Traveling by train, bus, tram and metro in the Netherlands

The Netherlands boasts one of the most efficient and user-friendly public transportation systems in the world. There’s a well-connected network of trains, buses, metros, and trams. Let’s provide you with all the information you need to start exploring.

Apps and websites for public transportation in the Netherlands

To start off, it can be handy to have some apps and save some websites to help you navigate around the Netherlands when you’re on the road. Here are some of the must-have apps:

  • Plan your entire public transportation journey with 9292, online or in the app. It offers you detailed information about trains, buses, trams, metros, and ferries. You can check its schedules, connections, and platform changes. 

  • A traveler’s best friend is Google Maps. Google Maps provides you with reliable directions for transportation, including walking, cycling, and public transport. Enter your destination and Google Maps will offer you multiple live route options, including public transportation options. 

  • For traveling by train, the NS website or its app can be useful. It provides real-time information on train schedules, platform changes, and delays. Plus, you can purchase train tickets and check in and out using the app.

Traveling by train in the Netherlands

The Dutch railway network is operated by Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS). NS offers extensive coverage in the Netherlands, connecting cities, towns, and even some rural areas. In some regions, the railway network is operated by Arriva. You can reach the other side of the country within 2 hours. It’s easy and comfortable.

You can choose between two different trains: Sprinter or Intercity. A Sprinter is a train for shorter distances, it stops at all smaller stations. Intercity trains run between larger cities and don’t stop at smaller stations along the way. You have regular Intercity trains and double-deckers. There are multiple international rail connections to cities in Belgium, UK, Germany, and France. Find more information about traveling abroad by train here

All the information you need about traveling by train can be found on the website or app of NS or Arriva. You can find current departure and arrival times, plan your trip in advance, find out what facilities are available on the train, and the expected crowds on the train.

Traveling by bus in the Netherlands

For short travels, you can reach your destination quickly by bus. In the Netherlands, there are several different bus companies operating per region, like Arriva (Groningen, Maastricht, Sittard), Connexxion (Eindhoven, Arnhem, Nijmegen, Haarlem), HTM (The Hague), GVB (Amsterdam), and RET (Rotterdam).

Start your bus journey at one of the many bus stops. Most train stations have bus lines departing from there, but there are also many bus stops scattered throughout cities and towns. Is the bus coming? Raise your hand. A bus stops at a stop only when people want to get on and off. Enter the bus through the front door. Press the stop button when you want to get off at the next stop. Exit through one of the back doors.

Visit one of the bus companies’ websites to plan your route or to find more practical information about the bus lines. Buses run on a fixed route, at fixed times. The bus stops at several stops until it arrives at its final stop.

Traveling by metro in the Netherlands

In the Netherlands, there are two cities with a metro network: Amsterdam and Rotterdam. In Amsterdam, there are five metro lines (by GVB), including one towards Diemen. There are also five metro lines in Rotterdam (by RET). These run in Rotterdam itself, but also to surrounding places such as Capelle aan den IJssel and The Hague. Based on the end stations, you can double-check in which direction the metro goes.

In Amsterdam, you can recognize metro stations by the white letter M with a blue background. The metro in Amsterdam has five colors, corresponding to the numbers 50-54: green (M50, Isolatorweg - Gein), orange (M51, Central Station - Isolatorweg), blue (M52, North - South), red (M53, Central Station - Gaasperplas), and yellow (M54, Central Station - Gein).

metro in Amsterdam
Metros in Amsterdam are operated by GVB.

In Rotterdam, you can recognize metro stations by the yellow letter M with a black background. The metro in Rotterdam has five colors, corresponding to the letters A-E: green (A, Vlaardingen West - Binnenhof), yellow (B, Hoek van Holland Haven - Niesselande), red (C, De Akkers - De Terp), light blue (D, De Akkers - Rotterdam Central Station) and dark blue (E, Slinge - Den Haag Central Station).

