NS, the national rail operator in The Netherlands, makes traversing the Dutch rail network a breeze, facilitating easy exploration of the country by train. With frequent services connecting an array of splendid stations, which often double as public transport hubs, venturing into the charming cities and towns of The Netherlands becomes a seamless experience.

Navigating ticketing for the national network is refreshingly straightforward. Moreover, possessing a rail pass grants the freedom to hop on and off trains, allowing for visits to multiple cities within a single day. In a country as compact as The Netherlands, one can effortlessly journey beyond Amsterdam and delve into the diverse offerings scattered across the land.

Curious about how the Dutch train system operates? Wondering if language barriers pose a challenge or if discounts are available? Drawing from my upbringing in The Netherlands and extensive experience riding the rails, I'm well-equipped to provide guidance on traveling by train in Holland.

Important Things To Know

Here are fifteen key points to keep in mind when traveling by rail in The Netherlands:

  • Train services generally follow fixed timetables, with many routes offering at least one train per hour, and often two.
  • Trains operating solely within The Netherlands do not typically have onboard catering facilities.
  • Seat reservations are not available for national train services within The Netherlands.
  • International train services, such as Eurostar to/from Belgium, London, and Paris, have different onboard experiences and ticket terms. Travel between Dutch stations is not possible on Eurostar trains.
  • Ticketing terms, including seat reservations, vary for international trains. NS International provides a dedicated booking service for journeys to and from The Netherlands.
  • Discounted tickets are not available for journeys within The Netherlands, and prices remain consistent even for last-minute purchases at stations.
  • There is a €0.50 service charge for ticket purchases made at ticket counters, but not for transactions at ticket machines.
    Long-distance train ticket prices in The Netherlands are solely based on the distance traveled, which is somewhat unique in Europe.
  • Regular NS departures are priced uniformly, meaning no premium charges for popular trains or peak travel times.
  • InterCity Direct services require a supplement for journeys on the 'high-speed' Schiphol-Rotterdam-Breda line, excluding Amsterdam-Schiphol Airport routes.
  • Children aged 4-11 require a 'Railrunner' ticket priced at €2.50, valid for the entire day.
  • Children aged 12 and over are charged at the adult rate for train travel.
  • Many major Dutch stations have long platforms divided into sections, with trains departing from specific sections (e.g., '8a' or '8b').
  • Amsterdam Zuid station, located south of the city center, serves as a significant hub for trains to and from Amsterdam, despite Amsterdam Centraal not being the primary rail hub.
  • Non-folding bikes are allowed on NS trains with the purchase of a day ticket, known as a 'Bicycle Card Dal'. Be aware that InterCity trains may share routes with stopping trains designated as 'Sprinter', which could lead to confusion when planning your journey. Opting for a later InterCity service may actually result in a quicker trip to your destination.

Guide To Travel

Here's a comprehensive guide to traveling on Dutch trains:

​​Overview

Dutch trains operated by NS prioritize functionality over luxury, with journey times typically under two hours, making it convenient for travelers.

​​Reservations and Rail Passes

Reservations are not available on national train services solely within The Netherlands, which is advantageous for rail pass users who enjoy flexibility to hop on and off trains.

​​Wi-Fi Availability

Wi-Fi is accessible on all express InterCity (IC) trains except for InterCity Direct services using the high-speed line. It's also available on newer trains for local Sprinter services and on international ICE and Thalys trains within The Netherlands.

Onboard Facilities

Trains operating solely within The Netherlands do not offer onboard catering facilities.

Door Opening Mechanism

Some Dutch trains have door-opening buttons located away from the door itself, which may require passengers to reach out to open them.

Timetable and Route Information

Train services typically adhere to fixed timetables, with InterCity (IC) trains running at least once per hour. Within the populous Randstad area, trains operate at least every 30 minutes on all routes.

Amsterdam Centraal vs. Amsterdam Zuid

While Amsterdam Centraal is not the primary rail hub, many trains to and from the city utilize Amsterdam Zuid station, located in the business district. Timetables accommodate connections to Amsterdam Centraal and other destinations.

Punctuality of Intercity Trains

InterCity trains are seldom more than 10 minutes late, ensuring reliability for passengers.

Choosing InterCity Trains for Long-Distance Travel

InterCity (IC) trains offer the fastest options for traveling between cities, although they may share routes with stopping trains, designated as Sprinter. Opting for InterCity trains can often result in quicker journeys.

InterCity Direct Services

InterCity Direct services necessitate a supplement for travel on the high-speed Schiphol-Rotterdam-Breda line. Despite their name, they may not always operate at high speeds, but supplements are required for certain routes.

