How to Take the Train from London to Paris

Here's how to easily add Paris to your London vacation - just 2.5 hours away by high-speed train! - Virgin Vacations Travel Guide

Whether you’re taking a day trip to France, or staying for the rest of your vacation, it’s easy and fun to take the train from London to Paris. The Eurostar high-speed train connects London and Paris in less than two and half hours, making adding Paris for a day or three an easy decision!

Depart on the train from London to Paris at St. Pancras International. Photo: Shutterstock

Depart on the train from London to Paris at St. Pancras International. Photo: Shutterstock

But what should you expect when taking the train from London to Paris? Here’s how to plan for, and enjoy, your train connection to the City of Lights!

Book ahead of time

Like most train services in Europe, the Eurostar’s best value on tickets are usually early bird specials, and the cheapest tickets sell out as time goes by. There are also three tiers of ticket to choose from: Standard (comfortable seats, the option to buy food), Standard Premier (roomier seats, a light meal service at your seat, charge points for your electronics), and Business Premier (like Standard Premier but with a hot meal service, a faster check-in and some other perks). With the train from London to Paris taking less time than going to the movies and sitting through all the previews, you’ll probably be content with Standard or Standard Premier. Get the best deal on the tickets by booking early.

If you don’t want to comb through train timetables looking for the best deals, or if you’ve booking a little late, you can still lock in a great fare with a Virgin Vacations rail package that includes your Eurostar tickets.

Check your confirmation or ticket for check-in times

The check-in time and the closing time for the Eurostar trains are strictly enforced, due to the need for a security and passport check. You simply can’t turn up late for this train! With a Standard Class or Standard Premier ticket, typical check-in requirements are within 45 or 30 minutes of the train’s scheduled departure, depending on how busy the day is. If you’re traveling Business Premier, you can squeak in with ten minutes to spare… if you really want to cut it that close!

You’ll find the boarding area in a corridor located in the center of St. Pancras’ ground floor. There may be multiples lines with people queuing for more than one train departure, so look for the sign with your train’s city and departure time on it. You’ll want to join the queue for the correct train and wait until they allow you to pass through the gates to security. If you have an online booking and need to print your ticket, the kiosks are located in the same corridor as the train queues. You’ll need to scan your ticket to pass through the gates and enter security.

Arrive at the train station early

London’s St. Pancras International train station is home to the Eurostar — but the trains here don’t just go from London to Paris! Dozens of high-speed trains hustle from London to Lille, Brussels, Amsterdam, the French Alps and even Disneyland Paris every day. In addition to that, St. Pancras is home to three more train lines (Southeastern, Thameslink and East Midland Trains) as well as a whopping six Underground lines in its shared station with King’s Cross. Yes, it’s a busy place!

You’ll also find nice shopping with everything from luxury luggage to gourmet grocers — perfect if you want to pack a picnic for the train. Give yourself plenty of time to arrive and find your way, find the Eurostar departure area, and have a little wander around the shops and the train station’s beautiful art displays before you join the line for your train.

If you have a voucher or confirmation number and need to exchange it for a paper ticket before your train’s departure, leave yourself extra time for this task as well, just in case the automated kiosks aren’t cooperating and you need to check with a human.

Be prepared for security and luggage screening

Unlike domestic rail, the Eurostar train from London to Paris has airport-style security and passport control before you can go to your train. Once you’ve passed through the gates, you’ll place your luggage on a belt and go through screening just like you’re boarding a plane. After you retrieve your luggage, have your passport in hand for the French border check. Typically this is just to match your passport photo with your face, but have details on your hotel stay, if any, handy just in case.

Board and get comfortable!

Once you’re through security, you’ll be in a large waiting area on the ground floor. The train platforms are above you, accessible by escalators. An announcement will be made when your train is ready for boarding. Join the rush or let it filter through–either way, you’ll have time to make your way to the platform, walk down until you find your train coach (noted on your ticket) and locate your seats. You’ll find luggage compartments at the ends of each coach. Now enjoy the ride… and the view! You’re going to pass through beautiful countryside on the train from London to Paris!

The Eurostar travels through farmland near Calais, France. Photo: hpgruesen/pixabay

The Eurostar travels through farmland near Calais, France. Photo: hpgruesen/pixabay

Returning to London

The Eurostar arrives and departs from Paris Gare du Nord, which is centrally located and happens to be the busiest train station in Europe. Luckily, it’s easy to navigate. Since Eurostar platforms are sealed off behind security, you don’t have to wait to see which of the 36 platforms your train will depart from. Instead, you’ll find Eurostar check-in and security on the second floor of the station, accessible via a balcony overlooking the main concourse. Once through security and the passport check, you’ll find a waiting area with some dining options and shopping. Once again, you’ll hear an announcement when your train is boarding, and you can join the rest of the crowd heading for the London train!

Things to remember

  • Paris is one hour ahead of London, so change your watches and be sure of your reservations for dining and tours!
  • When traveling from Paris to London, non-EU citizens typically have to fill out a landing card with details of their stay in the UK, just like on a flight into the UK.
  • Expect your boarding announcement 15-20 minutes before departure.

Rail and Hotel packages

Booking a London and Paris multi-city vacation is easy with our rail and hotel packages, which can also include airfare, transfers, city tours and day-trips for the ultimate in convenience. Just visit our Europe Rail page for our full-line up, including London & Paris by Rail; London, Paris & Rome; London, Paris & Amsterdam, and more combinations across Europe!