Traveling by tram in the Netherlands 

You can travel by tram in Amsterdam (GVB), Rotterdam (RET), The Hague (HTM), and Utrecht (U-OV). In these cities, trams all have a different color. Trams are white-blue in Amsterdam, grey in Rotterdam, red-dark grey or red-white in The Hague, and yellow in Utrecht. Trams run on different routes through the cities.

tram in Amsterdam
Not every city has a tram system. Trams only operate in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, and Utrecht.

Start your tram journey at one of the tram stops. Enter the tram through the front door. Press the stop button when you want to get off at the next stop. Exit through one of the back doors. Exit through one of the back doors by pushing the button on the door. Doors close automatically.

Visit one of the tram companies’ websites to plan your route or to find more practical information about the tram lines. Trams run on a fixed route, at fixed times. Trams stop at several stops until they arrive at their final stop.

Paying for public transportation in the Netherlands

There are several ways to pay for your travel on public transportation: with OVpay, an OV-chipkaart, e-tickets, or with a ticket from the ticket machine.

From 2023, you’re able to travel by public transport with your debit card, credit card, or mobile phone. This is called OVpay. Hold your contactless debit card, credit card, or mobile against the card reader and you're checked in. Don't forget to check out at your final destination.

On your account, you will find the payment as a bank statement with the description 'NLOV'. Conductors check whether you are checked in by scanning your bank card. He can see where and when you checked in but does not see personal bank information. With OVpay, you’ll automatically travel in second-class on trains. In the future, discounts and season tickets can be linked to your bank card.

Although you can travel with OVpay these days, the OV-chipkaart is also still widely used. In the future, the OV-chip card is going to be replaced by the OV-pas. With an OV-chip card, you can travel with all public transport in the Netherlands. Hold your OV-chipkaart against the card reader and you are checked in. Don't forget to check out once you reach your final destination. Traveling with an OV-chip card has a number of advantages. There is a personal (yellow) and anonymous OV-chipkaart (blue) for traveling on balance.

The advantages of a personal OV-chipkaart in a row:

  • Order it online.
  • Possible to put season ticket(s) and (age) discounts on your OV-chipkaart, for example, ‘Dal Voordeel’ where you get a 40% discount during off-peak hours and on the weekends. For more information about traveling by train with discounts, visit NS. Are you entitled to student travel product from DUO? Then you must apply for a personal OV-chipkaart.
  • Automatic top-up.
  • Online insight into your trips, travel expenses, balance, and current subscriptions.
  • Rent an OV bike and use the bicycle storage.
  • In case of theft or loss, you get the balance on your card back.

The advantages of an anonymous OV-chipkaart:

  • Order it online or get it directly at one of the NS ticket machines.
  • You can lend an anonymous OV-chipkaart to someone else.
  • Online insight into your travels, travel expenses, and balance.

Online e-tickets
Buy an e-ticket online on the transport operator’s website or app, for example at Arriva or NS when you want to travel by train. Online you can often pay with iDeal, Mastercard, Visa, or American Express. There is no surcharge on your ticket when you buy it online.

With an e-ticket, you don't have to check in. Are you traveling to or from a station with closed gates in the departure or arrival hall? Scan the square code on the e-ticket via your phone to open the gates.

Print a ticket at a ticket machine
Buy a ticket for the train, metro, or tram at one of the ticket machines. There are ticket machines at every train station in the Netherlands. On these machines all functions are available. You can pay with your debit or credit card (V Pay, Maestro, Mastercard, Visa, and American Express) and often still with cash. Ticket machines for bus tickets are rare. However, you can still buy a ticket from the bus driver. Note that you can only board the bus with your debit card, credit card, or mobile phone.

With a printed ticket you must check-in. Scan your printed ticket from the machine at one of the card readers to check in and to open the gates.


written by Inge

Big fan of content, in all ways. A good chance that you won’t spot her without her phone. Trained her thumb to scroll on social media and loves to write.