Netherlands Tickets & Rail Passes

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OUR GENERAL EURAIL AND INTERRAIL GUIDE

Welcome to ShowMeTheJourney's GUIDE to booking train tickets for journeys within AND from/to The Netherlands.

The info covers the core basics of what you can expect to encounter when making bookings.

What we have set out to provide is some context for the tickets and journey options you SHOULD encounter when making a booking either online or at the station.

We have striven to ensure that the advice we present is as accurate as possible, but a guide such as this cannot cover every combination of journey options.

Cilck on a question or grab a coffee and spend 5 -10 mins to discover how to save money and stress.

TRAIN JOURNEYS WITHIN THE NETHERLANDS:

Will I save money if I book train tickets for journeys within The Netherlands in advance online?

What should I be aware of when booking tickets at station in The Netherlands?

Can I reserve seats for train journeys within The Netherlands?

What if I want to travel to more than one location in a day?

What about child tickets for train journeys within The Netherlands?

Will I need a ticket for my bike on train journeys within The Netherlands?


TRAIN JOURNEYS FROM AND TO THE NETHERLANDS:

Will I save money if I book train tickets for journeys from and To The Netherlands in advance online?

How far ahead can tickets be booked on NS International?

What about booking reservations on international trains from and to The Netherlands?

What if the international journey from The Netherlands involves a change of train?


USING RAIL PASSES:

What do I need to know about using Eurail and InterRail Passes IN The Netherlands?


What do I need to know about using Eurail and InterRail Passes for journeys TO AND FROM The Netherlands?

WORTH KNOWING:

NS is the national rail operator in The Netherlands and it provides two different websites for online ticket bookings:

NS does this because differing terms apply to the domestic and international journey tickets.

(1) NS.nl is solely for domestic train journeys within The Netherlands

(2) NS International sell tickets for rail journeys from and to The Netherlands.

The trains services and journeys that can be booked on NS International are:

(1) Thalys trains to/from Belgium, Paris and Lille

(2) ICE trains to/from Germany (branded ‘ICE International’)

(3) IC trains to/from Germany (branded ‘Intercity Berlin’)

(4) IC trains to/from Belgium (branded ‘Intercity Brussels’)

(5) Eurostar trains - both direct and those involve a change of train in Brussels/Bruxelles

How to book tickets on NS International - take a look at our step-by-step GUIDE.

TICKETS FOR TRAIN JOURNEYS WITHIN THE NETHERLANDS:

Will I save money if I book train tickets for journeys within The Netherlands in advance online?

Tickets aren’t discounted if purchased online in advance of the travel date.
Therefore you will pay the same price at the station as you would when booking online - even if you will be buying tickets at the station immediately before boarding the train.

So there’s no need to book online to obtain a cheaper price.

Though buying tickets on the NS website is comparatively straightforward, but you either have to print the tickets yourself or download them to NS’ app (the Reisplanner Xtra app).

Therefore if you’re visiting The Netherlands, the balance tips in favour of buying at the station.

Though if you do buy at the station note that there is a €0.50 service charge if you use a ticket counter - you don't pay this charge if you use a ticket machine.

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What should I be aware of when booking tickets at station in The Netherlands?

The NS ticket machines at stations are easy to use, but accept only cards and coins, notes cannot be used.

The prices of train tickets in The Netherlands is based solely on distance travelled.

Therefore all regular* NS departures are charged at the same price, so you won’t have to pay a premium to travel on particularly popular trains, or at peak times.

So avoid travelling at business hours, particularly into cities between 08:30 and 09:30 and away from cities between 16:30 and 18:30.

*Higher prices are charged for some trains/routes:

When travelling between:

Amsterdam Centraal ↔ Rotterdam

Schiphol ↔ Rotterdam

Amsterdam ↔ Breda 

Schiphol ↔ Breda

on the faster Intercity Direct trains, a supplementary price is payable.

This higher price will automatically be included in the cost of a ticket at a machine or ticket counter - if you specify that you want to travel on the InterCity Direct.

This 'supplement' isn't charged for shorter journeys by the InterCity Direct trains such as Amsterdam ↔ Schiphol.

A premium/supplement is also charged for journeys between Amsterdam/Utrecht ↔ Arnhem on the ICE trains heading to/from Germany.

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Can I reserve seats for train journeys within The Netherlands?

Seats can’t be reserved on any domestic train, so booking online doesn’t guarantee you a seat either.

So this why travelling at business hours, particularly into cities between 08:30 and 09:30 and away from cities between 16:30 and 18:30 is best avoided.

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What if I want to travel to more than one location in a day?

Trains are a great way of exploring The Netherlands as there are numerous must-see charming towns and cities that have easy connections by train - particularly in the west of the country, these towns can be no more than 10-15 mins from each other.

