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Transport

The Maastricht Region transportation system facilitates not just the requirements of the Netherlands, but also her neighbours Germany and Belgium. There are numerous ways to travel across the region, and whether your preferred means of transportation is car, train or bicycle, the Maastricht Region provides easily accessible services accompanied by live travel information provided in English both via app and online.

Public transport

Bus

Bus lines in the Maastricht Region are operated by Arriva. The buses are cashless, which means that tickets must be purchased online in advance (single journey or season pass), via a registered or unregistered OV-chipkaart (public transport pass) in the bus, or via debit card payment in the bus.

The majority of travellers in the region use the OV-chipkaart system for three reasons:

  • the blue unregistered card can be topped up/recharged with funds/season pass either online or at an OV-Servicepunt
  • the yellow registered card can be linked to a Dutch bank account for topping-up/recharge and season pass purposes.
  • the OV-chipkaart can also be used on the Arriva train lines and the Nederlandse Spoorwegen NS (Dutch Railways) train lines.

Bus timetables can be found at bus stops, either in print at the bus stop or on LED displays at larger interchanges. Bus timetables can also be found online at the Arriva website and 9292.nl (a source of live travel information across all public transport in the Netherlands.

Arriva offers reduced fares for registered OV-chipkaart holders who travel regularly between two bus stops and wish to purchase a season pass in advance.

Children under 4 years of age travel free on buses, trams, trains and metro in the Netherlands, and tickets for children from 4-11 can be purchased at a reduced rate.

When travelling across the border to Germany or Belgium, travellers using Arriva buses can use their OV-chipkaart for the full return journey.

The Aachener Straßenbahn und Energieversorgungs-AG – ASEAG operates local transport in the city and municipal region of Aachen, Germany. Aachen’s combined transport authority (Aachener Verkehrsverbund – AVV) services the municipal regions of Aachen, Düren and Heinsberg. In this whole AVV district, common fare rates apply for the use of buses or trains on all AVV bus routes and, with no restrictions, also in second class on all local Deutsche Bahn commuter trains.

In Belgium three regional operators manage the bus and tram public transportation network: De Lijn (Flanders), TEC (Wallonia) and STIB (Brussels). The MOBIB-card has replaced old magnetic cards and paper tickets and is available for purchase online or at any Belgian railway station. There is a small fee for the MOBIB-card and it is valid for five years; travellers can upload any kind of ticket or season pass on it. Children under six years travel free while 6-12-year-olds can travel free under some adult passes, or pay for a child’s pass.

International coach

There are a number of coaches that depart from cities within the Maastricht Region. Flixbus operates an extensive network of coaches across Europe, and the DB Intercitybus network is also another alternative to rail travel in Europe.

Train

Train lines in the Maastricht Region are operated by Arriva and Nederlandse Spoorwegen – NS. The trains are cashless, which means that tickets must be purchased online in advance (single journey or season pass), via a ticket machine at a train station, via an OV-chipkaart (public transport pass) by “checking in” and “checking out “ at the gate or card reader at the train station.

The majority of travellers in the region use the OV-chipkaart system for three reasons:

  • the blue unregistered card can be topped up/recharged with funds/season pass either online or at an OV-Servicepunt
  • the yellow registered card can be linked to a Dutch bank account for topping-up/recharge and season pass purposes.
  • the OV-chipkaart can also be used on the Arriva train lines and the Nederlandse Spoorwegen NS (Dutch Railways) bus lines.

Train timetables can be found at train stations, either in print at the bus stop or on LED displays at larger interchanges. Train timetables can also be found online at the Arriva and NS websites as well as 9292.nl (a source of live travel information across all public transport in the Netherlands.

Arriva and NS offer various season passes for registered OV-chipkaart holders who travel regularly on the trains and can offer substantial savings for families and recreational travel.

