Question about luggage on Thalys
September 1, 2016 5:48 AM   Subscribe

I put off buying my ticket until the last minute and now I'm kind of scrambling to find an answer to my question - I don't expect the company to get back to me on time. So I'm looking for anyone who has experience traveling by train in Europe, especially with Thalys.

I'm in Leiden and need to get to Brussels on 9/3. I plan to take the train from Leiden to Rotterdam Centraal, then take Thalys to Bruxelles-Midi. This seems to be the only line.

The problem is that I have three pieces of luggage: two 24" suitcases, one 21" carry-on, and one backpack. I'm not clear whether or not I'll be allowed to bring all of it on board. I think so, but it would be a disaster for me if not--this luggage has necessary research equipment in it.

Here's their luggage info.

I contacted the company's email service address but am concerned that they won't get back to me on time. Does anyone have experience with this line, or this trip? Can you reassure me or tell me I need to make alternate plans?

I will pay more if I need to, I just can't leave the luggage behind.
posted by Kutsuwamushi to Travel & Transportation (23 answers total)
I have not taken this train, but:

- A random 24-inch suitcase I found on Amazon had the dimensions of 13.5 in x 17 in x 24 in, so 54.5 in, which is 138.43 cm. You are allowed, according to the page you linked, to take two bags of dimensions up to 158 cm. So size-wise, you are OK. The carry-on is not size-limited on their site, but I'd be surprised if they care about a backpack that can fit under your seat or just sit on your lap.

- The weight of the bags matters; they can be up to 32 kg/70 lbs each.

- Your bags should be tagged; you can print tags out in advance from the site you linked. Between your NS and Thalys trips I'd schedule at least a few minutes to change platforms with all your stuff, and perhaps get these tags.

- Is there any way you can travel in Comfort1/first class on Thalys, with a longer transfer in Rotterdam? Perhaps it would be less crowded so you'd have more space to park your bags.

- You can call them (SkypeOut should be cheapish?) to check all this on +32 70 66 77 88.
posted by mdonley at 6:04 AM on September 1, 2016

Depending on the size of your backpack, you might just be over the limit. However, the bottom of the page says:

In the event of excess luggage or failure to comply with these conditions, Passengers may be charged €30 per bag (£25 between Brussels-London) or prevented from bringing them on board the Thalys train.

I do not expect an issue.
posted by Akke at 6:05 AM on September 1, 2016

Can you carry it all yourself? Fairly quickly and nimbly? In my experience with train travel in Europe and the UK no one really notices what you have if you're ok getting on and off yourself without getting in everyone's way. I haven't been on that trip though and two suitcases plus the other bags does sound a lot for one person.
posted by kitten magic at 6:05 AM on September 1, 2016

One backpack too many. Forget the Thalys; it only buys you an hour for your trip specifically, and is a bunch of extra money and hassle. Go to the website of Nederlandse spoorwegen and buy a ticket for the ordinary Intercity train via Den Haag HS.

Timetable excerpt for your day here.
posted by Namlit at 6:05 AM on September 1, 2016 [5 favorites]

NS's luggage info is here: their stated policy in English on the Intercity train namlit suggests is, literally, "You are advised to only take luggage that you can easily carry on board and that can be placed in the storage spaces provided. Small-sized luggage can be placed in the luggage racks above the seats and there are special spaces between the seats for the larger luggage items."

Translation: there are no numbers in this description. Board and get your stuff in there and it's fine.
posted by mdonley at 6:12 AM on September 1, 2016

Some clarificiations:

Depending on their definition of carry-on bag, either my backpack or my 21" suitcase is over their limit.

I think my 24" suitcases are under their cutoff for "bulky baggage," but I don't have the width and depth figures so I'm not completely sure.

The phrase "or prevented from bringing them on board the Thalys train" is what is really bothering me. I will pay more euros, I just can't leave the bags behind.

Can you carry it all yourself? Fairly quickly and nimbly?

I can carry it all myself, but not quickly and nimbly--not if there are stairs. I can only take one up the stairs at a time. A passenger in Leiden helped me get my bags off the train on my way here. I think I could have managed, but it would have been difficult.

I'm looking at the intercity train, though -- it looks like it might be a better option, if not just for the fact that I've taken a similar train before and know what to expect. Can I buy that ticket at Leiden Centraal, do you know?
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 6:17 AM on September 1, 2016

Yes you can buy a ticket at Leiden station. They have ticket machines there, and also a "service- en verkooppunt," open between 7 am and 10:30 pm.
As said, the Thalys may be more luxurious and somewhat faster, but the Intercity trains are fine, and you can get all your stuff on board without anyone looking twice. So for your specific question it is the better option.
posted by Namlit at 6:24 AM on September 1, 2016

I agree that it's probably easier to take the NS Intercity than the Thalys. That also means you can sit anywhere and board any train, so you're not locked in to a specific time; also, if a train arrives and looks to be super crowded, you can wait for the next one. If you travel tomorrow rather than Saturday, I'd recommend going outside peak hours, which are 6:30-9:00 and 16:00-18:30.
posted by neushoorn at 6:45 AM on September 1, 2016

I've been on the Thalys train a couple of times this year. At least in Brussels and Paris, they have Thalys employees standing in front of all the open doors at the station, and you have to show one of those people your ticket to get onto the train. If they do that in Amsterdam too, then that leaves very little room for fudging the baggage limits. The Thalys person might just wave you on, but if they're a stickler for the rules and think you're breaking the rules, it's possible that you'd have some trouble.

