The Dutchflyer Rail & Sail service offers a comfortable and cheap possibility to get from the United Kingdom to the Netherlands and mainland Europe. From London, direct trains operate to the ferry port of Harwich International. A Stena Line ferry then takes you across the North Sea to Hoek van Holland. There you will find train connections to all parts of the Netherlands, including Amsterdam and Rotterdam, as well as connecting services to France and Belgium. Tickets including train and ferry are available from 49€ or 55 GBP.
Note: Since April 1, 2017, replacement buses operate between Hoek van Holland and Schiedam, read more below.
Rail and Sail: The Dutchflyer
The Dutchflyer Rail & Sail is a combined train and ferry offer. It includes the ferry trip from Harwich to Hoek van Holland, as well as train travel in the UK and the Netherlands. Abellio Greater Anglia runs direct trains from London Liverpool Street to Harwich International. These connect with the ferries to the Netherlands. The ferries from Harwich to Hook of Holland are operated by Stena Line. Stena Britannica and Stena Hollandica are the longest ferries in the world (built in 2010), offering comfortable cabins of different categories, several restaurants, shops and even a cinema.
Since April 1 2017, the railway line from Hoek van Holland to Rotterdam is upgraded to be included into the RET (Rotterdam metro network). Replacement buses are currently operating beween Hoek van Holland and Schiedam. There you will find train connections operated by NS (Dutch Railways) to all parts of the Netherlands. Direct trains are available from Schiedam to Den Haag, Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam and Rotterdam. In Rotterdam you have connections to Utrecht, Belgium and France). At both ferry terminals the train platforms are conveniently situated adjacent to the terminal buildings in Harwich as well as in Hoek van Holland.
Overall travel time from London to Amsterdam is about elven hours. Compared to a trip via Brussels using Eurostar and Thalys services which takes just about six hours this seems rather long, however the Rail & Sail fares are usually cheaper which makes it attractive especially for cost-sensitive travellers. The option to travel overnight is really convenient as well.
Train and Ferry information for London to Amsterdam
The direct Greater Anglia trains from London Liverpool Street to Harwich International providing direct connections to the ferries are formed of standard suburban EMU which are not particularly comfortable. These trains are mainly aimed at commuter traffic to and from London and only have a narrow 3+2 seating arrangement and do not have any other amenities. However the train takes not even one and a half hours so that's not too bad. If you are looking for a bit more comfort you could take an Intercity train from Liverpool Street to Norwich. Then change for Harwich International at Manningtree. Overall travel time is the same as when taking a direct train.
Stena Britannica and Stena Hollandica are modern ferries with everything you need for a comfortable journey across the North Sea. Several restaurants and cafes, shops, a cinema, childrens playing area and a lounge are available. If you travel overnight it is required to book a cabin. The offer ranges from a simple one berth inside cabin to the large Captain's Suite. For families cabins with up to five berths are available as are cabins for the disabled. All cabins have en-suite shower and WC, satellite TV and a wardrobe.
In the Netherland, the railway line from Hoek van Holland to Rotterdam is currently converted to metro operation. A frequent replacement bus service between Hoek van Holland and Schiedam is in operation. The buses run up to four times per hour and take about 30 minutes. Buses are operated by RET (Rotterdam public transport). Rail & Sail tickets, as well as Interrail and Eurail passes are valid on the replacement buses. Also, these tickets will be valid on future RET metro services on this route as well. From Schiedam you can travel by train again. Frequent NS (Dutch Railways) services run to Amsterdam, Rotterdam and many other cities in the Netherlands.
Stena Line offers through "Rail and Sail" tickets from either London, Harwich or Any Greater Anglia station to Any Dutch Station. For the trip from "Any Greater Anglia station" to "Any Dutch station", prices are as follows: From GBP 55/94 for a single trip (day/night service) and from GBP 110/178 for a return (day/night service). Tickets from Harwich only are even cheaper. In the opposite direction Rail & Sail tickets are available from Hoek van Holland or Any Dutch station to Any Greater Anglia station. Prices from "Any Dutch station" start at EUR 66/93 for a single (day/night service) and at EUR 132/186 for a return. These tickets include train travel with Abellio Greater Anglia trains to Harwich International, the ferry trip with Stena Line and a trip to any Dutch station with NS trains. Tickets are valid on any train on the day you have purchased the ticket.
Travellers with Interrail or Eurail tickets get a 30% discount on the regular single fare of the ferry trip. Currently the price of a single ticket with the discount is EUR 31. If you want to use an overnight service, you will also have to book a cabin. Prices start from EUR 36 for a single cabin, EUR 51 for a 2-bed cabin and EUR 91 for a 4-bed cabin. You always have to book the full cabin, thus it is not possible to book a single bed in a 2-bed or 4-bed cabin.
Online booking of Railand Sail tickets
Booking of Rail and Sail tickets from the UK to the Netherlands is only possible on the UK version of the Stenaline website. Similarly, Rail and Sail tickets in the opposite direction from Amsterdam to London can only be purchased on the Dutch version of Stenaline (which is available in English). Please be aware that booking of "Any Dutch station" to the UK is only possible on the Dutch language version!
Reservations for Interrail and Eurail pass holders are available only on the Dutch version using the offercodes INTERRAIL and EURAIL respectively.
It is also possible to buy tickets/reservations directly at the ferry terminal, however the cheapest offers are only available online purchased in advance. Also, some services or at least some cabin categories, especially at busy holiday periods can be fully booked - keep that in mind if you want to get a ticket at short notice.
Good to know
Both Harwich International and Hoek van Holland Haven stations are adjacent to the ferry terminals. The distance from the trains to the check-in is under 500 metres at both terminals. The replacement buses in Hoek van Holland also depart just a few metres away from the terminal.
In order to maximize sleep on overnight journeys I'd recommend to arrive early at the terminals and board the ferry as soon as possible.
There are dedicated direct trains between Liverpool Street and Harwich International in connection with the ferry departures and arrivals. Even when their arrival at Harwich International is after the boarding time shown on your ticket these connections are planned and you will be allowed on board.
Update: March 2017