How To Buy Dutch Train Tickets
If you want to get a handle on using the Dutch rail system, then here we discuss in detail the different types of rail tickets available in the Netherlands and how to buy them.
Dutch trains are mainly run by the national rail company NS(Nederlandse Spoorwegen) and the network covers the country extensively. Travelling by train is convenient, reliable and reasonable value for money.
Rail Ticket Formats in the Netherlands
The OV-chip card (OV-chipkaart), the Dutch public transport smart card is used for the majority of train travel journeys in the Netherlands. There are a number of ticket formats available for domestic rail travel as well as different fare types:
1. Single-use tickets
These are disposable OV-chip cards (eenmalige chipkaart) and can be bought at any Dutch NS train station. Back in 2014 they replaced the old style paper tickets.
Most visitors to the Netherlands and residents who travel infrequently can make do with the single-use tickets. They carry a €1 surcharge in addition to the standard fare.
They are made from card, are printed with the date/route and can be purchased on-the-day or up to a week ahead of travel.
To validate the ticket passengers must check-in and check-out of their journey using the card readers near the platforms or at the gate barriers. The card is disposed after use - it cannot be used again.
See further below about fare types such as the single, day return or RailRunner kids ticket.
2. Personal or anonymous OV-chip cards
The personal or anonymous OV-chip cards can store travel credit which can be used for rail travel at standard fares by simply checking-in and checking-out between 2 stations.
Visitors can buy an 'empty' anonymous OV-chip card for €7.50 (non-refundable, made from plastic and lasts 4-5 years) and then load it with 'e-purse' credit up to a maximum of €150.
Cards purchased at NS stations are automatically activated for train travel. Cards bought elsewhere (eg other transport providers, newsagents, supermarkets) may need to be activated for 'pre-paid travel without NS subscription' (reizen op saldo zonder NS-abonnement) at a train station ticket machine or service desk.
For rail travel with NS the card must be loaded with at least €20 credit. To check-in hold the card once against the NS card reader. On successful check-in a green light flashes accompanied by a single beeping sound - €20 is taken off the card balance as an initial boarding deposit.
A check-in error (such as a bad contact with the reader or insufficient credit) will make a sound of 3 loud beeps.
After check-in you can board a train departing within the next 30 minutes. You only need to check-out again when you arrive at your final domestic destination station. On successful check-out the reader beeps twice and shows the fare and remaining e-purse balance. The €20 deposit is refunded back onto the card with the correct fare deducted.
Here are some features about using the OV-chip card for rail travel in the Netherlands:
• If you fail to check-out you will lose the €20 deposit!
• The default travel class for OV-chip cards is 2nd class rail travel, though you can change this setting to 1st class using a station ticket machine.
• OV-chip cards can only be used by 1 person on a particular journey - so if you are travelling in a group, everyone will need their own card.
• Using an OV-chip card avoids the €1 surcharge for single-use tickets.
• If you check-in and check-out at the same train station within 1 hour (say you change your mind about travelling) you will not be charged any fare.
• You must complete check-out on the rail network within a maximum of 6 hours after check-in.
• Officially you are not permitted to backtrack unless travelling via an allowable connection. In general you must always be travelling away from the station where you checked-in.
• Checking-out and re-checking-in is required if connecting onto another domestic rail operator such as Arriva, Blauwnet, Breng, Connexxion (Valleilijn), Keolis and R-net. However, OV-chip cards are not used for international trips.
The OV-chip card credit is valid on all forms of public transport in the Netherlands and means you do not have to buy a separate ticket for each trip - as long as you have sufficient credit. A minimum of €4 credit is required for other forms of transport.
Should I buy an anonymous OV-chip card or stick to single-use tickets? If you are here for a short visit and do not plan to use public transport very much then stick with the single-use disposable tickets.
If you need to make a number of rail trips and plan to use other forms of public transport it may be worth investing €7.50 for the anonymous card. Make an estimation of the credit you will use and load this onto the card when you purchase it. For the convenience factor alone it will save you time not having to queue up for tickets.
Note, the personal OV-chip card is only offered to residents of the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. It includes the holder's name, photo and date of birth.
It works the same way as the anonymous card but includes other features such as guaranteed card replacement if lost and automatic top-ups using direct debit. NS discount cards and season ticket cards can also be used as personal OV-chip cards.
NS.nl also now offers e-tickets for sale at standard fares with payment available by either iDeal (Dutch internet banking) or credit card. NS e-tickets are personal and require name, date of birth and accompanying identification. Tickets are printed out or downloaded to a mobile using the NS app.
E-tickets come with a square barcode. At stations with closed gate barriers look for the gate with the "scan ticket" symbol and scan the barcode on the reader on the right-hand side. The gate should open to let you through - if you have any problems there are staff on hand to help.
Not sure which station in Amsterdam? Check out our Amsterdam Rail Network map
Train Fares in Netherlands
Domestic rail fares in Netherlands are fixed and depend on distance travelled. There are no cheap advance purchase rail fares available, you just turn up at the station and purchase a ticket at the standard fare.
Standard fares cover travel in 2nd class carriages. 1st class tickets cost about 70% more than the 2nd class fare.
