There are plenty of flights from a bevy of UK airports to Amsterdam’s Schiphol (pronounced skip-oll) airport as well as a sprinkling of flights to several second-string Dutch airports, primarily Eindhoven and Rotterdam. Alternatively, travelling from the UK to the Netherlands by train via the Channel Tunnel is just as easy and about the same price as a flight, and neither, if you live in the southeast of the UK, does it take much longer. You can also get there by long-distance bus, which is usually the most affordable option, though more time-consuming. By car and ferry, deals for drivers on ferry routes into Dutch and Belgian ports are particularly competitive.
From North America and Canada the main decision is whether to fly direct – easy enough as Amsterdam’s Schiphol is a major international air travel hub – or to route via London, picking up a budget flight onwards from there. From Australia and New Zealand, all flights to Amsterdam require one or two stops on the way; from South Africa, there are direct flights.
Amsterdam is one of the UK’s most popular short-haul destinations and its international airport, Amsterdam Schiphol, is extremely easy to reach. Among many operators, easyJet, Jet2, Air France and British Airways all have flights to Amsterdam, but the airline with the widest range of flights is KLM, who fly there direct and nonstop from Aberdeen, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Durham Teeside, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Humberside, Leeds, Liverpool, London Heathrow, Manchester, Newcastle, Norwich and Southampton. Alternatively, Ryanair flies from London Stansted to Eindhoven and CityJet flies from London City Airport to Rotterdam.
Prices for flights to Amsterdam vary enormously, but begin at about £170 return from a regional airport, slightly less from London. Flying times are insignificant: Aberdeen and London to Amsterdam takes one and a half hours, one hour from Norwich.
Flying from Ireland, Aer Lingus has daily flights to Amsterdam from Dublin and Cork, easyJet flies to Amsterdam from Belfast, and Ryanair has flights from Dublin to Eindhoven.
Prices for flights vary considerably, but begin at about €140 return from Dublin to Amsterdam. Flying times are modest: Dublin to Amsterdam takes one hour and forty minutes.
Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport is among the most popular and least expensive gateways to Europe from North America, and finding a convenient and good-value flight is rarely a problem. Direct, nonstop flights from the USA are operated by KLM and Delta Airlines, but many more airlines fly via London and other European centres – and are often cheaper because of it. KLM offers the widest range of flights, with direct or one-stop flights to Amsterdam from several US cities, and connections from dozens more. Return fares from major cities in the US to Amsterdam start at around US$900, but average around US$1500. Flying times to Amsterdam on direct flights are as follows: New York (7hr 10min), Chicago (8hr 30min), Atlanta (10hr), and Los Angeles (11hr).
From Canada, KLM flies direct to Amsterdam from Vancouver (9hr 30min) and from Toronto (7hr 10min). Fares from Toronto go for around Can$1200, while from Vancouver you can expect to pay around Can$1500.
There are no direct/nonstop flights from Australia or New Zealand to the Netherlands and most itineraries will involve at least one stop in the Far East – Singapore, Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur – before proceeding onto Amsterdam (or the gateway city of the airline you’re flying with). You can get tickets to Amsterdam from Sydney, Melbourne or Perth for AUS$1500–2500, NZ$2000–3000 from Auckland.
From South Africa, KLM offers direct/nonstop flights to Amsterdam from Cape Town and Johannesburg. With other airlines, you will have to change at a gateway city – for example Lufthansa via Frankfurt – but this can often be more economical. As for sample fares, direct/nonstop return flights with KLM from South Africa begin at about ZAR7000. The flying time, direct, is about 11 hours.
Aer Lingusw aerlingus.com
Air France w airfrance.co.uk
British Airways w britishairways.com
CityJet w cityjet.com
Delta Airlines w delta.com
easyJet w easyjet.com
Jet2 w Jet2.com
KLM w klm.com
Ryanair w ryanair.com
Eurostar trains (w eurostar.com) departing from London St Pancras (plus Ebbsfleet and Ashstead in Kent) reach Brussels via the Channel Tunnel in a couple of hours. In Brussels, trains arrive at Bruxelles-Midi station (Brussel-Zuid in Dutch), from where there are onward services to Rotterdam (1hr 10min) and Amsterdam Centraal station (2hr) with two high-speed train companies, Fyra (w fyra.com) and Thalys (w thalys.com). Eurostar can arrange through ticketing from any point in the UK to any point in the Netherlands, as can Rail Europe (w raileurope.co.uk). A standard return fare from London to Amsterdam, with some flexibility, costs around £150, but special deals and bargains are commonplace. Obviously enough, travelling time from London to Amsterdam depends on how long you have to wait for the connection in Brussels – but 5 hours in total is about average.
For other Dutch destinations accessible from Brussels, consult the encyclopedic website of Dutch Railways, NS (w ns.nl).
Stena Line (w stenaline.co.uk), in conjunction with Greater Anglia trains (w greateranglia.co.uk), operates the Dutchflyer, an inexpensive if somewhat time-consuming rail-and-ferry route from the UK to the Netherlands. Trains depart London’s Liverpool Street station bound for Harwich, where they connect with the ferry over to the Hook of Holland – the Hoek van Holland (though you can also join the Dutchflyer at stations in between Liverpool Street and Harwich). The whole journey takes between eight and nine hours, including the six-hour ferry crossing. From the Hook, there are frequent trains onto Rotterdam (every 30min to 1hr; 30min), from where you can reach a host of other Dutch towns. One-way fares start at £39, or £90 on an overnight sailing, cabin included – cabins are compulsory on overnight sailings. Tickets are available from Greater Anglia trains.
Three companies operate car ferries from the UK to the Netherlands. They are Stena Line (w stenaline.co.uk) with services from Harwich to the Hook of Holland (6hr); DFDS Seaways (w dfdsseaways.co.uk) from Newcastle (North Shields) to IJmuiden near Amsterdam (16hr); and P&O Ferries (w poferries.com) from Hull to the Europoort, 40km west of Rotterdam (11hr).
Tariffs vary enormously, depending on when you leave, how long you stay, if you’re taking a car, what size it is and how many passengers are in it. As a sample fare, a weekend excursion from Hull to the Europoort for two adults, a car and a cabin might cost as little as £120 each way.
To reach the Netherlands by car or motorbike from the UK, you can either take a ferry or use Eurotunnel’s shuttle train through the Channel Tunnel (w eurotunnel.com) from Folkestone to Calais. Eurotunnel fares, which are charged per vehicle including passengers, depend on the time of year, time of day and length of stay and the journey takes about 35min. As an example, a five-day return fare in the summer costs in the region of £100. Advance booking is advised. Amsterdam is roughly 370km from the Eurotunnel exit in Calais, Rotterdam 200km, Arnhem 260km.
Travelling by long-distance bus is generally the cheapest way of reaching the Netherlands from the UK, but it is very time-consuming: the main route, from London to Amsterdam, takes around twelve hours. There are three or four services daily and all of them use the Eurotunnel. For timetable details, consult the operator, Eurolines (w eurolines.co.uk). One-way fares start from as little as £30, £60 return. There are discounts for seniors (60+) and the under-26s.
A former Rough Guides Managing Editor, Keith Drew has written or updated over a dozen Rough Guides, including Costa Rica, Japan and Morocco. As well as writing for The Telegraph, The Guardian and BRITAIN Magazine, among others, he also runs family-travel website