A bunch of connections enable you to reach Rotterdam city centre easily from abroad. These include planes, trains, buses, cars and even a boat!
Rotterdam The Hague airport provides an increasing number of direct connections to European cities every year. There of are plenty airlines who fly there, catering to all budgets: British Airways, Turkish Airlines, Transavia and more.
Rotterdam airport is pretty close to the city. Travelling from Rotterdam airport to Rotterdam central is easy - you can drive (or take a taxi) in 15 minutes, or use the RET bus (no. 33) which takes 25 minutes. The alternative is flying to Schiphol Airport (Amsterdam) which offers more international connections. Although it is a bit further away, the direct train from Schiphol to Rotterdam train station only takes half an hour.
The most commonly used transport method to/from Rotterdam is the train. The Dutch train network connects Rotterdam Centraal station with every part of the country and beyond, with France and Belgium easily accessible using services like Thalys and NS.
If you plan to come by car, the motorways (A4, A13, A15, A16 and A20) are easy to navigate and take you right to the city. Follow signs for ‘Rotterdam Centrum’. If you’re concerned about traffic, roadworks or accidents on the road (and have a working level of Dutch) then check out ANWB or VanAnaarBeter for up-to-date information! Car rental in Rotterdam is easy: Sixt, Herz and Europcar offer a range of cheap options.
Obviously it takes longer, but bus journeys can be a lot cheaper than its rivals. Check if there is a direct bus from your city to Rotterdam, or visit some of the pages for more info: Flixbus, Goeuro, Eurolines, Ouibus and Comparabus.
Since the city is relatively small and everything is within easy cycling distance, pretty much everyone just uses their bikes to get around the neighborhoods of Rotterdam. There is an extensive network of bicycle paths and our advice is to buy one as soon as you move to Rotterdam. It is the easiest and cheapest mode of transport and will get you everywhere quickly.
You can find a second-hand one practically anywhere, on Facebook, by asking friends/colleagues or in second-hand stores. You should also buy a lock as theft is not uncommon in Rotterdam centre. It does rain a lot in Rotterdam, but the top-quality public transport will keep you dry on the bad days.
RET is the Rotterdam transport company whose trams, metro and buses you’ll use in the city. To use public transport in Rotterdam you will need an OV-chipcard: this is used to pay for all public transport across the Netherlands. It costs much less than buying a separate ticket every time you travel, especially if you’re staying there for some time.
The OV-chipkaart has to be loaded with credit (you can pay with a credit card or coins) at vending machines across the city, including every metro station. You scan the card at the start and end of every journey, and the OV-chipkaart calculates the distance and charges you precisely. Don’t forget to scan it every time, or else you’ll be automatically charged €4. Worse, you’ll get a fine if you are ever caught. Once you get used to it, loading and scanning will become habit and you’ll barely think about it.
There are 2 types of OV-chipkaart. The anonymous (blue) one can be bought at various spots in the city (like Rotterdam central station and the airport) and can be used by anyone. Personal (yellow) ones can only be obtained from the OV-chipkaart website where you need to make an application and submit your personal details in order to make use of its advantages.
One perk of the card is an annual discount of 40% on train travel during off-peak hours: 9:00-16:00, 18:30-6:30, and all weekend. It can be bought for €50 per year, but every few months it comes on offer for around €29. Also, if you buy the personal OV-chipkaart together with the discount from NS website, you don’t have to pay the €7.50 for the card! It easily pays for itself if you travel a few times per month by train.
There are 5 metro lines (A-E) in Rotterdam that can quickly and reliably take you where you need to go, with line E going all the way to the Hague!. They run quite frequently and the metro stations are usually close to universities and other educational institutions. Most of them operate from 5:00 to 0:15 (except for Sundays, 07:30-00:15) but it can slightly vary per line.
The bus network is fully-developed and it provides many routes and stops through the centre and surrounding area. Check RET for detailed timetables and routes. The Rotterdam night bus service (BOB bus) offers transport on 13 routes across the centre and the suburbs. It connects various parts of the city with your favorite party hotspots - its purpose is to prevent drunk driving and to ensure a safer night out. It operates on Friday and Saturday night (so no drinking on a school night, right…?).
The tram network is great in addition to the metro routes. There are numerous tram lines and most of them go through Rotterdam Central Station (7, 8, 21, 23, 24, 25). They are efficient and very suitable for short distances in the centre, but you can also use them to reach the suburbs. They usually operate between 5:00 and 0:30 (starting 7:00 on Sundays). There is also an historic tram (line 10) which operates a few months of the year as an attraction and a reminder of the old Rotterdam trams which have largely fallen into disuse.
Taxis aren’t very commonly used as they’re pretty expensive. Although, if you find yourself running late to the airport or your tired legs don’t fancy a long walk after a night out, it does offer an easy solution. Here are some services taken from Rotterdam Tourist Information page:
RTC Taxi also has a mobile app that’s very handy and cheaper than calling by phone. From our personal experience, the app has never failed and a taxi always shows up within 5-6 minutes. You can track the car on its route, and you always get a 20% discount if you use the app.
For a unique experience, you can always use the water transport. Water taxis operate between 50 points on the riverbank and are faster at crossing the river than regular taxis. The boats are made for 8 or 12 people and aren’t any more expensive than regular taxis, with a starting price of €2.90. Check the routes or make a reservation on Watertaxi Rotterdam.
The Dutch railways represent an advanced, well-connected and developed train system. The main service provider NS (Nederlandse Spoorwegen) is one of the busiest in the world, with trains operating 24h a day between larger cities. Considering the fact that trains are quite fast, safe and timely, the prices are relatively affordable.
You can take trains using your OV-chipkaart or buying a normal ticket. Both anonymous and personal OV-chipkaarts work, however in order to access the train station, the minimum required amount on the anonymous card is €20 compared to €10 for the personal one. It works the same way as everything else: you need to scan it before entering and after leaving the train.
For Intercity Direct trains which reach the destination without any other stops, you need to scan your OV card and pay a supplement (€2,40) inside the station. Normal paper tickets are sold at the stations (ticket desk or yellow ticket machines) or online. However, if you use the trains often, these will cost you more than the OV-chipkaart.
The best way to check the trains and plan your journey is using the NS journey planner, while 9292 planner is very accurate and can be used to check and plan a journey inside or around the city.