With the number of foreign visitors to Rotterdam on the rise each year, the city is striving to make it a pleasant experience for every single one of them. That includes its main transportation operator RET. “We help visitors get the best out of their stay with public transport,” marketing manager Maddy Bolhuis says.
The history of the RET dates back to 1878, when horse trams dominated the city streets. Horse trams were replaced by steam trams and later, in 1905, by electric trams. The first metro started running in 1968. Today, there are 58 bus lines, 9 tram lines and 5 metro lines to choose from. “With a history of more than 140 years, we are rooted in this city,” Bolhuis says. “But we want to be much more than an operator shuttling people from A to B. We seek to connect on a social level as well, with Rotterdammers and tourists alike.”
How does the RET make it easier for tourists and expats to navigate its transportation network?
“First of all, we’ve added a lot more English into our communication; on our website, on signage and in spoken messages, wherever possible. Secondly, we’re explaining to tourists how to use the public transportation tickets, because it’s not always clear how checking in and out works. In the southern region of the Randstad, an area including Rotterdam and the Hague area, we work together with other transportation companies on the platform “Tourist Day Tickets”, to offer visitors the possibility to travel beyond the city limits, to the windmills of Kinderdijk, for instance.”
The summer is peak season for tourism in Rotterdam. Do you have anything special planned for visitors to the city?
“During the busy summer months we have service staff at Rotterdam Airport helping tourists on their way. It’s only a short bus and metro ride to the city centre, but you just have to know how to get there. We also have a similar service for tourists coming ashore from the cruise ship at Wilhelminapier.”
“From the 21st of July to the 31st of August, we dedicate two bus lines as “sightseeing lines” to discover Rotterdam’s highlights by bus. These buses, line 32 and 44, pass by all our important landmarks, museums and points of interest, such as the Markthal and Cube houses, Euromast, Kunsthal, etcetera. On some days there’s a city guide on board the 32, who entertains with interesting anecdotes and bits of history, in English and often other languages too. It turns out Rotterdammers also really like to listen in, as they find out things about their city they hadn’t known before!
What is a must-do in the city?
“I know it’s rather well-known, but I really love getting off at Wilhelminapier and walking on the Kop van Zuid, stopping by the Foodhallen and then moving on to Hotel New York. From there you can take the pedestrian bridge to Katendrecht and visit the Fenix Food Factory. For me this is one of Rotterdam’s highlights.”
And for those who like to take a trip outside of the city?
“I can recommend taking your bicycle aboard our Fast Ferry to experience Rotterdam’s port and getting off at Maasvlakte 2. You can then cycle to the Maasvlakte information centre FutureLand, spot sea gulls or even hit the beach!”
Lastly, can you reveal a hidden gem that you really like?
“I love the area around the monument for G.J. de Jongh, a famous Dutch civil engineer. It’s a serene part of the museum park behind Museum Boijmans van Beuningen. Its rose garden is beautiful. Tram 8 or bus 44 will get you there.”
Picture by Bart Hoogveld