-EU citizens travelling to the UK must complete a declaration card (similar to an airline landing card). SeeTravel documents.

The Eurostar departure lounges

Eurostar departure lounges are similar to airport lounges, with extensive seating, plus snack bars and/or cafés. London St. Pancras has free Wi-Fi Internet access throughout the whole station. At Paris Gare du Nord and Brussels Midi/Zuid it is possible to purchase Wi-Fi Internet access in the main lounge (and Wi-Fi access is free in the Business Premier lounges). All lounges have power points for recharging computers and phones. Some departure lounges - for example Brussels - have several shops and designer concessions selling everything from chocolate to watches. There are of course toilet facilities in all Eurostar departure lounges.

Business Premier ticket holders can retreat into their exclusive lounge which has complimentary drinks and snacks on offer.

The information desks in Eurostar departure lounges are a useful source of free city maps, and helpfully sell tickets and travel passes for public transport at your destination (RATP tickets for Paris, STIB tickets for Brussels and Oyster cards for London).

Boarding the Eurostar

Approximately 15 minutes prior to the departure of your Eurostar train, a boarding announcement is made and the doors to the platform open. You may then proceed to the train, via the moving walkways or the lifts. Announcements are made in English, French and, at most stations, Flemish.

N.B. In London two trains to different destinations are often boarding at the same time. Double check that you are getting on the right one.

Eurostar trains seat up to 750 people in 18 carriages. Carriages 1-5 and 14-18 are Standard class, carriages 7-12 are Standard Premier and Business Premier class, carriages 6 and 13 are buffet cars. All Eurostar seats are assigned and your carriage and seat number will be printed clearly on your ticket.

Carriage numbers are marked both on the platform and with an electronic display on the carriages themselves (by the doors). It is a good idea to walk along the platform to your carriage as Eurostar trains are extremely long, and it can be extremely hard work to make your way through the busy train, especially with luggage.

Once on board in the correct carriage, find your reserved seat - seat numbers are marked above the seats. It is relatively common for people to confuse carriage and seat numbers, so don't be alarmed if you find someone already sitting in your seat. Just ask them to compare tickets with you, or ask the Eurostar staff for assistance. If the carriage and seat numbers on the ticket of the person sitting in your seat are the same as yours, also check their destination - they may have boarded the wrong train! (London only). 

Eurostar carriages of all classes are comfortable, modern and relatively spacious, however luggage space can be an issue. There are luggage racks for suitcases and large bags at the end of each carriage, but they tend to fill up quickly. The luggage racks that run the length of the carriages above the seats are useful for smaller bags and coats, but not deep enough for most suitcases or large bags (which may anyway be difficult to lift up and down). Another option is to slide suitcases and bags behind the rows of seats at the end of each carriage (i.e. between the seat backs and the wall), or between the two seat backs in places where seats are back to back. This can be a lifesaver if the carriage-end racks are full.

Eurostar on-board facilities

Eating and drinking

Once your luggage is safely stowed and you have settled comfortably in your seat, your next thought may well be for a drink or something to eat. If you are travelling in Standard Premier or Business Premier class, then you will be well catered for with the at-seat service (see Eurostar travel classes and ticket types for details). In our experience, Eurostar's at-seat meals are good and sometimes excellent, and the service is generally helpful and efficient.

If you are travelling in Standard class food and drink can be purchased from the on-board 'bar-buffets' (located in carriages 6 and 13 and available to passengers travelling in all classes), which sound attractive, but are actually rather utilitarian counters with a small number of standing tables. You'll find the usual selection of hot and cold, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, plus sandwiches, toasties, snacks such as crisps and chocolate bars, and some main meals. Payment can be made in British Pounds or Euros, and credit cards are accepted.

Despite Eurostar's assurances that they use "seasonal produce sourced in the country of departure and Fairtrade products wherever possible", we have always found everything from the coffee to the sandwiches and meals to be a little disappointing and rather overpriced. Much better to buy a sandwich at the station before you board the train, or - best of all - bring along a picnic. There are no restrictions on carrying food or liquids (including small quantities of alcohol) onto Eurostar trains.

