Whenever someone asks me for recommendations to travel The Netherlands on a budget, I cringe a little. Although I would recommend traveling my country to anyone, I never do so when I know they don’t have much to spend.
Can you travel The Netherlands on a budget, you ask?
You might have to get a little creative and sometimes it requires some energy and sweat. But it can be done!
In this article I discuss every trick in my book to travel The Netherlands on a budget. From cheap accommodation to saving some serious bucks on activities.
Aside from a ton of information, scattered along this post, you’ll also find fun ideas to save some extra bucks while seeing more of the country.
The canals of Leiden are free to explore!
How to travel The Netherlands on a budget
Traveling the Netherlands on a budget seems almost impossible when you see the crazy hotel prices, especially in Amsterdam!
Let’s face it, accommodation in The Netherlands is expensive. Luckily there are some tips to save a few bucks:
Stay outside of the city center. Especially in Amsterdam, this could save you a lot of money. Hostels in the city center can charge up to €40 – €50 for a bed in a dorm, by staying outside of the center (in the Bijlmer area, for example) you could almost get a private room for that money.
Before, using Airbnb guaranteed lower prices. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case anymore. Instead of going for the lowest price, try finding a room that included rental bikes as well. A lot of Airbnb’s include them in the rental price, which can save you some money on transportation.
Use the couchsurfing network! Although couchsurfing has quite the icky reputation, it doesn’t mean there aren’t any good people out there. Read as many reviews as you can to find a good spot.
These hotels are known to be budget-friendly:
- Marnix Hotel (Amsterdam)
- MEININGER Hotel (Amsterdam)
- Kingkool The Hague City Hostel (The Hague)
- The Hague Teleport Hotel (The Hague)
- Hostel ROOM (Rotterdam)
- StayOkay City Center (Rotterdam)
Going to the beach is completely free as well!
It’s difficult to travel the Netherlands on a budget if you need to move around a lot.
Almost every form of public transportation used the OV Chipcard. This payment system replaces single tickets and can be used by checking in* whenever you board a bus, train or metro. While that saves a lot of money, there’s almost no room for extra discounts. Also, the OV Chipcard needs to be purchased (cost: €7,50) and is not refunded at the end of your trip.
Trains are probably most expensive: a 9-minute trip from The Hague to Leiden will cost you €3,40 (2018), a single journey from Amsterdam to Rotterdam (duration: 1:15) costs €15,40.
Although trains are usually (sort of) clean and comfortable, going from one side of the country to the other could cost you a small fortune.
Rotterdam is known for its architecture. This is the new Central Station.
Save on the OV Chipcard
When you’re only here for a short period of time and you don’t feel like hopping on a train every so often, you could get away by purchasing single train tickets. When you buy a train ticket without the OV Chipcard, you’ll pay just €1 on top of the regular ticket price. When you’re just traveling from one city to another, this might be worth it.
Remember that you need an OV Chipcard for metros and busses as well, buying separate tickets for those is not advised as they go for the price of a regular ticket x 4.
Get a dagkaart
Dagkaarten (day cards) can be used on trains and on one specific day only. They have a set price, which is usually between €10 – €12. On this ticket, you can travel for a whole day. The problem is that these cards sell out incredibly fast as not just tourists use them. If they happen to be sold out, try using a Facebook group. People who bought the dagkaart but are unable to use it, will sell it here.
You can purchase a dagkaart from the website of NS or at shops like Kruidvat.
The Holland Pass provides discount on your travel fares as well as museums and other activities. Check out the activities section of this post.
Travel on a group ticket
When you and your 9 friends want to save some money, try traveling with a group ticket. With this ticket you can save up to €7 per ticket. You can purchase group tickets at any train station across the country.
*Remember to check out whenever you leave public transport. The chipcard system calculates your ticket price depending on where you check in and out. Make sure to check out the video on how to travel The Netherlands by train.
Rent a bicycle
You can rent a bicycle in almost every city and town across the Netherlands. By doing so (and using it to go from place to place), you’ll see much more of the country than when you’d take the train. In some cases, it’ll be the same price, you just get a whole lot extra to see.
For example: When you cycle from Leiden to The Hague, you have the chance to see beautiful towns like Wassenaar (where the king lives) and Voorschoten.
The Netherlands is incredibly flat (but windy!) so cycling should be no problem! Outside of the large cities, you’ll find the famous, flat polder landscape the Netherlands is so famous for.
The Dutch countryside
You heard me.
