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.
In this article we discuss in detail the different types of rail tickets available in the Netherlands and how to buy them.
Rail Ticket Types in Netherlands
The OV-chip card (OV-chipkaart), the Dutch public transport smart card is now used for the majority of train travel journeys in the Netherlands. There are a number of ticket types available for domestic rail travel:
1. Single-use tickets - these are disposable OV-chip cards (eenmalige chipkaart) and can be bought at any Dutch NS train station. As of 9th July 2014 they have replaced the old style paper tickets.
2. Personal or anonymous OV-chip cards - using the e-purse credit for rail travel by checking-in and checking-out.
The default 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 anonymous card avoids the €1 surcharge for single-use tickets. It 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.
If you check-in and check-out at the same train station within 1 hour (say you change your mind) 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 allowed to backtrack, you must always be travelling away from the station where you checked-in.
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 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 offered to residents and 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 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.
3. e-tickets - these are available online at the ns.nl website - however payment is only possible via "iDeal", which requires a Dutch bank account. E-tickets can be purchased up to 1 month in advance for a particular travel day and printed out in A4 format. Note, e-tickets are personal and include the traveller's name and date of birth. The holder must have accompanying identification when travelling on the ticket.
E-tickets now come with a printed square barcode. At stations with closed gate barriers look for the gate with the "scan ticket" symbol and scan the e-ticket 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.
For non-residents it is possible to buy Dutch domestic rail e-tickets on the Belgian railways international site (b-europe.com) - they accept a range of credit and debit cards.
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. Standard prices cover travel in 2nd class carriages. A 1st class ticket will cost about 70% more than the 2nd class fare. Dutch domestic fares are increased at the beginning of each calendar year.
With a train ticket you can jump onboard any standard service to your destination and just find a free seat in your class. There are no reservations required on standard trains. 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 standard single covers travel from A to B (eg - Schiphol to Amsterdam Central, €4). The single fare will be deducted from a personal or anonymous OV-chip card after check-in and check-out. E-ticket singles can be purchased at the standard fare. There is a €1 surcharge for buying a disposable (single-use) single fare ticket.
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 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% 'joint journey discount' product.
Fares and timetables can be found at ns.nl
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 the supplement for these trains.
(1) Domestic travel on the ICE International train going to Germany - a €2 supplement is required on any travel on the Amsterdam-Utrecht-Arnhem route. The supplement can be bought as a paper ticket or loaded onto an OV-chip card using a NS ticket machine or service desk.
Bicycle day ticket (dagkaart fiets) - if you want to carry a bicycle on board then you need a bicycle ticket (€6) which is valid for 1 day but outside the weekday rush hour. 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.
Bike and dog tickets can be bought as a paper 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 €50.80 (2nd class) or €86.40 (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.
On brief occasions some Dutch shops (Kruidvat, Blokker, Albert Heijn) offer a cut price version of this ticket (with restrictions) for under €20, although this is marketed to locals rather than visitors.
NS Group Return ticket (Groepsretour) - currently an e-ticket only offer which allows 4-10 people make a return journey to a specified destination. Fares start from as little as €6.40 per person. For more info see our blog post NS Groepsretour
Don't board a train without a valid ticket or checked-in OV-chip card. If you get caught you will have to pay the fare plus a penalty of €35.
How to Buy Rail Tickets at the Station
At NS stations you can buy disposable tickets as well as buying/loading an OV-chip card. This can be done at either the (1) Tickets & Service counters or using the (2) yellow ticket machines with the blue strip on top showing the NS symbol.
A recent improvement is that most stations now accept credit card payments - either Mastercard or Visa which must have chip and pin. Note, many US cards do not have embedded chips so NS will not accept these. Credit card payments carry a €0.50 supplement.
2. The NS ticket machines are available at all stations. Every machine accepts debit cards (Dutch PIN/Maestro/V-Pay) and credit cards (Mastercard/Visa). Some machines have a coin slot to accept euro coins (change given) - they do NOT accept euro banknotes.
The ticket machine has a touch screen interface with an English language option (click the British flag in the bottom left-hand corner). At the bottom of the page you will also see the payment types accepted at that particular machine.
To buy disposable tickets, from the welcome screen press 'buy tickets or OV-chipkaart' (Kopen los kaartjes of OV-chipkaart) then press the buy tickets (losse kartjes) blue box at the bottom left. Once you get to the disposable ticket screen it looks like this:
Note that the €1 disposable ticket surcharge applies when buying either from the service desk or ticket machine.
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. Finally select your payment method and pay.
The machine also sells international tickets (without seat reservation) to Belgium, Luxembourg plus selected destinations in Western Germany. Note, that some smaller stations in Netherlands are unmanned and will only have ticket machines - this is where a few visitors can get caught out if they don't have a valid debit card or enough coins.
For more on the rail network in Netherlands see our Dutch Railways Guide