Not another rant about trains in the Netherlands? No, it’s about the Dutch train tickets. Let’s face it. The NS is the bane of every traveler’s existence.
It has been the butt of many jokes, the target of harsh criticism, and most likely a part of a grand scheme to regulate the Dutch population’s happiness. What irks me though is not the fact that train tickets go up by 10% every six months, but that the entire experience from buying a ticket to riding the train is not tourist friendly. At all. Why can’t tourists buy cheaper train tickets as well?
You may expect this from a country that is not known for its tourism, but not from the Netherlands. In 2014 alone, nearly 14 million people visited the land of tulips and clogs. 14 million! The unfriendly part is that tourists are unaware that their ticket out of the machine at Schiphol could be cheaper. They need an OV-chipkaart in order to benefit from the cheaper rates afforded to the locals. Tourists pay a premium for train journeys and are left with the impression that public transport is prohibitively expensive (it is). The best part is that there are different subscriptions that NS offers to their customers for even cheaper ways to travel. Again, not really aimed at tourists.
Fear not patrons, I cometh with good news. A little while ago I stumbled upon this website and was pleased to discover alternative ways to buy train tickets.
The good news
Every year, the NS sells discount cards through local retailers. These cards can sometimes save you a fortune, depending on where you are going. Of course, the website is 100% in Dutch. But that’s why I’m here! Below you will find short list of places to buy discounts tickets. This may not make your train journey more pleasurable, but it will certainly make it cheaper.
So the next time you are stuck in a train without a seat, at least you didn’t pay full price to stand.
Now without further ado:
NOTE: These discounts and offers are seasonal and thus subject to change. I will do my best to keep this section updated with the latest offers.
1. Fancy seeing animals from all around the world? The NS’s own Spoordeelwinkel is selling tickets for Blijdorp Zoo for as little as 27 euros. The ticket usually includes a return ticket for the day to/from Rotterdam and the entrance fee. Travel times are limited to from Monday til Friday after 09:00 and all day on the weekend. Be sure to regularly check spoordeelwinkel for seasonal discounts.
2. The NS itself offer the Amsterdam travel ticket for the extra touristy among you. 3 days. 28 euros. Unlimited travel to and across the 020. ‘Nuff said. Check the link (in Engels!) for more info.
3. The NS also has group return tickets for 4 to 10 people. The price is 8 euros per person, so it can be a really affordable option. Be sure to search Facebook for groups that help travellers link up and save money travelling to the same destination. This is a popular option among travellers who need to make frequent long commutes (like Den Haag to Maastricht for example). Click here to read the fine print.
4. In for something tasty during your next travel? First off, you can get your munchies on with Bakker Bart and travel while doing so for 19 euros. With this train ticket you can make a trip between two stations of your choice from Monday thru Friday after 09:00 and before 9:00 am at the weekends.
Do you want to travel on route where trains travel from Arrive, Connexxion, Syntus or Breng?
That’s okay too! This train ticket is also valid there! Just keep in mind that this is a train ticket thus not valid for buses, trams or metros.
Other ways to get your cheap on!
If you are staying in the Netherlands for a longer period of time, it may be handy to get yourself an anonymous OV-Chipcard. This allows you to check in and out of all public transport in the Netherlands. You just need to top up the card with sufficient funds (minimum 20 euro for NS, 4-10 euro for other providers) to be able to check in. This card also allows you to take advantage of “samenreiskorting” or joint journey discount. For this, you will need a friend (or stranger) to travel with who has a subscription that allows for others to travel on his card. Find the instructions here!
If you’re here for the long run (or a Dutch person who is scrutinously looking for cheaper ways of travelling, oh you Dutchies!) then there’s the naturally the personal OV-chipcard. This personal card allows you to buy said subscriptions and discounts, like 40% off when not travelling during peak hours.
Not satisfied with this comment on the Dutch train system? Not to worry! DutchReview is here for you with articles on how to find your way through the Dutch train stations, more ranting about slow and full trains or new innovations by the NS.
