Welcome to the guide on how to save money, time and confusion when travelling in and from/to The Netherlands by train.
NS is the national rail operator in The Netherlands and how it operates the rail network makes exploring The Netherlands by train comparatively simple.
Frequent trains link often spectacular stations, which are public transport hubs for the delightful cities and towns that they serve.
Ticketing for the national network is also comparatively straightforward and if you have a rail pass, you can use it to hop on and off trains to see multiple cities in a single day.
National rail operator NS has resumed its timetable though it's worth taking a look at the corona travel advice pages.
Particularly of note are that face coverings are no longer mandatory when travelling by train.
All long-distance international trains from and to The Netherlands have now resumed.
The general info and advice for travel by international trains is available on the NS International website.
Thalys which operates the high speed trains on the Amsterdam - Rotterdam - Bruxelles - Paris route has also published travel advice.
Dutch trains operated by NS are functional rather than fabulous, but with journey times rarely exceeding two hours, this isn’t a problem.
It's also why reservations are NOT available on national train services that operate wholly in The Netherlands; a plus for rail pass users.
Wi-fi is available on all express InterCity (IC) trains, except for the for the InterCity Direct services which use the high speed line.
It's also available on the newer trains used for the local Sprinter services.
You can also access Wi-fi on the international ICE and Thalys services in The Netherlands.
On the trains operated by NS catering facilities are only available on some of the major InterCity services.
A range of hot and cold drinks as well as snacks will be available from a trolley that will be pushed through the train,
The routes on which these service can be available are shown in this page (though the page is in Dutch, the routes are listed under 'NS Reizigers').
Something to watch out for is that on the outside of some Dutch trains, the button that opens the door can be an arm’s length from the door itself.
Train services tend to operate to a fixed timetable (departing at the same minutes of each hour) with all IC train routes operating at a minimum of 1 x train per hour
Within the most populous Randstad area (the area around Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam and Utrecht) trains services operate at least every 30 mins on all routes.
Something to be aware of is that Amsterdam Centraal/Amsterdam C station isn’t the hub of the Dutch rail network.
Instead many trains to and from the city use Amsterdam Zuid station, which is located to the south of the tourist heart of the city, in the business district.
As a result from some locations a change of train is required when travelling to Amsterdam C station, but these and other connections are built into the timetable.
Intercity trains are very rarely more than 10 mins late.
When travelling between cities, the fastest options are the InterCity (IC) trains, so it’s worth looking out for these.
Particularly in North and South Holland the faster InterCity trains share routes with stopping trains, but these stopping trains are somewhat confusingly designated Sprinter.
So avoid hopping on a 'Sprinter' because it is the next train to leave.
It's likely that a later InterCity service will actually get you to your destination quicker.
The Dutch national rail operator NS, uses a generic ‘InterCity’ branding for its express trains that skip stations.
There are multiple types of trains that NS uses on its Intercity services and specific types of train are usually allocated to each route.
Hence some routes are served by the iconic double deck trains, while others have the single deck trains
Some longer distance InterCity trains can skip stations that other InterCity services, on shorter routes, call at.
While on the sections of the longer InterCity routes furthest from Amsterdam and Rotterdam, some InterCity services call at virtually all stations and in effect become the local trains.
The InterCity Direct services are exceptional because they require a supplement to be paid to travel by them, because the travel on the 'high-speed' Schiphol - Rotterdam - Breada line.
Despite these trains not actually travelling at high-speed (regular trains are currently used), a supplement of up to €2.40 is now charged in both 1st and 2nd class for journeys which involve travelling between Schiphol and Rotterdam, so that includes:
When buying a ticket for a journey by these trains, the best option is to buy an ordinary ticket for the journey.
You then have to pay for the supplement on the red 'supplement' pole which you will find on the platforms/tracks (spors) which these trains use.
The reason for using this method is if you don't travel in business hours, the price charged by these supplement machines will be reduced by €1.
If you will be travelling with a Chipkart, you need tap it against these poles (machines) prior to boarding.
NON-FOLDING bikes can only be taken on NS trains if you purchase a day ticket for bikes also known as a 'Bicycle Card Dal'.
But there are exceptions, in particular on Mon-Friday you cannot take non-folding bikes on any train between 06:30 - 09:00 and between 16:00 - 18:30.
Bike spaces can now be booked in advance of travel.
Virtually all NS trains have specific bicycle storage areas, look for the symbols on the outside of the train.
You must use these when taking a bike on board; more info is available HERE
There are seven international DAYTIME train services from and to The Netherlands:
1: Thalys trains operate on these routes:
Seat reservations are mandatory on these trains - the reservations are automatically included on tickets booked online or at stations.
2: InterCity Brussels trains operate on these routes:
Note that these trains call at Bruxelles Nord and Bruxelles Central, but the Thalys trains skip these stations.
3: German ICE3 trains operate on these routes:
5: German Regional trains operate on these routes:
This service runs twice a day and only call at Bruxelles-Midi/Brussels South on route to The Netherlands.
On the return leg (from Amsterdam and Rotterdam to London) a direct service is now also available.
7: Thalys also offers a winter only service from Amsterdam, Schiphol and Rotterdam to Bourg St Maurice in the French Alps.
For many years the only overnight train service from The Netherlands was the Alpen Express.
which connects these Dutch cities - Amsterdam, Den Bosch, Den Haag, Eindhoven, Haarlem, Leiden, Utrecht and Venlo and multiple Austrian ski resorts - with an outward journey to Austria on Fridays between December 20th and March 13th and a return on Saturdays between December 21st and March 14th.
