Once you get here, you'll probably want to move around a little bit. The Dutch have a great infrastructure system, and we'll try to help you out with how to ge the best out of it.
The OV Chipkaart
The main way of paying for travel in The Netherlands is the OV Chipkaart. It's basically a card which you load money on, and you scan it when you enter or exit a train or bus. You can buy one at the train station. There are three types of OV cards:
- The anonymous one. Costs 7.5€, and then you can load it with money at the automated machines at the train station, or even online. It can be used by more persons.
- The "Personal" one. Costs 7.5€, and you can order it online here. You need a Dutch bank account with internet banking for this (and a photo of yourself). After you receive it by post, you can get a subscription of 40% discount on the NS railway valid in the weekend and in non-peak hours of the day, for about 45€ for 1 year. With this discount also other three people can travel with you on a discount price, even if they don't have the subscription.
- Note that, if for the trains the prices are the same with or without a card, for buses travel is generally cheaper (as you pay for how much you travel, not a whole ticket).
- You'll always need to have some money on the anonymous card, as the system works the following way: when you check in, it takes some money from the card (20€ for trains and 4€ for buses), and when you check out, it gives you back the difference. So don't forget to check out!
- Note that you have to check in and out with different transport companies: if you take a bus and a train, you have to check in and out for both seperately.
But I heard that students have free transport
It's true, for Dutch students. We know, it's not really fair.
Now, a little bit about means of transportation. The Netherlands is a quite small country, and the main means of transportation between towns is by train.
- Trains are operated by a company called NS. Generally, the trains work really well, come often and on time. Except internaional trains (Fyra), all others cost the same, for example Sprinter and InterCity. However, sometimes the trains don't work at all - trains don't like snow around here, or other extreme meteorological phenomenons. Plan your trip on the NS website, and if you have an Android smartphone or an iPhone, it might be useful to download the NS app. Unless your bike is foldable, you have to pay an extra fee of 7.5€ if you want to carry your bike with you.
- Buses and trams (trams not so much in Leiden...) are more expensive, and are mainly used to travel inside a town. You can use your OV Chipkaart in all of them, in the whole country. They usually come on time, and a full schedule can be found at the bus station near the train station. Also, check out the 9292 website. They also have an app for smartphones which tells you when the next bus leaves ;) Oh, and you can't take your bike in the bus.
- Airplanes (really?...) Short story - there are 2 important airports in The Netherlands - Schiphol (20 minutes by train from Leiden), and a smaller airport at Eindhoven (usually for low-cost flights).