The best way to appreciate Dutch life is to travel like a local and hop on a bicycle. Here’s a guide to cycling in the Netherlands.
One of the best ways to appreciate the Netherlands is to take a bicycle ride through its beautiful landscapes. The Netherlands boasts 20,000km of fietspaden (bicycle paths) making cycling an extraordinarily pleasant activity, and one not exclusively for the very fit or sporty; although you will have to put up with a spot of rain every now and then.
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Introduction to cycling in the Netherlands
The Netherlands has more bikes than the country’s 16-plus million citizens. In fact, many people have at least two bikes, one (in not-so-excellent condition) for everyday use and the other for excursions. You don’t have to be here long before realizing that bikes rule; children learn to ride before they walk.
Peddling pensioners ride alongside stockbroker types in tailored suits and women in short skirts; parents often have two or even three kids strapped on and they’re all singing; cyclists carry anything on the back of a bike while rolling a cigarette with the other hand. Fancy racing bikes with a hundred gears are simply not necessary to explore this country.
And, everyone does it. Yes, people use their bikes to get from A to B, but they also ride bicycles to discover Rotterdam’s harbor the coastline, the countryside and a plethora of charming villages peppered around this, extraordinarily, bike-able country.
A network of cycle paths replete with cycle bridges, tunnels, and ferries await anyone curious about exploring the Netherlands on two wheels. The abundance of paths means cyclists rarely have to share space on the roads with cars.
The coastline, forests, maritime harbor villages, meandering rivers, rolling hills are accessible by bike. Armed with a few maps, water bottles, and a bicycle repair kit, it doesn’t take a heap of planning before setting off.
Exploring by bike is extra special, particularly because it’s your peddling that got you there. But you will also notice things about a place and the people that you wouldn’t in a car. Locals are often nicer to cyclists because they appreciate the effort made to visit.
Your bike should be tuned up (bell, gears, brakes and lights working) and you should feel comfortable on the saddle. Repair kits are cheap and easy to find. Or, hire a bike from any of the main train stations. Wear comfortable clothing and bring water bottles.
It’s possible to buy a ticket for your bike on the train if you decide to pedal one way and train it back! A ticket for a bike for a day (Dagkaart Fiets), costs €6 but you must place the bike in the appropriate car on the train.
If you are keen to combine biking and train travel, the Lentetoer train ticket is available between 21 March and 15 June allowing two people one day of unlimited train travel in first class for €39.
The 2008 address book for Friends on the Bike is available by going to their website for €9. The rates for B&B may vary but won’t exceed €17 per person per night, a steal in comparison with most hotels. Remember you can’t just turn up as reservations are necessary at least 24 hours in advance.
If you want to reserve, you must become a member to receive the address book. Sometimes you can ask for a packed lunch for a maximum of €4. At a few addresses dinner is available for about €8 per person. It’s also fun to stroll around the village once you’ve dumped your bike and gear off at the B&B for the night and try a local café.
Fietspad.nl (Bicycle path)
Vrienden op de Fiets (Dutch and English)
The Netherlands Board of Tourism
Taking your bike on the train:
NS Bicycle Day Travel Card
- Bicycles may be taken on the train during off-peak hours.
- To do this you purchase a Bicycle Day Travel Card from the ticket machine.
- A Bicycle Day Travel Card allows you to take a folding tandem, reclining bicycle, or disassembled racing bike on the train.
- A Bicycle Day Card is not necessary for a standard folding bicycle. Passengers may take standard folding bicycles on the train with them free of charge