ACCESS NL > Relocating to the Netherlands > First three months > Transportation in the Netherlands
I find it difficult and expensive to park my car in many major cities. Is there a way for me to park my car easier and cheaper?
There is a severe lack of parking space in most big cities in the Netherlands. In an effort to reduce congestion, many cities have a park and ride scheme (P+R- locaties). The driver parks at an organised, out of town location and then finishes the journey via public transport to the city centre. ANWB (the Royal Dutch Touring Club) lists all park and ride schemes in an area. This scheme is very helpful to many people for finding a parking space more quickly as well as for spending less on parking fees. You find the parking space via the routeplanner of ANWB on https://www.anwb.nl/verkeer/routeplanner?displayType=instructions.
Each city in the Netherlands has a Municipal Parking Department for all affairs related to parking such as parking permits. Please contact your municipality for further details.
Are there any subscriptions to travel cheaper by public transport?
Subscriptions are available for a particular route, for a discount outside rush hours, for unlimited travel by train or by other means of public transport as well. If you don’t know which subscription fits best, you can use the information on the Dutch Railroads (Nederlandse Spoorwegen – NS) website. It is the principal passenger railway operator in the Netherlands: www.ns.nl/en/season-tickets.
It is highly advisable that you drop into a service counter and ask for help when deciding which subscription would be the most adequate for your situation. For more information visit the NS website.
What is the OV-chipkaart?
The smart-card system, the OV-chipkaart (chip card used to pay for public transport), is the form of paying for public transport. OV stands for openbaar vervoer (public transport). It resembles a bank card and contains an invisible chip and must be topped up before the start of any journey. The OV-chipkaart can be used on public transport all over the Netherlands.
For further details visit the website of the OV-chipkaart and select ‘English’ at the top right corner of the site to change the language: www.ov-chipkaart.nl.
How does the OV-chipkaart work?
The OV-chipkaart (chip card used to pay for public transport) must be purchased before you travel. To find a point of sale nearby visit the following website: https://www.ov-chipkaart.nl/en/service-points-finder
This address finder is very useful to find out where all specific OV-chipkaart services are located because services differ from location to location. Additional credit can be loaded onto your OV-chipkaart at vending and add value machines or at OV-chipkaart service points.
Cards must be validated at both the beginning and the end of a journey, by holding the card up to an OV-chipkaart reader. These are located in various parts of the buses and trams. The card readers for trains are located on the platforms or at the entrance of the station. At the start of your journey, hold your OV-chipkaart up to the screen. The sound and light signal indicates your card has been read. When disembarking, check out by holding your card up to the screen. Checking in and out is also required when you transfer from one form of transport to another, except when you transfer from train to train.
When using trains, you always need to have at least a certain minimum credit on your card to be able to check in the boarding fee can differ from one transportation company to another. The latest information can be found on https://www.ov-chipkaart.nl/en/travelling-on-balance
When you check out, the boarding fee will be refunded and you will be charged for the number of kilometres you travelled. If you do not check out, you will pay the full boarding fee. If you fail to check in or buy a valid ticket, you face a fine plus the fare for your journey.
What types of OV-chipkaart are there?
There are three different types of OV-chipkaart (chip card used to pay for public transport) to choose from:
- Personal OV-chipkaart: this card is intended for the frequent traveller. To apply for a personal OV-chipkaart, you can pick up a paper application form at the counters for public transport companies or apply online at the Ov-chipkaart.nl.
- Anonymous OV-chipkaart: designed for the infrequent traveller, this allows the holder to travel immediately, once you have added money to your card. It can be purchased at sales devices in stations, newsagents, supermarkets and public transport companies’ counters.
- Business OV-chipkaart: the business OV-chipkaart. This card is offered to employees of companies by business card providers. If you have a business OV-chipkaart and have a question, please contact your business card provider. The contact details can be found on the front of your card.
Can I travel by public transport if I don't have an OV-chipkaart?
For a single or round-trip ticket, you can purchase a single-use ‘smart card’ at the NS ticket machines and at service counters (NS Service Desk and Kiosks with ‘tickets & service sign’). This can be purchased at the station vending machines. This card allows for immediate travel, but cannot be re-charged or loaded. Please note that buying a single ticket is more expensive than travelling with an OV-chipkaart (chip card used to pay for public transport). The single ticket or ‘smart card’ is also available in other means of transport such as tram, bus and metro.
Alternatively most of the train companies operating in the Netherlands offers the option to purchase your ticket online (e-ticket). For instance NS, the principal passenger railway operator in the Netherlands, offers not only the option to print your e-ticket but also to download it on your smartphone. For this you will need the ‘NS Reisplanner Xtra app’.
I am a student. What is the student OV-chipkaart?
How can I find out which tram, bus or train I need and the departure times?
Via the website 9292.nl/en, you can plan your journey from door to door. All options, bus, tram, train, metro and ferry for your journey are given here. 9292 provides a helpful app in English. Bear in mind that most information in the public transport system is announced in Dutch.
How can I go to the railway station or from the railway station to my destination?
There are several ways to travel to and from the railway station:
- By bus, tram or metro
- By bike or moped
- On foot
- By car (shared or rental)
- By taxi or shared taxi
For more detailed information about this topic, please visit: NSinternational.nl/en/to-and-from-the-station.
What kinds of tickets are available for the train?
