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The Netherlands (Holland) - Public Transport

Air Travel

The Netherlands’ main international airport, Schipol, which is close to Amsterdam and situated 4 metres below sea level, is also the fourth busiest in Europe in terms of passenger numbers and commercial and freight traffic. In the first three months of 2007, almost 10 million passengers passed through this airport, while 374,000 tonnes of freight were handled. Schipol Airport and the Netherlands’ main seaport at Rotterdam are major European transport hubs and very important major contributors to the Dutch economy. Schipol is the home of the national Dutch carrier, KLM, which operates direct routes to some 90 countries worldwide, whilst many other international airlines and a number of low-cost European airlines such as EasyJet and bmibaby also use the airport.

The area surrounding Schipol is an important business centre in which a World Trade Centre and many hotels and businesses are located, while the airport itself also includes hotels, shops, restaurants and leisure facilities. Although duty-free shopping has been abolished in Europe, the prices of many goods are subsidized by Schipol Airport to encourage sales.

Schipol has frequent and fast rail connections from the station directly underneath its arrivals hall to major cities in the Netherlands and surrounding countries. Amsterdam is only 15 minutes away by rail, Rotterdam and Utrecht can be reached in less than an hour, while Brussels, Cologne and Paris are just two, three and four hours away respectively.

There are number of regional airports in the Netherlands, including Rotterdam, Eindhoven, Maastricht/Aachen, Groningen-Eelde, Enschede and Lelystad, many of which operate some international flights as well as connections with Schipol and with other regional airports. Although domestic air travel is not widely used within the Netherlands due to the small size of the country, flights between the main airports within the Netherlands are operated by KLM, VLM Airlines and Martinair Holland (MP). It can often save time to start an international journey from a regional airport as check-in times are usually shorter than at Schipol and luggage can be checked straight through to your destination.

Rail Travel

The Netherlands has a dense railway network which connects nearly all of its cities and towns. Services are generally fast, regular and efficient, with at least one or two trains per hour on the majority of lines, and every 10 minutes or so on the lines connecting major destinations. Fast inter-city services travel between the main cities, with few stops in between, while slower stopping services (stoptreinen or “Sprinters”) call at all stations on other routes. First and second class travel is available on most services. Most of the rail services within the Netherlands are operated by Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS), although there are a number of other regional and local operators, and all use the same tariff system.

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. Within the Netherlands, the trains travel at regular speeds through densely populated areas. It is necessary to make advance reservations to travel on these services; smoking and non-smoking, and first and second-class carriages are available, with tickets for first class travel costing around 50% extra than those for standard travel.

Currently, all rail tickets (kaartjes) must be purchased before travel either from the station ticket office or from a ticket machine on the platform, which accepts cash and bank cards, although the rail companies are now starting to accept the OV Chipkaart to purchase tickets. Season tickets and off-peak travel tickets (voordeel-urenkaart) are available at a substantial discount. For example an annual off-peak discount ticket costs €55 and provides a 40% discount for the holder and up to three travelling companions. For regular travel, tickets are available for specific routes or for the whole rail network. Inspectors often travel on the trains, or check tickets on station platforms, and heavy fines are payable by anyone caught travelling without a ticket.

Treintaxis or public transport bicycles (OV-fiets) can be used on arrival at stations for onward transport to your destination. A pass must be arranged in advance for the regular use of a public transport bicycle, which are available at around 80 railways stations at a €9.50 per year and a €2.85 daily charge (for up to 20 hours use), deducted retrospectively by direct debit from your bank account.

Buses, Trams, Metros and Taxis

There are frequent and reliable bus services within Holland’s cities and between the towns, with rural settlements also being connected by local bus services. However, long-distance bus services are relatively limited, with inter-city rail services generally being the preferred means of travel between major urban centres.

Within the main cities, fast Interliner bus services are in use which operate in their own lanes, have the right of way at traffic lights and have convenient stopping points which connect with other public transport services. Special Interliner tickets are required for travel on these services.

