Exploiting the NS Group Ticket. €7 day return to anywhere within NL!

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Page last updated: 9th March 2017

NS Group ticket

 

I've recently become a fan of the NS Groepsretour (Group Return to you and me) ticket. This ticket allows a group of between 4-10 persons to travel to and from any destination in the Netherlands within the same day.

[Update: September 2014, The NS Grouptickets are now €55 for the first 4 persons, then extra €2.50 per additional passenger up to maximum of €70. It therefore works out to be €7 each. ]

[Deleted: September 2014. It costs €49 for the first 4 persons, then an extra €2.50 for each additional person up to and including the 10th. Therefore the cost of having 10 tickets is €64. A measly €6.40 each!]

 

Sounds like a pretty good deal…but it gets better! The beauty of this ticket is that no two persons have to start from the same station, there is no requirement to travel together on any of the legs, and you don't even have to know each other. So this opens a fantastic can of money-saving worms.

Take a popular, medium length route. Amsterdam Centraal to Rotterdam Centraal. Even at the cheapest 40% discounted price on a return ticket, a second class ticket costs €16.80.

NS Amsterdam to Rotterdam

Now take one of the most popular long-distance train routes in the country. Groningen to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, or even Groningen to The Hague. A return ticket for these journeys cost €29.00 and €29.60 respectively. In all these examples, you'll have noticed it's also cheaper to use the group ticket for just a one way journey, and that's precisely what I do. I work nearly 200km away from Amsterdam, and since I know there'll be plenty of people from my office heading that way on a Friday afternoon, I usually ask around for 9 others. More often than not I have more people than spaces!

GRQ-AMS

GRQ-Den Haag

I've picked the Groningen example because if you're struggling to find colleagues you should also try using either the “NS Daytickets Groningen” or “NS Group-tickets Groningen” Facebook groups to advertise your space. Groningen is in the far north-east of Netherlands with a VERY large student population. Nearly all depend on the railways. Since students are usually (ahem!) broke, there's always a good chance of finding people wanting to pitch in.

Tip: If you want to maximise your chance of attracting people who are going to either Amsterdam Airport Schiphol or Amsterdam Centraal, you should select “Den Helder” as your destination, since both Schiphol and Centraal are on the way…unless you're coming from the North. Alternatively and potentially more powerful, you can try using “Middelburg” which is in the far South. (Thanks to Alvin for bringing up this point!).

To buy the ticket you need to visit this link and select “NS Groepsretour” and pick your date. You will need to pay by iDeal using your Dutch debit card, and then you will be emailed a unique coupon code, which you redeem online and print.

Then it's a matter of asking people to provide in their full name, date of birth and email addresses and somehow paying you back. So far I haven't had a single problem asking people to do so, but you should always exercise utmost caution if you are not familiar with the person with whom you're collaborating.

[Update January 2015: It is possible to travel in either direction using the ticket, but this seems to be a contentious issue especially for long distance trains between 9am-11pm. Here is the response NS gave when asked whether it is possible to reverse the order of usage, but conductors are still known to fine passengers incorrectly. Here is another tweet from me to re-affirm our rights.]

Finally, a very rough-and-literal translation, by a combination of me and Google, of the full terms and conditions. Bolding my own.

  • There is money back in case of delay granted this product
  • Valid after 9.00 on weekdays and all day at weekends. NS Group returns are not valid on King's day (27 April)
  • Accepted by all train operators
  • Each group member needs their own personal e-ticket to be able to travel
  • This offer is not valid in combination with other offers
  • You can exchange NS Group returns purchased at the e-ticket shop until 31 January 2017
  • NS reserves the right to increase the price in the meantime
  • You can only get money back in the event of a delay

The terms and conditions are also posted on their official website here.

Comments

  1. Hi Tim,
    does this mean that this group return ticket allows me to break my journey to destination?
    I mean if I buy group return ticket to Rotterdam from Groningen and I break my journey in Den Haag for 3-4 hours before going to Rotterdam, is it allowed?
    As I see while buying this ticket there is no mention of “via” station available.

    NS rules for return ticket says:
    – If you are going to several towns in one day, you should purchase a ticket that indicates to which destination(s) you will be travelling.

    -You are allowed to break your journey but only if you complete the entire journey in one day.

    Please guide me on this.

    • Shailesh, I’ve never broken a ticket but the rules don’t prevent you doing it. In practice so long as the break point is along a reasonable route to your destination then it should be ok. You might have a hard time convincing the conductor if your route is far out of the way though, e.g. Groningen to Amsterdam and your ticket got inspected at Maastricht!

      • Hi, need your opinion on something. Could one make a stopover at Amsterdam Centraal using a Groningen-Den Haag day return ticket?… All the routes shown by the NS planner pass through Schiphol, not Ams Centr.

        • I’ve done this route and break a few times though I don’t remember ever having my ticket checked. You might want to print more than 1 copy of your ticket, because if the inspector sees more than 2 stamps he might like it!

