A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
Seven months into my year in the Netherlands, and I continue to be amazed by the Dutch public transport system. Not only is it fantastically efficient (I don’t think I have ever seen a train be more than 10 or so minutes late), but also great value for money, no matter where you’re travelling.
Coming from the UK, I shouldn’t be surprised that the Dutch system seems miles better. Even on a regular rail route like London-Birmingham, there are routine delays, and trains often halt in the middle of the countryside because of “signal failures” (I’m so glad I never have to hear this dreaded phrase here). Also, don’t even think about travelling by public transport in the countryside in the UK –buses will run on irregular schedules, break down ten minutes into a journey, or just not turn up at all. Trains in rural areas run on similarly ridiculous schedules – I have experienced this trying to get rural mid-Wales many a time, where trains will also only run every two hours, so trying to organize catching a bus alongside this is almost impossible.
In the Netherlands, by comparison, everything seems to run like clockwork. Granted, buses aren’t the most glamorous form of transport in any county, but for the price you pay here, it’s definitely worth it. For example, the journey from Leiden-Katwijk (almost 8km) will cost you just less than €2, while a comparable journey in Northern England will cost you £2.70.
Don’t even get me started on the OV-chipkaart system – I’m convinced this is the greatest system for travel in the world. One travel card for the whole country? Sounds like it should never work, and yet somehow it’s the most efficient way of doing things. The mass of paper tickets I’ve accumulated travelling on trains in the UK would fill an entire box. In London, they’ve already clocked onto the efficiency of a one-card system, and the Oyster (most of the time) works great. But it’s also expensive, whereas in the Netherlands even journeying from one side of the country to the other can be limited to €20 or less. At the moment, for example, you can buy an off-peak day ticket from Kruidvat for €15,99, or buy more three or more at a time and they become €13,99 each. These tickets can be used on any train company in the Netherlands, meaning, if you wanted, you could do a loop of the entire country by train in one day for less than €20. Make sure you buy the ticket in advance of your journey day though, as Kruidvat will send the ticket by mail.
Though you’ll find season tickets in the UK (at ludicrous prices), the option to bond anonymous OV-chipkaarts to your personal one in the Netherlands is another great travel initiative. If you have the Dal Voordeel subscription, you can link three other anonymous chipkaarts to your own, meaning if family or friends come to stay they can get the same discounts on trains as you do.
Obviously, travelling is not easy all the time – we all experienced the chaos the snow and wind caused during the winter. With spring here, there’s all the more reason to take advantage of both the good weather (fingers crossed) and public transport and visit as much of the Netherlands as possible.