Train / Tram, Oostende
So when i was 10 years old, my parents and I went to Europe. Our French was rudimentary, Flemish nonexistent, and we were trying to do the whole off the beaten track thing. So, we start our day in Bruges and our goal is to get to Canturbury. We ride the train to Oostende with no idea exept it is in the general direction of the UK. We board the amazing ligt rail and take it past these Flemish Beach resorts (it was very foggy, and not many travelers) to its very end. We have dinner at this cafe where they have likely never seen an American traveler and wait for a bus. We ride it to Dunquerque, where we stay in some sort of run down buisness hotel. We wake up early and board a train to Calais, where we WALK THE WHOLE WAY TO THE FERREY TERMINAL ACROSS THIS INDUSTRIAL WAISTLAND WITH ALL OUR BAGGAGE. W ride a ferrey to dover, where we wqlk downtown and collapse in a cafe in exaustion (its raining at this point). We meet the most amazing young women, who find us an incredible historic hotel in the walls of the cathedral. The sun came out so we explored dover castle before boarding our bus to Canterbury. We see lots of the town and its historic areas. The next morning, we ride a train from Canterbury west to Faversham, and from Faversham to Stratford International, where our next bed and breakfast awaits us. ABSOLUTELY INSANE, ABSOLUTELY EXAUSTING, AND ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE.
Following a recent (2011) initiative by the Belgian Fietsenwerk and NMBS, the Belgian Railways Company, most main Belgian train stations now have a bicycle sharing "station" on their forecourts. I'm not sure whether this is available to everyone or whether it is just for the use of Belgian (and maybe Dutch/French/German - see comment below) nationals but it seems quite a simple system. You pay an annual fee of 10 Euros and you get a membership card. Thereafter you can hire bicycles (up to two with one card) for a daily rate of 3 Euros, payment of which can be by direct debit or on a credit/debit card.
The only proviso is that cycles must be returned to the station where they were originally hired from, but that may change as the system develops.
Website at the moment is only in French and Dutch which suggests that at the moment the bikes are only available to local-ish visitors but once again that may change in the future.
Oostende has a wonderfully Baroque early twentieth century railway station which has regular direct services to and from Brussels with main intermediary stops at Brugge and Gent. The station is perhaps a little grander than the number of trains it serves as the peak frequency is about half-hourly but it is next door to the main bus station and the tram stop for the Kusttram and at the time of updating (Oct 2012) building work is underway to turn this into an integrated transport terminus for all three modes
The station has all the facilities you would expect of a mainline rail terminus including left-luggage, cafes, toilet facilities and is pretty much in the town centre - of which there's a useful map immediately outside the main entrance.
Tram in Ostend is the main city transport because it is used both by locals to go around the town as well as by those who want to visit other neighbor towns along the route. It is much cheaper to buy tickets in advance at the stations. Usually it is cheaper to buy a train pass. It costs 9 EUR and is worth 10 trips within the same zone. The same ticket bought inside of a tram would be 2 Eur for a single trip. Summer schedule of a tram is different from that one winter. In summer interval between trams is just 10 minutes. If the weather is not good for walking around just take a trip by a train and enjoy picturesque views of a countryside in Belgium!
Being based in Ostend, it is in the middle of the coastal tram route, to the east Knokke on the Dutch border, you dont see much sea this way because of the dunes.Fare 2 euro single journey. To the west Du Panne on the French border, fare 2 euro single journey,you can see the sea this way.
This looked as if it was going to be an interesting journey. The Belgian Coast Tram is reckoned to be the longest tram line in the world, following almost the entire Belgian coastline from De Panne, on the French border, to Knokke, on the Dutch border. There are a total of 70 stops over the 68 kilometres and all the coastal towns and villages can be visited.
However the reality was a bit of a disappointment.
Having finally gotten the time off to explore a bit more of Belgium I decided to have an overnight stop at Oostende after I'd done my tobacco shopping (and had an excellent lunch) in Adinkerke. This gave me the opportunity to ride the Coast Tram between the two.
As a means of getting around the Belgian coast (well, up and down anyway) this is an excellent service with the trams running every fifteen minutes during the day and the maximum single fare being only 2 Euros if bought before joining the tram (3 Euros from the driver).