So I agree that taking the intercity train might be safer. With those sorts of trains, you can usually just get on without having to go through an official person first, which means you can just carry your bags on. Once they're loaded on the train, no one will even notice.
posted by colfax at 7:13 AM on September 1, 2016

I think I will take the intercity train. I don't mind the extra time--I'm not in a hurry. I didn't realize that was an option when planning my trip, but it seems better.

I'm a little concerned about getting my luggage on/off in the time we have at the station. If there are no stairs I can wheel it all off myself easily, it's just the train I took to Leiden had stairs, which slows me down.

(There was a Thalys train to Paris at the same platform in Amsterdam, with no employees and no stairs, but I would rather not risk it!)
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 7:28 AM on September 1, 2016

You could ask someone to help you get the bags on and off the train. Most of them have stairs. Might be especially helpful at the changeover in Den Haag.
posted by Namlit at 7:46 AM on September 1, 2016

I've found railway employees to be helpful with luggage, but is there any way you can check how many "special spaces between the seats" there are? I was on VR in Finland recently. It has "special spaces" (basically the triangular space between 2 seatbacks) but there seemed to be only 4 per carriage. Can you just go to Leiden station and ask for advice?
posted by Logophiliac at 8:09 AM on September 1, 2016

I could go to Leiden station and ask for advice tomorrow; I have a free day for walking around the city and it's only 10min away. On the way to Leiden, the train was pretty empty -- there were spaces to put the luggage if no one else needed the seat opposite you.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:42 AM on September 1, 2016

You can bring that all on board, but you have to move it yourself.

You can take the IC train, you don't HAVE to take the Thalys and the IC will be much cheaper at this point.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:33 AM on September 1, 2016

Bear in mind, you're not keeping all that luggage near you in your seat, on either train. Your best bet is to catch one of the jumpseats in the entrance vestibules on the IC train.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:36 AM on September 1, 2016

I love you guys but this is such a plate of beans :D

I take the TGV all the time (like 2-6 times a month) and they do not care about your huge luggage. I have gone on with the following combinations:
- carry-on trolley, hiking pack, mountain bike in a bag (it's huge; they do have to be in bags)
- trolley, hiking pack, smaller pack, two cats in separate cat carriers

I have witnessed the following combinations:
- TGVs filled to overflowing with triathlon racer bikes in bags (for the Ironman in Nice)
- families with trolleys so big you wonder if there's another kid inside them

The ONLY time they will care about luggage is if there's no one in the train and no name on the bag.

Please don't worry, please do take the Thalys if you're happy to get where you're going faster. You'll also appreciate having a reserved seat. Intercity trains don't guarantee that.
posted by fraula at 11:10 AM on September 1, 2016

Ah yes, and luggage security. Intercity trains are kind of infamous for lost luggage. Whereas TGVs (which the Thalys is) are very safe, in large part because there are fewer stops so it's easier to keep an eye on things.
posted by fraula at 11:13 AM on September 1, 2016

I take the TGV all the time (like 2-6 times a month) and they do not care about your huge luggage

Indeed, the TGV website doesn't mention any restrictions. The Thalys site linked to by the Asker does however mention restrictions. It is not the same route. It's not the same company.
posted by Namlit at 11:26 AM on September 1, 2016

>it's easier to keep an eye on things.

It is, and it isn't. On the Thalys he'll have to leave his luggage in the vestibule and go to his seat in the cabin. On the IC he can remain, somewhat comfortably, with his luggage in the vestibule.

I've regularly seen folks boarding the Thalys with more luggage than their website says.
posted by humboldt32 at 11:28 AM on September 1, 2016

I didn't see a jumpseat in the vestibule on the intercity train I took from Amsterdam to Leiden. There was also no obvious place to put my luggage there.

I took my luggage into the seating area and sat down with it in front of me. It did block another seat, but there were only 3 other people in the lower part of the carriage with me.

So I'm a little confused about the advice to stay in the vestibule.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 12:13 PM on September 1, 2016

It's just for ease. If you were able to mange it all at a seat, then that works too. Remember on the Thalys all seats are reserved. Other passengers may not be as accommodating if your stuff is in their way.

On the IC you would just make a pile of you luggage in the vestibule and stay near it. On the Thalys, they have racks in the vestibule but it's hard to keep an eye on your stuff from your seat and it's not unheard of that bags go missing.
posted by humboldt32 at 12:23 PM on September 1, 2016 the lower part of the carriage with me.
So I'm a little confused about the advice to stay in the vestibule

"lower part" AHA! Well: the intercity trains within the Netherlands are often double-decker trains, and luggage space in these is annoyingly restricted, I do agree.
The trains from the Netherlands to Belgium are different: they're locomotive-pulled (or pushed) single-deck coach trains (first block of pictures via this link, to the right) and there will be somewhat more space there; it's an international connection after all, and people are expected to have some baggage.

My recommendation for your (very short) trip from Leiden to Den Haag HS is to stay right at the door with your stuff and not even worry to get a seat. Then, in the train to Brussels, you will very likely be able to put your bags somewhere or other where it doesn't hinder other people. Relax and enjoy your trip.
posted by Namlit at 12:42 PM on September 1, 2016

Aha! I get it now. I am much less concerned if they're single-deck trains. It was only the stairs that made it difficult to get on/off in time in Leiden. But I can stand in the vestibule for an only 10 minute train ride, as long as I can see what station I'm at.

Thank you for your advice everyone!
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 1:02 PM on September 1, 2016

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