Page last updated: 9th March 2017
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.
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!
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.