With a valid train ticket (checked-in OV-chip card) you can jump onboard any standard service to your destination and just find a free seat in your class. There are no seating reservations required on standard trains.
Don't board a train without a valid ticket as if you get caught you may have to pay a penalty of €50.
For more info/photos on Dutch trains see train types in the Netherlands
The following fare types are available for train travel in the Netherlands:
Single (Enkele reis)
The single covers travel between 2 specified Dutch stations (eg - Schiphol Airport to Amsterdam Central, €4.30).
The single fare will be deducted from a personal or anonymous OV-chip card after check-in and check-out. E-ticket singles can also be purchased at the standard fare. There is a €1 surcharge for buying a disposable (one time-use) single fare ticket.
Note, the maximum possible single fare in 2nd class on the Dutch rail network is capped at €26.30 (2018) including the disposable surcharge.
Day Return (Dagretour)
If you are planning to return on the same day to your starting station then you should purchase a day return ticket. The fare is simply the sum of 2 singles. Note, the €1 surcharge applies to the disposable day return ticket - although if you buy 2 separate singles you would pay €1x2 = €2 surcharge. The day return can also be bought as an e-ticket.
Singles and Day Returns are valid between midnight on the travel date to 0400 the following day. For UK travellers, please note that NS does not sell 'open return' tickets where you can return on a day of your choice - for that case you should just buy separate singles each way on the day.
Children's Ticket (Railrunner)
Children aged between 4 and 11 can travel unaccompanied in 2nd class using a Railrunner ticket which costs just €2.50. These are valid for the whole day and can be bought as disposable OV-chip cards without surcharge. The child must check-in and -out of each journey.
Railrunner tickets can also be bought as an e-ticket or added as a product onto an anonymous or personal OV-chip card. Kids aged 3 and under travel for free.
For 1st class travel, up to 3 children can use a Railrunner ticket as long as they are accompanied by an adult (over 18) with a valid 1st class ticket. Additional children (4 or more) travelling with a single adult in 1st class need to travel with a personal or anonymous OV-chip card and can load the 40% 'Combined Travel Discount' product (see below).
Dutch domestic fares are increased at the beginning of each calendar year.
Fares and timetables can be found at ns.nl
Holland Travel Ticket
This product makes it easier for visitors to navigate the Netherlands on one single ticket. It is valid for 1 day on all public transport in the country including trains (2nd class), buses, trams and metro. It can be bought at the desk or ticket machines at stations and is a disposable OV-chip card. You must check-in and check-out for each journey leg.
The standard Holland Travel Ticket costs €55 and can be used anytime during the day. The off-peak Holland Travel Ticket costs €39 and is not valid for check-in during the peak 0630-0900 rush hour. You can check-in before 0630 and travel during the peak period.
If you plan to do a lot of travelling on a single day (either in terms of distance or using different forms of transport) then this ticket could offer good value and not having to buy separate tickets.
For example, an Amsterdam-Maastricht day return costs just over €50 - so using an off-peak Holland Travel Ticket could save some money - and you have the option of stopping off in other cities.
Train Fare Supplements
Some special train services require that you pay a compulsory supplement on top of your standard fare. Note, children with Railrunner tickets do not need to pay any supplements for these trains.
(1) A €2.40 supplement is required for domestic travel on the ICE International train going to Germany on the Amsterdam-Utrecht-Arnhem route. The supplement can be bought as a disposable ticket or loaded onto an OV-chip card using a NS ticket machine or service desk.
(2) The Intercity Direct train runs Amsterdam-Schiphol Airport-Rotterdam-Breda and requires a supplement only for the Schiphol Airport-Rotterdam sector. This costs €2.40 - although there is a temporary €1.40 price for travel during the off-peak hours (Mon-Fri 0900-1600 and 1830-0630, anytime at weekends) - this discounted price is only valid until 8 Dec 2018.
The supplement can be bought as a disposable ticket at a ticket machine or service desk.
Alternatively hold a checked-in anonymous or personal OV-chip card against the special supplement card readers found at platforms of all Intercity Direct stations - this will pay the supplement from the e-purse balance. You can cancel the supplement (if you decide not to take the Intercity Direct train) by scanning the card again within 30 minutes at the same station.
At the end of your trip you just need to check-out as usual using the standard card readers - you don't need to check-out using the supplement readers.
NS Discount (Korting) Cards
Generally, discounted train fares are NOT available to any adult visitors including those over 60. Visitors to the Netherlands pay the standard fare unless they hold a discount card or are travelling with someone who does.
If you live in Netherlands (or have a Dutch address) NS has a number of discount card options which can be bought on a subscription basis. For more info see: NS Dutch Railways Discount Cards
The standard card is the "Dal Voordeel abonnement" or "korting" card for short. This card entitles you and up to 3 travel companions to 40% off the standard fare.
However the discount is not valid if checking-in during the weekday rush-hours of 0630-0900 and 1600-1830. You will still get the 40% discount if checking-in during off-peak hours and then checking-out during the peak period.