For the train you can use either paper cards or the OV-Chipkaart (chip card used to pay for public transport) The main tickets available are:
- Single ticket
- Return ticket
- Day travel card for the train
- Day travel card for all public transport (called Holland travel ticket)
- Bicycle day travel card
- Rail runner (cheap ticket for children aged 4 to 11 accompanied by an adult)
- Group ticket off peak hours (single ticket)
- Joint discount ticket off peak hours
You can find an overview of available tickets on https://www.ns.nl/en
It seems that everybody is biking in the Netherlands. Where can I buy a bike for myself?
All cities have one or more shops that sell and repair bikes. For a tweedehands fiets (second-hand bike) you can search online or visit one of the online auction pages such as Marktplaats.nl. Bike shops often have second hand bikes too.
What kinds of bikes are available?
The most common type of bicycle is the omafiets (grandma bike). However, you will see a lot of other types of bikes, including the following: stadsfiets (city bike), sportfiets (sport bike), elektrische fiets (electric bike), bakfiets (cargo bike), and mopeds.
Grandma bikes and city bike are most often used for everyday trips, including going to school and/or work, and running errands around town while a sport bike is a more convenient bicycle for longer trips.
An ATB (All Terrain Bikes) is most convenient for those who bike on difficult terrain. A special type of ATB is the MTB (mountain bike), which is not often used in the Netherlands because of its flat terrain, but it is convenient for cycling in the mountains.
An electric bike offers the possibility to get trapondersteuning (electric support while cycling). It is especially useful when it is very windy because you do not require as much strength for pedalling. Trapondersteuning means that you have to bike yourself, but the electric motor will support you. Depending on the type of electric bike, you can choose between no support, little support, average support or a lot of support.
A moped is a snorfiets when it has a light blue licence plate. A bromfiets rides on the roadway and can reach a maximum speed of 45 km/h. They have a yellow licence plate. By law, children younger than 8 years old can be passengers on a moped only when they are provided with a proper, safe seat that gives them adequate support for their back, hands and feet. It is not permitted to hold a mobile phone while operating a moped or any other electronic device. You are only allowed to use any device handsfree. This also applies to pedestrians . If you ignore this rule, you may get a fine.
Cargo bikes or bakfietsen are transport bikes with three wheels and a large front bucket. It is common to see parents transporting children around because the box is low to the ground making it is easier to transport more weight.
There are also four-wheeled vehicles, but they are not allowed on bike paths and have to follow the same rules as mopeds. They look like small automobiles and must have an overall weight of less than 350 kg (excluding the weight of the battery in electric vehicles). They can reach a maximum of 45 km/h and can be distinguished by their small size and a 45 km/h sticker that is displayed on the back of the car.
I have hardly any knowledge of biking. How can I learn to bike?
There are several bike schools all over the country that offer fietslessen (bike lessons). Most of them are called ‘fietsschool’ or ‘fietscollege’ (bike school).
Are there any special traffic rules for cyclists?
The following laws apply specifically for cyclists:
- Cycling is not allowed on sidewalks or pedestrian-only areas
- Use hand signals when preparing to make a left or right turn. Simply put your arm out in the direction you want to turn
- It is allowed to ride alongside another bicyclist, but cycling with three people in a row is not permitted
- Bicyclists share the bike paths with snorfietsen (mopeds). Be prepared for them by cycling on the right side of the bike path so that they can pass you.
- Brommers (mopeds with a speed of maximum 45 km/hour) are no longer allowed on the bike path. They have to use then main road. Snorfietsen (mopeds with a speed of maximum 25 km/hour) are not always allowed on the bike path. Signs indicate if this applies.
- Cycling is not allowed on highways
- Tunnels may or may not be accessible for cycling. If they are, there is usually a separate bike path
- Bicycle lights are mandatory, white or yellow in the front and red in the rear. You can get a fine when cycling without lights in the dark, at dusk or in poor visibility
What is the minimum age to ride a moped in the Netherlands?
If you want to ride a brommer or snorfiets (moped), you need to be at least 16 years of age. You also need to have a bromfietsrijbewijs (moped driving licence). A driving licence for a car is category B, for a moped is category AM. If you have a driving licence category A or B, you can ask to add category AM when you renew your driving licence. You don’t need to pass an exam for this.
Are there any special traffic rules for mopeds?
Brommers (mopeds) must use the main road rather than the bike roads. They are allowed on the bike lanes only if explicitly indicated by the blue traffic sign displaying a bicycle and a moped symbol. Both drivers of a moped and passengers are required to wear a helmet.
Mopeds have bells for a reason! Use the bell to warn bicyclists that you are approaching them and need to pass them, use it to warn pedestrians who are blocking the bike path, or to warn anyone else who might be in your way! Do not park your moped in places that have signs posted saying “Geen fietsen plaatsen” (no bike parking).
How can I arrange a parking space lot near my house?
Parking space is limited in the Netherlands. In general you need to request a parking licence near your house from the municipality. This gives you the right to park near your house but you need to look for a place every time you want to park your car. In addition, you can see if there is a parking garage nearby and try to rent a place there. It is best to check with your municipality for further detail.
How are parking spaces lots organised in the Netherlands?
In most places it is paid parking. This is indicated along the road. You need to get a ticket from the ticket vending machine and pay on your return for the time you parked your car.
Sometimes there is a parking meter. Here you need to decide in advance how long you intend to park your car and pay for that time. If you park longer than expected, you need to add money to the meter to avoid getting a fine.
In areas where paid parking is not in force, you may find there is a Blue Zone. Within this zone, you are only permitted to park for short periods of time by clearly displaying a blue parking disc. You can buy them at large department stores. Before leaving your car, mark your time of arrival on the blue parking disc. You can recognise a blue zone by a nearby road sign. On this sign you can see the maximum parking time permitted, as well as any additional conditions such as specific hours during the day.