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Trains meet tram at Den Haag Centraal

Netherlands by train

Welcome to the guide on how to save money, time and confusion when travelling in and from/to The Netherlands by train.

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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.

Temporary Covid 19 changes:

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.

A double deck InterCity train A double deck InterCity train
Beautifully restored Den Haag HS station Beautifully restored Den Haag HS station
From the high speed line between Rotterdam and Amsterdam From the high speed line between Rotterdam and Amsterdam
Sprinter and IC services await departure Sprinter and IC services await departure

Travelling on Dutch trains:

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.

The timetable:

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.

Going long-distance:

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:

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:

  • Amsterdam ↔ Rotterdam
  • Amsterdam ↔ Breda
  • Schiphol ↔ Breda
  • Schiphol ↔ Rotterdam

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.

Taking bicycles:

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

Notes on the international trains:

There are seven international DAYTIME train services from and to The Netherlands:

1: Thalys trains operate on these routes:

  • Amsterdam – Schiphol – Rotterdam – Antwerpen – Bruxelles Midi – Paris gare du Nord
  • Amsterdam – Schiphol – Rotterdam – Antwerpen – Bruxelles Midi – Paris Aeroport CDG - Marne la Vallée for Disneyland Paris (temporarily suspended).
  • Amsterdam – Schiphol – Rotterdam – Lyon – Marseille (summer only)

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:

  • Amsterdam – Schiphol – Rotterdam – Breda – Antwerpen – Bruxelles Airport – Bruxelles Nord – Bruxelles Central – Bruxelles Midi
  • Den Haag/The Hague (HS) – Rotterdam – Breda – Antwerpen – Bruxelles Airport – Bruxelles Nord – Bruxelles Central – Bruxelles Midi

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:

  • Amsterdam – Utrecht – Arnhem – Oberhausen – Duisburg – Dusseldorf – Koln/Cologne – Frankfurt Flughhafen/Airport – Frankfurt (Main)
  • Amsterdam – Utrecht – Arnhem – Oberhausen – Duisburg – Dusseldorf – Koln/Cologne – Frankfurt Flughhafen/Airport – Mannheim – Karlsruhe - Offenburg – Freiburg – Basel (1 x train per day)

4: German IC trains, which NS brands as 'Intercity Berlijn' operate on this route:
Amsterdam – Amersfoort – Deventer – Bad Bentheim – Rheine – Osnabruck – Hannover – Wolfsburg – Berlin

5: German Regional trains operate on these routes:

  • Venlo – Monchengladbach – Dusseldorf – Wuppertal - Hamm
  • Arnhem - Emmerich - Oberhausen - Duisburg – Dusseldorf.

6: Eurostar also offer a direct service from London St. Pancras to Rotterdam and to Amsterdam.

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.

New overnight services:

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

  1. to Munich/Munchen and Innsbruck
  2. Linz and Wien/Vienna
  3. to Basel and Zurich.
The ICEs used on some services to Germany The ICEs used on some services to Germany
The double deck IC trains The double deck IC trains
A Thalys train heading to Belgium and Paris Thalys train heading to Belgium and Paris
The single deck IC trains The single deck IC trains

Using major stations in The Netherlands

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.

The train departure info at a Dutch station

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.

The train departure posters at a Dutch station

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.

Den Haag Centraal Den Haag Centraal
Haarlem Centraal Haarlem Centraal
Arnhem Centraal Arnhem Centraal
Rotterdam Centraal Rotterdam Centraal

Notes on the ticketing:

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.

Using travel cards instead of tickets:

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.

Child tickets:

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.

International tickets:

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).

Using rail passes:

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.

International rail routes from The Netherlands:

Trains from and to Holland

The Netherlands has recently been reconnected to the European overnight train network thanks to new service which connects Amsterdam with both Vienna/Wien and Zurich.
The number of local cross-border routes with Germany has also increased, so travelling to and from The Netherlands by train has never been easier.

to Belgium (and France & Great Britain)

Most of the trains from The Netherlands to Belgium and beyond take one of three routes.

the high speed line:

Three train services currently travel on the high speed line from Belgium to The Netherlands.

