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
Rail passengers in Netherlands can use a number of ticket types for domestic rail travel.
1. Disposable paper tickets which can be bought at any Dutch NS station.
2. Using an OV-chip card, the Dutch public transport smart card which many locals are now using for train travel.
The default for OV-chip cards is 2nd class rail travel, though you can change this setting to 1st class using the ticket machine at the station. 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.
3. Online e-tickets are available on the ns.nl website - however payment is only possible via "iDeal", which requires a Dutch bank account. E-tickets can be purchased up to 2 months in advance for a particular travel day and printed out in A4 format by the purchaser. 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.
For non-residents it is possible to buy Dutch domestic rail tickets on the Belgian railways international site (b-europe.com) - they accept a range of credit and debit cards.
Train Fares in Netherlands
Domestic rail fares in Netherlands are fixed and depend on distance travelled. There are no cheap advanced 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.
A standard Single (Enkele Reis) fare covers travel from A to B (eg - Schiphol to Amsterdam Central, €4). The price is the same whether using paper tickets, e-tickets or an OV-chip card. You can buy this for on-the-day travel or specify a date up to 4 weeks in advance if buying at a station.
If you are coming back on the same day then it's possible to buy a Day Return (Dagretour) paper ticket - the fare is simply the equivalent sum of 2 singles.
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.
Not sure which station in Amsterdam? Check out our Amsterdam Rail Network map
If you have children aged between 4 and 11 you can purchase up to 3 Railrunner tickets which cost just €2.50 each. These can be used on the same journey per accompanying adult (over 18) with a valid ticket. Additional children travelling with a single adult may buy standard tickets with 40% discount. Kids aged 3 and under travel for free.
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 Netherlands.
Note, supplements are compulsory for the following domestic travel: (1) on the ICE international going to Germany (Amsterdam-Utrecht-Arnhem, €2 supplement); (2) on the Intercity Direct (formerly FYRA) train which runs Amsterdam-Schiphol-Rotterdam-Breda. A supplement is now only required on the Schiphol-Rotterdam section- this can still be bought as a paper ticket.
Other tickets: If you want to carry a bicycle on board then you need a bicycle day ticket (€6) - only valid outside the weekday rush hour. Some carriages have extra space to fit a bike in. Folded bikes can be carried for free. Those travelling with a dog will require a dog day ticket (€3).
If you wish to travel a more complex route, stopovers ("via" stations) can be added into your journey, at extra cost. With a valid 2nd class ticket, one can also purchase an upgrade ticket to 1st class.
Unlimited Day Travel Card is only available on an OV-chip card, this product costs €49.20 (2nd class) or €83.60 (1st class) and allows unlimited travel on the Dutch rail network for a single day. On brief occasions some Dutch shops (Kruidvat, Blokker, Albert Heijn) offer a cut price version of this ticket for under €20, although this is marketed to locals rather than visitors.
NS Group Return ticket - 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 paper 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 and blue ticket machines. Note, there are some payment limitations to both.
2. You can save the €0.50 fee by buying tickets from the ticket machines. All machines accept debit cards (Dutch PIN/Maestro/V-Pay). Some machines have a coin slot to accept euro coins (change given) - they don't accept euro banknotes. Machines at Schiphol airport and Amsterdam Central accept credit cards (Visa/ Mastercard with chip and pin). Credit card payments can attract a €0.50 supplement.
The ticket machine has a touch screen interface with an English language option (click the flag in the bottom left-hand corner). The homepage has been changed to gear it more for OV-chip card use. For paper tickets touch "I don't have an OV-chip card" then press "paper tickets". For precise instructions with more screenshots see here. Once you get to the paper ticket screen it looks like this:
The machine covers all domestic routes - you just need to choose your destination from an alphabetic list. If required, you can also change the "from" station by clicking on its box. The machine also sells international tickets (without seat reservation) to Belgium, Luxembourg plus selected destinations in 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