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Transport in the Netherlands

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Transportation in the Netherlands is one thing you’ll never find in short supply. No matter where you are and where you need to be, there’s a way to get there. Public transportation is widely accessible in the Netherlands. If you prefer travelling by car, see our article about driving in the Netherlands.

Check in, check out – the OV Chip card

All of the public transportation systems in the Netherlands run on the OV chip card system. These can be purchased from a kiosk at most train stations in major cities. The ones you purchase from a kiosk are anonymous: they are not linked to you and they have no functions besides recording how far you’ve travelled and how much it cost.  

A personal OV Chip card can be requested via the website, or by asking for an application at a ticket seller. Personal OV cards offer some advantages, such as being able to add certain products to your card (i.e., OV-Fiets program, see below), viewing your travel history online, and automatically reloading your card so you’ll never need to find a machine and reload your card.  

No matter which one you choose, they work the same way: you swipe your card in front of the reader before you get on, and you swipe your card again when you get off. You must remember to check out – if you do not, then you may lose the entire sum that is on the card!

Getting there

The Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS) website provides travel advice and timetables for travelling by train, but if you find yourself obliged to use other forms of public transit, the 9292 website and app will provide a detailed itinerary to get you almost anywhere, including applicable walking directions. Google Maps also provides public transportation information, but it may not always be updated to reflect the latest schedule changes.

Trains

The NS runs the national train service, which connects most of the major cities. In addition to the NS, there are several smaller companies that service some of the branch lines, such as Veolia, Breng, and Arriva. If you are connecting from one train service to another, you will have to remember to check in and check out for each service; there are separate card readers for each company.

If have a subscription to the NS, you can get a 40% discount on the full ticket price during off-peak hours and weekends; subscriptions to the NS are currently €62 per year. Depending on your membership level different discounts may be available.

 Good to know:

The trains are divided into first class and second class (1 or 2 painted on the outside), and if you have a second class ticket you will not be allowed to sit in first class.

Buses

Buses in the Netherlands service one city, though most cities will have a line that connects nearby cities or small towns. Fares are calculated via the OV Chip system, although it is also possible to purchase a paper ticket from the driver.  If you decide to purchase a paper ticket, though, be aware that drivers only take cash and no large bills.

 Good to know:

Public transit for children under the age of 4 is free.

Bikes

Cycling in the Netherlands is one of the fastest ways to cover short distances; in some cases it can even be faster than a car, as a bike can usually take routes that a car cannot. Most train stations have a bike shop, where you pay a small fee to keep your bike safe.  These bike shops also have bikes to rent, for a day or a week at a time.  You will need to pay a security deposit, which will be returned when you return the bike.  

The OV-Fiets program allows holders of personal OV Chip cards to borrow a blue-and-yellow bike for an entire day. The fee is added to the cost of your OV membership. You can sign up for the OV-Fiets program on the website.  

If you do decide to purchase a bike, be aware that, while helmets are not mandatory, lights are.  After sundown, you must have a white light on the front of your bike and a red light on the back.  If you do not, you can be ticketed. 

 Useful links:

Holland.com - Transport in the Netherlands
GVB - Amsterdam
Connexxion
Hermes
Ferries in the Netherlands

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See also

Though Amsterdam is renowned for its cycling culture, there is more than one way of getting around, such as buses and trains.
European Union citizens are free to travel to the Netherlands without any restrictions whatsoever. But other foreigners have to fill in some formalities.
There are lots of leisure activities to keep you busy during your spare time in the Netherlands, from hiking through nature to practising sports.

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