Public transport in the Netherlands

Transport cards, trains, metro and bus

Public transport in the Netherlands

Some distances simply can’t be covered by a bicycle. Thankfully, there are many other ways to travel through the Netherlands.

OV-chipkaart - Dutch transport card

Public transport in the Netherlands is reasonably cheap compared to the income of the citizens. If you want to use the public transport system in the Netherlands, you will need an OV-chipkaart (OV-chipcard) to pay for your trip. These are available from railway and bus stations and at the bigger supermarkets. All you need to do is charge credit to the card and you can use it immediately.

Students should apply for a student OV-chipkaart, and most will get one when they apply for a scholarship from the government. This is a personal OV-chipkaart, which is either valid throughout the week or throughout the weekend. This card makes sure that students can travel for free or with a discount.

People who are 60 years and older will receive a 40% discount on Nederlandse Spoorwegen (Dutch Railways). From 65 years and older, people will receive 34% off on other public transport systems as well.

It is possible to switch to another means of transport or to another line on the same network for free within the first 35 minutes of your journey. After this, you will have to pay a small fee.

Always swipe your OV-chipkaart when you go through the station barriers as not doing so will result in you receiving a fine. Do not forget to swipe out either! The amount of money which you have to pay will keep on rising as long as you are registered as being in the network. If you forget to swipe out, visit one of the counter assistants or go to any of the other employees which can be found at the stations and they will help you.

Visit the OV-chipkaart website  for any other information such as the current price list, practical travel information and more.


Buses are a common sight in the Netherlands. Most run at least every 30 minutes during the day and all of them accept the OV-chipkaart. Buses run between cities and smaller towns as well.

The government wants all public buses to be clean and economical by 2020. In addition, the Dutch government  have ensured that bus networks are easily accessible to people with a physical handicap.

Most buses operate from approximately 6am until 12.30am. After 12.30am, you can use the limited night bus service which starts at approximately 1am.


You can find trams in the bigger cities such as Amsterdam, the Hague, Rotterdam and Utrecht, as they are suitable for the transportation of large numbers of passengers. The Dutch government believes that the bus is sufficient for fewer passengers. Trams run from approximately 6am until 12.30am.

Underground (Metro)

Of the four large cities mentioned above, only Amsterdam and Rotterdam have an underground line. It runs from approximately 6am until 12.30am and it is possible to use your OV-chipkaart in the metro as well. The metro runs throughout the whole city and is relatively cheap compared to the salaries of the Dutch citizens. According to many, it is the best form of transport as driving and parking in the city can be a nightmare.

Visit these route planners to plan your journey in Amsterdam  and Rotterdam .

Light rail

Light rail lies somewhere between a train and tram, and are not found often in the Netherlands. Light rail travels cover longer distances than the tram but are slower than a train and it stops at more places. Light rail is therefore suitable for regional routes but not for long distances.

Light rail trains are becoming more popular. At the moment, light rail links The Hague, Rotterdam and Zoetemeer and the communities in between. This is also known as part of the Randstad, the cultural and economic heart of the Netherlands.


Trains are one of the safest modes of transport and the number of passengers using the trains is growing. It is the perfect way to travel between cities, as roads are often jammed. Expansion of the railway network, better travel information and Internet available on board all make the train an attractive option.

Unfortunately, there are often delays when you travel by train. Passengers do not know whether a delay will occur during their journey. They also often receive no information about alternative routes or transport yet more stations are introducing information screens with the actual departure times of trains. Moreover, Dutch Railways has launched a mobile train travel planner app.

Schiphol-Antwerp high-speed line

The high-speed line runs between Schiphol airport and Antwerp. The Dutch part of the line is called the HSL-South. On this route, high-speed trains travel from Amsterdam to the Belgian border.

Railway stations

Most railway stations are well connected. Within two to three different trains, you can travel throughout the Netherlands. This map  shows you all the train routes across the country.

Utrecht Centraal is definitely the center of Dutch Railways (and of the Netherlands). It is easy to reach and from here you can travel to nearly every part of the country. Travelling to other countries is possible as well. This is due to the fact that the Dutch Railways has an extra service called "NS Hispeed", which offers trips to destinations all over Europe. Most international journeys start at the bigger cities in the Netherlands.


There are five main airports in the Netherlands. These are:

  • Amsterdam Schiphol
  • Eindhoven Airport
  • Groningen Airport Eelde
  • Maastricht Aachen Airport
  • Rotterdam The Hague Airport

Schiphol is the main airport of the Netherlands and is is an important European airport, ranking as Europe's 4th busiest.  The “Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij N.V.”, known by its initials KLM, is the flag carrier airline of the Netherlands. If you fly to Amsterdam, the chances are high that you will fly with KLM. In 2011, in Schiphol alone, there were 103 different airlines.

Besides KLM, the most well known airlines in the Netherlands are Ryanair, Transavia, Easyjet, AirEuropa, and LuftHansa and these are often cheaper than KLM for short haul journies.

Further reading

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