    • If you have a Groningen-Delft ticket, then you can start from Groningen and visit Den Haag and Rotterdam in the same day, properly.

  2. Hey Tim,
    is there any way to get such a ticket as a non dutchman?
    We want to visit amsterdam next week and wanted to use such a ticket, but we dont have a dutch account. Can we also buy them offline at the trainstation or could you maybe help us?
    Best Regards and keep on blogging

    • Where will you be visiting Amsterdam from? Best thing to do is ask in the Facebook group mentioned in the article as most people have accounts there. I’m travelling right now and don’t have any way to pay even if I wanted to! Be quick because all tickets must be bought by today!

      • Hey Tim,
        thanks for your instant response.
        We will be visiting Amsterdam from germany, first dutch station will be enschede. Why do you think we cant order in 2014? The page is still online and you can still order this ticket i think.
        I just asked the facebookgroup to join.
        Can you tell me how that works? Can I trust in those guy?
        Best Regards and a happy new year

        • The original terms said tickets must be bought by 31st December although that has now changed.
          I’ve bought my ticket from that group several times without problems, but always exercise care with things over Facebook! Just look for people travelling to the same place as as on the same date, or start a new message and people will leave comments asking to join. Someone with a Dutch account will have to buy the ticket and you can pay him back through bank transfer

  3. quick question… so if I want to go to a party in Amsterdam on Friday night, and return around 3am, would that be possible with the groepretour?

    • Hi Ana, sorry that this may be too late for you…the simple answer is I don’t know as the terms and conditions don’t explicitly say either way!

  4. Hello. Can I use this kind of ticket for 2 persons? I mean, I want to go a trip with my gf in one day which will cost us more than 80E (you know, ~4×20). But with the Group ticket it reduces to 50E. Is it possible to buy it for 2 if I dont want to search for other people etc? thanks

    • Yes you can. You can even buy 10 tickets and only redeem it for one person. When you make the purchase you are emailed a voucher code which you redeem in the provided link. If you just use it twice that’d be ok.

  5. Hi Tim.
    Do you happen to know if this also works if I, let’s say, am traveling with a group of friends from Amsterdam to Antwerp (Belgium). Or do you think we should try and get as close to the border as possible, and take a train to Antwerp from there as to minimize costs…
    Thanks!
    Max

  6. Hey Tim, I really need your advice please. From our group, 8 people will be departed from Groningen and their destination will be in Amsterdam. The other two shall be departed from somewhere in NL and back to Groningen. Which station can be mentioned as a destination? What would be the problem if we make Groningen as our destination? Or should that need to be Amsterdam? Thanks

    • A few questions: What are the starting places of the two other people? Are they travelling to Amsterdam first, then to Groningen? What day of the week will you be travelling? What time of the day will you do your travels? The last two questions are relevant for trying to conjure up a reasonable story!

    • Without knowing any further information, you could try playing around with a combination of Den Helder, Delfzijl, Middelburg?

      The above wouldn’t work if someone lives in the Nijmegen/Maastricht direction though!

  7. Dear Tim, We are coming to Amsterdam on May 11th. I heard that there is a NS one day ticket sold by Blokker at Euro 15.5. Do you think it’s worth to buy it? and how to buy it? Can we buy it when we are there? Thanks cheers Phoebe

  8. Hi,
    If I have a group ticket with destination “Amsterdam”, can I use it for day return even if I actually travel with Amsterdam as my starting and ending point ?

    • The group ticket will not be just “Amsterdam”, but it will specify the station, like “Amsterdaam Centraal” or “Amsterdam Zuid”.

      I can’t give a definitive answer to your question I’m afraid. Whether you can use it as a day return depends on the time of day you are travelling, and whether the leg you are taking is feasible.

      For instance if I buy a ticket from Groningen to Schiphol, and take the 09:02 train on a weekday from Schiphol to Groningen, depending on your inspector he/she might not like it. But it doesn’t say in the terms and conditions that you must have taken your outbound leg before you take your inbound!

      Whereas I frequently buy the same ticket, but only use it one way at 8pm. Such a circumstance is easily plausible.

    • Difficult I’m afraid…you’d be best going to one of the Facebook groups and tagging along with people there. Then ask if they can accept Paypal

  9. Hi,

    I would like to find out whether we are able to buy the group return ticket for Hengelo to Amsterdam and Amsterdam to Hengelo. Therefore, what city should I put on ‘To’. Should I select Hengelo and is that allowed?

  10. Hey first of all, great article!
    I just have some questions about this system. I currently live in Delft and will be making a few trips to Schiphol. I’m in the Facebook group for groningen so I was wondering if I can buy tickets with people going to Schiphol or would that be a problem since I live in Delft which isn’t on the way between groningen and Schiphol?

    • It will be no problem at all. If you put Schiphol as the destination then you are allowed any reasonable route there. For you it will either be via Rotterdam or The Hague

  11. Would someone explain this?appreciated!
    Purchased NS Group Returns can be redeemed until 29 February, 2016 in the e-ticket shop

    • When you buy online, you are actually buying a voucher which you need to redeem/activate to get your ticket. You have until December 2015 to buy the voucher, but until February 2016 to activate it.

