London to Berlin by train - what is the fastest/cheapest route?
May 7, 2009 2:42 AM   Subscribe

London to Berlin by train. The best option I've found is Eurostar to Paris then sleeper to Berlin for £250. This seems expensive. Are there faster/cheaper options?
posted by maryrosecook to Travel & Transportation (28 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: PS I have already found this page and tried all the combinations: either prices are unlisted, or they are way higher than the page says to expect.
posted by maryrosecook at 2:44 AM on May 7, 2009

Is there a reason why it must be by train? Easyjet will get you there for 30-40 pounds.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 2:50 AM on May 7, 2009

Response by poster: Yes, there is a reason: aeroplanes contribute to climate change.
posted by maryrosecook at 2:54 AM on May 7, 2009

You could bus/ferry it to Calais via Dover - National Express quotes £26 one-way all included for the bus and the ferry on June 9, the random date in the future I chose. Voyages-SNCF, the French rail booking site, quotes €67 for Calais to Berlin, with changes in Lille to the TGV to Paris, then the sleeper to Berlin in second class. The prices you might be seeing are probably for sleepers/couchettes; I assume the €67 is for a seat in second class.

The schedule looks like this:

0700 depart London Victoria coach terminus
1348 arrive Calais Ferry Port
(taxi? bus?)
1438 depart Calais Ville train station
1700 depart Lille Flandres
1802 arrive Paris Nord
(metro? stroll?)
2000 depart Paris Est
0850 arrive Berlin Spandau

The Voyages SNCF site is easy enough to use even if you don't speak French; the English version doesn't show all the deals, though, so follow Seat 61's page here on navigating it!
posted by mdonley at 3:03 AM on May 7, 2009

So do trains, maryrosecook. You should bike and take a ferry across any water routes.

Actually, that would be a lot of fun, though I can't say I myself would be in terrific shape for that.
posted by Risiko at 3:04 AM on May 7, 2009

Yes, there is a reason: aeroplanes contribute to climate change.

It might be cheaper to plant a load of trees and travel by plane.
posted by devnull at 3:11 AM on May 7, 2009

Trains contribute to climate change too -- that energy still has to come from somewhere -- a bus (ignoring that pesky English Channel issue) would be at least twice as efficient. Hell, even walking contributes to climate change, just think of all those CO2 scrubbing plants you're burning up with each step. Ultimately, the best way to do this is probably going to be flying. There probably aren't fast and cheap rail options for this trip because nearly everyone wants to go by air: it's already fast and cheap, so there's just no reason for rail to try to compete here. The usual rule applies -- Good, fast, cheap: pick any two.

While I personally think much of the carbon offset market is a joke, this is actually a situation where it might make sense: you reduce your emissions to the extent practicable, and then purchase offsets for the rest. If it's truly not worth it economically to be perfectly eco-friendly on your trip and you can't justify not doing so, then you really have only one option: stay in London.
posted by zachlipton at 3:13 AM on May 7, 2009

On the "Hell, even walking contributes to climate change" note, I wonder if anyone has calculated the number of calories required to ride a modern efficient touring bicycle the distance of Calais to Berlin, against the fuel required to produce (meat, grains, etc) the food required to fuel a human body to expend those calories.

If your food comes from a source that mostly uses highly intensive mechanized agriculture you might find that eating 5,500 calories a day for serious cycle touring would be more harmful.
posted by thewalrus at 3:17 AM on May 7, 2009

German Bahn has a "London Special" on offer.

Eurostar from London to Brussels, from there the night train to Berlin. From GBP 75.
posted by wft at 3:18 AM on May 7, 2009

Response by poster: @mdonley Thank you very much for the detailed answer. The Eurostar to Paris is actually very cheap: about £50, so it seems worth spending the extra for speed and ease. The expensive leg is Paris to Berlin. I saw that I could reduce costs slightly by doing the sleeper in a seat, rather than a couchette, but I think that might kill me.
posted by maryrosecook at 3:19 AM on May 7, 2009

In terms of mileage, the detour over Paris seems unnecessary.
How about the ferry from Harwich to Hoek van Holland?
Stena Britannica ferry
dep.: 09:00- arr.: 16:30
Stena Hollandica ferry
dep.: 23:45- arr.: 07:45

The train trip from Rotterdam to Berlin takes between 6 and 8 hours. The best way to find out is at . There's an English version. Very fast and complete search function
posted by Namlit at 3:26 AM on May 7, 2009

thewalrus: I was actually just looking into that kind of question, out of curiosity. This page has some figures with reasonable seeming citations and may be worth a look. If you aren't a vegetarian, that certainly doesn't help the numbers. Of course, those 5,500 calories a day you mention include the 2,000+ a "normal" person eats while sitting on the train (and considering most train food, I bet many trainriders eat more).

In short, flying is bad for the environment, but not dump tankers of crude on baby seals bad, and there's stuff you can do (e.g. offsets, avoid stopovers, travel less) to minimize your impact.

But in any case, the OP never asked any of these questions and so I'll butt out now.
posted by zachlipton at 3:28 AM on May 7, 2009

I'd see about going through Brussels instead of Paris, which significantly shortens the trip, thus further reducing your carbon footprint. You can compare the pollution & price from rental cars, buses, and trains from Brussels to Berlin too.

Ferries are risky if your timing is critical, not using a railpass, etc. I mean, you can even hitchhike if you've that much time. :)

p.s. If your that serious about climate change, you might consider moving to some country that causes less pollution than England. France uses mostly nuclear power. French people don't use plastic in their cooking. etc.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:33 AM on May 7, 2009

Yes, there is a reason: aeroplanes contribute to climate change.

