When you live in the UK and fancy a break to Belgium, it’s easy to assume your only options are expensive flights or the Eurostar. But you don’t necessarily need to face your fear of flying or wait for payday to savour the sweet taste of Belgian waffles. This is how to travel the cheapest way from London to Brussels.
What is the cheapest way from London to Brussels?
The public transport options for travelling from the UK to Belgium include short-haul flights, Eurostar trains and long-distance buses. While planes and trains are faster, buses can be substantially cheaper, according to Lonely Planet.
My first visit from London to Brussels was for New Year’s Eve. The Christmas holidays are always a popular time to travel, so prices are often inflated. When I searched, a return bus journey to Brussels cost half the price of flights or the Eurostar.
There are around 10 buses a day to Brussels from London Victoria bus station. Most are operated by two companies: Eurolines and FlixBus. The journey takes around eight hours.
The best way to book your bus tickets
I booked my Eurolines coach tickets via National Express (which always makes me think of that Divine Comedy song). I was intrigued to find out whether the eight-hour journey would be worth its economy price.
On your way to Brussels, your bus trip will cross the Channel to France either via the Eurotunnel or by ferry. It’s not always well-indicated but if the journey time is noticeably longer, you can assume it will be by ferry. The Eurotunnel takes just half an hour to take you from the UK to France, while the ferry journey is 90 minutes.
If your dates are flexible, it can work out even cheaper to book a one-way journey from London. Confirm your return leg from Belgium as promo tickets booked from here can be super cheap. One way journeys can cost less than €10 – a great price considering the distance you’re travelling.
What to do when you arrive at the bus station
When you arrive at Victoria bus station for your bus from London to Brussels, you need to check in for your boarding pass, much like at an airport. The main difference is you won’t have to contend with lengthy security queues. Your ticket allows you to place up to two bags in the coach’s storage compartment.
This is what it is like on the bus
Firstly, the seats themselves are spacious and comfortable, with plenty of leg room for tall people like me. Depending on how new the coach is, you may find free WiFi available on board.
There is usually a socket to charge your electrical devices. On the Eurolines buses, look up and you may see a USB port next to your seat’s light and aircon panel. If you’re travelling with FlixBus, most seats have British electrical sockets.
With comfy seats, a fully charged phone or tablet and free access to the internet, even while you’re travelling through France and Belgium, it’s easy for several hours to pass by without you really noticing.
What you need to bring with you
Depending on your coach’s route from London to Brussels, you will have between one and three stops on the way. Here, passengers may disembark for their destination and new people board. However, there are usually no opportunities to pick up refreshments during the trip, so my advice is to bring snacks and water.
There are unlikely to be any toilet breaks during the journey. The only opportunity you may have to visit outside toilets are at the passport and customs checks between the UK and France, or when the bus is stationary in the Eurotunnel under the Channel.
However, your coach will probably have a toilet. The lavatory on my coach was in good condition with toilet paper and soap (a luxury when you’ve spent time in India!).
What to consider when booking an overnight trip
While overnight bus trips are often a good way to save money, I’d avoid booking an overnight return journey back to the UK. Otherwise, the passport and customs checks – and possible ferry journey – will occur in the early hours of the morning and disrupt your sleep.
Whether you are travelling in the day or night, it’s a good idea to bring an inflatable pillow so you can catch up on some sleep.
This is the best thing about travelling by bus
One of the best things about travelling by bus is you leave the heart of London and arrive in the centre of Brussels. This mean there are no expensive or lengthy transfers needed to or from the airport.
After a few hours reading or napping, you can arrive fresh, collect your bags and explore Brussels.
These are the coolest and cheapest places to stay in Brussels
A top-rated hostel in Brussels is the 2GO4 Quality Hostel Brussels on Grand Place, in the heart of the city’s tourist area. Each room at this clean and well-located hostel has a private bathroom and female-only dorms are available. There is a shared kitchen and guests can help themselves to free coffee, tea, and soup. It’s perfect if you are travelling alone.
A hugely popular budget hotel option for couples and solo travellers is the Motel One Brussels. This boutique-style accommodation is a short walk from the centre and offers free WiFi. Its soundproof, air-conditioned rooms come with a TV and en-suite bathroom. A buffet breakfast is available for an extra fee, but you can find cafes and supermarkets nearby if you prefer.
For a well-priced and stylish B&B option, try the B&B DRUUM, close to the popular Sainte Catherine area of Brussels. Set in a 19th century mansion, each room has been designed by artists to create truly unique living spaces. It’s on a quiet street but you will find plenty of restaurants, bars and cafés just a couple of minutes’ walk away.
Next up, discover the most unusual things to do in Brussels that will make you smile.