      • Thank you, Tim for your reply. I understand that I buy the voucher when I buy group-ticket with a specific date. My questions are:1. Can the travelling date(before Feb. 2016) be different from the date what I specified(before Dec. 2015) when I buy the voucher? 2.If question 1 is “Yes”, can each person of the group activate the voucher in different date? 3. If question 2 is Yes also,I think I can buy a group-ticket for myself if I know I go a place very frequently.Does it make sense?

        • Grace, Q1 is yes, Q2 is no. When you buy the the voucher you already specify what date you will travel and to which station. Everyone in the group must use the same date and destination.

  12. Hi Tim, one of us is to Den Haag departure at Amsterdam, one is to Schiphol departure at Arnhem, two are to Amsterdam departure at Arnhem. Can we buy a group-ticket? what destination do you suggest?Thanks in advance!

    • I did not fully understand you…let me check, one person is going TO Den Haag FROM Amsterdam, One TO Schiphol FROM Arnhem, 2 TO Amsterdam TO Arnhem? or have I got it the wrong way round?

  13. Dear Tim,

    We are a group of people travelling from heerlen to amsterdam, but want to stopover in delft. We will be using this ticket only one way. What is the best route option that you would suggest?

    • I would suggest using Leiden as your destination station. On NS website, Heerlen -> Leiden via Amsterdam is 3h08m. Heerlen -> Leiden via Rotterdam and Delft is 3h16m so it is feasible to use either route.

  14. Dear Tim,
    I am planning on travelling from Nijmegen to Haarlem. When in Haarlem I don’t plan on going back to Nijmegen but just to Amsterdam and then on the same day back to Haarlem. Do you know if that is allowed with the groupticket? Or do I have to buy a new (single journey) ticket for the route Amsterdam – Haarlem?
    Thanks

    • The final Amsterdam to Haarlem is technically not allowed as you will have used both outbound and return portions of the ticket. Whether anyone checks is a different story, but you should use your own ethical judgment on that one.

  15. Is this ticket valid for a return trip? We are four people planning to go to Maastricht from The Hague and return on the same day. Do we need to get two tickets or one is enough?

  16. Hi Tim,

    we are planning to go from Heerlen to Amsterdam a group of 8 people. First, we will need to find a dutch person or someone who has a dutch bank account. But, after paying the ticket, how does it work ? I suppose that we will need to write the names of each person somewhere, right ? And, then, how does each person will receive by email his/her personalized ticket ? You said “you are emailed a voucher code which you redeem in the provided link”. Could your briefly explain how is that process after paying the ticket?

    Thanks in advance

    • Hi Ander,

      After buying your ticket, You will receive a unique code by email. If you buy a group ticket for 8 persons, then you can use the code 8 times – once per person. When using each code, you need to put the name and date of birth of the passenger, and on the next screen you specify to which email address the ticket(s) will be sent. You then print your ticket and take it with you on the train.

      Hope that answers your question!

  17. Dear Tim,

    I have another question:

    If we travel from Heerlen to Amsterdam, can we go to Roterdam first, stop there and then catch a train to Amsterdam ? Or do we have to take compulsory the traing that goes more directly to Amsterdam ?

    Thanks in advance

  18. I’ve a question :
    They told us “The offer will stop on 31 december 2015”. My question is “Will it continue after this date ?”
    I mean, they have already said that and they even continue.

    Could you help me please ?

    Thanks

    • Almost certainly. The ticket has gone through 4 or 5 expiry dates and each time it has been extended. The current form is the longest it has been extended by although there was also a price rise

  19. Hi
    I buy two tickets from one facebook group. Tickets are from Schiphol to Groningen, but I have to travel other way, and I should start at 9 to be able to catch my flight.
    Is it possible to use this tickets from Groningen to Schiphol? at 9 am.
    Thanks in advance
    Ravi

  20. We have to travel from Amsterdam to Rotterdam and then Rotterdam to Utrecht in the same day.
    If I chose Rotterdam as destination, can it seems that Utrecht was in my return-way?

  21. HI,
    i know that this is an old post but, we are a group of 5 people and we have to go from Eindhoven to Rotterdam by train, but i didn’t understand really those tickets. If I buy a group tickets it cost about 55€ we can all travel with that tickets or we have to pay extra fees? and those tickets are for one trip?
    thanks

  22. Hello, I have one question. I recently made a facebook group with 10 people traveling to Maastricht and I have to pay for the tickets. How I am supposed to get money from the other people? Do I post my bank account and I rely on their honesty? Pls help.. thanks!

  23. Hello,

    If I have a ticket for the 14th of April and my train departs at 11:49 PM from Schiphol en route to Groningen (arrives at 2:55 AM). Do I need to buy a ticket for the 14th or 15th of April?

    Thank you,
    Shant Bayramian

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