I have been reading many TA forums and have found the information, advice, and support invaluable in planning our summer trip. I would appreciate any help that Brussels or Ghent locals or regular travelers can provide as we try to navigate rail travel for the first time.
My family and I (2 adults, 3 children) have just secured seats on the mid-day (11:25) Thalys train from Paris to Gent via Brussels on Tuesday July 15. The process was much smoother then I had anticipated. We had no issues booking once our date opened up this evening. We are planning on spending the afternoon in Brussels before going on to Ghent. We had read here at TA that we can take any other train on that day making it possible to spend 5-6 hours in Brussels - is that correct? If not, do we need to take the next available train on to Ghent?
As I understand it from the Thalys website, we can use our Thalys ticket to go from Brussels Midi station to Brussels Central at no extra cost. How do we do this? Do we change trains to get on a local train or do we stay on the Thalys train and it stops at multiple stops in Brussels? If we change trains, do we need to get a new ticket using our Thayls ticket or do we simply use the ticket that we used coming from Paris?
How do we get to Ghent from Brussels? Specifically, do we have to return to the Brussels Midi station to get our train to Ghent, or can we go directly from the Central station? We will be storing our luggage at one of the train stations (Central) and were hoping that we could catch a train to Ghent later in the evening directly from the Central station without paying to go back to Midi. Is that an option?
How will the ABS tickets work on the train to Ghent? We printed our Thalys tickets at home. The indicate ABS on the ticket. Do we take these to a ticket window at a Brussels station and change them for a local ticket for our last leg of the trip? or... Do we simply get on a train to Ghent with our Thalys ticket in hand for passage on that last part?
We are just not familiar with public transportation at all and this will be our first trip overseas. Traveling with children and luggage we would like to be as prepared as possible ahead of time for what to expect. We have already learned so much from everyone. Thank you for any and all advice that you can provide.