Hi all! As I was planing my next vacation, searching on all kind of websites and forums about bus or train schedules I thought why not write about how to travel without a car in the countries I’ve visited or I will visit. I don’t have a driving license and God knows this is not actually a bad thing. The same applies to my partner – my only travel partner. And since The Netherlands is our home country at this moment I will start with it.
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. And because due to many reasons we would like while visiting a country not to stick to only one city we need, for sure, more information in advance.
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 visit 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 trains in the South, especially Limburg (Maastricht), but since I am using NS also for my daily commute I will stick to it. 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. For example, Blokker will have a promotion starting on 9th of January and they can be bought only from the store itself. 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, for example, at this moment you can buy with 19e a day return trip, where the start and end destination are set in the moment you buy the ticket. The issue is that this is available only if you can pay with iDEAL (which is more or less a Dutch bank product).
- From time to time it happens for the train to have delay, 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 will not leave anymore. But you are somehow lucky, since the country in truly small and the trains have a good schedule.
- In case you live in The Netherlands here are some tips related with the products you can buy and which can assure cheap travels around the country.
- 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. Or you can catch a wonderful sunset, like I did this evening on my way home:
Buses: If for the 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 (I used them to travel to Germany many times).
- Schedules: Thanks God to 9292 which 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, I am interested to travel from Haarlem to Oudewater and I know that I need to take bus 107, after searching on 9292. After that I’ve searched “lijn 107 Oudewater” and this came up, a website I usually use when I need to travel with a non-Connexxion bus. 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.
And because we are in The Netherlands we also have…
Water-bus: I saw and used them especially in the 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 same Ov Chipkaart I was saying previously. You can even take the boat only for a nice trip on the water.
I am a big fan of the Dutch public transport so I hope this info will help you and do let me know in case of any questions. Safe trip and enjoy the Dutch style!