Fair enough. Brussels looks better than Paris for train connections to me too.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 3:55 AM on May 7, 2009

Response by poster: @wft Thanks for the link. 75 euros is only one way, and is for a seat, rather than couchette.
posted by maryrosecook at 4:13 AM on May 7, 2009

book a eurostar ticket to brussles. in brussles get a connection to cologne, the thalys is dirt cheap. I think it was 20 euros when I took it. then use the deutsche bahn ICE train to berlin. they have special rates - book early enough and you can go anywhere one way for 29 euros. it's limited availability and fares go up to 59 and 89 euros but if it's a couple weeks off you should still be able to get it. I just hacked 3.6.09 into the bahn reservation site because I didn't know when you wanted to go and the 29 euro special fare came up no problem.

I know the bahn site sucks balls and they don't easily let you book intl. travel, so just do it this way. eurostar will also sell you a direct ticket all the way to cologne using the thalys. the eurostar is expensive, it just has a monopoly, but they don't charge a premium for the thalys.

lots of crap answers. "take a plane" is NOT answering op's question and you guys suck.
posted by krautland at 4:51 AM on May 7, 2009

and don't worry about sleeping. the ICE is pretty luxurious even in second class, as is the thalys. we're not talking amtrak here.
posted by krautland at 5:01 AM on May 7, 2009

If you're not committed to the sleeper option, look into getting the daytime train from Brussels to Berlin. I did it in January and it's a beautiful journey, albeit a bit long. The fare from Brussels to Berlin was ainround £100 return, plus £50-£60 for the Eurostar makes it a fair bit cheaper than the sleeper. You can even pop out of the station to check out the huge cathederal in Cologne while you wait for your connection!
posted by hibbersk at 5:36 AM on May 7, 2009

krautland: in brussles get a connection to cologne, the thalys is dirt cheap

Just a minor point: ICE is usually nicer and cheaper than Thalys. So I recommend doing what krautland has suggested except looking for an ICE connection from Brussels to Cologne.
posted by dseaton at 7:07 AM on May 7, 2009

Seat61's Germany Page has the cheapest and most effective rail routes to Berlin and other German cities. Highly recommended.
posted by Happy Dave at 7:20 AM on May 7, 2009

And on looking through that page, Eurostar then ICE sleeper looks like it comes in at sub-£100 return for 2nd class.
posted by Happy Dave at 7:21 AM on May 7, 2009

If you want value whilst avoiding unnecessary carbon emissions, consider driving. The ferry is only about £50 and petrol should be no more than £150 both ways. Split between five people, it's only £50 each (cheaper than a flight and train to the airport) and the per-person-journey emissions are low. Take some friends with you in a people carrier or look into lift sharing. It should only take about 10 hours too.
posted by turkeyphant at 7:48 AM on May 7, 2009

FWIW, if your journey is one-way, you can usually get a cheaper London->Paris/Brussels Eurostar fare by purchasing a round trip, with the return 3 months or so in the future. Selecting "one-way" forces you into a selection of business-class tickets (at least on the website, as of 1 month ago).
posted by fatllama at 9:53 AM on May 7, 2009

Response by poster: Thank you very much for the suggestions, everyone. I am definitely going to go via train, so I will just hammer those blasted ticket sites to find the magic cheapest fare combinations. And, yes, it sounds like London, Brussels, Cologne, Berlin is the winning route.
posted by maryrosecook at 12:36 PM on May 7, 2009

maryrosecook, there is one (really, just one!) particular LON-BER train that you can book from the site which has a limited amount of seats for €49 each way and the trips are only around 9-10 hours in each direction and go during the day. It's a little bit tricky to find and depending on how long it is before you go, there might not be any more available, but here is what you do (written in detail because I personally find the UI for the Bahn site confusing):

1. Go to and switch to English.
2. On the fare finder on the left-hand side, select "Return Journey" and enter "LONDON" in the first station field and "BERLIN" in the second, all caps (without the quotes).
3. Very important: when you put in your dates, set the departure times to 8:00am. Uncheck "prefer fast connections". Leave everything else alone. Press search.
4. You should see a list of trains for London->Berlin and with some luck, one of them will be €49. Select it by pressing "Select Return Trip".
5. You should now see some options for the return leg and with luck some of them will say "from €98" with a "Check Availability" button which you should press to see if they have the tickets left at that fare. They will ask for your age, go ahead and enter it and press "Refresh", and then press "Check Availability" again. If there are tickets left, this is when you should get the option to purchase them.

Good luck!
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 4:13 PM on May 7, 2009 [4 favorites]

ICE is usually nicer and cheaper than Thalys.
I thought so, too but last time the ticket I got in brussles was €19 to cologne. I thought that was an amazing deal.

and with some luck, one of them will be €49.
huh? I didn't try this out again but up to now *always* got the dreaded "can't tell you how much this would cost" because DB and eurostar don't work together.
posted by krautland at 6:54 AM on May 8, 2009

You have to do big LONDON, big BERLIN, 8am departures and unselect "prefer fast connections", otherwise it will always tell you that. I believe they are hiding it intentionally so they can promote their awesome low fares to London without anyone actually, you know, finding any awesome low fares to London. But I am indeed going to London from Berlin and back in a month for €98 via my posted method (which is actually courtesy of Mrs. Your Time Machine Sucks, AKA She Who p0wns, and I tested it out again last night (with the starting point in London) before posting so I wouldn't lead anyone astray.

The catch is that after all that, there may or may not be any actual tickets remaining at the fare, but it is definitely worth trying and it worked for me when I booked my trip.
posted by Your Time Machine Sucks at 8:28 AM on May 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

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