If you really want to fit into the Dutch culture, you should highly consider buying a bike! It is defintely the cheapest and one of the best ways to get around and see the country. A brand new bicycle can be pretty pricey, so be sure to look at used bikes. A used bike can cost anywhere from €75 to €125 and can be found at second-hand bike shops, online, in the newspaper or at a market. Marktplaats.nl is a great online source where people sell their used bicycles. You will need to know a little Dutch to get around the website. A woman's bike is called a 'damesfiets' and a man's bike is called a 'herenfiets'.
Using the bus, tram, metro, and train is another easy way to get around. There are many different public transportation companies throughout the Netherlands so the transportation company that you may end up using will depend on the city you are residing in.
9292.nl is a user-friendly (in Dutch and English) website that lists the routes available, timetables, and ticket prices for your journey with any type of public transportation.
In the whole country, the so-called OV-chipkaart is used in buses, trams and trains. For trains, it is still possible to buy a single ticket with a chip in it. However, it is much easier and cheaper if you have a regular OV-chipkaart.
For a description of how to use the OV-chipkaart, please see the following links:
Dutch trains are on the whole comfortable, clean, timely, and frequent. Train travel is easy once you get the hang of reading the big yellow train schedules and the platform signs. You can also go to ns.nl, the website of the NS ("Nederlandse Spoorwegen," Dutch train company) for a route planner and information on arriving and departing trains. The NS was privatized several years ago.There are three different types of domestic trains, from fastest/fewest stops to slowest/most stops. They are the Intercity, the Sneltrein, and the Sprinter.
Train stations can be found in all cities and many towns, as well as at Schiphol Airport. Some of them are beautiful historic monuments and others modern transportation hubs. The bigger cities, such as Amsterdam and The Hague, have a central and several smaller stations. Most train stations are located near the center of the town or city. They contain some or all of the following facilities: schedule boards, a ticket office, ticket machines, date stamping machines (to stamp tickets purchased without a date on them), a flower shop, snack counters and/or restaurants, a small grocery store, a newspaper stand, indoor (paid) and outdoor bicycle racks, lockers, a taxi stand, and a bus station or stop.
Buying your ticket
Be sure that you are in possession of a valid train ticket before boarding a train, or have checked in with your OV-chipkaart. Penalties for traveling without a valid ticket or without having checked in with the OV-shipkaart can be severe.
Ticket Machines (Kaartautomaten)
If you have a debitcard or Dutch bank card (pinpas) you can buy your ticket using one of the machines placed throughout the station. The older ticket machines, with the list of cities on the front, are a little harder to use, so look for a newer machine with the alphabet on its left side. The text in these machines is in Dutch but by pressing a button on the touch screen at the start of the menu you can change it into English. They are fairly user-friendly.
Ticket offices are normally open every day of the week, although recent cutbacks have meant reduced hours for smaller stations. If you don't have a PINpas or an OV-chipcard you must buy your tickets from the ticket office. For a small surcharge, you can request that your ticket be printed in English. You can also ask for a printout that shows what platform (spoor) to go to and, if necessary, where you need to change trains. Note: Tickets costs an extra .50 Euro cents, per ticket, when purchasing them at the ticket counter.
Children up to and including 3 years old travel free and don't need a ticket. Children up to and including 11 years old can travel, accompanied by an adult, for €2.50. These tickets are called RailRunners. They can be purchased at ticket machines and offices. One adult with a ticket can take up to three children with a railrunner with them, for any additional children, tickets with a 40% discount need to be bought.
Some train stations have train taxis, so-called zone taxis. These are taxis that go to and from the train station to other locations within the city. You can find more information on this website: zonetaxi.
Train travel incentives
NS has several incentive deals, ranging from 40% discount or total discount in off-peak travel times, to not paying for tickets in the weekend, to always taking your kids without a ticket. Their deals can be found on their website www.ns.nl.
International Train Travel
Trains travel from the Netherlands directly to Germany, Belgium, France, and Switzerland, and indirectly all over Europe.
The Connexxion bus company provides transportation in and to almost every city, town and village in the Netherlands. There are also several smaller regional services from other companies, such as Arriva. Most bus stops (bushaltes) are identified by a small shelter, a bus schedule, and a route map.To figure out what bus to take you can use the Travel Planner (reisplanner) at 9292.nl.
The next trick is to know when you've arrived at the desired bus stop. Normally you push a button near your seat to indicate you want to get off at the next stop. Most city and regional buses have both a screen with upcoming stops and announce it via speakers what the next stop is. Most buses require that you get off using the rear door, and sometimes you need to press a button to open the door.
Trams exist in all of the big cities. If you don't know which one to take, please consult 9292.nl. When boarding a tram, go in the front or another approved entrance. Some doors are only for exiting passengers. Many trams have signs inside and/or announcements that indicate which stop is coming up, and you are supposed to press the stop sign if you want to get out at the next stop. You also sometimes have to press a button to open the door through which you want to leave.