Public Transport in The Netherlands – Trains, Trams and Busses

Public Transport in The Netherlands

Virtually every city, town and village in Holland is connected by some form of public transport. Lots of Dutch people, tourists and expatriates use the many trains, trams, taxis, buses, metros, water taxis and ferries to travel around the country every day. Since I don’t have a car (and have not driven in nine years) I also use public transport quite a lot for travelling to and from work. In the mornings I spend a groggy train journey trying to wake up before getting crammed into a tram with everyone else.

In general the Dutch public transport is a lot better then the public transport in England. The trains and buses are cleaner, there are fewer delays, fewer strikes and fewer mistakes. However, there are still a few things travelers need to be aware of as they travel around the country.

Public Transport in The Netherlands

A common way to pay for travel between zones on buses, trams and metro lines is with a strippenkaart (Strip Card). Every time a strippenkaart is used it has to be stamped in one of its free spaces. The amount of zones being travelled reflects how many of the free spaces should to be used (plus one). If you are ever lucky enough to completely fill a Strippenkaart don’t forget to shout ‘full house’ and claim your prize from the driver.

When travelling by train it is always important to keep your wits about you. This is because the NS (Dutch rail company) employees enjoy playing mind games with commuters. One of the train operators’ favourite games to play just before departure is to close all the doors apart from one at the far end of the train. They do this to give last second late arrivals hope. The conductor can often be seen leaning out of the last door so they can watch panicked commuters run in desperation. Then, just as the victim arrives at the door it is closed and the train starts to move away, leaving them cursing and out of breath on the platform.

Train announcers don’t miss out on the fun either and will often wait until the last moment to announce platform changes. They might have a score system with extra points given for the amount of suitcases a tourist has to drag behind them or they may just enjoy watching commuters run back and forth.

The trains themselves usually have more first class compartments then are actually needed. First class tickets might cost a lot of money and entitle their users to a certain level of luxury but one carriage per first class passenger seems a bit over the top.

Fight For The Tram

Commuters may be the victims on the trains but by the time they reach the trams the shoe is on the other foot. Maybe it is because of the frustration they have suffered at the hands of the train operators that they treat the trams with such aggression. There are several rules of engagement when attempting to successfully board a tram.

– There is no such thing as a Dutch queue, only a mass of people all trying to get on at once.
– Elbows determine who gets on first.
– Exit Only and Entrance Only signs on tram doors are there to be ignored.
– When the tram operator tries to close the doors to leave it is customary to simply force them open again.
– There is always room for more people even if passengers are already hanging out of the windows.
– The best time to push passed a fellow passenger is as the tram takes a sharp corner at speed.

Despite having no power over the actions of commuters tram operators stay quite cheery and will often try to make the journey more interesting for their tormentors by singing out the names of stops. Dam Square might suddenly become “D-du-du-da-dam Squareeeeeeee” or Spui might become “Spu.. spu.. spuiiiiiiiiiiii.” To my knowledge there has not been a tram sing-a-long but it might happen one day.

Tram operators sometimes help tourists as well by announcing near by attractions when arriving at a stop. If there is a group of loud English lads on the tram the operator makes a point to announce Dam Square as the stop for the Red Light District. This might seem like it is playing on an unfair stereotype but you’d be surprised the amount of times one in the group will shout to his friends, “This is our stop.”

16 responses to “Public Transport in The Netherlands – Trains, Trams and Busses”

  1. marycub says:

    The best dutch train journeys are the ones with off their head on drugs people. Free entertainment for all before they get dragged off by conductors and security!

  2. Bonestorm says:

    Trams are freaky. We don’t get them around here, but the first time I went to Melbourne and saw one I just about fell over because I thought a train was pulling up to a set of traffic lights in the middle of the road.

  3. JaG says:

    Hahaha! You are so right! And I’m glad I’ve got my own car!

  4. Alan says:

    In general the Dutch public transport is a lot better then the public transport in England.

    In general, the Outer Mongolian public transport is a lot better than the public transport in England. And that consists mostly of Yaks.

  5. marycub says:

    Yaks beat english transport… so so so true!

  6. RM says:

    A car is a must out here – public transport is slightly oxymoronic. Which is ironic when you consider that most of the people using it are moronic.

    In a country (sorry, Reality TV Show) like Holland I thought of something completely different when you said strippenkaart

  7. Panda says:

    “Virtually every city, town and village in Holland is connected by some form of public transport.”

    Sounds like Boston.

  8. Invader Stu says:

    Marycub – Unless they start talking to you.

    Bonestorm – lol. I can see why that would come as a surprise. The first time I saw a tram was in Croydon where I went to college but I had enough warning since it took them 5 years to lay all the tracks.

    JaG – Is driving around Amsterdam easy?

    Alan – Hehe. I could not have put it better myself. Its so true.

    RM – Well you do have to strip off an item of clothing for every travel zone your cross.

    Boston – But is it better than public transport by Yak?

  9. Whitney Davis says:

    wow. It sounds like Holland is an interesting place to commute. I have this image of the entire tram bursting into song. And maybe a little dance routine to make things interesting.

    If I was a tram operator… well THEN it would be an interesting commute.

  10. RM says:

    RM – Well you do have to strip off an item of clothing for every travel zone your cross.

    How interesting. I guess this means great care and consideration goes into which carriage you choose to travel in??


  11. flick says:

    damn! why isn’t there a singa-a-long??
    i’m going there soon and i was hoping they’d do seomthing like, i dunno.. sound of music… that’s they’re kinda style with all them clogs and all… ;)

  12. marycub says:

    haven’t u heard about the little mouse who lived in a windmill? the little mouse with clogs on?

  13. Invader_Stu says:

    Whitney Davis – What would you do?

    RM – Changing carriages also involves the removing of an item of clothing.

    Flick – I’ll write a letter to the minister of transport and demand sing-a-longs.

    Marycub – I love those guys. I have all their albums.

  14. Radonir says:

    “If you are ever lucky enough to completely fill a Strippenkaart don’t forget to shout ‘full house’ and claim your prize from the driver.”

    On the off chance that you were unaware if it: if you need to stamp off 4 zones and you only have 2 left on your old card, just stamp off the last one on the old card and two more on the new one.

  15. Lopa says:

    OMG, why didn’t you write this post earlier, see how many times i missed my ‘full house’ prize now ! ;)

    Initially it was always confusing for me how to calculate zone and number of spaces on strippenkaart, every time to check on internet before going somewhere – not so handy.

    LOL at those mind games ;) But thing is even when we know it is a mind game, darn still we fall for them ! :)

  16. Lopa says:

    Ooops sorry, you had wrote it earlier, correction… Why didn’t i come across this post earlier ! ;)

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