Whether you plan to visit an open day at a Dutch university or you want to stay in the Netherlands for a longer period to study or work, it is essential to know how to use public transport inside the country.
Within or even between towns you can make use of buses, trams, or the metro to travel. Between cities it is better to use the national railway run by the NS (Nederlands Spoor). There are two types of NS trains, ‘Sprinter’ trains and ‘Intercity’ trains. Sprinters are slower trains that stop at every station along your route while Intercity trains stop in a few larger stations and are usually the fastest way of traveling between cities.
How to pay for the trip
There are two ways to pay for your train fare. You can either buy a prepaid ticket at train stations, or you may buy tickets from conductors onboard a train. However, if you are onboard a train without a ticket and you buy one from a conductor, you will be charged an additional fine for boarding without a ticket. This fine can be quite pricey and is generally not worth the hassle. It is recommended to purchase your ticket before boarding from either one of the ticket machines or the ticket offices found in stations. If you use the ticket offices, be aware that there is also a small additional fee on your ticket fare.
If you plan to stay in the Netherlands for more than a couple of days, you should purchase a transport card, called an OV chipkaart, from one of the stations, ticket machines, conductors, some supermarkets, or at public transportation service offices. Anonymous cards cost a non-refundable fee to purchase, and you can load money on your card after you’ve purchased it.
You may also want to get a personalised OV card which will have your picture and information on it, which you can look into getting once you’re settled in. You can also get temporary OV cards that are valid for a short period (an hour or a day usually) from the conductors or drivers onboard trams and buses if you prefer. However, keep in mind that these can be more expensive than what you would be charged for your travel distance with a normal OV card.
How to use OV chipkaart
The usage of the OV card is based on a check-in/check-out system. There are terminals in buses, trams, metro stations. and train platforms that allow you to check in when you start your travel. Once you’ve checked in, a fixed sum will be removed from your balance, depending on what mode of transportation you are using. For example, metro trips will remove €4 from your balance upon check-in while trains will deduct €20.
The same method will be applied to buses and trams, but initial amounts may vary. At the end of your journey the same types of terminals can be used for check-out. You will get your fixed sum back minus your travel cost, which is usually 12 euro-cents per kilometer. This way you will only pay for the distance you actually covered. But keep in mind that if you somehow missed ‘check-out’ you will lose that fixed sum.
Do not forget to replenish your OV-chipkaart with funds regularly in order to continue your travels with no issues – and bon voyage!