I can hear you asking this question from all the way over here. Does a cheap Dutch train ticket exist? Well, yes, it does! Many exist, in fact. NS has got a bad reputation for hiking train prices, but there are surefire ways for finding great train deals.
Unlike some other countries, train prices go by distance in the Netherlands, not by how far in advance that you bought them. So the good news is, you know the price in advance and you aren’t going to experience a tear-inducing rip-off. On the other hand, you can’t get a good early-bird discount and you have to deal with the price hikes of getting from one destination to another.
Don’t panic – not all hope is lost. This cheap Dutch train ticket guide will have you snatching up those handy deals right away.
1. Day tickets (dagkaart)
Something that I have always done is buy NS day tickets from supermarkets and other high street shops. A few times a year shops such as Kruidvat, Xenos, Blokker, Hema, and Albert Heijn sell discounted train tickets. The best thing to do is to check their sites every once in a while (or in the shop window if you happen to be walking past). Then do a bulk buy on this cheap Dutch deal.
I’ve found that Kruitvat does the cheapest ticket I can find at €15 a pop. This is so much cheaper than what you pay at the station. Always remember to read the terms and conditions though — sometimes you can usually only use them at off-peak hours or on the weekends.
2. Advantage card (AKA Dal Voordeel)
This is available to people who have an OV Chipcard (if you want an OV Chipcard you can get them online or from any machine for €7.50).
Tip: having an OV Chipcard can work out cheaper on the metro and also train tickets (as you don’t need to pay a euro every time for the print-out tickets).
To get this “advantage card” deal you pay €52 per year for a subscription and in return, you get 40% off train prices to any destination in the Netherlands. This is only valid at off-peak times though. So you cannot travel between 6:30 AM – 9:00 and 16:00 – 18:30 PM. If you want a peak-times discount card (20%) off, you’ll have to sacrifice more per month for the privilege … it’s still much cheaper than without a discount though!
You can subscribe to NS Flex. From €5 per month, you can get your 40% off-peak discount and pay your bill at the end of the month. You’ll never have to worry about forgetting top up your OV card again!
Another great thing with the advantage card is that you can take up to three friends with you. You just load the discount onto their OV Chipcards and they all get the same discount! How kind of you, NS.
3. Group Ticket (Groepsticket)
For only €8 per person, four passengers travelling together to the same destination off-peak can get a ticket to anywhere in the Netherlands. Any additional traveller after the first three will pay an extra €1.50.
Basically, the more people that you gather to travel with you (or the more friends you have), the cheaper it becomes. Here’s a breakdown of the prices as an example, so you can easily see how cheap it really is:
- 4 people = €8 per person
- 5 people = €6.70 per person
- 6 people = €5.83 per person
- 7 people = €5.21 per person
To get this great discount, you have to order it online, print it, or access it on the NS app.
The group train tickets have gone through a lot over the past few years and there is still some confusion surrounding their future. Read our other guide to the group ticket fiasco, if you want to know more.
4. Cheap Dutch train ticket: Discount websites
Another way to get cheap ticket deals is to check the is spoordeelwinkel section of the NS website. This site contains new deals every month which are always amazing value. For example, you can get a return ticket to Roermond for €23 and they sneak a 10% discount on a range of outlet stores. Did I hear someone say spending spree! There are all kinds of other deals which change on a regular basis.
They also have great tickets for you tourists out there. Occasionally, you can get deals for tourist attractions where you can get transport and entry fee all paid for in one, so remember to keep checking the site!
5. Other extras to use with your cheap dutch train ticket
Do you have a dog, child or a bike, or all three and want to take them on the train? Well there is a ticket for that! You don’t have to leave little fluffy, your 3 screaming children or your beloved Dutch Granny Bike at home.
Doggy day ticket
You can buy a day dog ticket for just €3.10 but small dogs and other small animals get to travel for free (wat moi!). So it’s probably best not to overfeed your pet if you want a free ride.😂 You can load this onto your OV Chipcard or with a disposable single-use card.
Children can now travel for free with you if they all have OV Chip cards (€7.50). So there is no need to worry if your child wants to take their friends along. This applies to children between the ages of 4 – 11 as long as they are with someone over the age of 12. Don’t forget to purchase the Kids Vrij discount though (you “purchase” it for €0).
You can take your beloved fiets on the train for €6.90. This ticket is valid all day and it doesn’t matter how long your journey is, it’s still the same price. That way you will never have to part with your bike ever again. Just load this onto your OV Chipcard or buy a disposable single-use card.
6. International discount cards
So maybe you want a change of scenery from the Netherlands and are looking for somewhere new to explore for the day (how dare you). The good news is, if you have an advantage card (the card we mentioned earlier), you can get to the border of Germany and Belgium and beyond. Once you cross the border you are eligible for 25% off a cross-border train. This is only if you purchase a RailPlus card which is only €15 per year (and free for you over the 60s). This is valid in the following countries:
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Ukraine.
Wow, that’s a hefty list. If you need to leave the Netherlands that is. 😉
7. The obvious choice (or not so obvious), the NS site
Admittedly, NS deals aren’t as good as some of the other deals out. However, from time to time NS do advertise some good deals on their site. These are mainly city deals to other countries (it’s almost as if they want you to leave).
I hope this guide to cheap Dutch train tickets has taught you a thing or two about getting those cheap tickets. Here’s another of our ticket guides, if you want to find out about even more deals.
What’s the best deal you’ve got on Dutch transport? Let us know in the comments!
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in January 2018 and was fully updated in June 2021 for your reading pleasure.
Feature Image: Skitterphoto/Pixabay