Amazing!! Wish I would have known about this 2 years ago!!!
Taking the train in The Netherlands is relatively cheap and very easy. I took the train from Sittard to Amsterdam for the day and it was perfect!
Parking: Train stations have some sort of parking available. Many have Park and Ride garages nearby. In Sittard, the PR (Park and Ride) garage is on the other side of the tracks, so you’ll cross over the bridge just south of the station (transferium), and look for signs for the parking. Push the green button to get a ticket. Parking all day is under 5E, but if you are taking the train, let the cashier know when you buy your ticket and you may be able to get a discount ticket for parking. (We were not given a ticket automatically, but an attendent at the parking garage gave us one and told us that usually, you will have to ask for it and that there is also usually no attendent there) When you leave, insert your parking ticket into the slot in the machine and the amount you owe will come up. Then, set the discount ticket (if you have one) on a small diagonal try and a red light will read the code and apply the discount. We parked all day (over 12 hours) for 2.40E! IMPORTANT: These machines have a Visa sign, but like the ticket machines, don’t actually accept the US Visa or Mastercards. Plan ahead and BRING COINS.
Basic information and schedules: http://www.ns.nl
Getting your train ticket: The ticket machines in and around the train station do not take paper cash or American credit cards, so unless you have enough coins to cover your ticket, a Maestro card or Dutch PINpas, you’ll need to go to the ticket office located in the Albert Hein convenience store inside the station itself. I suggest this because while you might pay a 50 Cent convenience fee, you may save money. We were able to get a special deal that we did not see advertised online or at the machines that made our tickets cost less than 50% of the normal price.
- A Day Travel Card allows for unlimited travel all around the country within the confines of one day. Do note that the day is not a 24-hour one. There is an early train and a late train that you don’t want to miss.
- A Weekend Return Card allows you to travel unlimited all over the NL between 1900 on Friday and 0400 on Monday morning.
- Children 3 and under ride FREE.
- Children ages 4-11 can travel with adults for only 2 Euros (a limit of 3 children per adult at this price).
The Schedule: Train schedules are easy to read online or look for the large boards at the station. The hour number is large, then you’ll see a long list of the minutes with the route and track number beside it. Find your time and destination, then find the track number – sometimes it’s followed by an a or b and sometimes it’s not. The yellow boards on the platforms show the departure times and route. The blue and white boards show the platform numbers, departure times and routes.
On the train:
- Keep your ticket with you on the train. Conductors will come around at different times along the route and you must have your ticket with you. On our trip, our tickets were stamped 4 times.
- If you get car sick, pay attention to the direction that the train will go and try to choose seats that face forward.
- On longer trips someone with food and drinks may come by, but it is absolutely OK to bring your own. A family I saw had an entire wheeled shopping bag with them with cups, food, and two thermoses of hot drinks.
Changing Trains: You can transfer from one train to another in 5 minutes at most stations. With small children, I’d allow at least 10.
Routes: A “Holland By Train” guide with an English translation inside free at the station has more information and a detailed map of all NL train destination including destinations in Germany, Belgium, and France.
Within the Netherlands: Quick, easy, many ticket options allow you endless travel to any destination within the country. Look online for routes.
- Sittard to Amsterdam took 2 hours 15 minutes roughly and would have cost 38 Euros normally.
International: Some international tickets must be reserved ahead of time and cannot be purchased at the ticket office at the station. Check your route online before your trip and scroll down for rate information. There, you’ll either see a price, or a link to where you can purchase your ticket. I strongly suggest for more complicated international train travel to go to the German travel office on base located in the same building as the German post/Dry Cleaners and Dresdner Bank (go through the center doors and follow the signs to the back of the building). They are VERY helpful and can often get you better rates than you’d get buying tickets at the station at the last minute.
- From Schinnen, you can get just about anywhere, but because it is a very small station, you’ll have many transfers. To Paris, there are 3-4 transfers necessary. If you can drive to Maastricht or even Sittard or Heerlen, you’ll decrease your transfers and possibly save yourself some time. Check out your options by playing with your travel route online.
- Maastricht and Amsterdam Central are the larger hubs. From Maastricht you can get to Paris with only one transfer. Or, take the train from Aachen. There is a fast train that goes directly from Aachen to Paris.
- To get to London, you’ll need to go through Brussels transfer to the Eurostar there.