(1) Up to 14 x Thalys trains per day take this route: Amsterdam - Schiphol Airport - Rotterdam - Antwerpen Central - Bruxelles-MidiParis
These are the only direct trains from The Netherlands to Paris, but if you will be heading to destinations to the south of the French capital, it can be worth connecting into the TGV trains on from Bruxelles-Midi to other French cities.
By taking them you can then avoid having to make a cross-Paris transfer between stations.

(2) 2 x Thalys trains per day take this route: Amsterdam - Schiphol Airport - Rotterdam - Antwerpen Central - Bruxelles-Midi - Paris CDG Aeroport - Marne la Vallée for Disneyland Paris.
These services are still suspended.
In the winter months there are also ‘Thalys Niege’ services which are direct from Amsterdam and Rotterdam to Bourg St-Maurice and in the summer there are ‘Thalys Du Soliel services direct to Marseille via Avignon.

(3) InterCity-Direct trains also take the high speed line, but they don’t travel at high speed.
These trains operate hourly on this route: Rotterdam - Breda* - Antwerpen Central - Antwerpen Berchem – Mechelen - Bruxelles Aeroport - Bruxelles Nord - Bruxelles-Central - Bruxelles-Midi.
Three of these trains per day commence their journeys at Den Haag HS, but the rest of these trains travel from Amsterdam via Schiphol.

Connect in Antwerpen for trains to Gent/Ghent; it can also be quicker to travel to Brugge/Bruge via Gent, but for destinations in eastern and southern Belgium (and Luxembourg) the best option is to make a connection in Bruxelles.

*=Connections are available in Breda from trains that have travelled from Arnhem via Den Bosch and Nijmegen.
These InterCity-Bruxelles trains no longer travel via Roosendaal and Dordrecht.

There also direct Eurostar services from Amsterdam to London which take this route and then travel through Bruxelles and on to the high speed lines which leads to The Channel Tunnel

Roosendaal > Essen:

Trains still use the older line between Belgium and The Netherlands, they depart hourly from Roosendaal* and travel over the border via Essen on to Antwerpen Centraal.

*Roosendaal is served by Dutch IC trains from Amsterdam, which make calls in Leiden, Delft and Dordrecht, as well as trains from Vlissingen via Middledburg.

via Vise:

Hourly local trains depart from Maastricht and head to Liege.
Maastricht is served by Dutch IC trains from Amsterdam, which travel via Utrecht, Den Bosch and Eindhoven.

to Germany (and Austria & Switzerland)

Trains from The Netherlands to Germany take one of five routes.

via Emmerich:

Four train services now take the main railway line from The Netherlands to Germany.

(1) The ICE trains on these two routes:

  • Amsterdam-Central – Utrecht* – Arnhem - Oberhausen – Duisburg – Dusseldorf - Koln/Cologne – Seigburg/Bonn – Frankfurt Airport/Flughafen – Frankfurt (Main) (6 or 7 trains per day)> Connections are available in Frankfurt (Main) on to multiple other destinations including, Dresden, Linz, Munchen/Munich, Nurnberg, Stuttgart and Wien/Vienna.

  • Amsterdam-Central – Utrecht* – Arnhem - Oberhausen – Duisburg – Dusseldorf - Koln/Cologne – Seigburg/Bonn – Frankfurt Airport/Flughafen - Mannheim – Kalrsruhe - Freiburg – Basel Bad - Basel SBB (1 x train per day) . This is the only direct daytime train from The Netherlands to Switzerland
    *=There are frequent trains from Rotterdam to Utrecht.

(2) Hourly Regio trains which take an Arnhem – Emmerich - Oberhausen – Duisburg – Dusseldorf route.

(3) The new Nightjet service from Amsterdam to Vienna/Wien via Linz, which departs every evening and also calls at Utrecht, Arnhem and Linz.

(4) The new Nightjet service from Amsterdam to Basel and Zurich, which also calls in Utrecht and Amsterdam.

via Bad Bentheim:

Every two hours during the day Intercity-Berlijn trains take this route:
Amsterdam-Central - Hilversum - Amersfoort – Deventer - Hengelo - Bad Bentheim - Rheine – Osnabruck* – Hannover - Wolfsburg – Berlin.
*Connect in Osnabruck for trains to Hamburg via Bremen.

