Dutch trains are modern and the quickest way to travel between city centers. Services are relatively frequent, with a minimum of two departures per hour for each route, and often more. Although many Dutch people complain about delays, the trains usually run roughly on time. Most staff speak English. Reserving a seat is not possible.
Intercity trains can come double-decker; they stop only at major stations. Sneltreins (express trains) also have two decks but take in more stops, so they are a little slower. Stoptreins (local trains) are the slowest. Smoking is not permitted on trains and permitted only in designated zones in stations.
On the train you have the choice of first or second class. First-class travel costs 50% more, and on local trains gives you a slightly larger seat in a compartment that is less likely to be full. At peak travel times, first-class train travel is worth the difference.
Train tickets for travel within the country can be purchased at the last minute. Normal tickets are either enkele reis (one-way) or retour (round-trip). Round-trip tickets cost approximately 75% of two single tickets. They are valid only on the day you buy them, unless you ask specifically for a ticket with a different date. You can get on and off at will at stops in between your destinations until midnight. You can also use the OV-chipkaart, but remember to check in on the platform before you board, and to check out when you leave the train.
You cannot buy domestic train tickets in the Netherlands with credit cards or traveler's checks. If you don't have euros, bureau de change GWK has a branch at Amsterdam Centraal Station and all major stations throughout the country. You can also buy tickets at the yellow touch-screen ticket machines in every railway station. These machines accept debit cards with a four-digit PIN code but not credit cards. Fares are slightly lower than if you visit a manned ticket desk. Note that you can't buy tickets aboard the trains, and you risk a hefty fine if you board and travel without one.
Train fares in Holland are lower than in most other European countries, but you can still save money by looking into rail passes—there is a host of special saver tickets that make train travel even cheaper. Be aware, however, that if you don't plan to cover many miles, then you may as well buy individual tickets; a dagkaart (unlimited travel pass for one day) costs €47 second class, €80 first class, but it is almost impossible to rack up enough miles to make it worthwhile. Short of flying, taking the Channel Tunnel is the fastest way to cross the English Channel: 35 minutes from Folkestone to Calais, 60 minutes from motorway to motorway, or two hours and 15 minutes from London's St. Pancras Station to Paris's Gare du Nord.
NS–Nederlandse Spoorwegen/Dutch Railways (www.ns.nl.)
Information and Passes
Rail Europe (44 S. Broadway, No. 11, White Plains, NY, 10601. 800/622–8600 in U.S.; 800/361–7245 in Canada. www.raileurope.com/us.)
Public Transport Information. Holland-wide Public Transport Information, including schedules and fares. 0900/9292 at €0.70 per min. 9292.nl.
Lost and Found. For lost and found on train lines and in stations, ask for a form at the nearest station. 0900/321–2100 at €0.80 per min.
Nederlandse Spoorwegen. Information from Dutch Rail's Customer Service. 0900/202–1163 calls cost 10¢ per minute. www.ns.nl.
NMBS/SNCB (02/555–2525. www.b-rail.be.)