What are your thoughts on Dutch train tickets? Let us know in the comments!
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on 20 April 2017 but was updated on 20 November 2019 for your reading pleasure.
Feature image: Pexels/Skitterphoto
Actually there are plenty of offers for train travels, they can be found on this Dutch website : http://www.treinreiziger.nl/reizen/kortingsacties
And in case you want to travel cheaper, traveling for by bus might be an option ( http://www.flixbus.nl)
Thank you Eva but that’s not the point. I’ve been living here for 5 years and I did not know about treinreiziger.nl until now. The point is 1. Trains are expensive. 2. People less than 85 years old which is also the average age of the Netherlands (this was a joke), don’t have the time to sift through thousands of freaking “aanbiedingen” to find what they need for a train ride, it’s just not practical in time you see! 🙂
[…] *sigh* 2013, President Obama is sworn into his second term, the humanist Papa Francis replaces a Pope largely responsible for covering up horrific institutional abuse for the best part of a decade, Miley Cyrus makes ‘twerk’ part of the English vocabulary, and NS rail operators offer 10-person group ticket for €70. […]
treinreiziger.nl is the same that ETOS link in this article 🙂
[…] Of course, the fines are handed out by the conductors who can choose to look the other way – and that money for the fine is going to the state treasury and not to cut down the costs of those expensive train tickets. […]
[…] last year, I quickly fell in love with the hustle and bustle of Utrecht Central Station. I learnt quickly of the value of OV chipcards, and the inherent danger of stepping onto a bike track that is cleverly disguised to a non-local as […]
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Please warn tourists about the weekend disruptions at NS .
Going from Eindhoven to Assen on the weekend can mean 3 train changes instead of the normal one.
I used to allways buy cheap tickets in the past on my twice a year visit from Canada.
My bigest problem now is that cheap tuckets are only available with a Dutch bank card, not with Visa and Mastercard.
NS does not want to loose a dime in fees to make a dollar.
They should ask Deutsche Bahn how it is done.
We paid €45 first class for a 5 Hour trip.
The average delay of japanese JR trains is 0.9min, what is it @ NS ? NS will not tell you.
Also in Hong Kong ,Singapore anybody can buy a Senior card.
Why not a special tourist offer like the old “Day on the house” offer? Is the Dutch tourist department unable to connect properly with the NS management?
Hello, I wonder whether there is any loyalty card such as “Bonuskaart” or “Edah” that can help to accumulate points or get discounts by using the public transport or the trains (local or regional). Can anyone give me some advice?
Thank you very much,
[…] inevitably provokes arguments to leave the situation as it is. Giving travelers the option to pay more or less money for a ticket depending on how much comfort they want should not be a controversial thing. After all, we can […]
Not a good article. It is close to impossible to buy a train, bus or metro ticket. I won’t go into the convoluted sickness this country has when it comes to paying for public transportation but I have the solution:
ALLOW ANYONE TO PAY ON THE TRAIN< BUS OR METRO USING PAPER OR COIN EUROS!
The way it is now causes frustration and is very time wasting. It can even put one's life in danger. Think getting stuck somewhere and you have no way at all to pay for your transportation. It's late at night, cold, with rain. Get the idea?
Really helpful article! Thanks for doing the research. I am an American student traveling to the Netherlands for a week and trying to figure out the most economical way to purchase train tickets to get from city to city. Does the NS student discount apply for international students? Should I purchase an OV-chip card and go for the 40% discount (or perhaps the joint journey discount because I will be traveling with someone else). I would love to hear your recommendation! Thanks!
And also as an International student who has to travel everyday! Oh the financial burden I’ve had for the past year. This also applies to my international classmates who even have to pay the train tickets for mandatory school trips. It stressed us all out as the Netherlands is already quite expensive for a student… I hope someone can bring forward more of these issues with NS
Personal OV chipcards are not for tourists. Only for BeNeLux and German residents. Pretty sure you also have to have a Dutch/EU bank account for top-up.