Utrecht’s central location within the Netherlands makes it an ideal transport hub for the rest of the country. Expats moving to the city will also find that it's home to an efficient transport network and getting around Utrecht is fairly straightforward.
Public transport in Utrecht
While Utrecht Centraal Station is a hub for intercity trains throughout the Netherlands, public transport within the city mainly consists of an extensive bus network and a small tram system. Most locals get around using their bikes and on foot, especially within the city centre.
Utrecht has an integrated public transport system which makes getting around the city easy. The OV-chipkaart is a smart card which can be used to pay for public transport throughout the city as well as the rest of the country. The OV-chipkaart can be loaded with credit and commuters swipe at the start and end of each bus or tram journey.
The main mode of public transport in Utrecht is buses. Utrecht’s bus network is extensive and takes commuters almost anywhere. Utrecht Centraal station is the main hub for the bus system as well as the national train network. For those travelling outside daytime hours, Utrecht’s bus service has a select number of ‘nightlines’ which operate on a limited schedule.
Utrecht’s 'sneltram' system is made up of three light-rail lines. While the tram system is not quite as comprehensive as Utrecht’s bus network, it’s certainly a faster mode of transport for those who live along the routes.
Taxis in Utrecht
Taxis are available in Utrecht but fares are high, so most people only use them occasionally. Expats will find that Utrecht taxis are safe, clean and generally reliable. Taxis can be found at a few designated ranks in the city and at Utrecht Centraal. It's often best to call ahead and pre-book a service.
All licensed taxis in the Netherlands have special plates which are blue with black lettering on them.
Driving in Utrecht
Having a car is not essential in Utrecht. The city is fairly small and easy to navigate using public transport. In fact, the city authorities actively discourage people from driving, especially within the city centre. Driving can become frustrating in Utrecht as a result of having to manoeuvre around bus lanes and one-way streets.
In addition, parking is extremely expensive. Park and Ride services are available where residents can park outside the city limits and catch a shuttle into the centre of town.
While many people don’t use a car in Utrecht, it can come in handy for those with children or people who want to explore the surrounding countryside at weekends.
Cycling in Utrecht
One thing expats moving to Utrecht won’t be able to avoid are bicycles; locals like to cycle everywhere. Utrecht is a bicycle-friendly city, so expats would do well to follow their lead. Those who choose to cycle will find that it's by far the easiest and most convenient way to get around the city. There are dedicated cycle routes and facilities where bicycles can be stored securely.
Those who don’t have a bike of their own can rent one at the city’s many bicycle shops. There are lots of outlets close to the train station. Bike-sharing schemes are also popular, such as OV-fiets or the USP Campusbike for staff and students at Utrecht Science Park.
Those who choose to cycle should ensure that they invest in solid bike locks. Although Utrecht is generally safe, bike theft is quite common in parts of the city. Alternatively, use the secure bike parking areas provided by the council.
Walking in Utrecht
Utrecht is an exceptionally safe city and walking is a great way to get around. The city centre is compact so exploring on foot is a viable option. Expats who stay in an area or suburb close to their office may find themselves walking to work. Be sure to only walk on the sidewalks, and stay clear of the designated cycle paths when walking.
►For an overview on navigating Utrecht's property market see Accommodation in Utrecht
"Public transportation will take you literally everywhere quickly, cheaply, and easily. So much is accessible by bike and I have really embraced the cycling culture here in the Netherlands... It does rain. A lot. I always carry an umbrella with me in my purse as well as a little cover for my bike seat that resembles a shower cap (no wet butts here!)." Read more in our interview with Tiffany J.
Are you an expat living in Utrecht?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Utrecht. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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