Dutch trains are modern and the quickest way to travel between city centers in the country. Service is 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. Sprinters (local trains) usually take in all or most stops on a route, so they are slower. Smoking is not permitted on trains and permitted only in designated zones in stations.
On most trains you have the choice of first or second class. First-class travel costs around 50% more (depending on the length of the journey), 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 activate it for rail travel beforehand, to check in on the platform before you board, and to check out when you leave the train.
You can buy tickets at the ticket desk or at the yellow touch-screen ticket machines in every railway station. These machines accept debit cards and credit cards with a four-digit PIN code. 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. If you don't plan to cover many miles, then you're better off buying individual tickets; a dagkaart (unlimited travel pass for one day) costs €51.40 second-class, €87.40 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: it's 35 minutes from Folkestone to Calais, 60 minutes from motorway to motorway, or a little over two hours from London's St. Pancras Station to Brussels, where you can change to a Thalys train to Amsterdam.
NS–Nederlandse Spoorwegen/Dutch Railways. www.ns.nl.
Information and Passes
Rail Europe. 44 S. Broadway, No. 11, White Plains, New York, 10601. 800/622–8600; 800/361–7245; www.raileurope.com/us.
Lost and Found. For lost and found on train lines and in stations, ask for a form at the nearest station. 0900/321–2100.
Public Transport Information. Hollandwide Public Transport Information, including schedules and fares. 0900/9292; www.9292.nl.