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Traveling around the Netherlands can be quite frustrating to foreigners as there are so many modes of transportation. This article will discuss the best train tickets and public transit tickets for traveling in the Netherlands. I include recommendations for the best ticket to use within Amsterdam as well as the best ticket option for a day trip from Amsterdam with helpful information on how to purchase train and public transit tickets in the Netherlands.
- General information about public transit/trains in Holland
- Do you need to plan ahead?
- Public transit within Amsterdam
- Getting to/from Schiphol Airport
- Whether there’s a “best” unlimited train ticket within Holland
- What ticket to buy for day trips from Amsterdam
- Train tickets if you live in the Netherlands or have a longer visit*
I generally consider traveling in the Netherlands by public transit to be easy, clean-ish, and relatively safe. Still, you should keep an eye on your belongings, but I generally recommend Amsterdam for first-time solo female travelers as most people know English and street harassment is far less common than in other countries (e.g. France).
The Netherlands has quite a few forms of transit. You have the national train railway system, which is run by NS primarily, as well as public transit within individual regions. For instance, within Amsterdam, the public transit is run by an organization called GVB although the main public transit in the Hague is run by HTM. (Not to make it more confusing: Buses that head towards nearby towns are run by a separate organization…)
Do you need to plan ahead to take public transit in the Netherlands?
Not really. I’d definitely recommend checking the schedule as there can be work on the train tracks at night and on the weekend. You will need to buy a ticket before you get on the train unless you want a ticket. I recommend bringing a credit or debit card (preferably Maestro or Visa) with a chip as most of your payments will be by card for public transit and trains using a machine. If you plan to take the Thalys (to Paris or Brussels) or the Eurostar to London, I recommend booking your train ticket far in advance.
You don’t need to plan much to take the Dutch trains. You typically can buy your ticket at the machine prior to activating your ticket at the machine by tapping it next to the machine. You can purchase your ticket in advance, but it’s not necessary as there are non-assigned seats on the domestic trains. If you want to ensure that you get to sit, I recommend paying extra for first class. I recommend arriving 10 minutes before you want to catch a train to buy a ticket. Be sure to bring a card with a chip as you’ll likely buy your ticket from a machine.
For public transit in Amsterdam, you can buy your
You can check the train and public transit schedules using Google Maps and NS.nl. I generally prefer Google Maps as it actually updates more regularly, however you will want to pay attention to any potential transfer as you might be transferring from a train to a bus, which is a separate public transit system. The major Dutch train station for each city are usually called X City Centraal e.g. Amsterdam Centraal.
Public Transit within Amsterdam
If you’re staying solely within Amsterdam, you’ll want to look into the GVB unlimited pass for 24 hours (or more). This ticket works on Amsterdam trams, metros, and buses. Although you can buy individual tickets, it’s often cheap to buy an unlimited transport pass, which allows you to use the Amsterdam public transit for 24 hours (or more if you opt for a 48 or 7 day ticket). Amsterdam has very good public transit, which is great.
If you don’t get the GVB pass, you’ll need to pay individually for each ride on a bus, tram, or metro with the maximum amount (2019):
€ 3.20 for one hour. This adds up quite a bit. You can find a GVB machine within Amsterdam Centraal as well as Schiphol
Some of the buses included within the Amsterdam public transit pass go to nearby cities and tourist attractions, including Haarlem and Zaanse Schans for the famous windmills! Similarly, you can visit the beautiful Muiderslot castle by bus. That said, not all day trips from Amsterdam are accessible by bus, but I find that the GVB pass is a great option if you’re staying outside of generally walkable Amsterdam city center.
Public Transit with the iAmsterdam card*
If you’re considering the iAmsterdam card, it can be a great option if you are planning on visiting a lot of museums and plan on taking public transit. The
Getting to/from Schiphol Airport
When you first arrive at Schiphol Airport, you might find that the train from Schiphol Airport to Amsterdam Central is the clearest option in terms of signage. This is what I recommend to visitors. It’s often cheapest, fastest, and easiest to buy a one-way paper ticket (which will cost one euro extra). You can click for step-by-step guides on how to get from the Amsterdam city center to Schiphol and how to get from Schiphol to Amsterdam city center with helpful photos.
If you have the GVB pass, you can opt for the bus instead, which can take longer during peak traffic. I generally prefer the train, which is faster, but it’s an option to take the bus if you don’t want to spend extra.
Is there an unlimited train ticket for the Netherlands?
Yes, there is an “unlimited” train ticket valid on ALL the Dutch trains, but it costs 52 euros for the day (2019) and doesn’t work on public transit. The Netherlands is a small country and you can generally travel across the country by train within three hours if you wish.
If you want to travel around Holland by train, I generally recommend taking a day trip to your specific destination. It’s very easy to visit most day trip destinations in Holland (and beyond). You will pay around 20 euros round-trip to go to Delft or Utrecht or Hoorn although some destinations (Haarlem or Leiden) will be less expensive. (These are my favorite day trips from Amsterdam!)
It’s often easier to get a round-trip train ticket for the Netherlands if you are returning the same day, otherwise buy a one-way ticket at the machine. I recommend arriving maybe 10 minutes early to buy your ticket using a card at the machine. From here, you’ll need to activate your train ticket via tapping it on the gates. When you leave the station, you’ll want to tap out. If you forget to do this with a round-trip ticket, you can invalidate this by mistake!
For a step-by-step guide on how to buy tickets for a day trip to the Hague or another destination, you can click for an easy illustrated guide to how to buy train tickets for a day trip from Amsterdam. You can always do an organized tour if you’re not keen on organizing day trips out of Amsterdam yourself.
If you are in the Netherlands more than 1-2 weeks…
If you are staying in the Netherlands longer (2 weeks or more!), I’d recommend getting an anonymous OVchipkaart. Like the London Oyster, this is a reusable card that you can purchase for about 7.50 that can be loaded with value.
Instead of paying per ride, you’ll only pay per distance as long as you tap out when you leave public transit and trains. For trains, you’ll need to have twenty euros (or more) of value to get on the train per ride, which is not worth it for visitors. I’ve published a separate post intended for residents of the Netherlands with some cost-saving tips for finding cheaper train tickets.
Any questions about finding the best train or public transit ticket within the Netherlands?
- Three days in Amsterdam itinerary
- A week in Holland itinerary
- First-time tips for visiting Amsterdam by a local
- Secret Amsterdam
- Dutch food to try in the Netherlands
- Useful Dutch phrases
- How to get to Amsterdam from Schiphol Airport
- How to get to the tulip fields in the Netherlands independently
- The 20 best day trips from Amsterdam