The Netherlands

Useful tips for using public transportation in The Netherlands

The Netherlands has excellent public transportation links and an easy swipe card payment system. Public transportation in The Netherlands is affordable and a comfortable way to travel around. This guide includes the most important information you need to know when taking a train, tram, bus, metro, or taxi in the Netherlands. It also provides other public transport traveling tips and details about ticketing and travel planners.

Haarlemmerliede, NS Reizigers 2462 & 2409.
©, Haarlemmerliede, NS Reizigers 2462 & 2409.
20 september 2014, © 2015 Bas Meijer.

The smart-card system: OV-chipkaart

The smart-card system, the OV-chipkaart, is now in use throughout the Netherlands as the official transport payment system for the metro, bus and tram. You can also use the card for travelling by train. Paper train tickets were abolished in 2014.

Infrequent train travelers can buy a single-use chipkaart at EUR 1 extra per trip, but I personally recommend you to buy an ‘anonymous OV-chipkaart’. You can buy this card at the yellow NS ticketing machine or at a service desk. There is a one-time fee of € 7,50 which can also be used on buses, trams, metros and ferries.

How to pay for public transportation while traveling with OV-chipkaart

When traveling with the OV-Chipkaart, it is important to charge credit prior to travelling. This can be done at a yellow NS ticketing machine. The minimum amount you need on a card to travel by train is € 10,00. When taking public transportation you must check in prior to every trip and check out at the end. Look for the OV-chipkaart pillars on the station and make sure to check out at the right transportation company. In the end you pay for the distance traveled by swiping it upon entering and leaving your transport station.

The OV-chipkaart website also has an English language section where you can find lines of action should you lose your card or forget to swipe out. You can also reach out by phone: 0900 0980 (€ 0.10/min).

ov chipkaart

How to plan your trip by public transportation in the Netherlands?

The website provides door-to-door itineraries for national travel and is also available in the English language.  You can also call the organization for itinerary tips: 0900 9292 (€ 0.70/min).


Traveling by train in the Netherlands

The train is a very comfortable way to get around in the Netherlands. The trains are modern and comfortable. Since the Netherlands is a small country, it also only takes a few minutes to travel from North to South. From Amsterdam you can for example travel to Utrecht in just 30 minutes!

The ‘Nederlandse Spoorwegen’ is the national train company. NS offers season tickets and discounts for off-peak travel (dal voordeel abonnement), which include up to 40 percent discount off the price of your tickets and up to three people travelling with you.

You can visit the website for more information or ask about it at a service desk on one of the train station. There are also some regional train companies like ‘Arriva’, ‘Breng’, and ‘Blauwnet’. Every train offers 1st and 2nd class travel (classes are marked inside and outside the trains).


Schedule and departure times of the trains in the Netherlands

Every train station has yellow signs that show the schedule from early in the morning to late at night. It will tell you where and at what time the trains depart. You can also find more information on the platforms. There are departure signs showing at what time the next train leaves and at which stations the train will stop. Any irregularities are announced by loudspeaker and shown on the departure signs of the platform.

IC 862 Abcoude.
© IC 862 Abcoude by Bart

Taking your bicycle along the train in the Netherlands

You can take your bicycle with you on the train outside peak hours (9:00-16:30 and after 18:00). You need to buy a bicycle day ticket at a NS ticketing machine, which costs 6 euros. Your bicycle can be stored in the indicated areas on the train (recognizable by the bicycle label on the train’s side).

Traveling with special needs on the train in the Netherlands

It also comfortable to travel by train in the Netherlands with special needs. You can call and book assistance in advance. Most wheelchairs can travel on the trains. Seeing-eye or hearing dogs also travel free on all forms of public transport. You can call 030 235 7822 to book assistance from 07.00 to 23.00 hours.

More information about travelling by train through the Netherlands can be found in this brochure from the ‘Nederlandse Spoorwegen’.

Explore Holland by Train

Taking the bus in the Netherlands

There are many city and regional bus lines in the Netherlands. It is an easy and affordable way to travel around. You can buy a ticket in the bus or use your OV-chipkaart.

Taking the tram in the Netherlands

The tram is a perfect means of transport in big cities. It is easy to get on and off and takes you to your destination quickly and affordably. The tram is a perfect way to travel around in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, and The Hague. Tram services usually start at 6 AM and run until midnight. Buy your GVB Public Transportation Ticket online and enjoy unlimited access to all GVB public transport lines throughout the city.

Amsterdam Prinsengracht GVB 2013 lijn 2 Nieuw Sloten
© Amsterdam Prinsengracht GVB 2013 lijn 2 Nieuw Sloten by Rob Dammers

Taking the metro in the Netherlands

In addition to trams and buses, the cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam also offer a metro service. These are usually affordable and generally faster than trams. Just like the trains, you need to buy a single-use chip card or an anonymous OV-chipkaart. You can buy the single-use chip card from a ticket machine at the metro stations.

Taking a taxi in the Netherlands

Taxis are expensive and not allowed to pick up people on the street except by reservation or at a taxi stand. You can Google ‘taxibedrijf’ with the place of departure behind it to find a nearby taxi supplier. In the major Dutch cities, Uber also operates. Uber is an alternative taxi service that you can use via an app on your smartphone. Main taxi phone numbers in the Netherlands are:

Amsterdam: 020 677 7777
The Hague: 070 383 0830
Rotterdam: 010 462 6333
Utrecht: 030 230 0400
Arnhem: 026 666 6666

Traveling by bicycle in the Netherlands

As you might know, The Netherlands is the ultimate biking country! With a flat landscape, short distances, a mild climate and excellent infrastructure, it’s no surprise that cycling is very popular. Cycling is very safe in the Netherlands. The traffic really takes your participation into account. In the big cities, there are several places where you can rent a bike. You can visit the local tourist center to ask more information about this.

Michael Coghlan Follow
© Non Car Traffic by Michael Coghlan

Traveling by ferry in the Netherlands

The Netherlands is very well-known for it’s waterways and so, is public transportation by water also very important and well developed. Several ferry lines and water taxis operate in and around Amsterdam and Rotterdam. All the services are paid. You can use an anonymous OV-chipkaart (smart card), a single-use chip card, or pay cash.

It is also possible to travel by ferry or boat to the famous Dutch Wadden Islands. The Wadden Islands were declared a World Heritage Site in 2009 and consist of the inhabited islands of Texel, Vlieland, Terschelling, Ameland, and Schiermonnikoog. Every Island can be reached best from a differtent place.

Holwerd - Ameland
© Holwerd – Ameland by Pleuntje

– Texel is best accessible from Den Helder (North Holland), with a double deck ferry departing every hour. It takes 20 minutes to reach the island. You can bring your car.
– You can get to Vlieland and Terschelling by boat from Harlingen (Friesland). The regular ferry takes you to the island  in 1.5 hours while the fast ferry takes you there in 45 minutes.
– The trip to Terschelling from Harlingen by regular ferry takes 2 hours and the fast ferry about 45 minutes. The ferries make several round trips daily.
– Ameland can be reached from Holwerd (Friesland), and the trip takes about 45 minutes. It is possible to take your car with you but you need to book a place in advance.
– The ferry to Schiermonnikoog leaves from Lauwersoog (Groningen) and runs about four times every day. Lauwersoog is easy to reach by car or public transport from Groningen or Leeuwarden.


I hope this guide can help you prepare your trip to the Netherlands. When you have any other tips about public transportation in the Netherlands, don’t hesitate to share them in the comment section!

Author: Daphne

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