The NS Group Return (NS Groepsretour) is a special e-ticket from Dutch Railways which allows 4-10 people to travel by train to the same destination station in the Netherlands.
Note, this is an online fare which can only be purchased using iDeal, the Dutch internet banking payment system. Credit and debit cards are not accepted, so international visitors need to have a Dutch bank account or know someone who does.
The NS Group Return ticket costs €55 for 4 people with the possibility to add up to 6 more passengers at a cost of €2.50 per additional person.
The ticket is valid for 2nd class travel after 0900 Monday to Friday or anytime during the weekends. You cannot travel with the Group Return ticket on King’s Day (27 April). Passengers can travel with NS or any other standard train operators in the Netherlands.
NS Group Return costs per person (4-10 people)
4 passengers €13.75 (total €55)
5 passengers €11.50 (total €57.50)
6 passengers €10.00 (total €60)
7 passengers €8.93 (total €62.50)
8 passengers €8.13 (total €65)
9 passengers €7.50 (total €67.50)
10 passengers €7.00 (total €70)
Booking and E-Tickets
The NS Group ticket can be booked here.
A specified lead passenger on the NS Groepsretour needs to book and make the full payment. This lead passenger can input all passenger details and print tickets; or an email can be sent to each passenger who can fill in their own details and print their own tickets.
Each individual passenger on the group ticket can depart from any station in the Netherlands. The group does not need to travel together – only the final destination must be the same for everyone.
E-tickets from NS are printed in A4 format – each one is personalised with the name and date-of-birth of the traveller. You need to have some form of ID with you when you travel. With an e-ticket you don’t need to check-in or check-out as you have to do with the OV-chip card.
A growing number of stations in Netherlands have gate barriers. You need to scan the e-ticket square barcode at the special ‘scan ticket’ gates in order to get through.
Consider a standard full-fare return ticket between say Amsterdam and Maastricht costs just over €50 per person. That would be €500 for 10 people. At just €70 in total, the NS Group Return ticket could work out an excellent value for a travelling party.
Depending on the journey, a party of 3 people could also potentially save money by buying the 4 person group ticket at €55 (or €18.33 per person). Likewise, a party greater than 10 people could simply buy 2 (or more) group tickets as needed.
NS Group Ticket & Social Media
Because of the significant possible savings, people in the Netherlands have been using social media to organise group ticket purchases, particularly those who live in the regions. There are a number of independent Groepsretour Facebook groups which have sprung up. This is a way some international visitors have been connecting with locals and joining on a group ticket.
Some people have been bending the rules slightly by using a valid “hidden city” as the final destination to allow travellers to get off at different stops beforehand. An example would be for those starting in Maastricht to specify Leiden as the (hidden city) destination. NS permits various routes for Maastricht-Leiden which could pass through Utrecht, Rotterdam, Amsterdam or Schiphol.
Although it could be losing a few full fare passengers, NS has said it is happy to have extra revenue whilst filling empty seats. And the ticket is being promoted as an environmentally friendly way to switch to rail travel.
The NS Group Return ticket is an ongoing special offer which has been running since 2013.
UPDATE (3 Jan 2018) – It seems that NS will pull this ticket by 15 Jan 2018 due to persistent fraudulent use. The ticket will be replaced by a group one-way ticket for up to 7 people who will have to physically travel together.