Several companies operate car/passenger ferries between the Netherlands and the UK. Most travel agents have details of the following services but might not always know the finer points. Reservations are essential for motorists in high season, although motorcycles can often be squeezed in.
Stenaline (www.stenaline.nl) sails between Harwich and Hoek van Holland. The fast HSS ferries take only three hours 40 minutes and depart in each direction twice a day. Overnight ferries take 6¼ hours (one daily), as do normal day ferries (one daily). Foot passengers pay upwards of UK£40 return. Fares for a car with up to five people range from UK£300 to UK£350 return depending on the season and the day of the week. A motorcycle and driver cost UK£110/UK£200 in low/high season. Options such as reclining chairs and cabins cost extra and are compulsory on night crossings.
P&O North Sea Ferries (www.poferries.com) operates an overnight ferry every evening (11 hours) between Hull and Europoort (near Rotterdam). Return fares start at UK£112 for a foot passenger (for two persons travelling together it’s only UK£133), UK£238 for a car with up to four people, and UK£198 for a motorcycle and rider. Prices here include berths in an inside cabin, and luxury cabins are available.
DFDS Scandinavian Seaways (www.dfds.com) sails between Newcastle and IJmuiden, which is close to Amsterdam; the 15-hour sailings depart every day. The earlier you book, the lower your fare: single fares start at UK£19 for a foot passenger in an economy berth with private facilities, plus UK£41 for a car. The fare for a motorcycle and rider is UK£49 one way. Bear in mind that prices go up in high season. Most ferries don’t charge for a bike and have no shortage of storage space.
Amsterdam and Rotterdam, and a few of Holland’s smaller cities such as Den Haag and Utrecht, are well connected to the rest of Europe and North Africa by long-distance bus. The most extensive European bus network is maintained by Eurolines(www.eurolines.com), a consortium of coach operators. It offers a variety of passes with prices that vary by time of year, but if you book well ahead bargains can be had.
Drivers of cars and riders of motorbikes will need the vehicle’s registration papers, third-party insurance and an international driving permit in addition to their domestic licence. It’s a good idea to also have complete insurance coverage – be sure to ask for a Green Card from your insurer.
The ANWB provides a wide range of information, maps, advice and services if you can show a letter of introduction or membership card from your own automobile association. Traffic flows freely among EU countries, so border posts are largely a thing of the past. Customs officials still make spot checks, however, if a particular vehicle draws their attention.
The Netherlands has good train links to Germany and Belgium and on to France. All Eurail, Inter-Rail, Europass and Flexipass tickets are valid on the Dutch national train service, Nederlandse Spoorwegen (www.ns.nl). Major Dutch train stations have international ticket offices, and in peak periods it’s wise to reserve seats in advance. You can also buy tickets for local trains to Belgium and Germany at the normal ticket counters. For international train information, ring the Teleservice NS Internationaal on 09009296 (calls cost €0.35 per minute) or consult the website, www.nsinternational.nl. If you book ahead, NS charges a €3.50 reservation fee per ticket.
From Amsterdam, two main trains travel south. The first, an Intercity (IC), passes through Den Haag and Rotterdam and on to Antwerp (€28, 2¼ hours, hourly), Bruges (€39.40, 3½ hours, hourly), Brussels (€33.40, three hours, hourly) and Luxembourg City (€63.60, 6¼ hours, every one to two hours).
The German ICE high-speed service runs six times a day between Amsterdam and Cologne (€49.20, 2½ hours) and on to Frankfurt (€107, four hours); there’s a surcharge of €2 and €19 respectively. ‘Super Day Returns’ are available to Cologne for €58.50. There’s also a night train between Amsterdam and Munich (from €79) – expect fat surcharges for the sleeper berths. The IC to Berlin (€92.20, six hours, three daily) passes through Hanover.
Weekend return tickets are much cheaper than during the week. A weekend return Amsterdam–Brussels (departure Friday to Sunday, return by Monday) is 40% cheaper than a regular ticket.