Bicycle Transportation

Non-folding bikes require a day ticket known as a 'Bicycle Card Dal' for transportation on NS trains. However, restrictions apply during peak hours on weekdays. Advance booking of bike spaces is now possible, and designated bicycle storage areas are available on most trains.

Navigating Train Stations

Here are nine important things to know about navigating major stations in The Netherlands:

Departure Information

Unlike some other countries, Dutch main stations don't typically have large electronic departure boards. Instead, smaller TV-style screens scattered throughout the station display departures. Only trains leaving within the next 10-15 minutes may be shown at busy stations.

Information Display

Departure screens in the halls list the terminating station and principal stations the train will stop at (e.g., 'via Delft, Leiden').

Destination Display

Trains terminating at Amsterdam Centraal display 'Amsterdam Centraal', while trains passing through display 'Amsterdam C'.

Platform Information

Platform screens list all stations the train will call at, shown as scrolling text next to 'via'.

Departure Sheets

Instead of paper departure sheets listing all trains, each route has its own sheet. Main stations have multiple sheets, making it challenging to find subsequent trains if you're unfamiliar with the routes. Staff at info desks or ticket offices can assist.

Platform Layout

Large Dutch stations feature long platforms divided into sections (e.g., '8a', '8b'). Pay attention to avoid confusion.

Platform Crowds

Platforms aren't zoned for specific coaches due to the absence of reservations on domestic trains. However, crowds tend to gather around departure indicators. Move away from crowds to avoid the scramble to board busy trains.

Gate Access

Most Dutch stations are gated, requiring passage through barriers. Scanners read ticket barcodes for entry. There are two types of gates: those with clear glass scanners for specific journey tickets and rail passes.

Ticketless Entry

Gates can be opened using mobile phones linked to mobile bank accounts or OV-Chipkaarts. Be cautious, as using tickets stored on phones can result in a €20 deduction from the linked bank account. Understanding these nuances will help travelers navigate Dutch stations smoothly and efficiently.

Dutch Train Tickets

Here are five essential points to consider when dealing with Dutch train tickets:

​​Ticketing for Domestic Journeys

Discounted tickets are not available for travel within The Netherlands or on Regio trains to Germany. Tickets cost the same whether purchased online or at the station. Note that a €0.50 service charge applies for transactions at ticket counters.

NS Ticket Machines

NS ticket machines offer English translations but only accept cards and coins, not notes.

Ticket Offices for Connections

If your journey involves a train change, it's advisable to use a ticket office. Here, you can inquire about making connections and receive assistance.

Ticket Gates and Barcodes

Tickets issued by machines or ticket offices feature barcodes to open ticket gates for platform access. At stations served by international trains, manned barriers are available for assistance.

Identification Requirement

Always carry your passport, even for domestic journeys within The Netherlands. Ticket inspections on trains may require identification.

Using Travel Cards

  • OV-Chipkaarts: Dutch residents commonly use travel cards known as 'OV-Chipkaarts'. They can be used for trains, buses, trams, and metros and are also available for visitors.
  • Holland Travel Ticket: This one-day national travel pass covers all public transport, including trains, metro, trams, and buses. An off-peak version is available at a lower cost but excludes travel during morning peak hours.
  • Amsterdam Region Travel Ticket: This ticket offers unlimited travel by train between designated stations in Amsterdam and the surrounding region, as well as access to other modes of transport in Amsterdam.

Regarding child tickets:

  • ​Children aged 3 and under travel for free but must not occupy a seat.
  • Children aged 4 - 11 require Railrunner tickets, costing €2.50 per child, valid for the entire day.
  • Children aged 12 and over must travel at the adult rate.

For international travel:

  • ​Discounted tickets are available for international travel on ICE, Thalys, and IC trains to Belgium, France, and Germany.
  • NS operates a separate booking site, 'NS International', for these journeys.

Lastly, for travelers with Eurail or InterRail passes:

  • ​These passes allow unlimited travel between Dutch stations, including InterCity Direct and ICE trains.
  • Passes have barcodes for gate access; if they don't work, seek assistance at an NS reservation desk for a keycard.

Conclusion

In conclusion, train travel in the Netherlands offers a convenient and efficient way to explore the country and beyond. With frequent and punctual services, travelers can easily access major cities and towns, as well as international destinations. The Dutch rail network, operated by NS, provides functional amenities on board, including Wi-Fi on many trains, while major stations are well-equipped with information screens and ticketing facilities.

While discounted tickets are not available for domestic journeys, various travel options such as travel cards and day tickets cater to different needs and preferences. Child tickets and special passes ensure that families and tourists alike can enjoy smooth and affordable travel experiences. Overall, Dutch train travel is characterized by reliability, accessibility, and a commitment to passenger comfort, making it an excellent choice for both locals and visitors exploring the Netherlands.