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Getting to Netherlands (Holland)
Schiphol Airport, near Amsterdam, is a European hub, and after London, Paris, and Frankfurt the largest of Europe. It is by far the biggest international airport in the country, and a point of interest in itself, being 4 metres below mean sea level (the name actually translates as Hollow of Ships). Travellers can easily fly in from most places of the world and then connect with The Netherlands' biggest airline KLM .
From Schiphol there are excellent railway connections: Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht and most large cities have a direct train service. The train station at Schiphol is located underground, under the main airport hall. The train is the quickest and cheapest way to get around in the Netherlands. Taxis are expensive: legal taxis have blue number plates, others should be avoided. Some hotels in Amsterdam, and around the airport, have a shuttle bus service.
Some budget airlines also fly to the Netherlands. Jet2.com , Easyjet and other low-cost carriers serve Schiphol, providing a fairly economical way to city-hop to Amsterdam from other spots in Europe. Especially flying to/from the British Isles and the Mediterranian countries can be relatively cheap. It's important that you book as early as possible, as prices tend to get higher closer to departure.
Other international airports are Eindhoven Airport , Maastricht/Aachen Airport , Rotterdam Airport , and Groningen-Eelde Airport . These smaller airports are mainly attended by low-cost airlines. Eindhoven Airport and Maastricht/Aachen Airport are mostly used by Ryanair, while Rotterdam Airport is dominated by Transavia. Trains or a direct bus connection (in the case of Eindhoven Airport) are the best way to get to Amsterdam or any other town.
It is also possible to come to the Netherlands via airports lying in surrounding countries. Much-used airports are Dusseldorf Airport and Brussels Zaventem Airport .
From France and Belgium
The Thalys high-speed train , which connects the Netherlands with France and Belgium, is a bit expensive, but if you book a return in advance or if you're under 26 or over 60 you can get good deals. It is also faster, normally cheaper and more convenient than flying.
Between Maastricht and Brussels runs a new hourly intercity service called the Maastricht Brussel Express , which also stops at Liege. Maastricht-Liege takes around 30 minutes, Maastricht-Brussels takes about 1? hours. Tickets can be bought at the stations or on-line on Express' website.
The ICE high-speed train, runs from Frankfurt to Amsterdam, via Cologne, Dusseldorf, Arnhem, and Utrecht.
Eurolines is the main 'operator' for international coaches to the Netherlands. (In fact the name Eurolines is a common brand-name used by different operators). Services are limited: only a few main routes have a daily service, eg.from Poland, London, Milan, Brussels and Paris. But this is the cheapest way to travel and you get discount if your age is less than 26.
Due to the Bosnian war in the 1990'ies there are bus companies serving the Bosnian diaspora, which provide a cheap and clean way of getting to the other side of the European continent. Semi tours runs several times per week from various destinations in Bosnia and Hercegovina to Belgium and the Netherlands, Off-season approx 159ˆ for a return ticket.
The Netherlands has good road and ferry links to Belgium, Great Britain and Germany. The country has a dense, well-maintained trunk-road network. Borders are open under the terms of the Schengen Agreement. Cars may be stopped at the border for random checks, but this rarely happens. There are car ferry services from the United Kingdom, see below. As the UK is not part of the Schengen zone, full border checks apply.
Driving in The Netherlands
Road rules, markings and signs are similar to other European countries but have some particularities:
- At unmarked intersections traffic coming from the right ALWAYS has priority. Traffic includes bicycles, horses, horse-drawn carts (recreational use and fairly uncommon), electric wheelchairs, small mopeds and motorised bicycles.
- Cycle paths are clearly marked and are widespread throughout the country.
- On motorways, on and off-ramps (slip-roads) are usually long and allow for smooth merging however do note that as of 2009 returning onto the motorway from an off-ramp lane is illegal thus requiring advanced planing when you drive. Passing on the right and needless use (other than for passing) of the inside lane(s) is prohibited. (passing on the right is permitted only in congested traffic)
Urban driving: Urban driving in the Netherlands is considered by many tourists and locals alike to be an exasperating, time consuming and expensive experience. City roads are narrow, riddled with speed bumps, chicanes and a large variety of street furniture (with knee-high, asphalt-coloured anti-parking poles being probably the most dangerous threat to paintwork as they tend to either blend into the background or be beneath the driver's view)
Other hazards are:
- Pedestrians protruding on the road or crossing in dangerous and not-permitted areas.
