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; 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 multicountry rail pass may be a good deal (but it always pays to double-check).
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).
Extra tip: If your only train travel in Benelux is between Amsterdam and the German border at Emmerich, it's cheaper to just buy a separate train ticket for that stretch (about $20 one-way in second class) than to include Benelux on your rail pass.
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 $25–35 in addition to a rail pass that covers both Benelux and France (reserve as far ahead as possible for the Brussels–Paris stretch).
What do rail passes cover in the Netherlands?
Rail passes cover all travel on trains run by the NS, the Netherlands' national railway. Passes also cover the privately run Thalys trains (see above), and Eurostar trains across the English Channel between London and Amsterdam, which accept Eurail Global Passes, as well as three- and four-country Select Passes that include Benelux. (Eurostar passholder reservations cost about $35 in Standard class or $45 in Standard Premier, in addition to starting use of a rail pass travel day.)
If a rail pass doesn't pencil out for your trip, use the Dutch Railway's online Journey Planner to check ticket-price options for any given trip — and see our general tips for buying point-to-point tickets.
Netherlands Rail Passes: Key Details
Benelux Eurail Pass: Valid on Thalys trains, which require relatively expensive seat reservations, within the "Benelux" region. While the other passes covering this region offer a two-month window, this pass allows travel within just one month after you've activated the pass.