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Train Ticket Guides Buying and using Tickets & Rail Passes in The Netherlands
How to buy rail tickets in Holland

Buying and using Tickets & Rail Passes in The Netherlands

This guide will help you save money, time and confusion.

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Welcome to ShowMeTheJourney's GUIDE to booking train tickets and using rail passes on train journeys within and from/to The Netherlands; the info covers the core basics of what you can expect to encounter when making bookings.
The intention is to provide is some context for the tickets and journey options you SHOULD encounter when making a booking either online or at the station.
SMTJ has 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.

If you want to go right ahead with a booking, you can go direct to the booking agents listed below which sell train journeys within and both to and from The Netherlands.
Though before doing so, having an idea of what's available is recommended, hence the in-depth guide.

3 things that are good to know:

  1. NS is the national rail operator in The Netherlands and it provides two different websites for online ticket bookings, because differing terms apply to the domestic and international journey tickets.
  • NS.nl is solely for domestic train journeys within The Netherlands.
  • NS International sells tickets for rail journeys from and to The Netherlands.
  1. For journeys within The Netherlands you won't save by booking in advance online, so will pay the same price if you buy tickets last minute at the station (if you use the ticket machines)
  2. Reservations are not available for train journeys within The Netherlands

Booking tickets for rail journeys within The Netherlands:

Click on a question over on the content menu, or grab a coffee and spend 5 -10 mins to discover how to save money and confusion.

Will I save if I book in advance online?

Tickets for Dutch rail journeys 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, but you don't pay this charge if you use a ticket machine.

What should I be aware of when booking tickets at a station?

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

The prices of long-distance train tickets in The Netherlands are based solely on distance travelled; which sounds like we're stating the obvious, but this is actually unusual in Europe.
Therefore all regular NS departures are charged at the same price, meaning that you won’t have to pay a premium to travel on particularly popular trains, or when travelling at peak times.
Despite that, still avoid travelling at business hours, particularly into cities between 08:30 and 09:30 and away from cities between 16:30 and 18:30.
Because of the lack of premium fares, the trains will be much busier than usual.

Trains with Additional Fees:

When travelling between:

  • Amsterdam Centraal ↔ Rotterdam
  • Schiphol ↔ Rotterdam
  • Amsterdam ↔ Breda
  • Schiphol ↔ Breda
    on the faster Intercity Direct trains, a supplement of €1.40 - €2.40 is charged; the higher price applies at business hours.
    This supplement will automatically be included in the cost of a ticket counter, if you specify that you want to travel on the InterCity Direct, and the ticket machines have an obvious 'button' to press.
    This 'supplement' isn't charged at any time 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

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 iswhy 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

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 where 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 at the ticket counters at Dutch stations.

Not only can you use them on any train* in The Netherlands, you can use them on buses, trams and the metros!
You can top up 'chipkaarts' at station ticket machines, so you can use them on multiple days of travel, as long as you have added sufficient value to cover the journeys.
*Before making some journeys on the more expensive InterCity Direct trains such as Amsterdam <> Rotterdam, you need to pay a supplement by tapping your card on the posts which you'll find on the platform/spoor.

Using Holland Travel Tickets:

What can also be a good deal are Holland Travel Tickets, use them after 9:00 and you'll have access to unlimited travel for a day in The Netherlands on any train operated by NS, plus any bus, tram and Metro.
These Holland Travel tickets cost €41 and for comparison, a round trip by train of Amsterdam > Utrecht > Rotterdam > Amsterdam will cost approx €33.
So if, for example, you were to also use public transport to and from the stations in these three cities, you'll be making a saving; despite the fact that these train journeys are comparatively short.

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.

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 Monday-Friday you cannot take NON-FOLDING bikes on any train between 06:30 - 09:00 and between 16:00 - 18:30

National ticket agents

National Rail Passes

Tickets for international rail journeys to and from The Netherlands:

Very different terms and conditions apply when booking and using tickets for journeys by international train to and from The Netherlands compared to journeys solely within the country.

Will I save money if I book train tickets for international journeys in advance online?

Booking international journeys 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.
Also 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.

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

What about booking reservations on the international trains?

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 Brussels and Paris = 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 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.

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

You don’t have to be making a DIRECT journey solely by these trains listed above, in order 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 which involve a change of train in Belgium or Germany.

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Using rail passes:

The Holland Pass enables travel across the country by trains AND buses, trams and metros on a single day, but there are isn't a rail pass available solely for travel within The Netherlands, which covers multiple days.
So if you want to set off on a series of multiple destination day trips by train, which is a fabulous means of seeing the best of The Netherlands, you'll need to purchase a Holland Pass on each day of your adventures.

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 day long itineraries for exploring with a rail pass include:
(1) Amsterdam - Den Haag - Rotterdam - Amsterdam
(2) Amsterdam - Den Haag - Gouda - Utrecht - Amsterdam
(3) Rotterdam - Delft - Haarlem - Utrecht - Rotterdam
(4) Amsterdam - Haarlem - Delft - Rotterdam - Amsterdam.

Using Eurail and InterRail Passes In The Netherlands:

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, including the IC and ICE trains that will be heading to and from Germany

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

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.

Making Eurail and InterRail reservations on the international trains:

Avoid booking reservations at Dutch stations if possible, because if you do 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 when using a 2nd class pass 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.
However, 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:

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

Rotterdam/Schiphol/Amsterdam <> Bruxelles/Antwerpen -
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 this daily routing - no rail pass fees are required on any of these trains.

Author

Simon Harper

I wanted to share my passion for train travel and explain how anyone can take the fantastic journeys I have taken.

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