Public Transportation in The Netherlands
April 27, 2017 8:48 AM   Subscribe

We are spending a week in The Netherlands in June -- three and a half days in Amsterdam with a day trip each to Rotterdam and The Hague. Help me figure out the best way to deal with using public transportation.

We'll want to be able to use the local public transport in each city, as well as intercity train to get to/from our day trip destinations.

Do we get OV-chipcards and use them for everything? Or do we buy the GVB Holland Travel Ticket, or some combination along with day-passes in Rotterdam and The Hague?
posted by briank to Travel & Transportation around Netherlands (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Here's a similar thread from last year on the Rick Steves site.
posted by cnc at 8:51 AM on April 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Speaking from experience, if you pre-buy tickets, make sure you pay for the surcharge separately if you end up taking the express train between Centraal, Schipol, and Rotterdam. It is NOT included in the base fare you paid.
posted by hwyengr at 8:51 AM on April 27, 2017

I just did the OV-chipkaart thing in the Netherlands last month after loading EUR 60 on it and asking them to activate it for all services in second class, and it worked flawlessly across the country (I went to/around Amsterdam, Haarlem and Rotterdam).

I got 25-odd EUR back at the domestic tickets desk at the train station at Schiphol airport when I flew out on Easter Monday, with no queue at 9 am - super easy and all in English. My card was checked by a conductor/inspector just once, on the 15-minute Haarlem-Amsterdam run.

Two things though:

1) you have to check in/check out every time; some Spanish students next to me when I got my deposit/balance back hadn't checked out on a few journeys somehow and then were told they had forfeited their deposit and were NOT happy. The check-in/check-out machines are sometimes a bit inconspicuous if there are no gates or you're at a small station, but just ask someone and you'll be fine.

2) if you buy the card at a machine, it's worth checking with a staffed desk that it's good for trains/buses/trams - the one I initially bought was only good on GVB (Amsterdam public transport) somehow, but it was easily fixed at Amsterdam Centraal.

The card still has EUR 1 on it and is good until 2022.
posted by mdonley at 9:29 AM on April 27, 2017 [5 favorites]

I used the Dutch train system quite a bit a few years ago. The attendants at the counter in Schiphol speak really good English and are really helpful. They'll get you exactly what you need.

"The check-in/check-out machines are sometimes a bit inconspicuous"

Yes, they are really weird, they just look like a yellow post but once you learn what they are they're pretty easy to spot. I'm not sure what happens if the conductors catch you without checking in but if you don't have your ticket at all they will fine you right on the spot.

If you have something big or bulky (like a bike) just stand in the vestibule.

It's a little hard to tell the first class cars from the second class cars, it's a small 1 or 2 near the doors.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 10:17 AM on April 27, 2017

These days, the Dutch railways offer e-tickets, that you can buy with your smart phones and which you don't have to print, just show them on your phone. You can buy them in advance, at home, or for greater flexibility: during your trip, via their app. In most cases, for Rotterdam and The Hague, the combination a day return e-ticket and a day ticket for either RET (Rotterdam) or HTM (The Hague) is much cheaper than a Holland Travel Ticket, unless you travel after 9 am and use the Off Peak Holland Travel ticket - in that case there's not much of a price difference for Rotterdam.

For getting to and from the airport, e-tickets for the train could also be easiest, as you could buy (and possibly print) these before your trip. A single ticket would cost €4,20. A regular GVB day ticket costs 7,50 for 24 hrs. Depending on how far from Amsterdam Central Station you're staying, if you'd need to use the metro, bus or tram in Amsterdam on the days you travel to The Hague or Rotterdam, you could get a multi day ticket for 4 days for 22 €

I'd be happy to help you if you'd like more specific assistance with buying the e-tickets for instance, just me-mail me!
posted by Ms. Next at 10:30 AM on April 27, 2017

Response by poster: cnc's comment sent me down the rabbit hole at Rick Steves' site and seems like the consensus opinion there is to try TripKey. Anybody here want to weigh in pro or con about that option?
posted by briank at 12:15 PM on April 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've never heard of Tripkey, and I don't see much extra value there, not for a trip of one week. It looks like there are only a few pick up places as well, including just the one at Schiphol.
I think you should just purchase the regular Public Transport Card at the airport (or any station), and ask them to make sure it is validated for train travel as well. For some unknown reason they arrive out of the box (or machine) only valid for bus and tram. For train travel I think you need a €14 balance or so, to cover possible travel to the other end of the country. For bus and tram travel there is a theoretical minimum as well, but I've only been denied when I actually had €0 on the card.
The trip from Amsterdam to Rotterdam can be made on the High Speed train, but you must make an extra swipe on one of the red terminals on that specific train platform. So- check in as usual through the turnstiles, check in on the high speed platform if you are taking that train, then check out at the turnstiles as usual at Rotterdam. Everything else is check in at departure and check out at arrival.
posted by Tunierikson at 12:58 AM on April 28, 2017

Best answer: Tripkey is new and seems to work well. There's some discussion on the TripAdvisor forum. Reports back have been positive.

It saves visitors the overhead of purchasing an OV Chipkaart and maintaining a balance. I would definitely give it a try. The limited pickup points are a drawback, but if you're already at Schiphol that works out. The card you get from TripKey also gives you access to the OV Fiets system and Car2Go, which an anonymous OV Chipkaart doesn't.
posted by humboldt32 at 1:47 AM on April 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses. Based on the discussions I found on other travel-specific sites, we've decided to go ahead and try TripKey, so I am going to mark this as resolved.
posted by briank at 5:48 AM on April 28, 2017

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