Getting from Amsterdam to Berlin (or back)

berlincheckpointTwo of the most exceptional cities in Europe often wind up back to back on many itineraries, and fortunately getting between them is fairly easy and straightforward. It can also be quite cheap as long as you research and book in advance, so below you’ll find your three main options.

Quick summary

The buses are cheapest but it takes more than 10 hours, although they run overnight so backpackers can save a night in the hostel and wake up in the other city. Trains take about 6 hours and are only a bit more expensive, and they leave about every hour during the day. Most flights are expensive and connect in another city so they take just as long as the train, but one Dutch discount airline does have fairly cheap direct flights, though at weird times of the day.

Trains between Amsterdam and Berlin

centraalstationtrainleavingFor most people the best option is going to be a train. The journey takes a bit over 6 hours in either direction, and trains leave about once per hour starting around 7am, but they aren’t on a straight hourly schedule like many other routes, so it’s wise to research the times in advance rather than just showing up at the train station randomly.

Starting promotional fare: €39 for 2nd class, and well over €100 for 1st class

Train fares on this route work like airfares in that as the cheap tickets get bought up the fare increases. So you might find a €39 fare for a late afternoon train while the 11am train might be €69 or even higher. Keep this in mind when you are planning this trip because if you just show up at the train station you are likely to have to pay near the maximum, especially if you choose a popular time of day.

Trains between these cities don’t go all the way during the day, so you have to transfer either in Duisberg, Germany (2 hours from Amsterdam) or Amersfoort, NL (35 minutes from Amsterdam). But there is also usually a nonstop night train that leaves Amsterdam around 7pm and arrives in Berlin nonstop about 9 hours later a bit after 4am. There are sleeper cars on this train, but it costs more to ride in one of those, so between that and the inconvenient arrival time, it’s not worthwhile for most people.

You can book trains online at the hard-to-find Netherlands International Trains site.

Flights between Amsterdam and Berlin

transaviaschipholIt’s true that the fastest way to get between the cities is by air, but not by all that much, and airfares are usually quite high. The trip only takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes if you can find a direct flight, but those are rare and most flights change through London or elsewhere, and that obviously puts the whole flight thing up over 4 hours, not including trips between airports and city centers and security time and whatnot. Fortunately, both airports have good and cheap transport to the city centers, running about 30 minutes for either city.

Right now the discount Dutch airline Transavia is doing one direct flight each day, with one-way prices starting around €100, but of course this changes all the time so you’ll have to check for your own dates using the widget on this page. Their one flight is at 6:50am as of now, which means leaving for the airport by 5am and ruining the night before.

As of now Transavia’s one flight from Berlin to Amsterdam is under €70 and it leaves at 7:45pm, which isn’t quite as tragic, but still you are probably better off taking the train or bus.

All other airlines are charging over €200 each way at the moment, although roundtrip prices could be even lower than that so check that option before you give up on flying.

Buses between Amsterdam and Berlin

eurolinesbusamstelThese Eurolines buses aren’t terribly well known in some circles, but this is definitely a route that this option should be considered, especially for those on the lowest of budgets. The journey takes about 10 hours each way, and the buses leave each city in the evening and arrive in the other at a decent time the following morning, so people who can sleep in a bus seat can take the ride and save on one night of accommodation.

Eurolines has a terrible and confusing website, but with enough determination it will reveal promotional fares as low as €14 each way, which is the same for students or adults or anyone else. When these fares aren’t available (and they often aren’t) the next lowest fare category is €27 for any passenger, which is still quite a bit cheaper than the train and you’ll try to sleep on the thing too.

From Amsterdam the bus leaves from in front of Amstel Station in Amsterdam, which is about 2 km south of Centraal Station, and easy to reach by tram or metro. You can buy these advance bus tickets on the Eurolines site, as well as from the Eurolines office on Damrak just across from Centraal Station. If you wait until the last minute your fare might be much higher, but sometimes these promo fares are even available on the day of the journey.