When we first came in Netherlands we have paid a lot of money on transport. If, in the countries we visited before, you can buy from the airport cards for public transport, in Netherlands this kind of thing it was kind of a black box – when we asked at the NS information from Schiphol we received the information that you should always have 20 euros on your card. This information let us down so we didn’t asked more and bought tickets each time: for each ticket you buy from NS you pay 1 euro extra for the paper. The same thing for buses or trams: it doesn’t matter if you travel only for 2 stations you will pay a lot (for example from Rembrandt Plain to Amsterdam Centraal – 2.9 euros for person). I don’t know about the metro, because I never traveled with it here.
In this post I will let you know what OV-Chipkaart is and how you can use it. I know that in each train station you have been saw that yellow and blue machines to buy tickets. From those machines you can buy an anonymous OV-Chipkaart, it costs 7.5 euros – you can’t recover this money (as you can in London for example). On the card you can load money from the same machines – attention! There aren’t so many machines that accept cash (and if they do, they accept coins mostly). If you use this card on public transport (buses or trams) you will pay 80 cents for the first check in and after that a price calculated based on the kilometers you ride. In case you change your buss/tram at the second check in (if it is made in one hour from the first check in) you will not pay again 80 cents – the card reader from the car will show you “Overstappen” which means “Change”. This is why it is important to check in and check out each time you go in or leave a public transport car. You can use the card in all the cities in Netherlands, which is really helpful and less time consuming.
Using the card with NS is another story. If you have an anonymous card you will get in the station only if you have at least 20 euros on it – because when you enter the station you don’t say where you go, so I think 20 euros is the most expensive ticket they have. Also in order to use the card on NS you must activate it – at the NS ticket point or by yourself at the machines. You will be amazed by the fact that the doors aren’t locked. I was first surprised, because in my country the free passing isn’t allowed – you must pay in order to enter. But here you can enter a train without paying – but if the control guys will get you it will not be so great. I think it is important to pay your ride, because if everybody pays, the transport can be kept nice, clean and in time; if nobody pays then no money – no value. The problem is that you can’t recover the money, as far as I know. So this kind of arrangement isn’t so good, but if you consider coming back or you have friends you can pass it by.
If you know somebody from Netherlands you can make a personal OV-Chipkaart. It is important to know somebody, because the card will be delivered by post. When we moved here, until we managed to rent the house, we asked our friends to help us with this. So in 3 days the card arrived and we are happy, because first you can make an annual pass which gives you 40% discount on NS traveling off peak hours ( 9 – 16 and after 18.30) for 50 euros. Having this kind of pass (Dal Voordeel) you aren’t obliged to have 20 euros on your card when traveling with NS, but only 10. Also NS has a lot of passes and you can choose which one is best for you. For example, I live in Haarlem and work in Amsterdam, in centrum. The train is the most convenient ride as time so I have a “Traject Vrij” pass which includes free trips from Haarlem to Amsterdam Centraal whenever, 40% discount in weekends and off peak hours for any other routes. So for me is the best choice. Attention! After you buy a pass you must activate it – at the ticket office or at the machine (don’t worry: all the emails you will receive will be in dutch, but you will manage to arrange this with no problems 🙂 ). I was amused when I used the card to travel outside my route and they didn’t take money from it. I am still waiting for my invoice to come – they said it will come by post. Another nice thing is that, if somebody comes in visit, you can use your card to give him 40% discount as well – your friends must have another card and before entering the station you select from the machines this kind of transaction. You can take 3 persons with discount, but it is important to travel together.
Regarding the NS train tips: I know that they have 2 kinds of routes: Sprinter (which stops in more stations) and InterCity (which stops in main stations). When I leave in the morning I have an IC at 08:02 and a Sprinter at 08:06. The IC makes 15 minutes, the Sprinter 18. But a 5 minutes delay happened several times for the IC. In the first times I had chosen to travel with the Sprinter, but each time when the IC had delays, the Sprinter simply stopped and waited for the IC to pass him by. But, no worries – you have Wi Fi in the train and it is always nice to read something. The sits are comfortable and don’t get upset that some persons use more than one sit just because they can. Simply sit down and that’s it.
I hope the information is helpful and you will enjoy traveling in Netherlands as much as I do!