The Netherlands has a fine-grained, well-organized public transport system. Virtually any village can be reached by public transport. The Dutch public transport system consists of a train network which serves as backbone, extended with a network of both local and interlocal buses. Amsterdam and Rotterdam have a metro network, and Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Den Haag and Utrecht also have trams.
Taxi service was traditionally a tightly guarded monopoly. In recent years, the market was deregulated, but prices are still high. Taxi drivers are licensed, but they do not, as of yet, have to pass a proficiency exam, providing they know the streets. This is planned in the future, since the taxi market is being re-regulated. In the bigger cities taxi drivers can be un-friendly to very rude. One will find that especially in the western part of the country the cost of a taxi are very high for very little politeness and service. The public transport system often proves to be cheaper and a lot faster.
Some taxi drivers refuse short rides e.g. under €10. This is illegal, but it's hard to enforce this prohibition. There is a maximum tarriff, and it's built into the taxi meters. If you negotiote a price before you get in, the price you have to pay is the negotiated price, or the metered price, whichever is lower. Getting in a cab without enough money to pay for the ride is illegal, so it's wise to negotiate a price.
All legal taxis have blue license plates. So do some other vehicles for group transport, such as minibus services for the handicapped.
A car is a good way to explore the countryside, especially places not connected by rail, such as Veluwe, parts of Zeeland and The North Sea islands. The motorway network is extensive, though heavily used. Congestion during peak hour is usual and can better be avoided. Roads are well signposted. When driving in cities, always give priority to cyclists when turning across a cycle lane. If you are involved in a collision with a cyclist, you will be automatically liable though not guilty. If you wish to see only cities, a car is not the best option. Due to limited road capacity and parking, cars are actively discouraged from entering most bigger cities.
Public transport buses have the priority when leaving a bus stop, so be careful as they may pull in front of you expecting that you will give way.
Drive on the right. The speed limit in built up areas is 50 km/h with some zones limited to maximum of 30 km/h. Outside of towns speed is limited to 80 km/h this includes most N-roads. On some local roads the speed limit is 60 km/h. On the highways the limit is 120 km/h except on some roads where the limit is 100 km/h or 130 km/h. During rush hour signs above many roads indicate the current speed limit. On semi-highways and some of the N-roads the speed limit is 100 km/h.
Your speed will be checked nationwide by the police and fines are heavy. Exeeding the maximum speed with more than 50km/h will result in seizure of your driving licence. After that driving is considered a criminal act. Pay extra attention to Trajectcontrole signs: that means that in the road you're driving there is an automatic system that checks your average speed on a long section. Radar detectors are illegal devices to have in your car. They will be impounded and you will be fined €250. Keep in mind that the police use so-called radar detector detectors to track down radar detector users, so it is best to turn them off. Drinking and driving is not allowed and this is enforced strongly. Breathalyzer tests occur frequently, both on an individual basis i.e. you get pulled over and the police see it necessary for you to undergo a breathalyzer test as on a bigger scale i.e. the police has set up a designated control checkpoint on a highway. A unbroken yellow line next to the sidewalk means no stopping, a broken yellow next to the sidewalk means no parking. Some crossings have "shark teeth" painted on the road, this means you have to give way to the other traffic.
Note that police also use unmarked traffic surveillance cars, especially on the highways. They have a video surveillance system and often they don't stop you right after doing a violation but they keep on following you. That means if you do more violations, you'll be fined for everything you did. Note that the policemen in unmarked cars are obliged to identify themselves after pulling you over, which means you shouldn't have to ask. Policemen in marked cars have to show their ID only when you ask them for it, but they too are obliged to show it when asked.
If your car breaks down on the highway you might go to the nearest roadside emergency telephone; these "praatpalen" can be recognized as they are about 1.5m high, yellow and have a rounded bunny-eared cap on top. This is the direct connection to the emergency and assistance services.
Alternatively, you might use a mobile phone to reach the ANWB (http://www.anwb.nl/) autoclub via toll-free number 0800-0888; your membership of a foreign autoclub might entitle you to discount rates on their services. Leased business cars and rental cars are usually serviced by the ANWB services included in the lease/rental price; but you may want to check any provided booklets.
If you are involved in an accident, both drivers need to complete and counter-sign a statement for their respective insurance companies damage form/"schadeformulier". You are required to have this form on hand. The police need to be notified if you have damaged public property especially along the highways, if you have caused any sort of injury, or if the other driver does not agree to sign the insurance statement. It is illegal to hit and run. If the other driver does this, call the police and stay at the scene. The emergency telephonenumber is 112 tollfree, will even work from disconnected mobile phones; the telephonenumber for non-emergency police presence is 0900-8844.
Road signs with directions are plenty, but having a map is useful, especially in cities where there are many one way streets, and getting from one part of the city to another is not always so straightforward. Be careful not to drive on bus lanes, often indicated with markings such as Lijnbus or Bus, nor on cycling paths, marked by the picture of a bicycle, or by a reddish color of asphalt. Also, do not use the rush-hour-lanes Spitsstrook when the matrix display above the designated lane indicates a red "X" - this means they cannot be used.
