The Netherlands has a great public transportation infrastructure and this can be easy observed and sensed while traveling in the country. But, even if in the country 90% of the people speak incredible English, not all the public transport websites are in English and this can be sometimes a burden on ones traveler’s shoulders. On the other hand, there are multiple websites to check schedules and prices, and at each train station there’s a information counter where people will explain all the details you need.This article will cover some tips about how to find information or how to travel cheaper inside the country.
First let me tell you about the OvChipkaart. This is a similar card as the card used in London, with the difference that it can be used in the entire country on all the public transportation. There are 2 types of cards, on which you can load money and simple use it everywhere. Just don’t forget to check in and check out!
- Nominal, for which is mandatory to have a address and apply with a photo – which will be printed on your card. This can be done online – here.
- Anonymous, which can be bought from each blue&yellow machine in the train stations. It costs 7.5e. Be careful, the machine doesn’t accept cash outside coins so be prepared to pay with your card. Luckily, the machine has the English option too – and here‘s a nice tutorial. The only issue with this card is that you can’t load products (like a day free pass) on it, but if you are visiting only for some time it can save some money.
Second let me tell you about http://9292.nl/en# website (or mobile app), which offers real time information about any kind of public transport around the country. Of course, you can also use Google Maps, which also covers entirely The Netherlands transport, but on 9292 you can also find alternative routes in case there’s a disruption.
Trains: The most known train company is NS (Nederlandse Spoorwegen – Dutch Railway) and it operates on 99% of the routes around the country. Another company I know about is Arriva, which operates mainly in the South, especially Limburg (Maastricht), but in this article NS will be covered. The company made some changes in the last period and here we have a English version of the website: http://www.ns.nl/en , but you can also use 9292 in order to search the train schedules. What I find important to know when you decide to travel by train is:
- If you use the Ov Chipkaart you pay with 1e less per trip, since the paper for the ticket costs 1e
- From time to time, several stores sell cheap day return tickets. On this website you can see which stores have discounts. The tickets can be used during the working days between 9:00 and 16:00 and 18:30 – 24:00 and during weekend whenever.
- On the NS website (here: https://www.spoordeelwinkel.nl/ ) you can find easily cheap day trips. Dagje uit means day out and, usually, with this kind of ticket you can travel from a specific location to a fixed destination. The issue is that this is available only if you can pay with iDEAL (which is more or less a Dutch bank product).
- There is also a special ticket for tourists ( here ) which covers the trips for an entire day.
- From time to time it happens for the train to have delays, rarely someone will announce this in English, but pay attention to the screens from the platform. If it is saying “+5 minuten” means 5 minutes and “Rijdt niet” means that the train is canceled. But you are somehow lucky, since the country in truly small and the trains have a good schedule.
- Relax and admire the country while traveling. For example, during spring time if you travel between Haarlem/ Amsterdam and The Hague you can see the colorful flower fields. But you also have WI-FI signal (sometimes not that good) in order to arrange your itinerary for the day.
Buses: If for trains we have mostly the same company operating the transport, when it comes to buses we have several. In Amsterdam we have mainly GVB, in North Holland especially Connexxion and in South Holland Arriva. Since last year also Flixbus offers intern routes – they are really cheap, used especially by young people.
- Schedules: 9292 shows the schedule for all of them, but if you want to see the entire schedule of a bus for the day you can easily see it by searching “lijn ” bus no and the destination. For example, for a trip from Haarlem to Oudewater 9292 will recommend bus 107 . Searching “lijn 107 Oudewater” this cames up, a website with information for non-Connexxion buses. Another thing you should know is that the schedule is mostly strict, almost everywhere the bus has the own street line, but it is better to check in advance just to be sure it will not pass earlier.
- Payment: And now it comes to picture the main benefit of having a Ov Chipkaart – in NL there’s no concept of a bus ticket to be used more than once and the cheapest one is 5e. So if you travel the entire route or if you travel only for 2-3 stations, you will pay the entire price. Now, if you have a OV Chipkaart you only pay a start price (around 1e) and for each km some 10cents. In all the cases it is more cheaper to use the card instead of buying a ticket from the driver.
- Stops: pay attention at the bus stops as the bus will not stop if you haven’t pressed on the STOP button, small red buttons all around the bus.
And because we are in The Netherlands we also have…
Water-bus: You will find them, usually, in towns with big rivers: Rotterdam, Dordrecht, Amsterdam. Outside the fact that they are, in fact, big boats – you, as a passenger, need to do only one thing: either buy a ticket, either use the Ov Chipkaart you have.
Having all of this in mind, I recommend an OV Chipkaart, as it can be used on all of the public transportation platforms and it is easy to use. And if you buy an anonymous one you can pass it forward to family and friends. Enjoy The Netherlands!