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Train travel in the Netherlands

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Aug 4th, 2013, 12:09 PM
  #1
G_H
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Train travel in the Netherlands

Hello,

My family of 4 will be basing our travels out of Amsterdam and we have a couple of questions. What are our payment options for the four of us traveling together via train? We plan on taking 4 or 5 day trips within the Netherlands. Can I pay with my Amex. card or debit card? How about utilizing a OV chipcard? I've know that some of the machines takes coines, but would prefer not having to make so much change. Any guidance would be appreciated. Thanks!
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Aug 4th, 2013, 12:45 PM
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You should be able to pay by debit card, but not sure whether it will work. You could buy chipcards from the Amsterdam GVB machines. You'd have to check though whether you can top them up using a credit card. American Express seems unlikely: Visa seems to be the credit card of choice.

chipcards for NS have to be activated in an NS machine, but that's relatively easy. Also they need a 20 euro minimum to make use of NS trains and 4 euro minimum for local public transport.
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Aug 4th, 2013, 01:02 PM
  #3
G_H
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Thanks for your reply menachem. I notice on the dutch rail website that they offer discounted fairs. I'm curious how one qualifies for those?
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Aug 4th, 2013, 01:15 PM
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Are there any passes for a family of 4 that are worthwhile in the Netherlands, or it always cheapest to buy point to point tickets?
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Aug 4th, 2013, 01:42 PM
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sad to say you won't be able to qualify, but if you have children under 12, they travel for 2 euro flat rate, if you accompany them.
you need to have a personal chipcard, to be able to buy discounted fare packages, and that you'll have to do online, for which you'll need a debit card issued by one of the Dutch banks (iDEAL payments)

you might luck out and be able to buy discounted rail tickets at Kruidvat. Depends on the dates of your stay though.

as to what are the cheapest options for train travel, it depends on where you go. if you do daytrips that go as far as Utrecht, Den Haag, Rotterdam perhaps, discounts won't make that much of a difference. But if you set your sights on Groningen or Maastricht, then fares will be substantially higher. In the good old days, a return ticket used to be cheaper than two singles, but that's not the case anymore.
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Aug 4th, 2013, 02:39 PM
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Neither Dutch station ticket offices nor ticket machines nor the Dutch Railways website www.ns.nl accept Amex, Visa, MasterCard or any useful internationally-recognised form of payment, just obscure Dutch bank cards. Machines at Amsterdam Centraal & Schipol are exceptions, they DO accept visa and mc for which they charge €1 extra.

SOLUTION: Buy Dutch domestic tickets online at www.b-Europe.com (Belgian Railways!!) pay with Visa or MasterCard, I think also Amex, and print your own ticket out in PDF format.

Easy!
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Aug 4th, 2013, 05:35 PM
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Man_in_seat_61 on Aug 4, 13 at 5:39pm
Neither Dutch station ticket offices nor ticket machines nor the Dutch Railways website www.ns.nl accept Amex, Visa, MasterCard or any useful internationally-recognised form of payment, just obscure Dutch bank cards.


Right. Very few Dutchies have credit cards. They use cash or their bank chip+PIN cards. Foreigners can buy tickets with cash at any ticket window. Cash ATMs are ubiquitous.
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Aug 5th, 2013, 12:21 AM
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Unfortunately, the ticket machines don't take banknotes either - yes, that's right, no cards, no notes - rendering them officially The Most Useless Railway Ticket Machines in Europe.

So nipping round to the ATM and getting a wadge of cash out won't work either!

So you need coins. For two tickets from Hengelo to Amsterdam (Hengelo being the nearest station to where my Dutch wife's parents live), this means accumulating €40 in coins - presumably wheelbarrowed up to the machine like a scene out of the pre-war Weimar Republic and fed into it one-by-one...

So it's easier to just buy the ticket at www.b-europe.com online and print it out before we leave the house!
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Aug 5th, 2013, 02:37 AM
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Man_in_seat_61 on Aug 5, 13 at 3:21am
Unfortunately, the ticket machines don't take banknotes either - yes, that's right, no cards, no notes - rendering them officially The Most Useless Railway Ticket Machines in Europe.
So nipping round to the ATM and getting a wadge of cash out won't work either!
So it's easier to just buy the ticket at www.b-europe.com online and print it out before we leave the house!


The ticket windows do accept cash bank notes. They also, last time I was there, charge €0.50 extra per transaction. Plus you have the pleasure of standing in line.