Hourly Regio trains now also cross this border on this route; Hengelo > Bad Bentheim > Rheine > Osnabruck > Bielefeld.
Hengelo is served by hourly Dutch IC trains on these routes;

  • Schiphol – Amsterdam Zuid - Hilversum* - Amersfoort – Deventer - Hengelo
  • Den Haag/The Hague – Gouda – Utrecht – Amersfoort* – Deventer - Hengelo
    *If you will be travelling from Amsterdam Centraal, you can make connections into these trains at these stations.

via Gronau:

Hourly local trains from Enschede cross the border and travel to Dortmund.

Connections are available in Enschende from hourly Dutch IC trains on these routes:

  • Schiphol – Amsterdam Zuid - Hilversum - Amersfoort – Deventer – Hengelo - Enschede
  • Den Haag/The Hague – Gouda – Utrecht - Amersfoort – Deventer - Hengelo - Enschede

*If you will be travelling from Amsterdam Centraal, you can make connections into these trains at these stations.

Venlo > Monchengladbach:

The only regular train services which make this border crossing are the hourly daytime Regio trains operate on this route; Venlo - Monchengladbach – Neuss - Dusseldorf - Wuppertal - Hagen - Hamm (West).

Connecting Dutch IC trains operate hourly on this route; Amsterdam Centraal – Utrecht - Den Bosch – Eindhoven* – Venlo.
*= Dutch IC trains operate on this route Den Haag – Rotterdam – Breda - Eindhoven.

On Fridays only between December 19th and March 12th, the Alpen Express also takes this route - this overnight train connects these Dutch cities - Amsterdam, Den Bosch, Den Haag, Eindhoven, Haarlem, Leiden, Utrecht and Venlo with multiple Austrian ski resorts

via Bad Nieuweschans:

Trains take this route from Groningen to Leer, which has hourly trains to a swathe of German towns and cities including Bremen, Duisburg, Dusseldorf, Hannover, Koln/Cologne and Oldenburg.

Journeys

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Journeys from

Journeys to

Amsterdam

Journeys from Amsterdam
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Amsterdam to Antwerpen / Antwerp / Anvers by train
Amsterdam to Basel / Bâle by train
Amsterdam to Berlin by train
Amsterdam to Breda by train
Amsterdam to Brugge / Bruges by train
Amsterdam to Bruxelles / Brussels by train
Amsterdam to Delft by train
Amsterdam to Den Haag / The Hague by train
Amsterdam to Düsseldorf / Dusseldorf by train
Amsterdam to Eindhoven by train
Amsterdam to Frankfurt by train
Amsterdam to Gouda by train
Amsterdam to Groningen by train
Amsterdam to Haarlem by train
Amsterdam to Hamburg by train
Amsterdam to Hannover by train
Amsterdam to Hoorn by train
Amsterdam to Köln / Cologne / Koeln by train
Amsterdam to København / Copenhagen by train
Amsterdam to Leiden by train
Amsterdam to London by train
Amsterdam to Lyon by train
Amsterdam to Maastricht by train
Amsterdam to Marseille by train
Amsterdam to München / Munich by train
Amsterdam to Nijmegen by train
Amsterdam to Paris by train
Amsterdam to Praha / Prague / Prag by train
Amsterdam to Rotterdam by train
Amsterdam to Utrecht by train
Amsterdam to Wien / Vienna by train
Amsterdam to Zürich / Zurich by train
Amsterdam to Zurich by train
Journeys to Amsterdam
Jump to cities
Berlin to Amsterdam by train
Bruxelles / Brussels to Amsterdam by train
Frankfurt to Amsterdam by train
Innsbruck to Amsterdam by train
Köln / Cologne / Koeln to Amsterdam by train
London to Amsterdam by train
München / Munich to Amsterdam by train
Paris to Amsterdam by train
Wien / Vienna to Amsterdam by train
Zurich to Amsterdam by train
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