Note: If you are departing from London then the Marks & Spencer food store in St. Pancras Station is an excellent option for drinks, sandwiches and snacks. In Brussels Midi/Zuid station there are a number of gourmet chocolate shops and a small supermarket. Paris Gare du Nord offers plenty of choice of baguettes and croissants.

Restrooms/toilet facilities

Toilets are located at the end of each carriage. Baby changing facilities are located - somewhat inconveniently - in carriages 1 and 18 only. Note that the toilet flush and water tap are operated by foot pedals.

Wi-Fi, power sockets and mobile reception on board the train

Eurostar trains are not currently Wi-Fi enabled. There are plans to make Wi-Fi available in the refurbished carriages coming into operation in 2012, and in the new fleet of Eurostar trains coming into operation from 2014.

There are power sockets (suitable for both UK and European-style plugs) at all seats in Business Premier and Standard Premier class coaches, and also in standard class coaches 5 and 14.

Mobile phones can, of course, be used on board the Eurostar, and most networks offer good reception all along the route.

A Eurostar journey to London...

Impressions from a journey between Paris or Brussels and London, including notes about the Channel Tunnel and some landmarks to look out for.

Leaving Paris or Brussels...

Eurostar trains at Gare du Nord Station, Paris, France. Photo by austinevan, trains at Gare du Nord Station, Paris, France
The Eurostar leaves without fanfare, and so smoothly that you may be taken by surprise. Similar for departures from both Paris Gare du Nord and Brussels Midi/Zuid, the train slips rapidly through the city suburbs and then onto the high-speed lines where it reaches speeds of up to 186mph/300kph. The lines cut through the flat open countryside of Belgium and northern France, past occasional small towns and villages clustered around church steeples. There's nothing to especially hold your attention on the scenery, and you may appreciate having brought a book, magazine, or something to listen to.

Through the Channel Tunnel...

Nearly all Brussels departures make a brief stop in Lille, and some also stop around 30 minutes later in Calais-Fréthun on the French coast, where you may notice the Eurotunnel Shuttle terminal for cars and trucks on the right. Then - similar to the rather stealth departure - the Eurostar suddenly enters the Channel tunnel. If you're reading or otherwise occupied it may take you a while to notice. While the train is in the tunnel, fire safety doors automatically close at the ends of each carriage, however they are not locked or sealed and you are permitted to open them and pass through to the next carriage if you wish to. The maximum speed in the tunnel is approximately 100mph/160khp, so the 31 mile/50km tunnel is traversed in about 20 minutes, during which the concrete walls and occasional lights and doorways into the adjacent service tunnel are all that can be seen. It's really just like travelling at night, and nothing at all to worry about. If you're feeling nervous, remind yourself that around 100 million people have safely made the journey since the service started in 1994.

Although the Channel Tunnel is not quite the longest railway tunnel in the world (the record is currently held by Japan's Seikan Tunnel at 33½ miles/54km in length), the Channel Tunnel does have the world's longest underwater section at 23.5 miles/nearly 40km (the underwater section of the Seikan Tunnel is only 14½ miles/23.3 km).

In England...

Just as suddenly as the train entered the tunnel, it rushes out into the sunshine (or otherwise!) of southern England, past the cars and trucks waiting at the Folkestone Eurotunnel terminal, and onto the UK's only high-speed railway line. Just as the train exits the tunnel, see if you can catch a glimpse of theFolkestone White Horse which is cut into the chalk hillside above the line on the right. Here in the county of Kent, the countryside is dotted with villages and small towns. It's an ancient landscape full of moated castle sites, trackways and tumuli, sadly few of which are obvious from the train. Do look out, though, for the characteristic conical roofs of oast houses which are much easier to spot. Your train may make a brief stop at Ashford, an attractive agricultural market town and major rail junction with a handful of Eurostar departures and arrivals per day. After Ashford the train speeds over the Medway Viaduct near the historic town of Rochester, giving panoramic views of the River Medway with its boats and tidal sand flats. In clear weather you might spot Rochester's cathedral and castle in the distance.

Approaching London...

