There’s something old school and slightly romantic about travelling Europe by train. European train stations are beaming with years of history and ooze charm. You buy your ticket, head to the platform, board with your luggage, find a seat and the conductor blows his or her whistle to let you know the doors are closing and off you go. It’s a thing of beauty, really. Not only is train travel more efficient than not, it is also much better on the environment and less hassle than flying, or driving in my honest opinion.
Travelling by rail in The Netherlands is easy breezy, lemon squeezy. The trains are clean (minus the bathrooms, but that’s any public toilet), fast, efficient and are on time more often than not. You pass through the country quickly and comfortably all while admiring the beautiful scenery surrounding you as your train snakes down the line to your next destination. What’s not to love?
The national train company NS (Nederlandse Spoorwegen – www.ns.nl) operates all the major lines in The Netherlands, so getting around to all ends of the country isn’t a problem. Here are some quick tips and useful information to help and prepare you for travelling by train within The Netherlands.
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I found the train stations in The Netherlands to be things of beauty. They are almost spotless, easy to navigate and most are fully equipped with enough shops to mimic a small mall. The stations all have the basics to suit any traveller’s needs; ATM, washrooms, coffee and snacks, currency exchange booths and an information desk. Every train station I used was located right in the heart of the city and was easy to get to by foot, but if you aren’t in the mood for walking, there are always taxis and buses hanging around outside to take you to your final destination.
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Buying Your Tickets
Train tickets can be purchased in numerous ways for travelling in The Netherlands. You can purchase them in advance directly online through NS, buy them in person from the NS counters within the stations, or the most popular and easy method is to buy them in the stations through the NS digital ticket machines. They are bright yellow and blue in colour, so you won’t be able to miss them! The machines are very easy to use and the screens can be changed to English. The machines take Dutch bank cards, coins and most credit cards. I used my VISA and had zero problems. You choose your destination, method of payment and print your ticket. Et Voilà! You are able to purchase a single one way ticket (Enkele Reis), or a day return ticket (Dagretour) and the standard class purchased is 2nd-class. The ticket that prints is called an OV-Chipkaart and is somewhat of a smart card (or chip card) that you MUST tap in and tap out of in order to validate the ticket. It’s also the only way you can enter, or exit the stations, so make sure you don’t lose it. This brings me to my next tip…
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Checking In and Checking Out
Once you purchased your train ticket, if bought at an NS station, your card is automatically activated and ready for travel. There are electronic machines before you enter the platforms that you MUST tap on before boarding, or you may be charged with a fine if (and when) the conductor comes around to check your tickets. Once you reach your final destination, you MUST tap off in order to fully validate your trip and to be able to exit the station. If you are connecting through another station with the same rail company (Delft to Utrecht connected me through Rotterdam), you do not need to tap off, or on, just continue to your connecting platform. The most important thing to remember about checking in and checking out is that if you fail to do so, it’s practically like riding for free, even if you’ve paid. Plus nobody wants to be that person embarrassed in front of the entire train with an invalidated ticket and receiving a fine.
Schedule and Departure Times
Every station within The Netherlands has departure screens that show the schedule from early in the morning to late at night. The screens will tell you what platform your train is departing from and at what time your train departs. Departure signs can also be found on the platforms, which show what time the next train will be leaving and at which stations it will stop. Any changes are announced by station workers via speakers and are always shown on the departure signs of the platform. Always keep an eye on the departure signs to avoid missing your train and ears open for changes!
I’ve been travelling by train for more than half my life, whether it be to and from work, or while travelling throughout a country. One thing that never changes and is appreciated by all travellers is train etiquette. When travelling by train, always make sure to allow the passengers ON the train off first, before loading onto the train to avoid pushing and shoving and potential injury. If travelling with luggage and bags like I do, always make sure to keep the aisles clear to avoid dirty looks from other passengers. If you have trash leftover from your snack, put it in the trash can, not on the floor, or on the seats. If you’re in the silent/quiet zone, do everyone a favour and keep quiet. Nobody cares to hear you blabbing on the phone, or having to listen to your music on full blast through your shitty headphones. The main thing to remember about train etiquette is to be nice, courteous and accommodating to others and your trip should be stress free.
What do you guys think of travelling by train while abroad? Have you done it before? If you have, what did you like the most and least about it? If you never have, is it something you’d like to try the next time you’re on a trip? Tell me in the comments below! xo
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