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 the Belgium as well. But if your Dutch travels are part of a much wider-ranging trip, a Global Pass might well pan out (just keep in mind that extra seat-reservation fees are required on the region's high-speed Thalys trains). If you decide against a pass, see our general tips for buying point-to-point tickets in Europe.
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
The Netherlands doesn't have a single-country pass all to itself, but shares a regional "Benelux" pass that also covers Belgium and Luxembourg (technically classed as a "one-country pass").
Benelux Eurail Pass (3 countries)
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 if traveling with a Global Pass, or $35–45 on direct Amsterdam–Paris trains (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), but only the Eurail Global Pass covers Eurostar trains across the English Channel from London to Amsterdam (direct trains only run in this direction and are timed for business commuters; passholder reservations on this train sell out quickly and cost about $45 in Standard class or $55 in Standard Premier, in addition to starting use of a rail pass travel day). Amsterdam–London trains that change in Brussels require a separate reservation for the connecting Thayls train.
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.