Travelling by train in Netherlands is set to become more expensive for tourists, but here’s a workaround

Presumably learning from the massive transformation to London's pubic transport network over the last decade since the introduction of the Oyster Card, people are becoming more adept to the faster and cheaper method of RFID tickets.

So from 9th July 2014, Nederlandse Spoorwegen (Dutch Railways) will only allow tickets which allow RFID check in and check out at an extra cost of €1 per journey. You will no longer be able to buy traditional paper tickets from the machines and you will have to use the reloadable and disposable tickets with embedded chips for an extra €1 each time.

There is a workaround however…


You can buy your ticket in advance on NS International's website, where you can either print at home or pick up at the station and pay by credit card for no extra cost. I believe the intention of the website was to buy international tickets, but doing a test run I was able get through to the purchase screen on a wholly domestic Amsterdam Airport to Amsterdam Central. You will need to ensure that the page is in Dutch for this to work.

Unfortunately NS does not allow domestic tickets to be issued on the English website. You can always use Google translate or Chrome extensions to help you along though 😉

NSinternational screen

There is another added bonus with booking over the internet, which may not be too relevant for those who don't live in NL though. When travelling with a season ticket holder, you can buy a ticket with a 40% discount — the “samenreiskorting”. Since the new RFID tickets currently do not plan to allow for this, the online ticket will be the best way to implement this discount.

Though morally debatable, I have seen many people (especially in the student towns of Delft and Groningen) get on a train with only a “samenreiskorting” ticket. They then ask around for season ticket holders in the train who will let them sit together. This way when the conductor comes along to check your tickets, the terms and conditions of the discount are fulfilled.



About Tim

Tim is a Chartered Engineer and a typical nerd who analyses every travel deal, travel hack. He has travelled to around 90 countries and also speaks Spanish, Portuguese and Mandarin.

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  1. When using the kiosks at AMS in April there were prominent signs advising that these machines could not process MasterCards, or other credit cards without the embedded chip…which of course caused much distress among Americans whose cards still don’t have chips.

    Does the E1 supplement include the E0.50 surcharge if purchasing your ticket from a ticket counter instead of kiosk?

    Also noticed validator machines were hard to find at AMS Central, but assume these will no longer be needed with the new embedded chip cardboard tickets and regular plastic preloaded cars.

    • Europe is all about chip+pin rather than magnetic strips. It’s a very common distress for Americans! The €1 *should* include the €0.50 surcharge though that remains to be seen.

      You will still need to validate your new-style tickets as the point is they want to track everyone. I doubt the implementation will be smooth though…

  2. Interesting… I was just in Amsterdam last weekend and tried to get the Dutch equivalent of the Oyster for the weekend (and for future trips). The lady at the ticket desk implied that tourists would lose all of their money on the card by not being able to figure out the tag in and tag out system (i.e. Oyster) and that we should stick to paper tickets. I didn’t feel like arguing that using an Oyster card is not that hard…

    Then again, judging by the number of Americans who can’t figure out why their cards don’t work in the machines, maybe she was right…

    • Even a seasoned Oyster card / OV Chipkaart user like me can slip up occasionally. The bad part is that to claim the money back you need a Dutch bank account, as they don’t transfer to other countries.

      Says the rail operator that stashes their money in offshore bank accounts to save paying tax.

    • Carding in/out is pretty easy, except when it isn’t. Some of the stations have you ‘card in’ at the entrance or on the platform, others on the tram.

      Sadly, from my experience (on the trams at least), you’re better off just not bothering and if you get caught pay the fine. I’ve only seen the GVB ‘politie’ a dozen times and never personally been checked.

  3. If you travel a lot to the Netherlands, the easiest thing to do is go to one of the windows and just buy an “anonymous OV chipkaart.” I think they’re like €7.50 and then you load it up. After that you can add funds via the website or in person. Since I’m an American, even my Visa cards with embedded chips get declined when there’s no pin number. It’s the way to go if you can justify the €7.50 fee for the card.

  4. BTW, true students get a free subscription for public transport, either on all weekdays or at weekends, any ways. For the period the free travel isn’t valid, they will get a 40% discount.

  5. When you buy the ticket on-line, please do NOT forget to print it. You need it on a piece of paper or it will not be accepted. The Dutch railways (NS) seem to think that an e-ticket means it’s on paper. Your phone, tablet or any other device is not accepted.

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