The card costs €50 per year and can be purchased online or by filling in a form and making the payment at any station counter. You need to provide a photo which will be scanned onto the card - which is then used as a personal OV-chip card.
When using this card for off-peak rail travel, the discounted fare is automatically applied. Any travel companion who wishes to travel at the discounted fare needs to have their own personal or anonymous OV-chip card. Before travel they must go to a ticket machine and load the 'Combined Travel Discount' (Samenreiskorting) product onto their card - it's possible to specify 1 or 2 journeys.
The minimum e-purse balance required for discounted travel is €10, rather than €20. After checking-in and -out the discounted fare will be deducted.
The Combined Travel Discount product is automatically removed from the OV-chip card 35 minutes after check-out. Prior to that it can also be removed manually using a NS ticket machine.
How to Refund an Anonymous OV-Chip Card
Want to refund the card balance on an anonymous OV-chip card? It's possible over-the-counter at a ticket office (NS, GVB etc) but the procedure is overly bureaucratic and you will lose the initial €7.50 card fee.
For a card balance of under €30, you get the credit back minus a €1 service fee - although you have to fill in a form and show ID (so much for the so-called anonymous card!).
For balances above €30, you would need a Dutch bank account to get the credit payment - not really handy for visitors.
Either make sure the balance goes under €30 or consider keeping hold of the card if you plan to return to the Netherlands before the card expires.
Other Dutch Rail Tickets
Bicycle day ticket (dagkaart fiets) - if you want to carry a bicycle on board then you need a bicycle ticket (€6.20) which is valid for 1 day. You cannot travel with a bike during weekday rush hours, although this is allowed on a public holiday and during July/August. You must store your bike in the special carriages labelled with the bike sign. Folded bikes can be carried for free.
Dog day ticket (dagkaart hond) - those travelling with a dog or other leashed animal will require a dog ticket which costs €3.10.
Bike and dog tickets can be bought as a disposable ticket without surcharge or loaded as a product on an OV-chip card.
NS Day Travel Card (NS dagkaart) - this is only available on-the-day using a personal or anonymous OV-chip card. This product costs €50.60 (2nd class) or €85 (1st class) and allows unlimited travel on the NS rail network for a single day. It is not valid on trains run by other companies. Note that the Holland Travel Ticket mentioned above is probably more convenient for visitors.
On brief occasions some Dutch shops (Kruidvat, Blokker, Albert Heijn) offer a cut price version of this day ticket (with restrictions) for under €20, although this is marketed to locals rather than visitors.
NS Group Ticket (Groepsticket) - This is an e-ticket only deal which allows 4-7 people to make a single journey between any 2 stations on the Dutch rail network. Passengers must always travel with the main ticket holder.
It is available at the ns.nl website with payment by iDeal or credit card.
The ticket costs €30 for 4 people (€7.50 per person), €31.50 for 5 people (€6.30 per person), €33 for 6 people (€5.50 per person) and €34.50 for 7 people (€4.93 per person) - so big savings can be made on longer trips. If a return is required a second Group Ticket can be purchased for the return leg.
For more on the rail network in Netherlands see our Dutch Railways Guide
How to Buy Rail Tickets at the Station
At NS train stations you can purchase a range of disposable rail tickets as well as buying anonymous OV-chip cards and loading travel credit.
This can be done at either (1) the Tickets & Service counters or using (2) the NS train ticket machines.
1. The Tickets & Service counters can be found at most main stations - some are also inside 'OV Servicewinkel' branded shops. For example, Amsterdam Central has a main ticket service counter near the city-side exit and also a smaller OV-Servicewinkel in the IJ-hal passageway near the waterside.
Service desks accept payment by cash (euro banknotes or coins) and debit/credit cards (V-Pay, Maestro, Mastercard, Visa and American Express) using pin and/or contactless.
2. The yellow and blue NS ticket machines are available at all stations. They accepts debit/credit cards as above and also euro coins (change given) via the coin slot. Unfortunately, they do NOT accept euro banknotes. Some smaller stations in the Netherlands are unmanned and will only have 1 or 2 ticket machines available.
The NS ticket machine has a touch screen interface with an English language option (click the British flag in the bottom left-hand corner). It looks like this:
To buy disposable tickets, simply select "One-way" or "Day return" on the front page and go from there. Select your destination, class, date (on-the-day or up to 1 week ahead), the number of tickets (1-4) and choose your payment type.
The machine covers all domestic routes - you just need to choose your destination from an alphabetical list. If required, you can also change the "from" station by clicking on its box.
Press "Other Products" on the homepage screen if requiring children's Rail Runner tickets, anonymous OV-chip cards, supplements and other ticket types.
Note that the €1 disposable ticket surcharge applies when buying either from the service desk or ticket machine.
If you have an OV-chip card you can place it on the white and pink card reader to check the balance, add credit or travel products onto the card.
International Train Tickets
Tickets & Service counters at major city stations also sell international train tickets, although a service fee is charged. Alternatively, purchase online (no service fee) at NS International
International routes available are covered in our guide to International trains to / from Amsterdam
NS ticket machines also sell a limited range of international tickets (without seat reservation) to Belgium, Luxembourg plus selected destinations in Western Germany.