Getting there

Air: The bad news is that World Airlines has just ended scheduled services on its sole route - London City to Amsterdam. The good news is that Amsterdam still has the best connections of any foreign destination. Flights serve the city's Schiphol airport from Aberdeen, Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Guernsey, Humberside, Jersey, Leeds, London (City, Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted), Luton, Manchester, Newcastle, Norwich, Southampton and Teeside. Most of these destinations are served by Air UK (0345 666777) or its partner. the Dutch airline KLM (0181-750 9000).

The lowest return fares tend to be available from airports in the London area. Air UK has a fare of pounds 77 (including tax) for mid-week travel from City or Stansted. Agents may offer lower fares; for example, Major Travel (0171-485 7017) is selling Air UK flights from Stansted for pounds 70 return.

Trains run four times an hour from Schiphol airport to Amsterdam's Centraal Station, taking 20 minutes and costing about pounds 2 each way. There are also rail services to many other Dutch destinations.

Other Dutch airports with services from the UK are Eindhoven, Maastricht and Rotterdam.

Rail: One benefit of travelling by train to Holland is that most tickets enable you to travel to any Dutch station. Eurostar trains (0345 881881) run from London Waterloo as far as Brussels, where you change for Amsterdam and beyond. The lowest fare is pounds 77 (stay away a Saturday night, no changes permitted). The journey to Amsterdam takes about seven hours. Trains from London Liverpool Street connect at Harwich with Stena Line ships (0990 455455) to Hoek van Holland, where trains depart for various Dutch destinations. An Apex return costs pounds 49 to any station in the Netherlands. London to Amsterdam takes about 11 hours.

Bus: Citysprint (01304 240241) operates three buses a day from London Victoria to Amsterdam and other Dutch cities. An Apex ticket costs pounds 27 return. Eurolines (0990 143219) also has three daily services from London; the lowest fare is pounds 29 return for midweek travel, pounds 10 for other days.

Ferry: Stena Line (0990 707070) has two sailings daily between Harwich and Hoek van Holland. The present pricing structure makes it much cheaper if you take a car than if you don't. Until 8 November, a car and four passengers can travel for pounds 49 return. For comparison, the foot passenger fare is pounds 36 for a five-day return. North Sea Ferries (01482 377177) has a ferry each night between Hull and Rotterdam. A car plus four people costs pounds 265 return, while foot passengers pay pounds 64. Eurolink (01795 581000) has two daily sailings from Sheerness to Vlissingen; a special offer allows foot passengers to travel for pounds 10 return if you book and pay before the end of October and return by 19 December. A car plus four adults costs pounds 69 return, if you book by the end of October. Scandinavian Seaways (01255 240240) operates from Newcastle to IJmuiden, near Amsterdam, until the end of October, starting again in February. A foot passenger pays pounds 59 return, sharing a four-berth couchette cabin, while a car plus four adults sharing a higher-grade cabin is pounds 484. Lower fares may be available for shorter sea crossings from Dover and Folkestone to Calais.

Getting around

The most sensible means of transport is the train - fast, frequent and heavily subsidised. Holland Rail has an office in Hampshire (01962 773646), selling Day Rover tickets (pounds 27 for unlimited travel), Euro Domino passes (three days in any month for pounds 39) and Multi Rovers (five people travel anywhere all day for pounds 61).

To get you to your final destination, a Train Taxi ticket costs pounds 2.50 and entitles you to a ride anywhere within the city limits of 80 stations (but not Amsterdam, the Hague, Rotterdam or Utrecht). Alternatively, travellers with a valid train ticket can rent a bicycle for around pounds 3.50 a day from many rail stations. Taking your own bike on a train costs up to pounds 6, depending on distance.

City transport: Amsterdam has trams, buses and a metro. Tickets can be bought for individual journeys, but it is much cheaper to buy a Nationale Strippenkaart for around pounds 5 which allows multiple journeys for you and friends up to a maximum of 15 units (journeys within Amsterdam cost two or three units). You can use the same ticket on the Rotterdam trams, the Hague bus network or any other local public transport in Holland. Some tickets have a crossword on the back to keep you occupied while waiting.

Accommodation

Advance hotel bookings can be made through the National Reservation Centre (00 31 70 317 5454); this is a special English-language line. No fee is charged. Bed & Breakfast Holland, based in Amsterdam (00 31 20 615 7527), can book B&Bs throughout the country if you book in advance. The Dutch youth hostels association, the NJHC, has 37 youth hostels, costing around pounds 10 per night for bed and breakfast; call 00 31 20 551 3155.

Further information

The Netherlands Board of Tourism, 18 Buckingham Gate, London SW1E 6LD (0891 200277) operates the shortest hours of any tourist office: it opens to the public 10.30am-12.30pm. The main tourist office in Amsterdam is opposite the main entrance to the Centraal Station, and opens 9am until late daily.

Comments