But now there are Nightjet services on three routes from Amsterdam via Utrecht and Arnhem
Eight things which are good to know about the larger Dutch stations:
1: The main stations in The Netherlands do not have the type of large electronic departure boards that can be typically found on the main concourse in other countries.
Instead departures are listed solely on the smaller TV style screens that will be located around the station.
However, at busy stations only the trains departing within the next 10-15 minutes may be shown.
2: These information screens in the departure halls only show the terminating station AND the principle stations that the train will be calling at (‘via Delft, Leiden’ etc).
3: On all departure information screens, if a train is terminating at Amsterdam Centraal (the city’s main station) ‘Amsterdam Centraal’ is displayed.
However, if a train is calling at Amsterdam Centraal on route to somewhere else, then ‘Amsterdam C’ is displayed.
4: The main info screens on the platforms/tracks (sporen) which show the next train to depart DO list all the stations that a train will be calling at.
It will be shown as scrolling text next to 'via'.
5: Dutch stations also don’t have paper departure sheets that list all trains consecutively.
Instead each route has its own dedicated departure sheet, the station that you will be travelling to, will be listed on one of these sheets.
However, the main stations therefore have multiple departure sheets, as they have multiple routes passing through them.
So if you’re not familiar with the routes, finding your station on these sheets, to discover the times of subsequent trains can be tricky, but staff at the info/reservation desk or ticket office will be able to help.
6: Most of the larger Dutch stations have long platforms/tracks (sporen) which are divided into sections (not zones)
Trains tend to depart from a specific section of the spoor/track/platform - ‘8a’ or ‘8b’ etc.
If you are new to Dutch train travel, make sure you don't mix them up.
7 The platforms/tracks/sporen on Dutch station platforms usually aren't zoned in terms of wait in Zone A for coaches 1 to 3 etc.
That's because with reservations not possible on domestic train services, there's little point in directing travellers to wait in specific areas on a spoor/platform.
However, as a result people tend to gather around the entrance points to a spoor/platform, particularly around the departure indicators.
So a tip is to move away from the crowds; as reservations aren't possible on NS trains, there can be a scramble to board particularly busy trains.
But avoid straying too far, because a quirk of IC trains is that most are formed of 8 -12 carriages/coaches, but some have only 4.
And when 4 coach trains are used, a dash along the platform/spoor in order to board the train is often inevitable.
At the stations used by international trains there are now zones, but this zone info is typically only used for the international trains; the Eurostar, ICE, Thalys,, IC to Germany and Nightjets, as these trains have numbered coaches.
So you can use the zone info to locate a specific coach in which a reserved seat or bed is located, as this zone info is used on the departure screens for these trains.
8: Virtually all Dutch stations are gated meaning that you have to pass through a gate/barrier to access the platforms/sporen.
The gates are opened by scanners that read barcodes on the ticket, you don’t insert tickets.
What isn’t obvious is that there are two types of gates.
If you have purchased a ticket for a specific journey, from a machine or ticket office, or will be using a rail pass, then use the ticket gates that have clear glass scanners, through which you can see a red light.
Five Things That Are Good to Know about Dutch train tickets:
1: Discounted tickets are not available for journeys WITHIN The Netherlands; neither are they available on the Regio trains to Germany.
Therefore there is no need to book tickets for domestic journeys solely within The Netherlands online, they will cost the same if booked at the station.
Though if you use a ticket counter you will have to pay a €0.50 service charge.
2: NS ticket machines have excellent English translations, but they only accept cards and coins, not notes.
3: If you will be buying a ticket for a journey that requires a change of train, then it’s a good idea to use a ticket office.
You can then enquire about how to make the connection at the station, where you will have to change.
4: The tickets issued by the machines, or a ticket office, have barcodes that will open the ticket gates that allow access to the platforms.
Stations used by international trains also have manned barriers; in case you need assistance in passing through the barrier.
5: Have your passport with you, even when making journeys solely within The Netherlands.
If a ticket inspection is carried out on the train you may be asked for an I.D. document.
The majority of Dutch people use travel cards instead of buying tickets.
Known as 'OV-Chipkaarts' they're sold online by NS online here or at stations and can be used by visitors.
They can be used on the bus, tram and metro as well as the trains!
Buy a monthly 'Weekend Free' card for only €33 and you can travel anywhere in The Netherlands on Saturdays and Sundays - and during the week you can obtain a 40% discount on tickets IF you avoid travelling at rush hours.
For children aged 3 and under there is free travel, but the child must not occupy a seat to themselves.
For children aged 4 - 11:
You need to purchase 'Railrunner' tickets for children in this age group, but they cost only €2.50 per child and 'Railrunners' are valid for the whole day.
So you don't need to buy separate 'Railrunner' tickets for each journey.
Children aged 12 and over have to travel at the adult rate.
In contrast to tickets for journeys WITHIN The Netherlands, discounted tickets are placed on sale for international travel on ICE, Thalys and the IC trains to Belgium, France and Germany.
This is why NS operates a separate booking site 'NS International' for these journeys (amongst others).
If you will be using Eurail or InterRail passes valid for travel in The Netherlands, you can hop on any train between Dutch stations, including the InterCity Direct and ICE trains.
Eurail and InterRail passes have barcodes printed on them that in theory will open the ticket gates at stations.
If they don’t do so, go to a NS reservation desk and they’ll issue you with a keycard that has a barcode printed on it.
Avoid booking reservations for international trains with mandatory reservations at Dutch stations if possible - as a booking fee will be charged per reservation.
NS International does not sell these RAIL PASS reservations online.
The info will help you have an easier journey;
This is one of more than 150 train guides available on ShowMeTheJourney, which will make it easier to take the train journeys you want or need to make. As always, all images were captured on trips taken by ShowMeTheJourney.