Now, I’m not going to tell you walking everything saves you money on transportation. You could’ve figured that out!
But did you know about the NS Walks?
NS, the national rail company of the Netherlands, has a variety of awesome hikes, going from station to station. Most of them will take you to some amazing nature reserves, others pass castles and quant villages you otherwise wouldn’t have seen.
Every itinerary (there are currently 46!) is free of charge and provides a map and detailed instructions. Although the instructions are in Dutch, it’s still very easy to get from place to place without getting lost. Only a few are translated in English, for the rest you just use Google Translate.
Taxis & Uber
Taxis are expensive and should be avoided at all costs! Apart from being stranded somewhere in the middle of the night (and that would be a city with no night train departures), you just don’t get into a taxi. Ever.
Even when you fly into the country, it’s super easy to get a train or bus going from the airport into the city center. This is the case with all the airports in The Netherlands.
You could use Uber, which is still quite expensive compared to a single ticket on any bus or metro line.
I’m very sorry to admit that Dutch food isn’t anything you’d miss out on. Restaurants in the Netherlands can be quite expensive. Also, most of them don’t offer the Dutch cuisine. You can find dishes from all over the world anywhere, traditional Dutch food is a bit harder to find.
Dutch food comes in smaller portions and is usually sold by street vendors or the so-called snack bars. Try patat (thick cut French fries), poffertjes (tiny, fluffy pancakes) or a delicious stroopwafel (syrup waffle).
Typical snack bars to eat at are Febo (you can purchase your Dutch ‘kroket’ from the wall) and Smullers, which you will find at train stations mostly.
At local bakeries, like Bakker Bart, you’ll find freshly made sandwiches and pastries to go. Typically Dutch stores like Hema will also sell quick food. This is ideal when you don’t want to spend money on breakfast at your hotel.
Popular and inexpensive foods among locals aren’t usually traditionally Dutch. You can find kebab shops on almost every street corner. Make sure to try ‘kapsalon’ (literally: barbershop), an aluminum container filled with greasy fries, kebab, sauce and cheese. Other than that, I would suggest you find a supermarket and cook for yourself.
Inexpensive chain restaurants are:
- Febo (fries & snacks)
- Smullers (fries & snacks)
- Wok to Walk (Noodles and other stir-fried stuff)
- Easy (Noodles, etc.)
- Julia’s (Pasta)
- The well-known fast food places: Burger King, McDonald’s, Subway, etc.
When you’re a big eater, you could also try the all you can eat restaurants. The quality is usually so-so, but they allow you to eat as much as you want for a fixed price. In The Netherlands all you can eat restaurants usually focus on Asian food, such as wok restaurants and sushi places.
When you want to save money by cooking, make sure you get your fresh ingredients at a market by the end of the day. Items like vegetables and herbs will be incredibly affordable then.
Michellin Star fries, just from a street vendor.
Let’s face it, you didn’t just come here to look at the ladies in the windows, didn’t you? Although a lot of activities are free in The Netherlands, some things can be quite pricey! Below you’ll find some tips on having fun in the Netherlands on a budget, or stuff that won’t cost you anything at all.
Many travelers come to The Netherlands to gawk at the works of our famous painters. Unfortunately, this will cost you!
By getting a Museum Card, you will be able to get access to 30+ museums in Amsterdam and 400+ museums all over The Netherlands. A museum Card for adults costs €59,90 and can be picked up directly from these museums. The card is personalized and valid for an entire year.
€59,90 sounds like a lot of money (and it is!), let’s do the math!
Let’s say you’re in Amsterdam and you want to visit the most important museums of the city. You might want to go to:
- Rijksmuseum €17,50*
- Van Gogh Museum €18*
- Stedelijk Museum €17,50*
- Anne Frank House €9*
*Full price for an adult ticket as of 2018.
In total that would come down to €62. That saves you €2,10 on those 4 museums already!
With the Holland Pass you can save up to 50% on entrance tickets of museums, get discounted train tickets and more!
Depending on which pass you choose, you get a few free museum entrances and discounts on the rest. Personally, I’d choose the Museum Card over the Holland Pass because of the guaranteed free entrance to museums. However, their train deals (€19 for a trip worth €54 is quite good!) are the reason to get it.
As a bonus, check out these 10 completely free things to do in The Netherlands!
Bravo! You’ve come to the end of this long article on how to travel The Netherlands on a budget. If you have any questions or suggestions, make sure to leave a comment below. As always, tag me in your travel photos on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook to make me super jealous!
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