Northern Europe - Intercity Trains
Amsterdam can be reached easily from Brussels or Dusseldorf via an intercity train ride taking only a couple of hours. The Intercity trains are modern, fast, and relatively nice. There are first and second class cars, some of which feature closed compartments that can be reserved for several people traveling together. Seats can be reserved for a few extra euros, and each seat features a small LED readout screen, indicating whether or not each seat has been reserved and to whom it has been assigned. Each time I took the train between Amsterdam and Dusseldorf I opted for the cheapest ticket, for second class with no seat assignment, and unreserved seats were available to use.
Although the trains were not crowded, it was a little bit hectic getting on and off initially and finding open seats, so I opted to just sit in the dining car each time. I suspect the expectation is that you will purchase food or drink if you are utilizing the seats in the dining car, but I was able to sit there for the duration of the trip, even when just ordering a coffee. There is a small food menu featuring snacks and a few breakfast items, as well as a drink menu offering a variety of coffees, tea, juice, soda, beer, and wine.
Traveling within the Schengen Area, no passport is required to purchase tickets between these two cities, although a customs/immigration officer of some kind was doing a random passport check one trip on the way from Dusseldorf to Amsterdam, so I wasn’t totally clear on what documentation was necessary. He did ask to see my passport, which I had on me, but I wasn’t certain it was required.
Using Intercity trains between major cities in northern Europe was a really pleasant experience. The trains are fast, clean, and were exactly on schedule each time I used them. My only complaint is that they are not always the cheapest option. Buying a ticket between Amsterdam and Dusseldorf the day of departure was about $60 USD each way, although it seems like substantial discounts (website claims prices start at 20 Euros if you book 6 months prior to your trip) are available for booking in advance, with prices increasing incrementally as the date of travel gets closer.
I would definitely use the trains again, especially for trips between major cities. More value can probably be had from these tickets if you are traveling to smaller cities or towns which are included in the route but wouldn’t otherwise be accessible as easily by air.