Children up to four years of age travel free on buses, trams, trains and metro in the Netherlands, and tickets for children from 4-11 can be purchased at a reduced rate. Children from 4-11 who are travelling accompanied by persons 12 or older can travel for free on Dutch public transport in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany using the Kids Vrij season pass. Children 4-11 must carry their own registered (yellow) OV-chipkaart, on which the KidsVrij pass is digitally uploaded. 

Cross-border trains

The Aachener Straßenbahn und Energieversorgungs-AG – ASEAG operates local transport in the city and municipal region of Aachen, Germany. Aachen’s combined transport authority (Aachener Verkehrsverbund – AVV) services the municipal regions of Aachen, Düren and Heinsberg. In this whole AVV district, common fare rates apply for the use of buses or trains on all AVV bus routes and, with no restrictions, also in second class on all local Deutsche Bahn commuter trains.

In Belgium NMBS/SNCB manages the train network on a national level. The MOBIB-card has replaced old magnetic cards and paper tickets and is available for purchase online or at any Belgian railway station. There is a small fee for the MOBIB-card and it valid for five years, and travellers can load on any kind of ticket or season pass. Children under six years travel free while 6–12 year olds can travel free under some adult passes, or pay for a child’s pass. 

International trains

The Maastricht Region provides connections to high speed rail networks by providing passengers with easily accessible connections within the Euregio Maas Rhijn;

  • high speed connections to Germany (ICE) at Liège Guillemins station and Aachen station;
  • high speed connections to Paris (Thalys) at Liège Guillemins station;
  • high speed connections to London (Eurostar) at Brussels and Amsterdam.
Taxis

There are a number of taxi companies operational in the Maastricht Region. In the Netherlands some regulations regarding taxis differ to those in other countries:

  • authorised taxi vehicles are recognisable by their blue registration/number plates;
  • taxis must display their tariff card to be clearly visible from both inside and outside the vehicle;
  • taxi drivers must be in possession of a Chauffeurskaart complete with photo, which must be displayed in a manner clearly visible to passengers;
  • authorised taxis must have a Boordcomputer Taxi, a computer that records the journeys and work times of each driver;
  • authorised taxi vehicles must have a Taxameter, a meter that determines the cost of the journey dependent on time taken, distance travelled and rate (day/night);
  • taxi drivers must be able to produce a receipt for the passenger which details the cost of the journey and the business details of the taxi company;
  • taxi drivers must hold a valid taxi licence and a valid VOG;
  • taxis are not allowed to pick up a passenger that hails from the street;
  • taxis must be contacted directly via phone or online to arrange a pick up, or they can take passengers who are waiting at a taxi rank.

NS also provide a Door-to-Door service where rail passengers can book a taxi using their NS Zakelijk account for travel to and from any NS train station. Reservations can be made online or via the phone and the costs will be charged to the NS Zakelijk account.

Cycling in the Netherlands

Cyclists are excellently catered for in the Maastricht Region. There are dedicated cycle paths, lanes, bridges, tunnels, secure parking areas and sharing schemes to suit every cyclists’ need. Drivers are taught to be very aware of cyclists (especially children) when learning to drive, and they are usually patient and understanding.

Helmet

Cyclists are not obliged to wear a helmet while cycling, it is however advisable for less-experienced cyclists to wear one when becoming acclimatised to the traffic conditions.

Renting a bicycle

There are a number of ways to rent a bicycle in the Maastricht Region:

  • OV-fiets is a scheme provided by NS. It is intended for use for the last leg of a rail journey. Rail passengers can use an OV-fietsabonnement can rent an OV-fiets (public transport bicycle) to cycle to their onward destination and back again. There are almost 300 rental locations in the Netherlands: at most stations, at bus or metro stops, and at P+R facilities.
  • There are a number of bicycle retailers who also provide bicycles for hire, and some tour operators offer day trips and city tours while using their bicycle.
  • Swapfiets is a business who for a monthly fee provides delivery, and use of their branded bicycles. They offer on the spot repairs or replacement of broken-down or damaged bicycles in their contract, however there are strict conditions regarding locking and proper parking of their bicycle.
  • Nextbike is a bicycle share scheme offered by Arriva in Maastricht. Nextbike allows members to hire a bicycle from one of the nine docking-terminals in Maastricht and return it to the terminal of their choice. Rates are charged for every thirty minutes of hire and members can view the availability of bicycles and locations of docking terminals on the Nextbike app.
Buying a bicycle

