Getting Around the Netherlands- Help!

Hi all- we will be in Europe for 3 weeks in May. We plan to visit the Rhine region and Cologne, Germany before heading up to the Netherlands to see some family history sites (we are of Dutch heritage), some distant relatives, and spend a couple days in Amsterdam. Because we plan to visit some small towns both in Northern and Southern Netherlands, I suspect it will be easiest for us to rent a car. However, for the rest of the trip we will be using public transportation as we are mainly in cities. And here's the best part: We plan to fly to Vienna after our time in the Netherlands. We can't re-order the cities due to plans to attend concerts in both cities (we are music people).

My question is this: since we will be leaving from Cologne to the Netherlands and departing from there to Vienna, where should we rent a car to involve the least wasted time? Obviously, we would like to return our car to an airport when we depart, and we'd like to rent and return the car in the same country to save money. Or is it possible (reasonably) to use public transport in the NL? I've heard their system is one of the weakest in Europe.

I've looked at so many different options I'm confusing myself now.

Thanks for your help!

Posted by Kent
Pacific Northwest
9302 posts

Where are you flying into to begin your trip? You say you'd like to pick up and return the rental car in the same country, but Rhine region - Cologne - Netherlands - Vienna has me wondering what you have in mind in terms of being able to pick up and return the car in the same country.

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
7738 posts

Jennifer, The Dutch rail system is one of the best in Europe. Trains and buses will take you most anywhere you need to go.

Posted by Russ
2694 posts

It's hard to see the value of renting a car in the puny Netherlands. The train system there is fairly comprehensive and quite efficient. Since you plan to visit "some small towns both in Northern and Southern Netherlands" you can check this map to see if your towns are served; remember that other nearby towns are reachable by bus:

Posted by Andreas
Frankfurt am Main, Germany
2701 posts

Pick up the car in Cologne or Koblenz, drive the Netherlands and return it at Düsseldorf airport (close to the Dutch border) from where you can get cheap flights to Vienna. That way it's a free-of-charge one-way rental... I'd drive in the NL as the country side is beautiful and there is so much to see. Mind the speed limits though!

Posted by Sylvia
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
331 posts

Depending on where exactly you want to go in Holland, the public transit system may be your best bet. The Rainway system is Great. The Trains are clean,on schedule,frequent,and the price is reasonable. The public transit system is all of the above and the Strippencarts (public transit bus tickets) are usable all through the Netherlands.

Posted by Jennifer
6 posts

Hi all. Thanks for the help.

Kent, we don't yet know where we are flying into- we are flexible as far as that goes. Dusseldorf, Cologne, Frankfurt are all options. Whatever offers us a good flight schedule for a reasonable price when we are ready to purchase our tickets. The routing of the trip is a bit odd, as I mentioned, because of the concerts we will be attending. The Cologne-NL-Vienna route is just a portion of a longer trip, and we will be using public transport for the remainder of the trip.

Russ, thanks for the link to the map, that is helpful and very easy to read!

Andreas, thanks for the suggestion to pickup and return the car in Dusseldorf. That was one of my ideas (alternatively to pick up and drop off a car in Amsterdam). I am glad to hear you think that is a feasible option. We do hope to see some of the NL countryside!

Sylvia and Michael, thanks for the encouragement about the public transport in the Netherlands. I'm not sure where I read that it wasn't so great, but now I know that there are other opinions.

If anyone else can point me to web sites where I can find info about the bus and/or public transport system nation-wide, that would be great. I have primarily been using for train travel info.

Thanks again!

Posted by Sylvia
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
331 posts

Jennifer, I am of Dutch heritage too (born there, grew up in Canada) and I have to tell you that sitting on public transit or on a train in Holland is wonderful. All the Dutch I learned as a kid comes back and its like being part of a secret club. I start feeling my roots and I think you will too.

Posted by sashmo4
1 posts

Just wanted to chime in with the others who have said that public transport here is excellent. I live in Utrecht as a student, I don't have a car, and I have found it one of the easiest places to get around in Europe. If you get an OV chipkaart - easily obtained at any train station - you can load it up and use it throughout the Netherlands , on cross-country trains and in-town buses alike. The one caveat to this is that in smaller towns, you may still have to do some walking as bus stops are spaced a little further apart than in other places I have been (possibly because so many people rely on bicycles rather than buses).

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
8198 posts

Public transportation is good in Netherlands. A car lets you travel on your schedule and, if you're going to small towns or neighborhoods, will take you directly to your destination without multiple connections and a walk at the start/end of each trip. Since you really only need a car for Netherlands, train from Cologne then pick one up inside the country, that will save you a drop charge that can be significant.

Posted by Lo
1682 posts

Zombie thread -- started 5 (count 'em) years ago.

Posted by nacnut
1 posts

I was there last may and while in Amsterdam there was no need for a car but needed one for our four day driving trip through the south of Holland to Belgium, Luxembourg, North France and border towns in Germany. Brought my own GPS with Euro maps and driving was very comfortable there,