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Amsterdam to Rome via Thalys and Paris to Rome Night Train
This may seem like an odd way to get to Rome but after exhaustive research and difficulty finding a cheap airfare or one that didn’t require an overnight in Copenhagen, we opted for this rather strange way to get to Rome.
There were some benefits to this for someone who hasn’t been to Europe before as my partner hadn’t been until this trip. He got to travel on the wonderful Thalys train from Amsterdam to Paris which was a nice treat. He got to see some nice scenery passing by on the train and got to see a little bit of Paris. We could have timed it so we could have stayed in Paris a bit longer but didn’t and that could be an option for you should you decide this is how you’re going to get from Amsterdam to Rome.
There are various apps for train travel in Europe and the Thalys has one as well. It is also possible to book a discounted ticket within 14 days of departure on the internet. A word of caution to anyone trying to buy a ticket at a kiosk in the Netherlands.
We didn’t have much luck doing this because the kiosks require a PIN number for your credit card and, at least American credit cards mostly, do not have this or the chip required to use these machines that are actually quite common in the UK and Europe. For anyone looking for ticketing information and advice that is best left to this site which I found incredibly helpful with all the links you’d ever need.
On board the Thalys (compulsory seat reservations, don’t forget) life is wonderful with ample seating and the train speeds along with stops at Schiphol Airport, La Haye (Hague), Rotterdam, Anvers or Antwerp, Brussels and eventually to its terminus at Paris Gare du Nord. The night train to Rome departs from the Gare de Lyon so a taxi is the best way to make your way there.
There is a left luggage facility in the basement of the train station and a bit of a walk to get to it. If you go outside you will find strong odors of urine and cigarettes. The homeless situation at this station is really quite unbelievable. I actually was embarrassed because I had told my partner such wonderful things about Paris and warned him that Amsterdam was dirty. Turns out Amsterdam was immaculate and Paris was the new trash of Europe.
There are plenty of cafes within walking distance of the station and the station itself has plenty of shops, restaurants and cafes. We went across the street because we had a bit of time and wandered around a little. The night train was delayed by a few hours so we had even more time on our hands. The time was made up enroute to Rome so it wasn’t a problem at all.
The Thello train service was certainly acceptable and cheap. You can read a lot more on this service on the Seat61 web site I mentioned earlier. It is invaluable for train travel in Europe. We eventually boarded and found four of the six seats already occupied. I fished out our tickets and realized we were in the top two bunks which was great.
I had heard stories and read things on the net about the night train to Rome and there were no shortage of shady characters. I was happy there were six of us in the cabin. The doors do lock. This was my first time using the couchette concept–I always booked a private room in the past–since we were doing this on a budget. The window was opened because we all thought it was too hot. By the time we got through the Alps it was freezing and the little blankets really were not much comfort or heat.
But we survived and trotted off to grab some breakfast in the buffet car and that was actually quite nice. We sat there and eventually found another room that had been vacated at the stop in Bologna apparently so we were able to spread out a bit and give our cabin mates more room as well. We arrived into Rome having slept a bit, having seen a tiny slice of Paris, having experienced the high speed train called Thalys and having saved some money over the flights.
So there might be others who may want to consider this as well. There were certainly flying options to us but for whatever reason they didn’t work out either through changing aircraft or price. Remember you also pay for your baggage on most carriers and there is the added cost to get to/from the airport. For us, this made perfect sense despite the first glance insanity of the routing.
Have fun and be adventurous.