What should I ride to travel in Holland? Tips and guides to use Dutch train system!

When you arrive in The Netherlands and get out of the schiphol airport, the first thing you will do is taking a train! But what should you take? Intercity? Sprinter? Intercity Direct???? So confusing! Here are tips and guides for you not to be lost in the train station!

Posted by Boeun Park at May 05, 2017 05:33 PM

Dutch train system is well-organized and convenient (except frequent delay.. we will discuss about it later in this post (: ). As I posted before, the Dutch train company is called NS. NS trains consist of different types of trains by their different functions. Let’s figure out what kind of trains you can use in Holland!


1. Intercity

The most common train that connects between cities in Holland is called Intercity. They only stop at the city, which means comparatively bigger stations. Therefore, it is faster way to travel between city to city. Few of them have final destinations at the most common and big stations such as Amsterdam central (most of time it stops at Leiden central and Schiphol airport on the way), Den Haag central, Utrecht central, Eindhoven, Groningen and Nijmegen. However, one thing you have to remember is that there is no intercity train that arrives at Rotterdam central or Leiden central as their final destination. Therefore, you always have to check which stations that the train stops.


Screen board in Den Haag Centraal
Screen board in Den Haag Centraal


This is a screen board that you can commonly find on a train station platform. This photo has been taken in Den Haag central, therefore it either departs from or stops at Den Haag central and will arrive at Amsterdam central as a final destination. When you see below of “Amsterdam Centaal” you can see which station it stops on the way to Amsterdam central. Remember, as Intercity only stops at relatively big stations, they do NOT stop small stations in between those shown stations. Below “via” stations, you can see which station it does not stop but just passes by. Below that, the next train (Or cancelled train in this photo) arriving on the platform (spoor) is shown. 


2. Sprinter

Difference between Intercity and Sprinter. Up: Intercity Down: Sprinter
Difference between Intercity and Sprinter. Above: Intercity Below: Sprinter

Sprinter is a smaller train than intercity train. It stops at every small stations and big stations on its way. Therefore, it is slower to travel between cities with Sprinter than with Intercity. Intercity is faster when you travel between cities, but when you want to get off at small station, sprinter will take you there. When they show the stopping stations on the screen board, it is quite hard to check ALL the stations they are stopping at once. Check the Dutch transportation application on your smartphone or check the train route board. 


Information board is in every station! You can check a timetable and stopping stations!
Information board is in every station! You can check a timetable and stopping stations!

3. Intercity Direct (Express)

Screen board at the Schiphol airport train station.
Screen board at the Schiphol airport train station.


When you take a train from Schiphol airport, you can sometimes find a intercity that is called “Intercity direct”. This train literally brings you directly to certain city. In this photo, you can see that it directly goes to Rotterdam central not stopping any other station. Intercity direct Breda, however, stops only at Rotterdam Central. One thing you must remember is, in order to take Intercity direct, you must pay extra than the normal ticket between Schiphol-Rotterdam. You can buy the intercity direct ticket at a ticket machine.

You can also take this direct train to Airport from Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Breda. If your trip includes the route between Rotterdam Centraal and Schiphol Airport, then you must pay a supplement in addition to your NS ticket. No supplement is necessary on the stretch between Amsterdam Centraal and Schiphol Airport and between Rotterdam Centraal and Breda.


4. Intercity International

Did you know that the Intercity also cross the border? There is intercity that is called “Intercity international”. This goes to Belgium! However, they do not go to all Belgian cities. You can go Antwerp and Brussel (NOT central station but only airport and South-Mid (Zuid-midi in Dutch) station) with this train. If you want to go to Belgium from The Netherlands (get on in The Netherlands and get off in Belgium) you must buy extra ticket. You can buy this ticket at the ticket booth in a train station. The last time I tried, it was not available to buy the ticket from a machine.

One thing you should know is that this intercity train also travels between Dutch city train stations. For example, if it departs from Amsterdam central, stops at Schiphol airport, Leiden central, Den Haag Central and finally arrives at Brussel Zuid-Midi station, you can only travel from Amsterdam to Leiden. In this case, you do NOT need to purchase the extra ticket for intercity international as you ride it only for traveling between Dutch cities. 


For last but not least, Dutch transportation application, 9292, is really useful to look up the possible means of travel.


This is the first page that you will get to see when you install the application. You can put your destinations (Not only by the train station but also bus and tram station!) and the application automatically finds the fastest route/transportation for you! 


It also shows you a canceled or delayed schedule too. As a Korean, where the public transportation is very strictly punctual, it feels as Dutch train system is often delayed and sometimes even suddenly canceled. Therefore, it is safe to have such online application to keep up with the sudden changes.


Hope my tips and guides are useful for you to travel in Holland! Do you know any other kinds of train in Holland? Do you have any other tips to share with newly coming students? Leave a comment below!

Posted by Boeun Park at May 05, 2017 05:33 PM
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