Belgium and Netherlands share a border and are easy countries to cross by train. If you’re exploring one, you’re probably going to explore the other or at least pass through it. For people who are traveling from Bruges, Belgium to the Amsterdam region, here is what I did and my advice.
First, all Belgian and Dutch train tickets can be bought the day of your travels. There is one exception to this rule though. If you intend to travel from Bruges to Brussels and then Brussels to Amsterdam, you can and probably should buy your ticket early on the Brussels to Amsterdam part. Why? Because this part is operated by Thayls, a high-speed train service, that can be bought on-line before hand. It is better to buy before hand because tickets on that train service can go up in price closer to the date.
Just know that you usually will pay more using Thayls Express Train than using the Inter-City train services that are a little slower but less expensive. From Bruges to Amsterdam there is a flat rate of $48 euros (2014) for one way for one person. The benefit is that you can pay the day of, at the train station, which gives you more freedom to pick your own schedule.
Another great thing about the train service in Belgian and Netherlands is that you can pay by credit card. Actually most European train services let you pay by credit card these days which is great for foreigners. If you don’t have a chip with your card (like American credit cards), you need to buy your tickets from a ticket agent where you will pay and then sign for it. Beware that many Europeans are not use to this procedure so it may throw them off but it can be done.
Also most people in both countries have an understanding in English so getting a ticket is not a problem. Just say “Bruges to Amsterdam” please and they will process your ticket.
The most popular way to travel from Bruges to Amsterdam on the train is first take a train from Bruges to Antwerp, which is around 1 hr and half train ride. Antwerp sits near the border of Netherlands and is a great place to connect by train because one of the highlights of Antwerp is the actual train station itself. Orate and beautiful, it use to be one of the commanding train stations of Europe. I’m glad the iconic train station is still around for viewing except we only got to see it for a grand total of 20 minutes. One of the benefits of European trains is that they make sure to time the connections relatively close to one another because usually most of the trains are on-time.
From Antwerp the train travels into Netherlands which is not too far across the border. Once in Netherlands you get a chance to finally see the sea and the famous landscapes that is undeniably what we know as Netherlands. The train from Antwerp to Rotterdam on the slower Belgian train takes around 1 hr and 20 minutes however it is possible to book an express train with Thalys (Dutch) and the train ride is only 32 minutes. These trains are not as frequent and usually more expensive. The Thalys train can be also booked from Antwerp to Amsterdam as well on the Belgian trains (SNCB). You can also book from Bruges.
Our train from Antwerp to Amsterdam was around 5 minutes late and I believe we had a 2 minute connection. I was panicking a little since usually trains in Western Europe are on-time and stick with their schedule. However because the train from Antwerp to Rotterdam is a popular train ride, they did wait for our train to pull up and unload for our connection train to Amsterdam. Also they made sure to pull the train right next to the departing train so we literally hopped off the Antwerp train and within 10 seconds we were on our connecting train to Amsterdam.
On the train from Rotterdam to Amsterdam the ride is actually just under 45 minutes and will take you through Amsterdam International Airport and then finally to Amsterdam Central Station. Total time for our entire journey was around 4 hours with connections and all. Also it was a pleasant journey, seeing the Belgium and Dutch countryside, and I only stressed about making the connection. Just remember that another train will come and it won’t ruin your trip if you end up missing your connection.
Some good resources:
- And Rail Europe to only look up with the schedule! Don’t buy from them as they charge a ridiculous surcharge. Both Thalys and SNCB should have train schedules as well.
images by: shawnvoyage