Schiphol Airport near Amsterdam is a European hub and the largest in Europe after London, Paris and Frankfurt. It is a sight in itself as it is 4 metres below average sea level. Travellers can easily fly there from most parts of the world and then connect with the Netherlands’ largest airline, KLM.
Some low-cost airlines also offer flights to the Netherlands. Jet2.com, Easyjet, Transavia and other low-cost airlines fly to Schiphol, offering a fairly cheap way to shop in Amsterdam from other parts of Europe. Flights to/from the British Isles and Mediterranean countries in particular can be relatively cheap. It is important to book as early as possible as prices tend to be higher the closer you get to departure.
There are excellent rail connections from Schiphol: Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht and many other cities have direct train connections. International high-speed trains run to Antwerp, Brussels and Paris. Schiphol station is on the metro under the main concourse of the airport. The train is the fastest and cheapest way to get around the Netherlands.
Taxis are expensive: legal taxis have blue number plates, others should be avoided. Illegal taxi services are often offered outside the airport, but charge high sums even for short journeys. Some hotels in Amsterdam and around the airport offer a shuttle service.
Other international airports are Eindhoven Airport, Maastricht/Aachen Airport, Rotterdam-Hague Airport and Groningen-Eelde Airport. These small airports are mainly served by low-cost airlines. Eindhoven and Maastricht/Aachen airports are mainly used by Ryanair, while Rotterdam airport is used by Transavia, KLM’s low-cost subsidiary for tourists. The operator CityJet makes an expensive suburban trip to London. A direct bus service to local stations and then by train is the best way to get to Amsterdam or any other city. There is a direct bus connection between Eindhoven Airport and Amsterdam Central Station.
It is also possible to get to the Netherlands via airports in neighbouring countries. The most popular airports are Düsseldorf International Airport and Brussels Airport. European low-cost carriers (Ryanair and Air Berlin) also use Münster-Osnabrück and Weeze/Niederrhein airports, which are close to or directly on the border between the Netherlands and Germany. Frequent flights to the main European destinations are operated from these two airports.
The (high-speed) train is perhaps the most convenient means of transport between major European cities. Some budget airlines offer cheaper deals, but remember that international high-speed lines connect city centres rather than airports, which are usually outside the city. Trains don’t have to be present an hour before departure either and can be part of the holiday experience.
Remember that the cheapest tickets often sell out early and reservations can usually be made from 3 (normal) to 6 (City Night Line) months in advance. Reservations can be made through NS Hispeed (Dutch Railways) or their German and Belgian counterparts.
From France, Belgium and Great Britain
The high-speed Thalys train that connects the Netherlands with France and Belgium is a bit expensive, but if you book a round trip in advance or if you are under 26 or over 60, you can get a good deal. It’s also faster, usually cheaper and more comfortable than flying. There are direct trains from Amsterdam, Schiphol Airport and Rotterdam.
Maastricht can also be reached by Thalys from Liège, Aachen. Change at Liège-Guillemins for the direct train to Maastricht – for more information.
Intercity Brussels runs between Amsterdam and Brussels, a service that uses normal intercity traffic. Tickets are cheaper than Thalys, and on weekends there are discounts for travelling from (and to) Belgium.
NB: The old Fyra high-speed service on this route was discontinued shortly after its introduction.
There are local trains from Roosendaal to Antwerp and from Maastricht to Liège. A light rail link from Maastricht to Hasselt is under construction and will be operational in a few years.
London’s St Pancras station is connected to the Netherlands by Eurostar high-speed trains via Brussels South station. Use one of the connections above.
From Germany, Switzerland, Denmark…
Intercity trains connect Berlin and Hanover via Osnabrück with Amsterdam, Hengelo, Deventer, Apeldoorn, Amersfoort and Hilversum.
The City Night Line and Euronight trains offer direct night connections from cities such as Munich, Zurich, Copenhagen, Innsbruck, Warsaw and Prague.
There are also a number of regional trains to and from Germany:
- Between Groningen and Leer, trains run every hour.
- There are hourly trains between Enschede and Münster and hourly trains between Enschede and Dortmund.
- Trains run hourly between Venlo and Hamm, via Mönchengladbach and Düsseldorf.
- Trains run hourly between Heerlen and Aachen and on to Eschweiler / Stolberg (Rheinland).
- The local train between Hengelo and Bad Bentheim has been suspended since 2014; it will be resumed in 2017.