There are many bike shops in the Maastricht Region that sell new and used bicycles. In addition, there are a large range of second-hand bikes are offered for sale on marktplaats.nl, an online auction site similar to eBay. Be aware of buying second hand bicycles from sellers on social media.

Bicycle parking

Bicycles should always be parked in the allocated bicycle parking areas/racks, not along the pavement and not attached to lamp posts or fences. The Handhaving (council enforcement officers) regularly remove illegally parked and abandoned bicycles.

There are a number of secure bicycle parking areas provided by the municipalities in the Maastricht Region and these should be utilised. They are usually under cover, close to city centres or public transport and are often guarded.

There are NS bicycle parking areas available at many NS train stations. These are accessed using an OV-chipkaart and are free for the first 24 hours. The NS bicycle parking areas provide secure, dry parking as well as access to repairs and spare parts. Parking season tickets are also available from NS.

When parking a bicycle it is strongly advised to lock it using two locks;

  • a rear frame lock
  • a chain or u-lock

The following tips are also recommended when parking bicycles;

  • park in a busy and well-lit area
  • secure the bicycle with the second lock to the parking rack
  • ensure the second lock is not lying or close to the ground
  • secure the second lock through the frame of the bicycle

It is always advised to keep details of the bicycle (make, model, serial number) and in case of theft this can be reported to the police. 

Airports

A number of airports are accessible by car from the Maastricht Region. The regional airport of the Maastricht Region is Maastricht Aachen Airport (MAA), from which a range of European destinations can be reached.

Charleroi, Eindhoven, Cologne, and Weeze airports are ideal for flights within Europe. For intercontinental flights, Brussels and Düsseldorf are also within easy reach. Liège Airport is especially strong in air freight.

  • Maastricht Aachen Airport – MST. Maastricht Region’s regional airport, from which a number of destinations in Europe and Asia can be reached.
  • Eindhoven Airport – EIN. Flies to over 70 destinations in Europe, Asia and the UK.
  • Liège Airport – LGG. Is mainly used for freight transportation however also flies to over twenty destinations in Europe and Asia
  • Brussels South Charleroi Airport – CRL. The second busiest airport in Belgium.
  • Brussels Zaventem Airport – BRU. With over 200 destinations it is the main airport in Belgium.
  • Cologne-Bonn Airport – CGN. The seventh-largest passenger airport in Germany and the third-largest in terms of cargo operations
  • Düsseldorf Airport –DUS. Düsseldorf is the third largest airport in Germany after Frankfurt and Munich.
  • Weeze Airport (Düsseldorf Niederrhein Airport) – NRN. Formerly the RAF Laarbruch military airbase, this now commercial airport flies to over thirty destinations in Europe and Africa.
  • Amsterdam (Schipol) Airport – AMS. With almost 350 destinations Schipol is the Netherlands’ busiest airport and around the top ten busiest airports in the world.

Driving licence

Holders of an EU/EFTA driving licence can drive in the Netherlands for a period of 15 years or until the expiration date, whichever is sooner. (Heavy goods vehicle licences are valid for five years). When due to expire, the EU/EFTA licence can be exchanged for a Dutch licence at the municipality.

Driving licences issued by non-EU/EFTA need to be exchanged within six months of registering in the Netherlands, if they are valid for the categories listed.

If the applicant is benefiting from the 30% Tax Facility, then the applicant and family members can exchange their driving licence(s) for a Dutch driving licence regardless of the licence’s country of issue.

All other licence holders will need to apply for a Dutch licence. This involves taking a theory test and a practical driving exam. In the Netherlands this process is facilitated by accredited driving instructors. 

