The Netherlands has one of the most extensive road networks in the world, with well-maintained motorways (autosnelweg) and dual carriageways. All roads are toll-free and over a quarter have dedicated cycle tracks. Drivers will encounter a large number of cyclists on most roads, particularly in cities where bicycles significantly outnumber cars. With its large population and small size, you can expect heavy traffic congestion on Dutch roads, both in cities on and the motorway.
Cars drive on the right in the Netherlands. Speed limits on motorways are 130km/h (80mph), 100km/h (60 mph) on dual carriageways and 50km/h (30mph) in built-up areas. It is compulsory to carry a driving licence, car registration papers and insurance documents while driving. Drivers from an EU member state can use their European Driving Licence, those from outside the EU who intend to stay in the country must exchange their licence for a Dutch one at the Department of Public Service.
Taxis are widely available in the Netherlands, and are useful when the public transport system shuts down at night. Taxis can be hailed in the street, although beware that they are not permitted to stop where they like so it is better to find a designated taxi rank. Fares are calculated on a meter and the driver will give you a receipt at the end of your journey.
Buses and Coaches
The Netherlands has a well-organised bus network which offers a cheap way of getting around towns and cities. Most services run every 10-30 minutes. All public transport in the Netherlands, including buses, metro, trams and some trains is paid for using the OV-chipkaart swipecard system. There are two types of chipcard; ‘anonymous’, which anyone can buy from one of the OV-chipkaart machines situated in bus and train stations, or ‘personal’, which you can apply for online. You swipe your card in a machine on boarding and getting off public transport.
The Netherlands has an excellent rail network so coaches are often overlooked as a viable travel option. However, it is possible to travel cross-country by coach, which is a cheaper alternative to trains. You can also travel to and around the Netherlands from other European countries by coach, tickets can be booked through Eurolines.
The rail network in the Netherlands is well-developed and efficient, offering an affordable and convenient way to travel around this small country. Intercity and local trains (stoptreinen) run regularly, allowing passengers to easily reach any part of the country within a matter of hours. A high-speed rail service is available from Amsterdam, Schiphol, via The Hague and Rotterdam to Belgium and Paris, on the Thalys or TVG trains. All train tickets must be purchased prior to travelling, and most stations now accept the OV chipkaart (see above). You can check timetables and book online at Nederlandse Spoorwegen (Netherlands Railways)
Trams and light rail
Trams are popular in the Netherlands and are seen as an eco-friendly mode of transport. Tram systems are in operation in Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam and Utrecht and they run from 6am until around midnight. Amsterdam also has a mixed metro and light rail network, with three routes connecting Amsterdam Centraal station to the outer suburbs. Rotterdam also operates a metro system, consisting of two lines.
Amsterdam Schiphol International Airport is the Netherland’s main international airport. It is one of the busiest airports in the world in terms of passenger traffic, with connections worldwide. Eindhoven International Airport and Groningen Airport also provide European and domestic connections. The largest airline is KLM (Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij) which flies to 130 destinations around the world.
The Netherlands is a small country so there are only a couple of domestic airlines that provide internal connections, including KLM’s Cityhopper which connects Amsterdam, Eindhoven and Maastricht. However, most visitors choose to get around the country by train, coach or car.
Other ways to get around
Cycling is the transport of choice in the Netherlands, a country with more bicycles than residents. They say there is no happier cyclist than the Dutch cyclist, and this is probably true – the Netherlands has a vast network of wide cycle lanes, row upon row of bicycle parking facilities and flat roads, making it a cyclist’s paradise. Bike rental shops, such a Yellow Bike in Amsterdam, can be found in every village, town and city.
Another great way to see the country is to take advantage of the Netherland’s hundreds of canals and waterways by renting a boat, canoe or ‘water bike’ (pedalo). Regular ferries also connect Amsterdam, Rotterdam and the Hook of Holland with the UK.