The trams are modern and comfortable and although they can get a little crowded around the main towns it is generally a relaxing ride.
Unfortunately the route doesn't actually follow the coast as such but rather it passes through the centres of the coastal towns and villages which all seem to be joined together by a homogenous mass of towering apartment blocks. Glimpses of the sea are just that, the occasional short stretch where the coast's developments briefly peter out before restarting a few hundred metres later.
This made my hour and twenty minute journey kind of a let-down but having said that it is otherwise a very practical and inexpensive service and the main tram stop is centrally located, next door to both the railway and bus stations.
Running from De Panne, close to the French border, all the way to Knokke almost on the Netherands border. There is a regular service throughout the day, up to 4 trams an hour.
Enjoyed travelling on this tram as it pretty much follows the coastline. We bought a day ticket (5 euro 9/2008) which allows unlimited travel for the day, it's also valid on the delijn buses.
As ever don't forget to validate your ticket in the yellow box.
Looks like vintage trams run on summer weekends, lucky enough to see a couple.
The Coastal tram brings you to any spot along the Flemish coast. Fast and inexpensive!
From the tram another side of the country can be seen that runs between the French and Dutch borders.
The tram line runs more than 40 miles and has 70 stops from which it is possible to explore lots of different attractions, from big port towns such as Zeebrugge to fashionable resorts with upmarket shops and restaurants.
The tramway itself could also be considered an attraction, with art nouveau-styled buildings and impressive stations en route, such as the station at De Haan. The modern trams run at least once every 20 minutes throughout the year, with increased frequency over the summer.
Ostend Railway station was built in 1910-1913 of a baroque style. Situated next to the station is the tram line a convenient way of travelling up or down the coast.
The station is in the centre of town near the Fishermen's Quay, the promenade and the shopping centre.
The train station is located on the eastern edge of town right by the marina and the Vissers Kaai. Oostende's main center isn't big, so if you make a mistake like I did, and end up here by accident, you can take a quick tour in a couple hours. There are coin-operated lockers, which made it easy for me to drop off my bulky backpack and head out to explore.
The station itself is an attractive, early 20th century building which definitely has some Baroque influence, but I can't figure out the rest. Oostende is also the main hub for trams and other transportation to visit the rest of the Belgium coast. Taxis and buses line up right in front of the station.
There is also a nearby catamaran terminal for those who are headed across the channel toward Dover.
Trains constantly run from Oostende, very clean and inexpensive. Brugge is only 14 minutes away and Brussels about 1 hour, when staying in Oostende I actually went to Brugge twice in the same day and was back in Oostende for 6pm in the evening !
A great number of Belgian cities, including Oostende, can be visited by train.
Trains from Brussels operate almost every half an hour and it takes 1 hour to get to Oostende.
If you intend to just visit Oostende and then move to another town, you should buy a Go Pass (under 26) for EUR 43 or a Rail Pass (over 26) for EUR 65.
Plane, train, boat, .... There's no transport that doesn't bring you to Oostende.
The best way to get around in Oostende and along the coast is the tram. Low in price and great in service.
The train brings you to all the other big cities in Belgium (Brugge, Gent, Antwerpen, Brussel,...) check the site of the railway company www.nmbs.be .
Oostende isn't that big, it's easy to explore the city on foot.
Getting to Oostende is a snap. From England, you can take a boat, but chances are more likely that you'll be hopping a train. Oostende is the western terminus to the major line that runs from Brussels through Gent and Brugge. As a result, trains run all the time, allowing Belgians from all over the country the ability to spend a summer afternoon in Oostende and still make it home for bedtime.
Around the corner from the massive train station is a tram station -- a light rail line runs from Oostende up and down the coast between the Dutch and French borders. This makes Oostende a perfect stop on the way to smaller resorts, such as De Haan.
OSTEND RAILWAY STATION (constructed in 1910-1913).
If you arrive at Brussels National Airport, you can take any train to Brussels. At Brussels Central Station, change to the direct train to Oostende (frequency: every hour, last train around 23 hr).