- Cyclists and moped riders generally tend not to adhere to the rules or traffic lights so preventive driving is crucial.
- Narrow bridges.
Parking: Parking in city centres can be expensive. Particularly in Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam street parking is sometimes limited to only a few hours and prices range between 3 and 6 Euros per hour. Generally underground car-parks cost between 4 and 6 Euros per hour and may be by far the best choice for practical and safety reasons.
More information, timetables and ticket prices for the North Sea ferries is available at Ferries To Amsterdam. Dutchflyer >is a combination ticket that includes the trainride from anywhere on the National Express East Anglia network to Harwich, the ferry, and the trainride from Hook of Holland to anywhere on the NS (dutch railways) network. Rotterdam is also the second largest port in the world, and (in theory) a good place for Freighter travel.
The Netherlands has a fine-grained, well-organized public transport system. Virtually any village can be reached by public transport. The Dutch public transport system consists of a train network which serves as backbone, extended with a network of both local and interlocal busses.
The country is densely populated and urbanised, and train services are frequent. There are two main types of trains: Intercity trains, and trains which stop at all stations (previously called 'Stoptrein'). (The Intercity is not as fast as 'Intercity' services in some other countries, and it stops more often). Both types of train have the same prices. Travelling all the way from the north of the country (Groningen) to the south (Maastricht) takes about 4.5 hours.
Most lines offer one train every 30 minutes; only some rural lines run every 60 minutes. Where more lines run together, the frequency is of course higher. In the western Netherlands, the rail network is more like a large urban network, with up to 12 trains per hour on main routes.
The Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS) operates most routes. Some local lines are operated by Syntus, Arriva, Veolia and Connexxion.
Because of the high service frequency, delays are quite common. However, the delay is usually not more than 5 or 10 minutes. Note though that the NS boasts a punctuality of 80-85% (meaning that percentage of trains departs/arrives within 3 minutes of the scheduled time), which could be higher than you're used to. Trains can be crowded during the rush hour, especially in the morning, but you should nearly always be able to find a seat. Reserving seats on domestic trains is not possible.
There is a convenient night train service (for party-goers and airport traffic) between Rotterdam, Delft, Den Haag, Leiden, Schiphol, Amsterdam, and Utrecht, all night long, once an hour in each direction. There is a direct and hourly night train service on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights between Rotterdam and Utrecht. In the nights Friday onto Saturday and Saturday onto Sunday, North-Brabant is also served. You can get to Dordrecht,'s-Hertogenbosch, Eindhoven, Tilburg, and Breda.
Tickets are available between all stations, NS and non-NS, and there is only one national tariff system. Tickets are valid on both sprinter and intercity services; there is no difference in price. The most used tickets are the single ( enkele reis ) and return tickets ( retour ). The latter are 1.67 times the price of a single (or a single is 60% of the return price) and are valid only for return on the day itself, or in case of the weekendretour (same price as a normal return) between Friday 19:00 and Monday morning 4:00. Tickets are valid in any train on the route (as opposed to being valid in only one fixed train). It is allowed to pause the travel at any station on the route (even on stations on the route where you don't have to change). Like in many countries, there is a difference between first and second class. A second class ticket is 60% of the price of a first class ticket. The main advantage of first class is that it's less crowded, also seats and aisles are generally wider. For children 4-11 years accompanied by adults, a Railrunner ticket can be bought for ˆ2.
Tickets cannot be purchased cheaper in advance like in some countries. The ticket price is uniform and depends on distance. Note that you can buy a ticket without a date in advance, which has to be validated when entering the platform, but this doesn't make the ticket cheaper, it's just for convenience. If you have a ticket without a date printed on it, do not forget to validate it by putting it in the small yellow boxes which are usually located at the platform entrance.