London St. Pancras International Station. Photo by The Wolf, St. Pancras International Station, the terminus of the Eurostar
After crossing the River Medway the scenery becomes more urban as the countryside gives way to commuter towns. Many trains stop at the Eurostar's newest station at Ebbsfleet. There are plans to build a massive white horse sculpture(designed by British artist and Turner Prize winner Mark Wallinger), close to Ebbsfleet International Station. Planning permission was granted in 2010, however the project remains extremely controversial and construction has yet to begin. Shortly after Ebbsfleet, the train goes through a tunnel under the River Thames, then passes under the northern approach to the huge Queen Elizabeth II suspension bridge, a major - and often congested - road crossing of the River Thames at Dartford. From here it's just 15 minutes or so to London and the train passes through the city's non-descript Eastern suburbs before finally heading into the tunnel that takes it - via a few seconds of daylight as it passes through the new Stratford Station, built for the 2012 Olympics - under east London to emerge just before the architecturally impressive St. Pancras International station. You have arrived in London.

Travel from Brussels to London in 2 minutes 30 seconds!

Disembarking from the Eurostar

Unless you are in a hurry, you may wish to let others leave the train before you as up to 750 people leaving the train at once can cause brief but severe congestion on the platform. All passport controls have been completed on departure, so you are free to simply head to the exit, via a low-key customs post (although you are no doubt being observed from behind one-way mirrors...) and out into the city.

Other useful Eurostar information

Travelling with children/babies

The good news is that children under four travel free on the Eurostar (on the condition that they share a seat with an adult). The bad news is that children 12 and over must pay adult fare, unless you are able to book the slightly discounted 'youth fares' (see Eurostar ticket prices).

Carriages 1 and 18 (in Standard class) have designated family seating in groups of four and partitions to stop little ones wandering too far. Although you may have to put up with the noise of other people's children, it can be a great relief to be seated here as no one will mind if you have a crying baby or restless toddler! If you have tickets for another carriage then it may be possible to move to carriage 1 or 18 by asking at the information desk in the departure lounge before you board the train (if there are still seats available).

Baby changing facilities are located at the ends of carriages 1 and 18. The bar-buffets sell plenty of child-friendly options, including soft drinks, snacks and sandwiches, and staff will warm baby bottles on request. If you are travelling Standard Premier class then special children's meals can be requested at the time of booking.

Travellers with disabilities/special needs

Each Eurostar train has two wheelchair places in Standard Premier class. Tickets for these places, and a seat for a companion, are available at a very reasonable flat price (see Eurostar ticket prices) and are fully flexible (exchangeable and refundable). There is a wheelchair accessible toilet adjacent to each of the wheelchair places. Staff are available to assist passengers with special requirements and/or mobility issues. Eurostar recommends that travellers with special needs arrive for check-in a minimum of 45 minutes prior to the train's departure time.


With the exception of registered assistance dogs, no pets or animals of any kind are allowed on Eurostar. Assistance dogs are carried free of charge.

Baggage allowance

Eurostar baggage allowance
Each passenger is permitted a maximum of two medium suitcases (max. length 85cm) and one smaller bag. There is no weight restriction. All luggage must be tagged with your name and address.

Note that the rules are not applied as strictly as on planes, and in practice passengers are generally allowed to carry several smaller bags, particularly if they have just one - or no - suitcase.

A registered baggage service operates between the main Eurostar stations for additional suitcases (up to 30kg in weight) and bulky items such as bicycles and large musical instruments. Fees apply for this service and the baggage will be available for you to collect at the destination within 24 hours.

There is a porter service at the London, Paris and Brussels Eurostar stations. Fees apply. Self-service luggage trolleys are available at all stations.

Travel documents

Unlike most cross border European train links, Eurostar services between Great Britain and mainland Europe retain passport control and customs procedures. It is essential that you have the correct travel documents with you - you will not be permitted to check in without them. EU citizens may present either a passport or a national identity card. All other passengers must present a passport and - if required - a visa (note that entry to France or Belgium on a Schengen visa does not automatically guarantee entry to the UK). Non-EU citizens travelling to the UK are required to complete a declaration card (similar to an airline landing card), including the address where they will be staying.


