Amsterdam's huge and highly efficient Schiphol International Airport is the country's main air-travel hub, with numerous flights to/from cities all over the world – making flying an easy way of getting to/from the Netherlands. Within Europe, low-cost airlines land/take off in Rotterdam and Eindhoven.
Airports & Airlines
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (www.klm.com) is the national carrier, with plenty of international flights. There are no domestic flights within the Netherlands.
Schiphol International Airport Conveniently near both Amsterdam and Rotterdam, this is the Netherlands' main international airport and the fourth busiest in Europe, serviced by most of the world's major airlines. The airport is like a small city, with a huge shopping mall filled with travellers' amenities and neighbouring airport hotels.
Rotterdam The Hague Airport Serving more than 40 European destinations.
Eindhoven Airport Budget-airline hub.
Departure tax is included in the price of a ticket.
High-speed trains and a plethora of international buses link the Netherlands with its neighbouring countries; advance ticket reservations are recommended, especially in high season when some routes can fill up fast.
Arriving by car is straightforward, with no border controls between the Netherlands and its Schengen neighbours. Car ferries provide the essential link between several ports in the UK and Dutch ports near Rotterdam or Amsterdam.
- Bringing your own bike into the Netherlands will cause no problems. Ask your carrier to see what you need to do to check it on a plane; by train you usually have to remove the front wheel and put it in a carrier bag.
- Long-distance bicycle paths are called landelijke fietsroutes (LF) and retain that label in northern Belgium.
Long-distance cyclists can choose from a variety of safe, easy, specially designated routes to get to the Netherlands from Belgium. The LF2 route runs 350km from Brussels via Antwerp, Dordrecht and Rotterdam to Amsterdam.
Route LF4 stretches 300km from Enschede near the German border to Den Haag.
The fast German ICE trains from Cologne and Frankfurt are not bike-friendly; use regular trains instead.
Most cross-Channel ferries don't charge foot passengers extra to take a bicycle. You can also bring your two-wheeler on the connecting trains, where it travels for free if it fits into a bike bag as hand luggage.
Check arrival and departure bus stops carefully; the following bus companies do not necessarily use stops at city bus stations, rather a stop on a main road into town.
Eurolines (www.eurolines.com) Consortium of coach operators running cheap international bus services to/from the Netherlands. Coaches have on-board toilets and reclining seats. Some services have on-board wi-fi.
Busabout (www.busabout.com) May to October, buses complete set circuits around Europe, stopping at major cities. Aimed at younger travellers; complex pricing.
Flixbus (www.flixbus.com) Low-cost, intercity bus travel between 27 European countries aboard comfy buses equipped with toilet, snacks, plug sockets to charge devices and free wi-fi; night services too. Sample fares include from €32 for a one-way Amsterdam–Paris or from €23 for a Rotterdam–Cologne ticket.
IC Bus (www.dbicbus.com) Bus links between the Netherlands and neighbouring Germany.
Car & Motorcycle
- Drivers need vehicle registration papers, third-party insurance and their domestic licence. Get a Green Card from your insurer to show you have coverage.
- ANWB (www.anwb.nl) provides information, maps, advice and services if you show a membership card from your own automobile association, such as the AA or AAA.
- Hitching is uncommon in the Netherlands. Like most destinations, it poses a small but potentially serious risk and is not recommended.
- Ferries take cars and motorcycles to the Netherlands from several ports in the UK including Harwich to Hoek van Holland, Hull to Europoort (both near Rotterdam) and Newcastle to IJmuiden (near Amsterdam).
International train connections are good. All Eurail and Inter-Rail passes are valid on the Dutch national train service, NS (Nederlandse Spoorwegen; www.ns.nl). Many international services are operated by NS International (www.nsinternational.nl).
Reserve seats in advance during peak periods. Buy tickets online at SNCB Europe (www.b-europe.com).
Major Dutch train stations have international ticket offices; you can also buy tickets for local trains to Belgium and Germany at regular ticket counters.
The excellent website Seat 61 (www.seat61.com) has comprehensive information about train travel.
Fast Thalys (www.thalys.com) trains serve Brussels (3¾ hours, from where you can connect to the Eurostar) and Paris. The company has good advance fares and a range of discount schemes. In the south, an hourly service connects Maastricht and Liège (€5.80, 40 minutes).
German ICE high-speed trains run daily between Amsterdam and Cologne (from €35.90, three hours). Many continue to Frankfurt (from €45.90, four to 4¾ hours) via Frankfurt Airport. Buy tickets in advance at either www.b-europe.com or www.bahn.de.
With connections in Cologne or Frankfurt, you can reach any part of Germany easily. Other direct services include several regular trains a day between Amsterdam and Berlin (from €55.90, 6½ hours) and a local service from Groningen (€17.40, 55 minutes; actually covered by a bus) east across the border to tiny Leer, where you can get trains to Bremen and beyond.
From Maastricht you can reach Cologne via Liège in Belgium and Aachen in Germany (from €24.80, 1½ to two hours).
Twice-daily direct Eurostar (www.eurostar.com) services link London St-Pancras with Rotterdam (three hours) and Amsterdam (3¾ hours). A standard single fare starts at UK£35/€40 but requires booking well in advance; the equivalent purchased a few days before can cost anything from UK£115/€132 to UK£185/€212.50.
Count on an hour longer for the return journey, which requires changing train in Brussels (high-speed Thalys train from Rotterdam/Amsterdam to Brussels, then a Eurostar to London). A Eurostar terminal, with passport-control facilities allowing direct UK-bound Eurostar trains to run, is expected to open at Amsterdam Centraal (platform 15) and Rotterdam Centraal (platform 1) some time in 2019.
Dutch Flyer (www.stenaline.co.uk) 'rail and sail' services are one of the cheapest ways to reach the Netherlands from the UK. Trains from London (Liverpool St Station), Cambridge and Norwich connect with ferries sailing from Harwich to Hoek van Holland, where a further train travels on to Rotterdam and Amsterdam. The journey takes around nine hours and costs as little as UK£56 one way.
Several companies operate car/passenger ferries between the Netherlands and the UK; most offer frequent specials and also train–ferry–train packages.
Reservations are essential for cars in high season; motorcycles can often be squeezed in. Most ferries don't charge for a bike and have no shortage of storage space.
Stena Line (www.stenaline.co.uk) sails between Harwich and Hoek van Holland, 31km northwest of Rotterdam, linked to central Rotterdam by train (30 minutes). The fast HSS ferries take 5½ hours and depart in each direction twice a day. Overnight ferries take 8½ hours (one daily), as do normal day ferries (one daily). Foot passengers pay from UK£39 one way. Fares for a car and driver range from UK£59 to UK£285 one way depending on the season and day of week. Options such as reclining chairs and cabins cost extra and are compulsory on night crossings.
P&O Ferries (www.poferries.com) operates an overnight ferry every evening (11¾ hours) between Hull and Europoort, 39km west of central Rotterdam. Book bus tickets (40 minutes) to/from Rotterdam when you reserve your berth. Single fares start at UK£108 for a foot passenger and UK£134 for a car with driver. Prices include berths in an inside cabin; luxury cabins are available. Prices are more than double in peak season.
DFDS Seaways (www.dfdsseaways.co.uk) sails between Newcastle and IJmuiden, 30km northwest of Amsterdam, linked to Amsterdam by bus; the 15-hour sailings depart daily. One-way fares start at UK£67 for a foot passenger in an economy berth, plus UK£148 for a car. Prices go up in peak season.