I’ve been to Amsterdam a number of times and will go there again for ApacheCon EU 2008. I always took the train or night train. So, nine days before departure I look again into the best way to get there and back. But despite all the discussions about CO2 and all that, something is still very wrong with the picture I have to paint…
The first possibility is CityNightLine: sleep through the night, and in the morning, you’re there. Sounds convenient, right? Well, I can’t sleep well in these night trains, especially when they perform “emergency braking maneuvers” in every train station and before every red light. If you don’t want to share rooms with people you don’t know, you end up with about 496 CHF for CNL (both ways) plus 31 CHF for the train from Lucerne to Basel SBB (and back) where I’d board the CNL. At any rate, it’s quite easy to get a ticket online if you know what kind of reduction code you can use on the website of the “Deutsche Bahn” as Swiss citizen with an SBB half fare card.
The second possibility is to take the airplane. Within three minutes, you can book your flight online. Even 9 days before departure you get a return ticket for 292 CHF with KLM. Add to that the SBB train ticket from Lucerne to Zürich Airport for 27 CHF plus a ticket for a few bucks from the Schiphol Airport to Amsterdam Central Station. Overall travel time is probably around 6 to 7 hours with all waiting times.
Since I don’t have a car and wouldn’t consider that an option anyway, that leaves me with the day train. In the German ICE trains you often have power plugs at every seat so you can easily hack during the 8 to 9 hour trip while the landscape flies by at 280 km/h. That’s a very nice way to travel, but only if you don’t have to change the train too often. But there’s only one ICE per day that makes the trip from Basel SBB to Amsterdam CS directly and it’s not going at the time I’d like it to. Normally, you have to change twice (at Frankfurt and Mannheim). Of course, the trains are always well filled so it’s a good idea to make reservations (5 CHF for each leg of the journey). And of course, if a connection cannot be made you don’t have a registration in the next train. In the worst case, you’re even sitting on the floor somewhere trying not to get trampled (I speak from experience). No hacking in that case, so don’t forget your MP3 player with some soothing music! Another minor inconvenience is the change of train personnel every 2 to 3 hours and then it’s: “All tickets please!” Again! What does this madness cost? With the SBB half fare card you get a reduction (“Bahncard 25 mit RailPlus”) inside Germany, but not the Netherlands. And there’s no way you can buy the tickets online as you travel through 3 countries which the online systems are overwhelmed with. So you have to go to your favourite train station that still has some human personnel (Fortunately, that’s no problem for me as I live in Lucerne). The booking takes the clerk at least 10 minutes. Total price: 427 CHF (Lucerne – Amsterdam CS and back including reservations). I ended up with 7 tickets.
You already guessed it. I bought the train tickets. Against all reason. Actually, there’s one single reason: I guess I’m a little too green to board an airplane when it’s not necessary. So I put up with all the sh.. that comes with an environment-friendly transportation system. Stupid me. But I really wonder why it’s so difficult to make trains more attractive.