The Eurostar train from Paris & Brussels to London

Here is our comprehensive guide to the EUROSTAR train link that connects London with Paris, Brussels and beyond. Since it started in 1994, the Eurostar has become THE way to travel between London and mainland Europe. It now carries more passengers between London and Paris / Brussels than all airlines combined, and the London-Paris route - formerly the world's busiest air route - is now almost completely dominated by Eurostar. 

Whether you fancy a day trip to Paris as part of your London vacation, will visit London from mainland Europe, or are planning a multi-destination trip around Western Europe, your travels won't be complete without experiencing a journey on the Eurostar through the Channel Tunnel. Read on for everything you could possibly need to know about booking and taking the Eurostar to - and from - London.

Information correct as of Summer 2012

Tours & Walks

Things to do in London - Tours & Walks. London Duck Tours. Photo by mdpettitt,
See the main sights on an organised sightseeing tour of London, by double-decker bus, Thames River boat, or even by air! Duck Tours do both land and water with their amphibious vehicles. Driver-guided tours in a London black taxi offer a more personal approach, and if walking is more your thing you'll be spoilt for choice with a huge selection of guided and self-guided walks. Or delve a little deeper with specialist culinary walks and tours, ghost tours, Harry Potter tours... and even upmarket fashion and shopping tours.


Things to do in London - Shopping. Photo by Manel,
London is one of the great shopping cities of the world, a shopper's paradise whether you're looking for designer brands or massive discounts, exclusive boutiques or market stall bargains. Flash the cash in Harrods, the ultimate department store, track down that elusive ingredient in specialist food stores, or make a fabulous 'find' in the markets and charity shops. From vintage clothing to modern design classics, antiques and crafts to the latest gadgets, you'll be hard pressed to think of a single thing that you can't buy in London.



Things to do in London - London Markets: Portobello Road Market. Photo by sashafatcat,
London's many markets are a delight to explore, whether you're looking for foods, clothing, or pretty much anything collectable, retro, vintage or antique. There are craft markets and art markets, second hand book markets, fashion markets and a beautiful flower market. A network of farmers' markets sells locally produced foods of all kinds. Whether you're looking for trinkets and cheap funky fashion, or artisan cheeses and rare records, don't miss London's wonderful markets!            

Restaurants & Cafés

Things to do in London - Restaurants & Cafés: The Comptoir Libanais.
Fish & chips, pie & mash, and the best curries outside the Indian Subcontinent... but that's just a tiny taste of the pleasure of eating out in London. There are plenty of ritzy top name restaurants to indulge in, but you don't need much cash to enjoy a fine Vietnamese, Japanese, Greek or Lebanese meal, as well masses of great Italian, Chinese and Indian options. In fact, you can eat your way right around the world in London, and vegetarians and vegans will find they are well catered for. From charming cafés to smart bistros, local snack bars to ritzy celebrity haunts, you'll be literally spoilt for choice when deciding what and where to eat.


Events & Festivals

Things to do in London - Events & Festivals. Photo by jtlondon,
London is a truly year-round destination, and there are events, festivals and 'happenings' pretty much non-stop through the seasons, from vintage car rallies to gay pride parades, ancient traditions to huge sporting events such as the London Marathon and Wimbledon. With 2000 years of history, eight million inhabitants and dozens of different communities and cultures, diversity is the keyword. Experience summer garden parties and Indian melas, Christmas festivities and the Notting Hill Carnival, participate in a pancake race or cheer on a boat race... Plus festivals celebrating everything from film to flowers, architecture to dance and mime.


Pubs & Bars

Things to do in London - Pubs & Bars: The Sherlock Holmes Pub, Westminster. Photo by dicktay2000,
From characterful old pubs to trendy modern bars, Londoners love to relax with a drink. If beer's your thing then the city's historic pubs and alehouses are a real treat. There are several thousand to choose from, ranging from sophisticated to quiet and cosy, atmospheric to loud and rowdy. If you prefer wine and cocktails, stylish bars abound and there are plenty of cool trendy options, and club-bars with resident DJs. You'll find food and snacks on sale pretty much everywhere, but for a good meal choose one of the fashionable 'gastropubs'. More on Pubs in London


Afternoon Tea

Things to do in London - Afternoon Tea. Photo by firepile,
Fine teas in china cups, sandwiches cut in tiny triangles and scones with jam and cream...! Afternoon tea is a wonderful British tradition, and where better to enjoy it that in the elegant surroundings of one of London's stunning luxury hotels. The Ritz serves what is probably the ultimate afternoon tea, but there are dozens of options, offering a range of styles and prices. The best places are very popular, so book in advance, dress up and enjoy a real British institution!

