Rotterdam Public Transport Simplified

Last Updated: September 12, 2023

Gerrit Vandenberg

Gerrit shares his love for the Netherlands from his home near Amsterdam, helping thousands plan unforgettable trips to the lowlands. Discover his inspiring journey "From a critical health scare to celebrating Holland's charms". If you want to send Gerrit a quick message, you can contact him here.

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Gerrit profile image.

Hi, I'm Gerrit

I enjoy sharing useful tips about the beauty of this county.

Are you planning a trip to Rotterdam and wondering how to navigate this vibrant Dutch city?

You’re in the right place. In this article, I’ll tell you exactly how to navigate Rotterdam.

As a local who has lived in the Netherlands most of his life, I often travel on Rotterdam’s public transport system and am here to guide you. The last time I was on a Rotterdam Metro was just last week.

Rotterdam, the second-largest city in the Netherlands, boasts a modern and excellent public transport system designed to get you where you need to go quickly. For example, it takes 40 minutes to walk between Rotterdam Centraal (train station) and the Erasmus bridge, but it only takes 6 minutes by metro.

For many visitors from the US and other parts of the world, the concept of relying heavily on public transport might be unfamiliar. But, public transport in Rotterdam is used by everyone. Because of the city’s compact nature, driving a car around the city is inefficient. Parking is expensive, and there would always be traffic.

PS: Before we dive into the different transportation options, I would like to share my other Rotterdam Article with you: “Things To Do In Rotterdam,” where I focus on a fun day out for first-time visitors. 

Rotterdam Metro

Rotterdam Metro entrance Wilhelminaplein.
Rotterdam Metro entrance Wilhelminaplein – © Hidden Holland

The metro is your best option when you’re in Rotterdam and want to cover distances quickly. The drawback is that in the city center, it runs underground. You won’t see much like the iconic cubic houses, the Erasmus bridge, and the Euromast.

The metro is often faster than traveling by car, especially during busy times. 

Established in 1968, the Rotterdam Metro now boasts five lines, and they are named with a letter (A-E), encompassing 70 stations. Line E, operated by RandstadRail, connects Rotterdam and The Hague. Line B travels out to Hoek van Holland Strand, which takes you to the beach! 

Metro stations are marked with a big “M” sign, different than the one you’re most likely thinking about right now. See the photo above in the upper left corner. These stations have escalators or stairs that take you down to the platforms. Once you’re there, clear signs will guide you to your train.

Metro’s in Rotterdam are operated by the RET (Rotterdamse Elektrische Tram). The RET is the Rotterdam Transport Company. Some regional lines are branded Randstadrail, but RET also operates them, and RET tickets are valid on those lines.

Rotterdam Metro Map

Here is a Rotterdam Metro Map for you to download from the RET website. It shows all the metro lines in different colors. Each line has a letter and a color, making it easy to find your way. The map also shows the stops each metro line makes.

Official Rotterdam Metro Map.
Official Rotterdam Metro Map clicl for larger image – © Hidden Holland

Key Stops to Remember

  • Rotterdam Central Station: the main train station.
  • Beurs: Located in the city center, it’s close to many shops and restaurants.
  • Blaak: Markethall, Cubical Houses, Laurens church.
  • Wilhelminaplein: Near the famous Erasmus Bridge.
  • Zuidplein: For the Rotterdam Ahoy convention center.
  • Hoek van Holland Haven: This is where the Stena Line Ferry docks to Harwich U.K. (from where you can take a train to London)
  • Hoek van Holland Strand: Beach access in Hoek van Holland.
  • Meijersplein: Transfer here for a quick shuttle bus ride to Rotterdam The Hague Airport (RTM) or use the same shuttle to this station for an easy transfer from Rotterdam Airport to Rotterdam City Center.

Tips for Riding the Metro in Rotterdam

  • Check the line and last stop’s name before boarding. This helps ensure you’re on the right train going in the right direction.
  • Hold onto your ticket or card until you exit the station. You’ll need it to get out.
  • Like the tram, the metro also has maps showing its route. It’s handy to see where you are and what’s coming next.

The Rotterdam Metro is a straightforward and efficient way to move around Rotterdam and beyond. 