Factor in the guaranteed excellent public transport links between stations and city/town centres and seeing multiple locations in a day can make for fabulous day trips.

And you don't need to buy separate tickets for each journey - instead travel as most Dutch people do and use touch and go travel cards instead!

In the Netherlands these are known as OV-chipkaarts and they're sold by NS (Dutch Railways) HERE.

Not only can you use them on any train in The Netherlands, you can use them on buses, trams and the metros! 

As can be seen here they can be fabulous value for money, especially on a weekend.

They can also be used for journeys within The Netherlands by German ICE and IC trains, but the normal supplement is payable on the InterCity Direct trains -  for travel on the high speed line between Amsterdam and Rotterdam.

Buy a monthly 'Weekend Free' card for only €33 and you can travel anywhere in The Netherlands on Saturdays and Sundays - and during the week you can obtain a 40% discount on tickets IF you avoid travelling at rush hours.

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What about child tickets for train journeys within The Netherlands?

Aged 3 and under:

Free travel, but the child must not occupy a seat to themselves.

Aged 4 - 11:

You need to purchase 'Railrunner' tickets for children in this age group, but they cost only €2.50 per child and 'Railrunners' are valid for the whole day.

So you don't need to buy separate 'Railrunner' tickets for each journey.

Therefore exploring The Netherlands with children of this age can be great value!

One adult can be accompanied by an unlimited number of children if you travel in 2nd class - though each child will need their own 'Railrunner' ticket.

In 1st class a maximum of three children travelling with 'Railrunners' can accompany each adult.

Aged 12 and older

The 'adult' rate is charged for all train tickets.

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Will I need a ticket for my bike on train journeys within The Netherlands?

Non-folding bikes can only be taken on NS trains if you purchase a day ticket for bikes.

But there are exceptions, in particular;

(1)You cannot take bikes on board 'Intercity Direct' trains  - the NS trains that use the high speed line on the Amsterdam/Den Haag - Breda routes).

(2) On Mon-Friday you cannot take NON-FOLDING bikes on any train between 06:30 - 09:00 and between 16:00 - 18:30.

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TICKETS FOR TRAIN JOURNEYS FROM AND TO THE NETHERLANDS:

How to book tickets on NS International - take a look at our step-by-step GUIDE.

Will I save money if I book train tickets for journeys from and To The Netherlands in advance online?

Booking in advance online on NS International is highly recommended.

It's possible to save more than €50 in comparison to the more expensive (full fare tickets) that will still be available when the discounted tickets have sold out

NS International doesn’t give these cheapest discounted tickets a specific name, but it does a great job of directing the users of its service, to the cheapest tickets available, on the day on which you want to travel.

Be as flexible as you can re: departure and arrival times on your travel date in order to make the biggest savings.

If you will be making an international train journey, particularly FROM The Netherlands, the advice is to always check the prices being offered by NS International – it’s generally the cheapest option.

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How far ahead can tickets be booked on NS International?

This depends on the train service you will be travelling by:

(1) Thalys trains to/from Belgium, Paris and Lille = 4 months ahead of the travel date (usually)

(2) ICE trains to/from Germany = 6 months ahead of the travel date (usually)

(3) IC trains to/from Germany (branded ‘Intercity Berlin’) = 6 months ahead of the travel date (usually)

(4) IC trains to/from The Belgium (branded ‘Intercity Brussels’) =6 months ahead of the travel date (usually)

Note that that the IC trains can be booked two months ahead of the Thalys trains, so if you look up journeys more than 4 months ahead you will only see the IC trains available for booking and NOT the Thalys trains.

(5) Eurostar trains = 190 days ahead of the travel date (usually)

Note the use of 'usually':

If you will be searching for journeys between mid-September and mid-November AND travelling after the second weekend in December - then the booking windows may be shorter while the new timetables for the year ahead are confirmed.

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What about booking reservations on international trains from and to The Netherlands?

In contrast to train services within The Netherlands, seat reservations are available on most, but not all, international train services from and to Belgium.

(1) Thalys trains to/from Belgium, Paris and Lille = reservations are included in the ticket price, so seats will be automatically assigned when making a booking

(2) ICE AND IC trains to/from Germany = Reservations are included in the price of 1st class tickets, so seats will be automatically assigned when booking 1st class.

However, when booking 2nd class seats for a journey by ICE and IC trains, they are optional.

Without a reservation seats are not guaranteed on the ICE and IC trains - reservations are particularly recommended in 2nd class if you will be travelling at evening business hours, or in the afternoon/evening on Fridays and Sundays.
 

(3) IC trains to/from The Belgium = Reservations are NOT available.

Note that that reservations aren't available on the IC trains between The Netherlands and Belgium - but, in contrast, they are included when booking tickets to travel by the Thalys trains.