Royal London

Things to do in London - Royal London: Queen Elizabeth II's Royal Insignia on a letter box
London has been a royal city for almost 1000 years, and love them or loathe them, British Royalty past and present are very much in evidence, from palaces to pub signs, public sculpture to souvenir mugs. There are royal art collections to view, royal parks to enjoy and Princess Diana walking tours to take. You can even see the Queen herself if you attend one of the several annual ceremonies that she takes part in. Look out for shops with the coveted 'by royal appointment' status, and don't miss the fabulous crown jewels at the Tower of London.


Spectator Sports

Things to do in London - Spectator Sports: Rugby. Photo by ezioman,
Whether you're a football, rugby, cricket or tennis fan, London is a great place for sports lovers. See a premier league football match at Wembley, or catch one of London's many teams in a lower division game. Rugby fans will want to make the pilgrimage to Twickenham, while cricket fans are well catered for at the famous Oval, and at 'the home of cricket', Lord's. Every tennis fan dreams of attending the annual Wimbledon Tennis Championships. Several fine horse racecourses and show jumping grounds are easily accessible from London, or spend an evening at the greyhound races!

Theatre & Shows

Things to do in London - Theatre & Shows. Photo by aroberts,
London's West End Theatreland district is world famous for everything from blockbuster musicals and big shows to serious drama and experimental works. Sing along at Mama Mia, be entranced by the Lion King, or catch a big name treading the boards. And where better to see a Shakespeare play than at the authentically reconstructed Globe Theatre! There are more than 50 theatres in Theatreland, so the choice is enormous. Ticket prices can be stratospheric, so take a gamble on what you see and join the queues at Leicester Square's famous Half Price Ticket Booth.



Things to do in London - Ceremonies: The Changing of the Guard. Photo by laszlo-photo,
London's long history has given the city numerous ceremonies and rituals, many of which are still faithfully carried out and open to spectators. Major state ceremonies include Trooping the Colour, the State Opening of Parliament, and Remembrance Sunday, all attended by the Queen. The Changing of the Guard takes place every second day through much of the year (daily in summer), and there are numerous gun salutes, thanksgiving services and processions throughout the year. The atmospheric and ancient Ceremony of the Keys takes place each night at the Tower of London.

Free things to do in London

Free things to do in London: The British Museum. Photo by neiljs,
There's no getting away from it, London can be an expensive city to visit. But it doesn't have to be so - there's a surprising amount to see, do and experience that is completely free. Start with London's fantastic museums and galleries, many of which are free to enter, as are all of the city's beautiful parks. There are regular free concerts, talks and displays, and the street entertainers and buskers won't cost you a penny (although you might consider a donation). There are free festivals, shows and parades throughout the year, and regular free pageantry with the Changing of the Guard. You may even see the Queen herself at one of the many free state ceremonies.


Special experiences and unusual things to do in London

Special experiences and unusual things to do in London: The Greenwich Meridian. Photo by gviciano,
So you've seen the sights, caught the shows and shopped till you dropped. And now you want something really special, a completely different and unique experience in London. Well, how about a hair-raising speed boat ride along the Thames, stepping back in time to the 18th century, or joining a mass cycle ride around central London? Go mudlarking on the Thames foreshore, stand where time begins on the Greenwich Meridian, or for a really unusual London experience, spend the night among Egyptian mummies at the British Museum!


Local London

Things to do in London - Local London: Pub in Hampstead. Photo by simiant,
London famously is a 'collection of villages', and the differences between neighbourhoods and areas can be dramatic. Proud Westminster and the bustling West End have quite a different feel to hilly, genteel Hampstead, smart Mayfair, posh Chelsea or cool, trendy Hoxton. Add literary Bloomsbury, Bengali Brick Lane and Jewish Golders Green to the mix and you start to get an idea of just how huge and diverse London is. Many of London's more outlying areas also merit a visit. Pick an area and start exploring!


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