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See the Netherlands by Train

See the Netherlands by Train (Photo: Nick Ferrara)

The weather is starting to get nice again and at least for me that means time to get out and explore.  Did you know that it is possible to travel all through the country for a whole day for around €15?  That’s a great deal and I’m going to tell you how to take advantage of it.

Train Travel

As a North American, I love the fact that in Europe almost everything is accessible by train.  Getting from place to place is as easy as buying a ticket, hopping on the train, and enjoying the ride.  The drawback, well if you are going somewhere further than 20-30 kilometers, the price can start to get pretty expensive.  In comes the dagkaart or “day ticket”.  Currently you can buy these tickets from NS (the Dutch Railroad) for €50,80 at the time of this writing, which is not a bad deal but this ticket can only be used in NS trains and is still not cheap.  But… if you keep your eyes open you can get much better deals.

Special Deals

Occasionally stores like Albert Heijn, Kruidvat, Hema, or Etos (just to name a few) will advertise that they are selling day tickets (dagkaarten) that usually are in the price range of around €15.  These deals are not always available so you have to keep your eyes out for them.  Each deal is different so make sure to check before you buy, but in general you will be able to ride the train for a whole day during the weekend as much as you want.  This deal usually includes all trains in the Netherlands and not just NS train. Sometimes the deal includes coupons for discounts on coffee or food at the stations.  The best part is that you don’t really have to plan in advance, you just buy the ticket and it is usually valid for a period of a couple of months.  Just validate on the day of your journey and go!

I have a ticket, now what?

Take a look on Google to see what cities or villages might interest you.  You can get a general idea of how long it will take to get from place to place by checking out ns.nl or downloading the NS app.  The app will give you train info for both NS trains and other trains as well.  I like to start early and head to the farthest destination of the day first and then work my way back, but that’s just my personal preference.  See something out the window that looks interesting but was not part of your plan?  Just get out and look around anyway, that is the best part about the day ticket, you are not limited at all, you truly have unlimited use of the train for the whole day with no set schedule.

What to watch out for?

Generally speaking international trains such as the ICE and Intercity Brussel are included (for travel within the Netherlands) if you pay an extra fee on the day of travel at the ticket machines.  The Thalys is never included because riding on that train requires a seat reservation.  My advice, just stick to normal Dutch trains (Intercities and Sprinters), there are plenty of them to get you where you need to go without having to pay extra.

Always check online at ns.nl a week or so in advance to see if there is going to be rail work done on the route that you want to travel.  A lot of maintenance work is done on the weekend and nothing is worse than finding out along the way that there are no trains running to where you want to go.

Suggestions

Can’t make up your mind on where to go?  Checking out the four big cities in the Randstad is an idea if you have not seen them before.  The cities are Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, and Den Haag although all four would be a bit ambitious for one day.  Getting out of the region is also worth while.  In Friesland they speak an entirely different language and in places like Limburg there is a different dialect.  The possibilities are endless so I encourage you to do some research online or just be spontaneous hopping on and off the train as you go along.  I’ve done it both ways and really enjoyed the things that I got to see.

In the end, the day card is a nice way to spend the day and get to see a bit of the country that you have not seen before.  So, keep your eyes open for these deals and spend the day checking out the country that you live in.

Nick Ferrara

Network Analyst at PPG Europe B.V.
Nick is an American from Pittsburgh, PA who has been living in Haarlem since 2010. He loves that laid back European lifestyle and is always looking for new things to explore both in the area and beyond.

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