Belgium has a decent public transport system with buses, trams, trains and boats used. But this paragraph only discusses TRAIN travel.

Rail transport is used for regional, national or internatonal transport needs. There are NO long distance bus services except the Eurolines and similar 'low cost' busses to other European countries.

TYPES OF TRAINS

  • 1. P-train : the 'peak hour' train. They can be usually slow and quite crowded. As the name indicates usually only in the real peak hours.
  • 2. L-trains : the slow trains, stopping at every station. Some of these are only a mile or 3 apart, so the overall journey can be slow. The rolling stock is usually decent but not of the most recent series. Quite often it still is one of these bordeaux-colour 2-carriage trains, not airconditioned and with comfort from the fifties.
  • 3. IR trains: serving medium and larger stations, IR trains usually run hourly. IR-routes are identified by a lower-case letter (such as IRq).
  • 4. IC-trains: also usually running hourly, intercity trains are usually (but not always) operated using the most modern trains, and stop only at the largest stations. Intercity routes are identified by an upper-case letter, which means there's a possibility of confusion between the Belgian Intercity route E ("ICE") and the German InterCity Express trains ("ICE") which serve Belgium! Most tourists visiting Belgium are likely to use IC trains more than any of the others.
  • 5. International trains, which nowadays are restricted to the "Benelux Intercity" trains between Brussels, Antwerp, Rotterdam and Amsterdam, and the occasional EuroCity train between Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg/Switzerland.
  • 6. Thalys: A joint Franco-Belgian company running French TGV trains on the Paris - Brussels route, with some journeys extended to Amsterdam or Cologne. Special fares apply on Thalys, seat reservations are compulsory and Belgian domestic tickets are not vaild.
  • 7. German ICE trains run on the Brussels - Liege - Aachen - Cologne - Frankfurt route a few times each day. As with Thalys, special fares apply and Belgian domestic tickets are not valid.
  • 8. Eurostar trains serve the Brussels - Lille - London route. By far the most convenient way of getting between central London and central Brussels. 
  • Note: Eurostar tickets issued from London to Brussels are no longer valid to any station in Belgium (although they do allow you to travel to any station within Brussels), but you can choose "Any Belgian Station" as the destination instead of Brussels for a small supplement to your fare; then you won't need to buy an extra ticket if you need to take a domestic train from Brussels to your final Belgian destination. Likewise, there is an "Any Dutch Station" option allowing you to continue your London - Brussels Eurostar journey to any destination in Holland (on all trains except Thalys) within 24 hours of arriving in Brussels (the return being valid 24hrs before your return leaves Brussels). A stopover in Belgium can therefore be added to a trip to Holland.

The Belgian rail network is operated by SNCB (in French)/NMBS (in Dutch). Check their 4-language website http://www.b-rail.be for more information.