Fuel is easy to come by, but extremely expensive! The Netherlands have the doubtful title for having the most expensive fuel prices in the world for 20 years. It is better to refuel your car for 100% before going in the Netherlands, since the Belgian and German fuel prices can be â¬0,30 lower. If it's truly desperately needed, only try to tank at unmanned gas stations, such as TanGo or Firezone. They save up to 10 cents, but are still far more expensive than their Belgian counterparts. Prices of fuel are, as of 2012, â¬1,84 $2.20 a litre in manned stations. Along highways many gas stations are open 24/7. More and more unmanned gas stations can be found, even along highways, selling petrol cheaper. These unattended stations accept all common debit and credit cards. All gas stations sell both petrol and diesel; the "premium" brands have the same octane level they alledgedly contain compounds that improve fuel efficiency to offset the higher price. Liquid Petroleum Gas is sold at relatively many gas stations along the high ways, but it is never sold in built-up areas. The symbol for LPG gas is a green-colored gaspump-icon, set beside the general case black-colored gaspump-icon. LPG fueled cars need regular petrol to start the motor, and can also be operated using strictly petrol, though it is more expensive.
If you come in the Netherlands with your LPG fueled car, probably you will need an adaptor. If you buy in your country, ask for the specific Dutch adaptor. The plug sold as "european" screw style, is used in Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany but won't fit Dutch pumps.
Parking fees within cities can be pretty steep. When considering going to bigger cities, such as Amsterdam, Utrecht, and Rotterdam, consider use of public transportion to avoid traffic jams and the great difficulties involved in finding a parking spot. P+R park and ride facilities are available at the outskirts of bigger cities; you can park your car cheaply there, and continue your journey via public transport.
The two largest cities, Amsterdam] and Rotterdam, have a metro network which runs mainly on elevated railways outside the city centers, and underground within the center. Furthermore there is a large city tram network in the agglomerations of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague; Utrecht has two sneltram lines fast tram or light-rail.
Cycling in the Netherlands is much safer and more convenient than in other countries, because of the infrastructure - cycle paths, cycle lanes, and signposted cycle routes. However, the proliferation of bicycles also means that you're seen as a serious part of traffic - motorists will hate you if you don't keep by the rules. Some things to know:
Cycle lanes and cycle paths are indicated by a round blue sign with a white bike icon, an icon on the asphalt, or by red asphalt. Using them is mandatory.
Cyclists must obey the same traffic signs as motorists, unless exempted. For example, a cycle icon under a no-entry sign, usually with the text 'uitgezonderd' except, means cyclists may use the street in both directions.
Where there is no cycle lane or path, use the regular road. This is unlike the rule in Germany and Belgium, where you are supposed to use the footpath in many places.
On some narrow streets that do have a cycle path parallel to them, mopeds may be required to use the cycle path, rather than the main street as is usual.
Bicycles must have working front white and rear red lights. Reflectors are not sufficient. You may be fined â¬ 40 for cycling in the dark without a light, and you seriously endanger yourself and other traffic by doing so. Small, battery-operated LED lights attached to your person are allowed.
There are different ways to use a bicycle:
if you are staying in a city, you can use the bike as a means of transport, to get from A to B. This is the way local people use it, for short journeys it is faster than car, bus or tram. You can use the bike to get to places near the city, which may not be accessible by public transport.
you can cycle around on the bike, in a city, or in the surrounding area. The bike is then a means to see places and landscapes. The many signposted cycle routes are designed for this, most of them are octagonal and take you back to the starting point. Some rural routes go through areas inaccessible by car. Signs for bicycle routes are usually white, with a red border and lettering. In most parts of the Netherlands it's possible to create your own routes by connecting marked and numbered points called "knooppunten".
you can take the bike on a train, for a day trip to another city or region. It costs â¬ 6, and you may not travel with a bike in the rush hour. You must carry a supplementary ticket called "dagkaart fiets", which is easily obtained from the automated kiosks. As an alternative, you can easily rent bikes at or near stations. Folding bikes can be taken on board for free when folded.
you can load your tent on the bike, and set off across the country. For this you do need to be fit, and not afraid of rain. The national long-distance cycle routes are designed for this type of holiday, see Cycling in the Netherlands Long-distance routes (http://holland.cyclingaro...).
The best online routeplanner for cyclists can be found at (http://www.fietsersbond.n...) a wikiplanner made by volunteers of the Dutch cyclist union "Fietsersbond".
The network of regional and local buses in the Netherlands is fine-grained and frequent and usually connects well with the train network; you can reach most small villages easily. However, for long-distance travel, these regional buses are not convenient at all, and are much slower than the train.
Fast long-distance buses are only available on a small number of routes that aren't covered by the rail network; these buses have special names that differ by region, such as Q-liner, Brabantliner and Interliner, and special tariffs.
There are four main bus companies in the Netherlands, Connexxion, Veolia, Arriva and Qbuzz. A few large cities have their own bus company.
A cheap way to get across the Netherlands is to buy a "buzzer" ticket. It costs €10 a day, and is valid after 9AM on every single Connexxion bus for two grownups and up to three children. On weekends and holidays it is also valid before 9AM. Because Connexxion has a near monopoly on the bus market, you can get from Groningen to Zeeland this way in a day, and it undercuts the train. A big downside though is that bus lines are very indirect. For example, if you want to travel from Amsterdam to Rotterdam, you have to change three or more times to get all the way there. In short: bus journeys will almost always take longer than train travel. For example, trip to Rotterdam from Utrecht will take 40 minutes, but in the Bus it will take 1 hour and 30 minutes. However, if you want to enjoy the countryside and villages you can prefer the bus trips.
Many companies and regions have their own bus discount tickets, which are often cheaper than using credit on the OV-chipkaart.
Park-and-ride-travel-tickets: some towns and cities have special cheaper bus tickets from car parks near the city limits to the city centre, for outside rush hours, usually a return ticket.