Mopeds and scooters

A driving licence for a car (B) or a motor bike (A) is required to ride mopeds (engine under 50cc, helmet not mandatory and a blue licence plate) and scooters (engine over 50cc, mandatory helmet and yellow licence plate). If not in possession of either of these licences, a special moped licence, “the AM category” is required. Driving a moped is allowed from 16 years and up.

Car-sharing

There are a number of car-sharing and rental schemes in the Maastricht Region, including:

Car-sharing companies have a fleet of shared cars parked in accessible locations throughout the Netherlands. Members can pick up and return a car to the same location whenever it suits, paying per hour and kilometre. The cars are maintained and re-fueled by the organisation and organisations such as Greenwheels offer an option to be an individual member or link the membership to an NS Zakelijk (business) account.

Exchanging a driving licence
  • Fill in a gezondheidsverklaring (Certificate of Fitness Statement) form at the Centraal Bureau Rijvaardigheidsbewijzen – CBR website. A DigiD is required to do so. The form is only in Dutch. There is a fee for the form (digitally). This form is also available from the municipality.
  • Take this form to the municipality, along with the following documents:
    • current driving licence, which will not be returned;
    • passport or national identity card;
    • passport-sized photo taken according to Dutch regulations;
    • if eligible: proof of qualification for the 30% tax facility;
    • cash or debit/credit card to pay the exchange fee.

When the licence is ready for collection the applicant will be notified. A passport or identity card is required for proof of identity when collecting the new licence.

Driving test

The Dutch driving test is in two parts – first a multiple-choice theory test and then a practical test. It is possible to take the standard test in English. It is also possible to take the test in other languages, however an accredited interpreter must be engaged to do so.

Theory tests can be arranged by the applicant themselves, but the practical test has to be applied for by a driving school instructor.

Driving school

Foreign licences holders who need to pass the Dutch test, can arrange a test drive with an accredited driving instructor and ask for an assessment of how many lessons are required. Some driving schools offer advanced or refresher driving courses for driving licence holders who want to improve their driving skills, and/or would like to get experience driving in the Netherlands. Contact Veilig Verkeer Nederland – VVN (Netherlands Traffic Safety Association) for advice about driving safely in the Netherlands.

Importing a car

When importing a car to the Netherlands there are three main organisations involved:

  • the Rijksdienst voor het Wegverkeer – RDW (Netherlands Vehicle Authority) is responsible for the registration of cars in the Dutch system, issuing vehicle registration numbers, and issuing certificates of vehicle roadworthiness;
  • the Belastingdienst (Tax and Customs Administration) and
  • Douane (Customs) who are both responsible for the paperwork to do with importation, including exemption from import duties, and collecting road tax.

Foreign-registered vehicles may be driven in the Netherlands for up to three months from the date of arrival. After this time, the car needs to be registered with the Dutch authorities, and usually requires a Dutch number plate.

When registering a car or motorcycle from abroad in the Dutch vehicle registration system a Belasting van Personenauto’s en Motorrijtuigen – BPM (Car and Vehicle Tax) declaration must be filed. Before a BPM declaration can be filed, the passenger car, van or motorcycle must be identified or inspected at an RDW inspection station.

In a number of situations applicants can be granted an exemption. In that case BPM does not have to be paid. The summary set out on the Belastingdienst website details the main exemptions, with information about how to apply for them.

For detailed information about importing a vehicle and to start the process go to Importing a Vehicle on the RDW website.

Environmental zones

The City of Aachen  introduced an "Umweltzone" (Environmental Zone or Low-Emission Zone) in 2016. Only vehicles with a Green Sticker or a special permit are allowed to enter the Environmental Zone in the city centre. For the most part, the boundary of the Environmental Zone follows Aachen's outer ring road and includes all the streets and roads within the designated area. 

Many other cities in Germany, and some in the Nethlerlands also have environmental zones. Rules for access vary.