Transportation in the Netherlands

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    Everything you need to know about transportation in the Netherlands

    Travelling around the Netherlands is not too tricky once you get the hang of it. Whether it’s going city hopping or trying to get to the closest supermarket, being aware of your options when it comes to getting around in the Netherlands always helps.

    Short-distance

    Bicycle

    As a matter of fact, the most popular mode of transport in the Netherlands is by bicycle. We’re not even kidding when we say that there are more bikes in the country than people. Typically, the average Dutch cycles to school, work, the pubs and everywhere else as long as the distance is relatively short. 

    Fun fact: even the Dutch prime minister cycles to work! 

    Now, you may be wondering why biking is so popular in the Netherlands. Firstly, it is usually faster to bike to a destination than using any other form of transport. 

    In the Netherlands, there are specified bike paths just for bikes, so traffic and waiting time are completely nullified. Needless to say, we would rather you be safe than sorry, so familiarising yourself with the most basic biking rules in the Netherlands is always a good idea.

    Secondly, bicycles are affordable. It is also not difficult to buy a bike in the Netherlands. For 90 – 120 euros, you can secure a quality second-hand bike that should last you the entire length of your study (with the occasional maintenance visits). 

    You may also splurge on a brand new bike, but do be aware that bike theft is one of the most common crimes in the Netherlands.

    Thirdly, biking may help with your social life, especially when you are new to the country as an international student. For example, cycling side by side a new friend is a great way to get to know them better and explore the surroundings together. 

    Cycling can be a social activity too!

    Public transportation – bus, tram, metro, ferry

    There will be days when you just don’t feel like cycling, especially when the weather is bad (which is not uncommon in the Netherlands). 

    Or maybe you’ve decided not to get a bike, and that’s completely fine too, thanks to the extensive public transport system in the Netherlands. 

    While you can only find trams and the metro operating in major cities in the Netherlands such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague, rest assured that almost every city has its own public bus system.   

    A metro train at Rotterdam Centraal Station.

    If you intend to travel using public transportation regularly, it’s definitely a good idea to get a public transportation card, known as the “OV-chipkaart”. 

    Not only is this card a convenient payment method (it’s accepted on all types of public transportation in the Netherlands), it will save you the hassle of buying a ticket every time you use public transport too. 

    That being said, remember to take into account that public transportation in the Netherlands is relatively expensive. 

    Q link city bus in Groningen

    Long-distance

    Public transportation – train, bus

    Unless you have the endurance of a marathon cyclist, it’s almost impossible to cycle to another city in the Netherlands. That’s when taking public transportation will be your best option.

    Taking the train is pretty straightforward, you just need to keep in mind that there are several different train services that each have their specific check-in and check-out gates (read: don’t check-in the wrong gates). 

    The two main train services in the Netherlands are NS and ARRIVA, but you will most likely take an NS train as they cover most areas in the Netherlands. 

    A typical yellow-and-blue NS train heading for Den Haag Centraal Station.

    A cheaper option compared to taking the train would be to take an intercity bus, a popular choice being FlixBus

    In this case, it’s not possible to use your OV-chipkaart, however, and you must buy the tickets online. Bear in mind that the travelling time will, of course, be longer than the train.

    Ride-hailing & taxi

    Ride-hailing services and taxies are perhaps the least popular modes of transportation in the Netherlands, as they are expensive and not immediately available most of the time. 

    If you ever need to hire a taxi or Uber, make sure to book your ride in advance to avoid a long waiting time.

    International

    Plane

    You may be familiar with the Schiphol Airport located in Amsterdam, but did you know that there are a few other airports in some other Dutch cities as well? 

    Learning about these airports and air travel in the Netherlands may be useful for your future endeavours that may involve travelling abroad for an internship or exchange programme.

    Useful apps

    9292 is the most popular route planner mobile application that covers all modes of public transportation in the Netherlands, from buses to trams and more. 

    Another option is to use Google Maps, which is especially helpful in giving directions if you’re going somewhere by foot. 

    Additionally, if you hold a personal OV-chipkaart, you may find it useful to install the OV-chipkaart mobile application where you can track your travel history and check the remaining credit. 

    Last but not least, the NS mobile application is useful if you travel by train frequently, as it is where you can check for the latest information regarding disruptions of the schedule and even store e-tickets. 

    All of these apps are available in English.

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