The Netherlands is very densely populated. This has resulted in an extensive road network and public transport network. You can get everywhere relatively quickly by car. The disadvantage of traveling by car is the high chance that you will end up in a traffic jam and the high parking costs, not to mention the influence on the climate. For tourists, I recommend using the train and bicycle as transport.
When I told family and friends about my website, I could always expect the following question: are you going to tell something about how public transport works in the Netherlands? Although public transport in the Netherlands is very well organized, it is found to be complicated, even by Dutch people. Once you have managed to plan your journey and figured out how to use the ticket, you will recognize that it was not very difficult.
In this article I give you information about the types of public transport, how to buy tickets and I give you the best websites to plan your trip.
The Dutch rail network is very extensive with around 400 stations. The railway company is called NS (Nederlandse Spoorwegen, translation: Dutch railways) The trains are modern and comfortable, you can travel with 1st class or 2nd class. The trains generally leave every 10 to 30 minutes, so you never have to wait long. You do not have to make reservations for national trains. With a valid ticket you can use public transport at any time. From Amsterdam you can travel to Utrecht within 30 minutes and you can be in Arnhem in just over an hour.
The stations can vary in size and facilities, but everywhere you will find a ticket machine, a timetable (on large yellow signs) and an information desk. Later in this article I explain which ticket you need to travel by train
To travel within the city, or to villages without a train station, you can use the bus. The extent of the bus network is highly dependent on the number of travellers using public transport in that region. But in general, bus transport is well organized, with modern and comfortable buses. In most buses there is a display that shows up-to-date travel information. There are several bus companies, but you will not notice many differences. You can pay with the same ticket at all bus companies, and that makes it easy.
By metro or tram
In the 4 major cities of the Netherlands, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht you can travel by tram or metro. These are good ways to travel through the city, and usually faster than a bus.
The most common way to travel by public transport is with the OV chip card. This card is valid for all forms of national public transport within the Netherlands.
Where do I buy the OV chip card?
This card is for sale at service counters at the major stations and at a number of tobacco kiosks (AKO, Primera), supermarkets (Albert Heijn, Plus), bookshops (Bruna). On this website you can find where OV service points are located. The OV chip card is valid for 5 years and it is possible to request a refund of your remaining credit.
How to use the OV chip card?
Before you start your journey, you need to load the card. It is like a debet card and you pay per travelled kilometre. For traveling by train there must be at least 20 euros on the card, for the bus the minimum amount is 4 euros. Charging is free at ticket machines.
You must always check in and out with your OV chip card by holding your card against the screen on a gate or card reader. At the end of the journey, or when you transfer to another mode of transport, you have to check out and the display on the card reader will show the cost of your journey.
Note: when you have a transfer in your journey to the same transport company, you do not have to check out. For example, when you travel by train, and you change trains, you do not have to check out and check in between. When you travel by train and then change to a bus, you check out at the train, and you check in at the bus.
It is also possible to put so-called travel products on the card. For example, a subscription where you can travel unlimited, or get a discount in off-peak hours. The disadvantage of these travel products is that this only applies to one transport provider. For example, if you have a train ticket, it is not valid on the bus and vice versa.
Public transport tickets for tourists
If you expect to travel a lot by public transport in a few days, or if you only want to take one day trip, special tourist tickets are available. For example, you can buy a Holland travel ticket for 1 day unlimited use of all public transport providers for 61 euros (or off-peak 41 euros), a ticket for 1, 2 or 3 days for Amsterdam.
In addition, day tickets are available for train journeys to major cities, sometimes in combination with an admission ticket for an attraction. The price of these cards is comparable to the OV chip card, but with the advantage that you do not have to purchase the OV chip card first.
The tickets can be ordered via the website Discover Holland. To use them, you must pick up the order at a public transport service point. Unfortunately it is not possible to get a mobile ticket.
Travel plan websites
A journey starts with a schedule. You can plan your trip with the timetable that can be found at stations and at bus stops. In addition, there are various websites that you can use to plan your journey. These website all combine all transportation options.
- Google maps: with google maps you can easily get an impression of your journey on the map. It is also useful to use to find out what the stops are called where you have to get on or off. Google provides a schedule for public transportation, but details such as costs are not displayed.
- NS. My personal favorite travel planner is that of NS. Although this is the national railway company, it also provides options for the bus, metro or tram. The planner is well-arranged, and gives many details such as costs, walk routes to start or end destinations, but also how busy they expect it will be in a specific train. The NS mobile app (also available in English) is also recommended. In addition to the information you get on the website, you can also view maps of the stations and see live on the map where the train is currently running.
- A website and app similar to NS is 9292. It also provides good up-to-date travel information
Do you have questions?
Do you want to know more about public transport in the Netherlands?
Can I advise you about your travel schedule?
I look forward to receive your message and will answer all your questions.