However, spare seats on these IC (Intercity Brussels) trains are usually available.

(4) Eurostar trains = reservations are included in the ticket price, so seats will be automatically assigned when making a booking.

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What if the international journey from The Netherlands involves a change of train?

You don’t have to making a DIRECT journey solely by these trains listed above to book tickets on NS International.

It will sell tickets for journeys that involve changes of train in The Netherlands AND also generally sells tickets for journeys that involve a change of train in Belgium or Germany.

How to book tickets on NS International - take a look at our step-by-step GUIDE.

Back to the list of questions.


USING RAIL PASSES ON TRAINS WITHIN AND TO/FROM THE NETHERLANDS :

There are no MULTI-day rail passes available that are available solely for travel within The Netherlands.

The Holland Pass enables travel across the country by trains AND buses, trams and metros on a single day.

What do I need to know about using Eurail and InterRail Passes In The Netherlands?

Reservations:

If you have a Eurail or InterRail pass, you can hop on any train for journeys within The Netherlands EXCEPT for journeys by Thalys train.

If you will be travelling with 'Benelux', 'Select' or 'Global Passes' you also don't need to pay the 'supplement' on ANY journey by the 'Intercity Direct' trains

Travel ideas:

To ensure value for money when using rail passes in a comparatively small country, you can plan multi stop day trips and see more than one great city in a single day.

Viable itineraries for exploring with a rail pass include:

(i) Amsterdam - Den Haag - Rotterdam - Amsterdam
(ii) Amsterdam - Den Haag - Gouda - Utrecht - Amsterdam
(iii) Rotterdam - Delft - Haarlem - Utrecht - Rotterdam
(iv) Amsterdam - Haarlem - Delft - Rotterdam - Amsterdam.

At stations:

Virtually all Dutch stations now have ticket gates that read barcodes on tickets, but the barcodes printed on rail passes are supposed to open these gates.

However, in practice these rail pass barcodes often don’t work, if it doesn’t then take your rail pass to a NS reservation desk (not a ticket office) and you will be given a 'key card' that does open the ticket gates.

Back to the list of questions.

What do I need to know about using Eurail And InterRail Passes for journeys TO AND FROM The Netherlands?

Reservations:


Avoid booking reservations at Dutch stations if possible, do so and you will be charged a booking fee per reservation.

Rail pass users cannot book reservations only on the NS International website, but the optional reservations for the ICE AND IC trains to Germany can be booked online on DB Bahn and the Thalys trains can be reserved on B-Europe.

Neither site charges booking fees.

Travelling to/from Germany:

You can travel between The Netherlands and Germany on the 'ICE International' trains or new Regio services at no additional charge.

Paying the €4 reservation fee, to guarantee a seat on the ICE International trains, is optional, though recommended if you will be travelling with a 2nd class pass on Fridays or Sundays, particularly in the summer, or around holidays.

This €4 reservation fee is also optional on the 'IC Berlijn' trains on the Amsterdam - Amersfoort - Osnabruck - Hannover - Berlin route.

Paying this fee is particularly recommended if you will be travelling with a 2nd class pass in the middle of the day between May and October and on any Friday and Sunday, these can be exceptionally busy trains, so seats are not guaranteed.

Travelling to/from Belgium:

Seats can't be reserved on the IC trains to/from The Belgium (branded ‘Intercity Brussels’), so you won't pay any extra to travel on these.

Therefore they're a cheaper option for rail pass users than the Thalys trains on which reservations are compulsory.

The only trains to/from The Netherlands on which rail pass users HAVE to pay reservation fees/supplements are the Thalys services.

The fees (in either direction) are:

Paris – Rotterdam/Schiphol/Amsterdam
2nd class: €25
1st class: €35

Lille - Rotterdam/Schiphol/Amsterdam
2nd class: €15
1st class: €25

Bruxelles/Antwerpen - Rotterdam/Schiphol/Amsterdam
2nd class: €15
1st class: €25

Travelling to/from France:

The only direct trains between The Netherlands and France are the Thalys trains, but the rail pass reservation fees on these trains are comparatively expensive - 1st class = €35; 2nd class = €25.

To avoid these fees you can follow the DAILY timetable below - no rail pass fees are required on any of these trains.

(i) 10:07 from Amsterdam Centraal to Breda (arrives Breda at 11:15)
(ii) 11:42 from Breda to Antwerpen Centraal (arrives Antwerpen at 12:15)
This train will be heading to Bruxelles-Midi
(iii) 12:37 from Antwerpen Centraal to Lille-Flandres (arrives Lille at 14:50)
On the departure screens the train heading to Poperinge will also be this train
(iv) 16:02 from Lille-Flandres to Amiens (arrives Amiens at 17:20)
(v) 17:39 from Amiens to Paris-Nord (arrives Paris at 18:56

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