Thanks to a fast and efficient public transport system, most expats find Rotterdam's metro, train, buses, ferries and trams to be more than adequate for fulfilling their day-to-day needs, with cycling filling in any gaps. For this reason, it isn't necessary to own a car and most expats find that it's not worth the trouble (and extra expense) especially when there are so many good alternatives available.
Public transport in Rotterdam
Rotterdam has a well-integrated public transport system consisting of buses, trams and the metro. All public transport in the city is operated and coordinated by RET (Rotterdamse Elektrische Tram).
OV-chipkaart and RET tickets
Public transport in Rotterdam and throughout the Netherlands can be accessed using the OV-chipkaart. This smart card is loaded with credit and is used to tap in and out at the beginning and end of each journey. There are different types of cards available, ranging from daily to yearly subscriptions, but all should be renewed after five years.
The metro is a quick and easy way of getting around Rotterdam. There are five different lines, each with a corresponding colour and a letter. Beurs Metro Station is the largest subway interchange and all lines cross through here.
Though coverage is widespread, even extending beyond Rotterdam into The Hague, the metro network isn't comprehensive. Any gaps are generally filled in by tram routes.
There are nine tram lines operating permanently in the city, with additional lines that operate only during big events or festivals. While the tram route is more comprehensive than that of the metro, many still prefer to take the metro.
Though a slower way to get around than the tram or metro, buses serve a wide range of areas and can be used for regional travel. There are also night services, which are useful if travelling very late at night when other forms of public transport aren't operating.
Expats can hop on board the Aqualiner ferry service or the Waterbus for trips between Rotterdam and Dordrecht. The Waterbus is a great way to experience the city and surrounding areas. RET also offers the Fast Ferry, connecting Hoek van Holland and Maasvlakte.
While trains are not recommended for travel within Rotterdam, it is one of the best and easiest ways to travel across the country and the continent. Rotterdam Centraal is the city's major railway station and is served by several train lines and routes connecting cities including Paris, Antwerp and Brussels.
Taxis in Rotterdam
There are two options for taking a taxi in Rotterdam: by road or by water.
Regular taxi cabs can be hailed on the street throughout the city as long as the light on their roof is lit up, indicating availability. Otherwise, a cab can be called via phone or mobile application, and Uber also operates in the city.
In addition to Rotterdam's ferries, Watertaxis traverse the Maas River and are a fun and speedy way to get around. Watertaxis typically have eight or 12 seats and offer around 50 stops across Rotterdam. Though not necessarily the most practical for day-to-day transport, this is something that should be experienced at least once.
Cycling in Rotterdam
The Dutch are known worldwide for their love of cycling, and expats living in Rotterdam will find that joining in is not only an easy and convenient way to get around but also has the desirable side effect of getting some exercise and fresh air. Although Rotterdam is the second-largest city in the Netherlands, it's still relatively compact and there are plenty of cycle paths to make it easy to get around on two wheels.
Bicycles can be taken on board the metro and ferries. However, only certain types of compact bicycles can be taken on buses and trams. Expats can rent a bicycle or can purchase their own either new or second-hand.
Driving in Rotterdam
Rotterdam's excellent public transport system, along with its well-developed cycling infrastructure, means that it's easy to get around the city without a car. In fact, the government actively discourages driving, with measures such as high taxes and expensive parking in place to deter the use of private vehicles.
Those who do decide to drive will need to find out if their current drivers' licence is valid or if they need to exchange it. When purchasing a vehicle, be sure to take the cost of tax, fuel and parking into account.
Walking in Rotterdam
Rotterdam is a pedestrian-friendly city and getting around on foot is easy and convenient. Along with its many cycle paths, Rotterdam's sidewalks are well maintained. Most residents enjoy strolling along the canals and pedestrianised areas, such as Lijnbaan, the main shopping street in Rotterdam, and depending on where expats live, they could walk to work or school.