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 famously flat country 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 are able to carry anything on the back of a bike, while rolling a cigarette with the other hand and fancy racing bikes with a hundred gears are simply not necessary to exploring 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 and the abundance of paths means cyclists rarely have to share space on the roads with cars.
Coastline, forests, maritime harbor villages, meandering rivers, rolling hills (in the south near Belgium) can be explored by bike and armed with a few maps, water bottles and a bicycle repair kit, it doesn’t take a heap of planning before setting off, for a few days, a weekend, a day trip or even in the evening as the nights stay light longer.
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 peddle one way and train it back! A ticket for a bike for a day (Dagkaart Fiets), costs EUR 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 2 people one day of unlimited train travel in first class for EUR 39.
The 2008 address book for ‘Friends on the Bike’ can be purchased by going to their website (see below) for EUR 9. The rates for B&B may vary but will not exceed EUR 17 per person per night, a steal compared with most hotels. Remember you can’t just turn up as reservations must be made, at least, 24 hours in advance.
If you want to reserve, you need to become a member, (see website below), to receive the address book, which is updated yearly. Sometimes you can ask for a packed lunch for maximum EUR 4. At a few addresses dinner is served if requested for about EUR 8 per person but 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 Ttravel 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 (provided they meet the terms and conditions)
Expatica/ Roberta Cowan