The Train, The Train! Transportation Nightmares between Amsterdam and Belgium

A small variety of tram, high speed, and local train tickets needed to get around

A small variety of tram, high speed, and local train tickets needed to get around

Yellow tickets for travel inside the Netherlands; Blue ticket for the Amsterdam tram (24 hr pass); high speed computer print-out ticket for travel from Amsterdam, NL to Brugge, Belgium… the dizzying array of tickets needed to get from place to place was confusing for this traveler.

In Belgium, if you announce to the conductor before you get on the train, you can purchase your ticket on the train. In the Netherlands, if you attempt that move, you’ll be asked to pay a $35 euro surcharge for not having your ticket in hand.

What does that really mean? Miss the train sitting on the platform in front of you, go downstairs, wait on line to buy a ticket, then go back up to whatever platform for the next train, wait twenty minutes… did I mention drag your luggage around with you? Yeah, do that too.

And how are you supposed to know all this?

I have no idea.

The three days I decided to roam the countryside by train were a logistical nightmare.

Amsterdam to Brugge, Belgium

The day before I was supposed to leave, I went to buy a ticket at Amsterdam’s Central Station from the company that runs the HiSpeed rail service. I was informed that there were no more seats on the HiSpeed train, and that I would have to take a local train, that would add another 40 minutes to my trip – but – the cost would be half of what I would have paid for HiSpeed service ($43.80 euros vs. $97 euros for HiSpeed.) O-kay…

But, I was told, you have to change trains multiple times. That’s right: there is no train between Amsterdam and Brugge. There is train service, but you have to go from Amsterdam to Rotterdam, then from Rotterdam to Antwerp, and then go from Antwerp to Brugge.

Freaking hell, I thought, but what other choice did I have if I wanted to see picturesque Brugge?

So on the morning of my trip, I got onto the train in Amsterdam as planned. Half-way between Amsterdam and Rotterdam the train broke down. Dead. Stopped in place for more than 40 minutes. During the ticking of the clock, I missed my connection for Rotterdam to Antwerp.

Uh oh.

Skylights above the Antwerp Train Station, upper platforms

Skylights above the Antwerp Train Station, upper platforms

 

I could go through the hell I experienced in detail, but I will spare you and tell you this: I had to change trains five times before I finally got to Brugge in the pouring rain. And instead of taking 3 hours, or even 3.5 hours, the trip took me over six hours to get from Amsterdam to Brugge.

You can already guess, correctly, that all that changing of trains, waiting on platforms, purchasing of tickets and transfers and the rest of it… was exhausting. By the time I got to Brugge (in the pouring rain) I had little strength left to see the town. I walked around for two hours in the rain, and then went to my hotel and collapsed.

So much for Brugge. Which is beautiful, by the way, but not a “real town.” I mean to say, Belgians call it an “amusement park” because everything there is geared to tourists. Yes, it’s a Unesco World Heritage Site, and it’s a phenomenal example of medieval architecture and worth seeing. Once.

Travel Tip: Brugge is a very small town, so my recommendation is don’t bother staying there overnight to pay tourist hotel rates and instead stay in Gent and do it as a day trip.

Brugge to Gent

I don’t recall the trip from Brugge to Gent being that arduous, but it was time consuming. You’d think it shouldn’t take a few hours to get to a town that is really close by, but the stuff that takes up your time are all the little tasks you must attend to in order to get where you have to go.

For example, once I got to Gent I had to find out which Tram would get me nearest to my hotel. Then I had to go outside the train station and find an out-building where they sell the tram tickets (harder to find than you might think.) The trams in the Gent station are numbered, but even when you know which one you need, you have to make sure you’re getting on the right one, going in the right direction and you need to know the name of your stop (which they’re going to announce in foreign accent you probably can’t understand.)

So yeah, it took me all morning to get from Brugge to Gent due to all the little things.

Gent to Delft

I had had it by the time I tried to get from Gent to Delft. I had to do the reverse order crap I did before and change trains in Antwerp, then Rotterdam then… somewhere else I can’t remember because there is no direct train from Rotterdam to freaking Delft.

Travel tip: If you are going to see Brugge and Gent, SKIP DELFT. It’s smaller than both of those places, and just as touristy. It’s not worth it, especially when you consider the hassles of getting there by train, which are considerable.

I think I mentioned this in my other post Going Dutch, that it was freezing cold and windy the day I traveled to Delft. What I didn’t add then, but will add now, is that it took me from 9am until 1:30pm to get to my hotel. That just plain pissed me off.

Like in Brugge, between the horrible weather and the ridiculous arduous trip, it knocked me out from enjoying the sights for the most part. I walked around Delft and I’m sure I saw most of it, it’s a tiny place… but the near-gale force winds chased me inside to my hotel.

And finally…

Delft to Amsterdam

Yeah, that’s right… you can’t get to Amsterdam from Delft. You have to go to the Hague, where I did not visit because I was not going to take even one more tram, bus, train or horse drawn carriage ride to ANYwhere by the time I made it to Delft in the middle of the afternoon. So, sorry Hague, I could have spent some tourist dollars there but you’re train system sapped me of my willpower to get to you.

Ironically, and this is ironic to me… the train service between the Hague and Amsterdam is fast and nearly non-stop.

It was a quick and efficient trip.

Too little, too late.

Oh… yeah… the views of the countryside out the train window(s) are pretty. Lots of green space, cows, sheep and not much else.

For hours.

And hours.

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4 Responses

  1. I am dizzy reading this. I don’t know how you kept your head!

    • Yeah, fun, right?

      This was one of those things that… now that I’ve been through it, I would have done things totally differently. I would have just gone to Gent for 3 days (through Brussels, via HiSpeed at the higher priced ticket) and skipped Delft and made Brugge a one-afternoon train trip.

      Live and learn.

  2. What you need is a Dutch friend or Dutch wannabe friend with a car.

    Who knows his way in Belgium and Holland without a tomtom.

    {who doesn`t goes to Bali when you visit Amsterdam}

    An excellent story, Carol. I`m having fun reading all youre stories, but this one is more then great.

    But …

    Wait till you hear my stories when I visited Chicago.

    Grrr …

  3. Haha…yeah George … you went off to Bali but you could have been driving me around Holland! LOL

    Couldn’t you have planned your vacation schedule around me?

    LOL

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