We have visited Germany several times and rented a car. This year we are traveling the Netherlands and Belgium by train. I am a novice at train travel but according to Rick's book it should be fairly easy. My question, we are traveling with a group of 7. We plan to travel twice by train. Should I book tickets ahead of time or wait until we get to the cities. For instance, we will be in Amsterdam for 3 days before we move on to our next location. Is it better to book ahead or book once in Amsterdam. We are looking to book from Amsterdam to Bruges, and Brussels to Amsterdam. Thanks.
The rail link between Amsterdam and Brussels (via Antwerp) is run by the Thalys premium high speed service, so yes, you would need to book this in advanced if you wanted to save money. Between cities within the two countries, though, no need to book in advanced.
I lived in The Netherlands for 16 years. The train network is extensive (also in Belgium), and easy to use. Don't forget that if you try and use a credit card to pay, you must have a PIN for it. There are many others ways of getting to Brussels than by Thalys. In general, if you book trains over the internet, you will pay more than buying in the Netherlands.
you dont say where your from, but the train system in Europe puts the one in the USA to shame. Ive never rode a train anywhere and my first time in Europe was just about as easy as it can get.
There are some thing you should know.
look for a reader board just like at the airport. Note that some place will not show train departure times 15 minutes or so out. Ive only noticed it at the trains/places i departed from so other places may vary. I got to the train station 1 hr early just in case there were any issues and couldnt figure out why my train wasnt shown. So i just bought some breakfast, waited and watched.
Make sure the train youre boarding is the one you want. I had boarded an express train whereas my ticket was for the slower train. both trains left the station at the same time and as far i could tell, the same train number too.
but you will have a great time. I prefer trains over driving. Its too easy to kick back and relax.