- A list of buses that cross the border between Germany and the Netherlands can be found here.
- A list of buses crossing the border between Belgium and the Netherlands can be found here.
- The city of Baarle (formerly Baarle-Hertog in Belgium and Baarle-Nassau in the Netherlands) is not only a special result of ancient European history, but also a possible transfer point, as the city’s main bus stop, Sint-Janstraat, is served by both Flemish (Belgian) and Dutch buses.
- The Flemish (Belgian) company De Lijn operates a cross-border bus between Turnhoutin in Belgium and Tilburg in the Netherlands, both of which are end points of each country’s railway network.
Until the decade of 2010, there were no intercity buses in Germany and France and thus no or few connections to the Netherlands. However, German and French laws have since been changed and there are now several lines and operators connecting the Netherlands with Germany, France, Belgium or Luxembourg.
Eurolines is the main ‘operator’ for international buses to the Netherlands (in fact, the name Eurolines is a common brand used by different operators). The offer is limited: Only a few main routes are served daily, e.g. from Poland, London, Milan, Brussels and Paris, but it is the cheapest way to travel and you get a discount if you are under 26.
Megabus operates routes from London and Paris to Amsterdam via Brussels.
La Deutsche Bahn exploite un bus express Londres-Anvers-Eindhoven-Düsseldorf.
Postbuses serve some places in the Netherlands itself and others in cooperation with other companies (which means that some facilities are not available on these routes).
Flixbus operates international routes through the Netherlands and neighbouring countries as well as domestic connections.
Student Agency is a Czech company that serves certain points in the Netherlands.
The Berlinlinienbus serves some stops in the Netherlands
Due to the war in Bosnia in the 1990s, there are bus companies for the Bosnian diaspora that offer a cheap and clean way to travel to the other side of the European continent. Half-tours are organised several times a week from various destinations in Bosnia and Herzegovina to Belgium and the Netherlands. In the low season, the price for a round-trip ticket is around 135 euros.
The Netherlands has good roads to Belgium and Germany, as well as ferry connections to the UK. The country has a dense, very well developed and modern motorway network. However, due to the high volume of traffic, there is considerable congestion on most main roads. The borders are open under the Schengen Agreement. Cars can be stopped at the border for random checks, but this rarely happens. There are car ferries from the UK (see below). As the UK is not part of the Schengen area, full border controls apply.
Shuttle train for cars (Channel Tunnel)
From the UK, the Netherlands can also be reached via a small part of France and Belgium by the Channel Tunnel Shuttle train. From the Calais terminal, most of the Netherlands can be reached via the A16 motorway in the direction of Dunkirk. The route continues in the direction of Bruges (Brugge), Ghent (Gent) and Antwerp (Antwerp). Near Antwerp, Rotterdam is signposted (via the Liefkenshoek toll tunnel) as well as Breda (for Utrecht and the east) and Eindhoven (for the southeast). For more information, see: eurotunnel.com.
There are three ferry routes from the UK:
- Stena Line between Harwich and Hook of Holland. The Dutchflyer is a combined ticket that includes train travel from any point on the National Express East Anglia [www] network (including London and Norwich) to Harwich, the ferry and train travel from Hook of Holland to any point on the NS (Dutch Railways) network. Rotterdam is also the second largest port in the world and (theoretically) a good place to transport goods.
- DFDS sea routes between North Shields near Newcastle upon Tyne and IJmuiden on the outskirts of Amsterdam.
- P&O Ferries between Kingston Upon Hull and Rotterdam Europoort.
For more information on timetables and ticket prices for the North Sea ferries, visit AFerry.co.uk.
By bike & On foot
Thanks to the low differences in altitude and the good facilities, it is quite possible to reach the Netherlands on foot or by bike from Belgium, northern France, Germany or even England.
The Netherlands is located on the North Sea Cycle Route, which runs along the entire North Sea coast. This road is also connected to the UK national cycle network. For more information, see Northsea-cycle.com and Sustrans on the national cycle network.
The LF long-distance cycle network is shared with Belgium. The LF 1/Noordzeerouteeven route continues to Boulogne-sur-Mer in France.
From the east, the German R 1 connects Berlin with the LF 4/Midden-Nederland route, which ends in The Hague.
For hikers, the Dutch trail network is connected to the Belgian Great Route.
Near all cycling and walking routes there are usually hotels, campsites and convenient facilities. Most of them in Belgium.