Brussels National Airport (BRU), 11 km (7 miles) northeast of the center city, is Belgium's main, and very nearly only, international airport. It has direct rail connection to Brussels and from there to Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp, and other Belgian cities; to Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and the Hague; and to Luxembourg City. It is the hub for Brussels Airlines, and is served by many international carriers. Brussels South Charleroi Airport (CRL), 46km (29 miles) south of Brussels, is served by budget airline Ryanair. Antwerp International Airport (ANR), just outside Antwerp to the east, is served primarily by the small Flemish carrier VLM, which operates a handful of European routes.
P&O Ferries (tel. 0871/664-5645 in Britain, 02/710-64-44 in Belgium; www.poferries.com) has daily car-ferry service between Hull in northeast England and Zebrugge. The overnight travel time is 12 3/4 hours. Buses shuttle between the ferry terminal and Bruges Station, from where there are frequent trains to Brussels, Ghent, and Antwerp.
Norfolkline (tel. 0844/847-5042 in Britain; www.norfolkline.com) was due to begin car-ferry service three times a week between Rosyth, across the Forth River from Edinburgh, Scotland, to Zeebrugge, in May 2009. The overnight travel time is 18 hours. No further details were available at the time of writing.
Transeuropa Ferries (tel. 01843/595522 in Britain, 059/34-02-60 in Belgium; www.transeuropaferries.com), has three car-ferry sailings daily, from Ramsgate in southern England to Ostend; the travel time is 4 hours. This service transports only cars and other noncommercial vehicles along with their drivers and passengers; foot passengers aren't accepted.
Rail service to the Benelux countries from major European cities is frequent, fast, and generally inexpensive compared to air travel.
Britain is connected to the Continent (or, as the Brits might say, the Continent is connected to Britain) through the Channel Tunnel. On the Eurostar high-speed train, with a top speed of 300kmph (186 mph), travel times between London St. Pancras station and Brussels Midi station are 2 hours and 40 minutes. Departures are approximately every 2 hours. For Eurostar reservations, call tel. 08705/186186 in Britain, or 02/528-28-28 in Belgium. Or book online at www.eurostar.com. Tickets also are available from main rail stations and travel agents.
The Thalys high-speed train, with a top speed of 300kmph (186 mph) connecting Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, and Cologne, has cut travel times from Paris-Nord station to Brussels Midi station to 1 hour and 25 minutes. Departures are approximately every hour. For Thalys information and reservations in France, call tel. 3635; in Belgium, tel. 020/528-28-28; in Germany, tel. 11861; and in Holland, tel. 0900/9296. Or book online at www.thalys.com. Tickets also are available from main rail stations and travel agents.
Further high-speed train connections are the TGV, which arrives in Brussels from France (excluding Paris), and the ICE trains that speed in from Frankfurt, Germany.
Eurolines has the most comprehensive bus network in Europe. For reservations, call tel. 08717/818-081 in Britain, tel. 02/274-13-50 in Belgium, or tel. 020/560-8788 in the Netherlands. Or book online at www.eurolines.com.
Eurolines has bus service (through the Channel Tunnel) between London Victoria bus station and Brussels's Gare du Nord bus station, with up to four departures daily. Travel time is 8 hours.
The Benelux countries are crisscrossed by a dense network of major highways connecting them with other European countries. Distances are relatively short. Road conditions are excellent throughout all three Benelux countries, service stations are plentiful, and highways have good signs. Traffic congestion in both Brussels and Amsterdam, however, can cause monumental tie-ups -- in these two cities, it's best to park your car at your hotel garage and use local transportation or walk (the best way, incidentally, to see either city).
Via the Channel Tunnel from Britain -- The fast and efficient Eurotunnel (tel. 08705/353535 in Britain; www.eurotunnel.com) auto-transporter trains transport your car through the Channel Tunnel from Folkestone, England, to Calais, France (a 35-min. trip). Departures are every 15 minutes at peak times, every 30 minutes at times of average demand, and every hour at night.
To drive in the Benelux lands, drivers need only produce a valid driver's license from their home country. The countries are crisscrossed by a network of major international highways coming from Germany and France. Traffic is often heavy -- but distances between destinations are relatively short, road conditions are generally excellent, service stations are plentiful, and highways are plainly signposted.
The best way to experience most European cities is to drive to the city, park your car, and never touch it again until you leave. In virtually all Benelux cities, and in particular in congested places like Amsterdam, Brussels, Bruges, Ghent, and Antwerp, it's smart not to even bring a car.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.