Many different companies operate bus services in the Netherlands, but a common tariff is in use on all but the city night buses and some local services. Tickets and public transport maps can be obtained from bus company ticket offices at the railways stations in larger cities in towns, or from the VVV tourist offices.

There are metro systems in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, and trams operating in several of the main cities, with these city transport services usually running from 6 a.m. to midnight.

When entering a bus, the driver will inspect your pass or stamp your strippenkaart, while trams usually have a machine onboard for you to stamp your own strippenkaart.

Taxis cannot be hailed on the street in Holland, they must be ordered in advance or hired at a taxi stand, indicated by a “standplaats taxis” sign. Taxis are metered and fares are fairly standard, although there are many private taxi firms operating. “Official” taxis can be recognized by their blue number plates. Fares can sometimes be negotiated for longer journeys. It is normal practice to give taxi drivers a small tip.

There are special types of train taxis and interliner taxis available at many rail stations and main interliner stops, which provide convenient onward travel between the public transport services and your final destination, at a lower cost than regular taxis. They are normally shared with other passengers, but fares are considerably lower than those for regular taxis, at a fixed rate of €4 per journey. Tickets must be bought in advance with your rail or bus ticket, or at the railway station on arrival, although they can be purchased at a slightly higher cost of €5 from the taxi driver for return journeys. Return travel can be arranged by telephoning the national 0900 TREIN-TAXI or the local train taxi number at least half an hour in advance.

Public transport tickets

The Netherlands is currently in the process of switching from the current Strip Ticket (strippenkaart) system for travel on buses, trams and the Metro in the Netherlands to the use of the digital “OV chipkaart” transport pass for fare payment. The whole of the public transport system, including rail services, will use the chipkaart pass by the end of 2008, with fare payments by strippenkaart or other types of tickets still possible on buses, trams and metro services until 1 January 2009.

Currently, strip tickets are used for travel on buses, trams and metro services throughout the Netherlands. These are available in various multiples of strips, from 2 or 3 for a single journey up to 45 strips, and can be purchased at a range of outlets including newsagents, department stores, post offices and railways stations, or at higher prices from public transport drivers. Other types of discounted season tickets and passes are also available for regular travel on the buses, trams and metro services.

The whole of the Netherlands is divided into transport zones with standard fares corresponding to numbers of strips on the card. A single journey within one zone costs two strips, with an additional strip payable for each additional zone crossed. Most towns and smaller cities are within a single zone, while larger cities are divided into several zones. The costs of strip tickets currently range from €1.60 for a single journey within one zone, to €20.10 for 45 strips for use on multiple journeys across unlimited zones. Discounted fares are available for children and senior citizens.

When you travel on public transport, the driver stamps the relevant strips to indicate the time and zone of travel, or you do so yourself using one of the automated machines provided. Multiple journeys within the same zone are allowed on a single stamp within a specified timescale shown on the card.

The new “OV chipkaart”, also often referred to as a “chipknip” is a card that has a digital chip and has to be loaded with credit in advance of travel. Cards can either be for use by one person only, with reloads made automatically from a registered bank account or topped up with cash at a rail or bus station or other outlet, or they can be purchased and loaded with cash for use by anyone, either for a single or multiple journeys. Cards can be purchased at charges ranging from €2.50 for a single journey, disposable card, to €7.50 for a five year card. Under the new system, fares are associated with the specific distances travelled rather than zones crossed, with credit being deducted from the card via a card reader as the passenger enters and leaves a public transport service.

Useful links:

Schiphol Airport
Tel: 0900 72 44 7465 (for general information)
Tel: 0900 0141 (for arrivals and departure information) (EUR 0.40 per minute)

National transport information:
Tel: 0900 9292

OV-chipkaart information:
Tel: 0900 0980

Nederlandse Spoorwegen (national rail company)
Tel: 0900 9296

National Treintaxi:
Tel: 0900 8734682

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