Getting to Eurovision 2020: Train versus plane from London to Rotterdam

Sep 23, 2019

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Earlier this month, the location for Eurovision 2020 had been announced to be held in the modern port city of Rotterdam. Given the vast number of flights operating to the Netherlands daily, it seems like a no-brainer to catch a plane to the land of tulips and cheese. Recently, however, Eurostar started operating direct rail service to Amsterdam via Rotterdam, taking you directly from the heart of London to Rotterdam in only three hours and one minute on modern, high-speed trains.

In this article, I’ll compare the two fastest options: a Eurostar train from London St. Pancras International to Rotterdam Centraal railway station, and a British Airways CityFlyer flight back from Rotterdam The Hague Airport (RTM) to London City Airport (LCY). Although we adore planes here at TPG, we also fancy a bottle of bubbles while traveling, making the train a compelling option. Both options will be put to the test, looking at price and ease of travel, as well as timing and environmental impact. Who will win?

Eurostar from London St. Pancras to Rotterdam Centraal

Ticket Cost — £43, booked seven weeks in advance
Luggage — Two pieces of large luggage, no more than 85cm on the longest side; 1 piece of hand luggage
Total Travel Time — 3 hours, 52 minutes

(Exclusive photo by Kathleen Porter Kristiansen/The Points Guy)
Eurostar interior. (Photo by Kathleen Porter Kristiansen/The Points Guy)

I left from the TPG UK office in Covent Garden for St. Pancras, which only took a short five-minute tube ride. After grabbing some snacks at M&S, I got in line for security. To enter the Eurostar area, you can scan either your digital or printed ticket at the automated gates and go through airport-style security, followed by a quick passport check by both British and French border police.

Recommended arrival time is 45 to 60 minutes before departure. I arrived around 45 minutes beforehand, which gave me plenty of time to breeze through the checks. After clearing security, there is a neat-looking waiting area with plenty of food offerings. Around 20 minutes before departure, a boarding call is made and you are allowed to board the train. The train ride itself is smooth and very quiet compared to a plane, especially if you pick seats near the middle of a coach segment away from the wheels. Leg room is ample and seats recline (albeit very slightly). If you are traveling with four people, get the vis-à-vis arranged seats to be able to have a chat. The table in between seats is large enough to provide space for four laptops.

After arriving in Rotterdam, you can simply walk out of the train station and right into the city center.

If you choose to travel by Eurostar train, make sure to apply for a free Club Eurostar account. Every £1 spent is awarded with one point, and a free one-way ticket is available for as few as 500 points.

British Airways CityFlyer RTM-LCY

Ticket Cost £59. Also bookable for 4,000 to 4,500 Avios + £17,50. This ticket was booked seven weeks in advance
Luggage Hand luggage only
Total Travel Time: 3 hours, 26 minutes

BA CityFlyer Embraer E190. (Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy)

Rotterdam has a relatively small airport, which is comparable in size to London City Airport. To get there, you can either use a bus from the city center (around 15 minutes) or an Uber or cab, which will take you 15 minutes, too. Once I got to the airport for my 9:55am flight, there were no lines anywhere, so I went through security and passport control in less than 10 minutes. There is ongoing construction on the new terminal building, meaning I had to use the temporary facility, offering a modest selection of food and beverage options. Boarding was speedy and I had plenty of time since I arrived almost 90 minutes before my flight.

BA’s Embraer E190 left right on time, with two flight attendants taking care of the passengers on this short 35-minute flight. On London City routes, BA still offers complimentary drinks and snacks — a nice perk! I arrived at the gate 10 minutes ahead of schedule. Swiftly through border control and without a checked bag, I was at the DLR station in less than 15 minutes. To get back to Covent Garden, I took the DLR and the tube, allowing me to go from airport to office desk in less than 40 minutes.

Bottom Line

While it might be tempting to think that flying is faster, the logistics of going to the airport make it a little more difficult. Flying also definitely feels more stressful — there is more to do and think about versus hopping on a train. Furthermore, Eurostar has a very generous baggage allowance and no restrictions on bringing liquids. Lastly, there is a small advantage in being in the train for a longer subsequent period, allowing you to really get some work done (or take a well-deserved nap).

As much as it pains us — we are AVGeeks after all — Eurostar appears to be the better option here. Between the lower price, more generous baggage policy and laid-back travel process, the small time saving of flying doesn’t hold up. In May 2020, you might want to consider switching to a train.

Featured image by Kathleen Porter Kristiansen/The Points Guy

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