Tram in Rotterdam

RET Trams like here are part of the Rotterdam Public Transport system.
RET Tram near Rotterdam Central Station – © Hidden Holland

Like Amsterdam, Rotterdam has an extensive tram network with many tram lines. Rotterdam trams are one of the easiest ways to get around the city. Think of trams as street-level trains running through the city, stopping at many popular spots.

The tram system in Rotterdam is simple and user-friendly, even if you’ve never been on one before. It’s like a bus but on tracks. With clear signs and regular stops, it’s a great way to hop from one attraction to another without the hassle of finding parking or navigating busy streets.

Rotterdam Sightseeing by Tram

One of the fun things about using the tram is that you can see a lot of Rotterdam while you travel. While the metro runs underground, the tram stays on street level.

Regular RET trams run daily from early morning to late at night. However, the museum tram (see below) has limited operation hours. From April to October, they run every weekend. From June to mid-September, they also run on Thursday and Friday. 

RET Rotterdam Trams Map

Here is a handy Rotterdam tram map with all Rotterdam tram lines. As you can see, there are many routes and stops.

Rotterdam tram map. Click for full image.
Rotterdam tram map. Click for full image – © Hidden Holland

Museum Tram

For an even better sightseeing experience, get a ticket for the historic tram. The Museum Tram Heritage Tram 10 takes you past some of the city’s most famous sights with historic trams from 1931. This means they’re over 90 years old! And still maintained to the highest standards.

It’s a great alternative to a standard bus tour of the city. And by buying a ticket, you also support the volunteers in keeping up the tours and maintaining the trams. The tram is part of the Rotterdam Public Transport Museum.

The volunteers running the trams improved my experience by so much. As true locals, they’re filled with so many stories to tell. Please don’t be shy about talking to them.

Regular RET tram tickets are not valid on the Museum Tram. When you board, you can buy your Rotterdam Museum Tram tickets from the driver.

A boarding location is, for example, at the center side of the Erasmus bridge near the Spido Rotterdam harbor boat tour (through the Rotterdam harbors)

RET Bus in Rotterdam

While trams and metros are often sufficient to get around Rotterdam, the bus can be a good alternative. Especially of interest to visitors are bus line 32 and bus line 44, which connect many tourist attractions in Rotterdam.

Another handy bus line for travelers to and from Rotterdam Airport is bus 33, which connects the city with the airport every 15 minutes without transferring on the metro.

Tickets for Rotterdam Public Transport

Hopefully, I have convinced you that public transport in Rotterdam can be pretty convenient. Of course, you wonder how to get tickets, so let’s dive in. It’s pretty straightforward too.

Rotterdam offers you some great options to save money. There is just one ticket to avoid: the 2-hour ticket. I tell you below why.

  1. Single Tickets: Single tickets are available for those who travel by public transport occasionally. It’s best to use OVpay, which means you tap in (check-in) with your contactless debit or credit card and do the same when you reach your destination. For buses and trams, you do this inside the vehicle. For the metro, you do this before you enter the platform and exit the station. Using this payment method is not only simple. It also ensures the lowest one-way price. 
  2. RET 2-Hour Ticket: which costs €4.50, is 2-3 times more expensive than paying by tapping your contactless payment card. Leave this expensive ticket for the ignorant tourists.
  3. RET 1 Day Ticket: If you plan to go all over town, you can consider the RET Day Ticket. It allows unlimited travel on all RET transport for a day. But it’s only valid on RET, not on HTM in neighboring The Hague. So for just €6 more, the Rotterdam Welcome card (see below) is the best offer between these two transport passes. Since it covers a broader area and you get discounts on city attractions. The discounts alone are paying for the card very quickly.
  4. Rotterdam Welcome Card: This is for visitors looking to experience the city’s transport and attractions options. You can buy yours at the Rotterdam tourist office.

PS: These cards are not valid on regular trains operated by NS (Dutch Railways). 

Watertaxi in Rotterdam

Water Taxi's in Rotterdam.
Water Taxi docked in Rotterdam – © Hidden Holland

In Rotterdam, it’s not only traditional public transportation by the RET that can take you around the city in an affordable way.

Another transport unique to Rotterdam offers a unique experience: the water taxi.

As the name suggests, these are taxis that operate on water. They connect many tourist attractions and places of interest along the Maas River. It provides both a practical means of transportation and a scenic view of the city. 

It makes sense, right? Water transport. Rotterdam is, after all, the largest harbor in Europe and one of the largest in the world.

