Travelling by train in the Netherlands
Railway travel is a comfortable way to get around the Netherlands. The country boasts an extensive railway network with modern and comfortable trains. As our country isn’t that big, you can travel from Arnhem to Amsterdam in just over an hour and from Arnhem to Nijmegen in just 20 minutes, for instance. Even travelling all the way up north (to Groningen) and down south (to Maastricht) will take you only 2 hours from Amsterdam Central Station. All in all, travelling by train is a perfect way to discover the whole of the Netherlands!
The entire railway system in the Netherlands is based around the OV-chipkaart. It’s a contactless smart card that you can use to check in or check out when entering and exiting a train (the NFC poles that you use for checking in and out are usually at the entrances gates to the station or on the platform itself). You could say that the OV-chipkaart is similar to the famous London Oyster card.
There are three types available:
- Disposable OV-chipkaart: This one is ideal for incidental travellers or tourists visiting. You can buy it at an NS ticket machine or service desk and it will get you a specific single or return journey. Disposable chipcards cost an additional euro per trip. You don not have to charge credit to the card, but you do have to check in and out when coming on the train and exiting.
- Anonymous OV-chipkaart: The anonymous card is reusable and has the size of a credit card. You can buy it at NS ticket machines or the NS service desk. There is a one-time fee of €7.50 for an anonymous OV-chipkaart. It can also be used on buses, trams, metros and ferries. Before starting your journey, you must top up (add credit) to your anonymous OV-chipkaart, which can be done at an NS ticket machine. You need at least €20 worth of credit on your card to be allowed to travel by train. Check your credit before every trip and make sure to check in at the start and out at the end, to avoid unnecessary charges to your credit.
- Personal OV-chipkaart: This version of the OV-chipkaart is similar to the anonymous one, in the sense that it allows you to travel on pre-loaded credit. Furthermore, you can add seasonal passes, discount plans and other travel products to it, as well as travel products that are only available to specific groups, such as pensioners or students. A personal card is non-transferable and has on it a photograph and the date of birth of the user. The card can be cancelled, and its credit blocked when it’s lost or stolen; you can also let it top up automatically when the electronic credit drops below a certain level.
First and second class
Virtually every train in the Netherlands offers first- and second-class travel (each carriage is designated with its class on the inside as well as the outside). When you are using an anonymous OV-chipkaart, you will typically travel in second class. If you wish to have more comfort and space, you can opt for travelling first class, in which case you will have to pay extra. You can switch the class that is selected for your OV-chipkaart at any NS ticket machine. Tap ‘Change class’ on the ticket machine’s screen and select ‘first class today’. Hold your anonymous OV-chipkaart in front of the card reader and the class will be changed to first until 04.00 in the morning of the following day.
If you use a disposable card or e-ticket, you can select the class you would like to travel in when you are buying the ticket. Go to the service or information desk at any time for more information on first-class travel and changing classes.
Taking your bicycle with you
You can take your bicycle with you on the train outside rush hours (09:00 - 16:30 and after 18:00). You will need to buy a bicycle day ticket at an NS ticket machine; these cost €6. Your bicycle can be stored in the indicated areas on the train, which can be recognised by the bicycle label on the side of the train carriage. For more information on taking your bicycle along on the train, please go to an NS information and service desk.