Buying a ticket at www.b-europe.com requires that a tourist/traveler have access to an on-line computer and a printer. There was a big Internet service place on the Damrak near Amsterdam's Centraal Station a few years ago which may still be in business. Many of these "Internet cafes" have dried up. You may be left to bringing your own lap top and finding a wifi hot spot and borrowing a printer. Maybe your hotel concierge has what you need and the patience to help you. However geduld (patience) is pretty scarce in Holland so good luck.

Just get the cash and go to a ticket window and suffer it out.
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Aug 5th, 2013, 03:38 AM
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Dutch bankcards aren't obscure. Any European bank card which has a Maestro logo and a 4 figure pin should work.
The Dutch went to electronic paying for things far earlier than most European countries, and see little need for a lot of cash.
Most train journeys are actually fairly short and cheap. Most tourist don't get beyond Amsterdam which is why the NS has not wasted money altering ticket machines in the rest of the country. They will all be obsolete soon anyway.
Buying a ticket via Belgian railways is fine if you know where and when you want to travel beforehand, but useless, as Spaarne points out, if you are already in the Netherlands with no access to a printer. If you do print out before make sure you have ID with you. The conductor may ask for it.
Smaller stations often only have a ticket machine, but there is always somewhere close by that sells tickets.
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Aug 5th, 2013, 03:49 AM
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I also find it strange that railways in the Netherlands do not take credit cards.
and if you try to park in many cities, you will find that the meters only take chipknip, which is exclusive to the Netherlands. Sometimes you can find a machine that takes a cc, but usually its just chipknip, not even cash is accepted.
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Aug 5th, 2013, 05:50 AM
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@Tulips: Sometimes you can find a machine that takes a cc, but usually its just chipknip, not even cash is accepted.

As far as I know, all Q-Park parking garages accept CC.

Also, you can buy a "prepaid chipknip" these days (see http://www.interegi.nl/eng/Private/Waar_te_koop.html).
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Aug 5th, 2013, 06:38 AM
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What about buying train tickets at a travel agency? Do they exist still? Will they take credit cards?
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Aug 5th, 2013, 05:14 PM
  #14
G_H
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Thanks so much for your suggestions! Looks like we'll be collecting coins or standing in line.
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Aug 6th, 2013, 08:46 AM
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Note that the luggage lockers in Haarlem station require a Dutch chip+PIN. The workaround — ask a person in the tunnel to use their card in the locker pay meter and then pay the person in cash. Bottom line — carry a few hundred euros with you at all times in Holland. Use it discreetly. You won't be mugged but pickpockets are everywhere.
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Aug 6th, 2013, 09:34 AM
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Lines at ticket windows has lessened since nearly all Dutch use machines or do it online - so not a problem last I was there - if doing five separate round trips to places further away you may even want to compare with a Benelux Railpass - gives five days of unlimited trains in Blegium and Netherlands and Luxembourg - take a day trip to lovely Antwerp - as nice as any Dutch city - especially if into old Flemish masters or Art-Deco or Art Nouveau architecture.

For lots of great info on Benelux trains and passes check out www.seat61.com - check his commercial link to RailEurope to get Benelux Railpass pricing and http://www.budgeteuropetravel.com/ and www.ricksteves.com.

buy a Daag retour if buying regular tickets - can't leave before 9:30 or something but can come back on any train - slightly cheaper than two one way tickets.
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Aug 6th, 2013, 12:57 PM
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No, a dag retour isn't cheaper anymore.
It's just two single journeys issued as one ticket.

Also good to know: NS machines accept coins up to a maximum number (yes, i found that out the hard way), Local public transport machines will accept any number of coins.

And if you go to the GVB service desk in Amsterdam, it is possible to have your OV card topped up by means of a cash transaction. This will remove the need to buy paper tickets for train travel.
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Aug 6th, 2013, 01:44 PM
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thanks for the update on Day Return tickets - but if going return save hassle of buying a ticket back once there.
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Aug 6th, 2013, 01:51 PM
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Well, if you park at a meter in Rotterdam, it's only chipknip. No cc.
I had a look at these prepaid cards, but it says that chipknip is being phased out within a year or two.
And the site does not tell you where to buy them.
So in the meantime i will stick to my, so far, succesful strategy of putting a polite note in the window of my car.
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Aug 6th, 2013, 02:30 PM
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When we were there in June, there was a long line at the desk to the right as you enter Amsterdam Centraal station, but there was virtually no line at the desk in the office to the left as you enter (the office that is shared with the high-speed line).
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