PS: These little devil boats go fast. I mean fast. Herman never wants to go on one just by looking at them. I took one recently with a friend from the Erasmus Bridge to the other side of the former Holland America Line Terminal. I enjoyed the ride. The view was amazing. Once you’re inside the boat, everything feels quite normal. I didn’t feel the movement and the bouncing as much as you would think, looking at these taxi boats from dry land.

Rotterdam Water Taxi Prices

These taxis are also really affordable. Prices vary depending on how many zones you travel. But most tourists stay within the center zone, which only costs €4.50 per person. You can also get a day ticket for just €10 and use it as a hop-on, hop-off system. 

You always need to request a taxi ride. You can do so by phone or within their app. More up-to-date information can be found here on the Rotterdam Water Taxi website.

Waterbus in Rotterdam

Waterbus passing the Erasmus Bridge Rotterdam.
Waterbus passing the Erasmus Bridge Rotterdam – © Hidden Holland

You have even more water options to travel from Rotterdam city to the Rotterdam region. The Waterbus is part of the regular public transportation system that connects surrounding towns with Rotterdam. Like scenic Dordrecht, the famous windmills of Kinderdijk, and the National Park De Biesbosch. 

It’s a scenic and affordable way to travel between Rotterdam and Dordrecht, Kinderdijk, or the Biesbosch.

Kinderdijk, a UNESCO World Heritage site with 19 historic windmills, can be reached by Waterbus line 21.

You can buy an affordable day ticket for the Rotterdam Waterbus to Kinderdijk and Dordrecht here. And your entrance ticket for Kinderdijk is right here.

Taxi in Rotterdam

When you’re in a hurry, carrying heavy luggage, or prefer a direct route to your destination, taxis in Rotterdam offer a convenient solution. They provide door-to-door service, ensuring you reach your destination comfortably and efficiently.

You don’t stop a taxi on the street in Rotterdam. You take one from an official taxi rank, like at the central station. Or you call a taxi company of your choice for a pick up from an address or point of interest. 

Your hotel can make these calls for you. 

Or here are two operators I can recommend you to call yourself:

  • Rotterdamse Taxi Centrale (RTC): 010 – 462 60 60
  • Stadstaxi Rotterdam: 010 – 818 28 23

Taxis in Rotterdam are typically modern cars, often in a neutral color, with a taxi sign on top. Taxis in Rotterdam are metered, ensuring transparent pricing. The fare consists of a starting rate, a distance rate, and a time rate. While prices are regulated, check the taxi driver is taking the shortest route.

You can do this easily by using Google Maps during your journey. Enter your destination, set it to car mode, and follow along. Make sure your driver knows where you’re going.

Most taxis accept both cash and card payments.

A note on Uber. They do operate in Rotterdam on a limited basis. Often, you have to book ahead of time, making it less convenient. Prices are often comparable to traditional taxis.

Getting A Car in Rotterdam

While Rotterdam’s public transport system is comprehensive and efficient, there might be instances where you might want to consider renting a car, especially if you’re venturing out of Rotterdam. Here’s what you need to know about driving and renting a car in Rotterdam.

A car becomes particularly useful if:

  • You’re planning day trips to areas not easily accessible by public transport.
  • You have specific destinations in mind that require flexibility in timing.
  • You’re traveling with a group or family, making car travel more economical.

Like many European cities, Rotterdam has limited parking spaces, and parking fees can be high. Traffic can get busy, especially during rush hours. It might be challenging if you’re unfamiliar with driving in European cities. I would stick to the transportation options above when you’re not leaving the city.

If you decide to rent a car, several rental agencies exist. Websites like Rental Cars and Discover Cars allow you to compare prices from different providers. I usually rent from Rental Cars myself. I always seem to find the best deals with them. But I like to offer two places to research to ensure you get all the options.

More Helpful Information

I’ve written other articles on Rotterdam and its surroundings. Here is some more inspiration

An external website I also love to recommend is Rotterdam Info. It’s part of the Rotterdam Tourist Information. It is an excellent site by the city with so much information for people visiting Rotterdam about things both within Rotterdam and in the surrounding areas.

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Gerrit shares his love for the Netherlands from his home near Amsterdam, helping thousands plan unforgettable trips to the lowlands. Discover his inspiring journey "From a critical health scare to celebrating Holland's charms". If you want to send Gerrit a quick message, you can contact him here.

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