The Netherlands is a compact country – which means you can reach any corner of the country within a few hours. Coming from a vast country myself, I know how useful it can be to be able to reach anywhere within a few hours! What better way to explore this beautiful country than using public transport? This post is to explain about how Public transport works in the Netherlands. First things first – if you are in a new Dutch city and you are looking to get back home, all you need is a smartphone because there is free WiFi in almost all train and bus stations (and in most trains and buses as well – that’s a bonus).
Types of public transport available
Like many other European countries, there are several modes of public transport available in the Netherlands – Train for long distance travel, Bus, Metro, Tram and sometimes Ferry for short intra-city travel. So, you might be wondering how long is “Long” in the Netherlands?? One of the longest train rides in the Netherlands is from the student city of Groningen to the harbor town of Vlissingen which takes about 5 hours.
How does public transport work?
The Dutch public transport system is integrated and well connected. You can easily switch between different modes of transport to reach your end destination. Unless you are making a one-off journey (believe me, you wouldn’t want to stop with just one journey in this beautiful country 😊), it is highly recommended to get an ov-chipkaart for public transport travel. This is a smart card which can be used across all types of public transport. With this, you don’t have to worry about buying individual tickets anymore. I started using this smart card from the very first day I arrived in the Netherlands but did not realize what ‘ov’ stands for until recently. It simply means openbaar vervoer (Public transport in Dutch). Quite obvious if you understand a bit of Dutch 😊
There are 2 types of ov-chipkaarts available – personalized and anonymous. If you like to admire yourself every time you use public transport, then personalized is the one for you because it has your photo on it! Jokes aside, there are other advantages of going for a personalized ov-chipkaart because you can get it blocked if you happen to lose it. Both of them cost 7.5 Euro. You need to top it up with a minimum amount before you can travel. You can register your card on ov-chipkaart website here to track your travel, check your balance etc. The minimum amount you need to have on your card differs per type of public transport – for train without any subscription, you will need 20 Euro, for most other public transport, you will need 4 Euro. The actual fare depends on how far you travel.
If you must buy an individual ticket, you can buy these in train, metro stations and bus/tram tickets directly on the bus/tram with the driver/conductor. Some companies accept cash, but some of them don’t. Always make sure you have a Dutch debit card for easy purchases. Individual tickets are generally more expensive than using the ov-chipkaart.
How to travel from A to B?
Your ultimate travel planner in the Netherlands is 9292. You can also download this app on your iOS, Android. This is integrated with all the public transport types/companies in the Netherlands and it shows you the best possible routes to reach your destination.
There are several public transport companies operating in different regions of the Netherlands, but if you use this app, you don’t have to worry about which company operates in your region. Simply key-in the details and off you go!
NS season tickets for regular travel
NS (Nederlandse spoorwegen) is the national train company. If you travel by train regularly (for example to work), you can opt for a NS season ticket (abonnement) depending on your route and distance of travel. There are several season tickets available and they are described in the NS website.
What is a Korting (en)? It means discount in Dutch. It is one of the first Dutch words I learnt (for obvious reasons 😉). If you are travelling together with another person who has a valid NS season ticket, you can get a 40% korting on your travel during non-peak hours (daluren). Again, the NS website explains which season ticket has this feature. This is called the joint journey discount (samenreiskorting). You can apply for this at a NS kiosk in any train station. This short video explains how to do it.
Other ways to get cheap tickets
If you do not have a season ticket, for one-off long-distance travels there several other ways to find cheap NS day tickets (dagkaart). You can find these deals here. Popular supermarkets/departmental stores like Albert Heijn, Kruidvat, Hema often have these deals. NS also has deals sometimes during the year. Keep checking these links often as most deals are for a limited time only.
Another great way to travel for cheap during non-peak hours is the NS group tickets. You need a group of 4 or more people to avail this discount. If you are travelling with less than 4 people, here is a tip for you: there are several Facebook groups (search for NS group tickets) just to find a travel companion. Simply join a group, find your companion in the same route, and make a new friend 😊
After finding your way through all the Kortingen and other cheap tickets, you buy a ticket and finally arrive at your destination train station. For the last leg of your journey, to make your travel a little exciting why not bike to your end destination? Ov-fiets is the rental bike offered by NS. The ov-fiets is available for rent in almost all train stations across the Netherlands. You need to add a season ticket to your personalized ov-chipkaart to be able to use this.
If you would rather use your own bike, it is of course possible to carry it in the train for an extra fee.
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