By Rick Steves
Are rail passes a good value for the Netherlands?
Most visits to the Netherlands don't cover enough miles to justify buying a rail pass, even if you're visiting Belgium as well. (All rail passes that cover the Netherlands also cover Belgium and Luxembourg as well; together they're called "Benelux," and count as one country as far as rail passes are concerned.) If your itinerary extends beyond this relatively small region, adding Benelux to a multi-country rail pass may be a good deal (but it always pays to double-check). If you decide against a pass, look into the Netherlands' plentiful money-saving local deals.
How do I see whether a rail pass makes sense for my trip in particular?
Use this map to add up approximate pay-as-you-go fares for your itinerary, and compare that cost to the price of a rail pass for the number of days you expect to spend on the train. Also, follow the links below for:
- More tips for figuring out whether a pass makes sense for your trip
- The basics on choosing among rail passes
- More tips on how to save money by fine-tuning your rail pass
- Advice on deciding between first and second class
- Fare-estimate maps outside Benelux
- Answers to frequently asked rail-pass questions
Choose one of the passes below to check prices and to buy your pass (orders are fulfilled by Rail Europe).
Do I need to make seat reservations on Dutch trains?
For the most part, you can hop on nearly any Dutch train with just your rail pass in hand. But the fast Thalys trains that run between Amsterdam and Brussels (and between Brussels and Cologne and Paris) do require reservations — and they're expensive (point-to-point tickets also cost more on these trains than other trains on these routes). On Brussels–Amsterdam trains, you can avoid this extra cost simply by choosing a regular non-Thalys train, which doesn't require seat reservations. (This also works on Brussels–Cologne trains.) The Brussels–Paris direct route, however, is served only by Thalys trains, and reservations cost $40–95 in addition to a rail pass that covers both Benelux and France. To avoid Thalys fees when heading from Bruges or Brussels to Paris (or from Paris to Brussels or Bruges), you can take a little more time and connect in Lille to a TGV train (still requires reservations, but only cost $11, provided you reserve ahead, as TGV limits the number of seat reservations sold to rail-pass holders).
If a rail pass doesn't pencil out for your trip, you may be able to shave off the cost of your train tickets with some of these tips:
- The Amsterdam train station offers many same-day round-trip tickets for only 25 percent more than the regular one-way fare.
- For €55 and a photo, the Netherlands Off-Peak Discount Card (sold at stations) saves 40 percent on most tickets, and can be shared by up to three people outside of rush hours.
- Use the Dutch Railway's online Journey Planner to check ticket-price options for any given trip.
Netherlands Rail Passes: Key Details
Benelux Eurail Pass: Valid on Thalys trains within the "Benelux" region (with expensive seat reservation), but not on trains to/from Paris. While the other passes covering this region offer a two-month window, this pass allows travel only within a one-month period.
Benelux–France Eurail Pass: Valid on Thalys trains between Amsterdam, Brussels, or Cologne and Paris, but only with a seat reservation, which costs an additional $40–95. If you expect to be taking several long train trips in France, however, this pass can still save you money (since French trains require either a reasonably priced extra reservation fee, or none at all). Still, be aware that both the Thalys trains and TGV trains limit the number of seat reservations sold to rail-pass holders — reserve as far ahead as you can.
Benelux–Germany Eurail Pass: If your only travel in Benelux is between Amsterdam and the German border at Emmerich ($20 in second class), it's cheaper to get a rail pass that doesn't include Benelux, and instead buy that train ticket for that stretch once you're in Europe (available at any staffed station).