Train Tickets Netherlands: How To Buy Yours?

Last Updated: December 27, 2023

Gerrit Vandenberg

Gerrit shares his love for the Netherlands from his home near Amsterdam, helping thousands plan unforgettable trips to the lowlands. Discover his inspiring journey "From a critical health scare to celebrating Holland's charms". If you want to send Gerrit a quick message, you can contact him here.

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Are you confused about buying a Netherlands train ticket?

You’re not alone; while trains in the Netherlands are known for their efficient and punctual service, buying train tickets in The Netherlands can be more confusing.

For one, there are many ways to buy a ticket. Some methods carry a surcharge. Some don’t. Some can only be used in 2nd class, while others do not allow you to upgrade to 1st class (which you often want).

And then there is the confusion about off-peak and peak hours and whether or not discounts are available (they are, also for tourists, but not many people know this).

To make it even more complicated, there is an unbelievable amount of incorrect, outdated information from bloggers who wrote an article once and never touched it again.

But don’t worry, you’re in the right place. I’m here to take away the confusion and make sense of it all.

As a Dutch native, I’m here to help. I grew up using the system, so it’s 2nd nature to me. And it’s easy for me to keep this information up to date.

I also have friends from abroad, and they visit regularly. Because of that, I can see things through their lens, the lens of a visitor just like you.

If you want to know if train travel in the Netherlands is right for you in the first place, then please read my article: Netherlands by Train: Is It For You?

Here is my post on the best way to travel from the airport to Amsterdam.

In this post, I get straight to the point: Train Tickets Netherlands. In other words, the best way to buy a train ticket when you want to travel in the Netherlands is by train.

If you prefer watching a video instead, here is my video on how to book a Dutch train ticket:

My video is a step-by-step guide on how to book your Dutch Train Ticket.

Options For Buying Train Tickets Netherlands

There is no way to keep this post brief because there are so many ways to buy tickets. There are pros and cons to most. So I go over them one by one.

Different outlets for buying train tickets

  • The railway’s website
  • The railway’s app
  • Staffed ticket desk
  • Ticket machine
  • Ticket re-sellers
  • OV Pay contactless
  • OV-chipcard (not useful for visitors, if you read about it, just forget it)

How to Choose the Right Option

Outlet1st ClassOff-PeakGroupSurcharge
Website ✨✅✅✅
App✅✅✅
Ticket Office✅€1
Machine✅€1
Re-seller€1
OV Pay
© Hidden Holland – do not copy or embed without permission.

Let’s simplify first. The website and the app give you the most flexibility. All tickets (discounts) are available, as well as all options. I would use the website for ease of use.

Forget about the (lines) at the ticket desk or the machine. You don’t need to use those. They cost you €1 extra, offer no discounts, and take longer.

Re-sellers sell many tickets, but I don’t see why. If you want ease of use, use OV Pay instead (see below). It saves the €1 surcharge with the same benefits.

OV Pay is nothing more than using your contactless debit or credit card to travel.

Tap your card before you enter the platform, and tap again when you leave the platform at your departure station. It seems perfect, but you can’t travel first class or get an off-peak discount.

In other words, the NS website is always the right choice, with all options available, including discounts, first class, and easier to use than the app.

Below, I will walk you through using it step by step, including how to get the lowest prices.

How To Book a Ticket On The NS Website

Here I’ll first explain how to book regular train tickets for any route. Discount passes, like day tickets, and group tickets are a separate chapter below.

This is How You Buy a Ticket From the NS Railways Website

  1. Search your route first
  2. Select a train
  3. Choose the right ticket options
  4. Buy your ticket
  5. Download your ticket to your phone (or print it)

Step 1. Search Your Route

When you go to the NS website you see this screen (without the clutter of my notes 🤭):

Step 1 booking a train ticket on a NS website.

From: here, you type the station you depart from (you can do an address, but it becomes confusing if you do), so keep with a railway station. Like Amsterdam Centraal (central station) or Schiphol Airport.

To: Same, but then your destination station

Departure/Arrival toggle: You can search for the time you’ll depart or when you want to arrive. Often, you leave it as is (search by departure time).

Calendar: select if you want to depart today or a date in the future (if you select a date four days in advance or more, you qualify for a discount, off-peak only)

Time: enter a departure time (train tickets are not train specific, but day specific, so don’t worry too much about this you can take any train. Just keep in mind if you buy an off-peak train ticket, you can only travel during off-peak hours (I’ll explain below).

Plan: Click Plan to move to the next step.


Step 2. Select a Train

Step 2 booking a train ticket on a NS website.

It looks like a lot is going on this screen but that is mostly me making notes for you.

On the left, you see departures around the time you searched for. You will see a reduced price marked in green if a off-peak discount is available. This is not always the case.

What is off-peak, and how much is the possible discount?

  • Monday to Friday: Peak hours are between 6:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. With an off-peak ticket, you can’t be on a train during these hours.
  • Saturday and Sunday: All day is off-peak.

Sometimes, discounts are offered through NS PriceTime deals. You can get discounts on quieter trains on specific routes and days—up to 60% if you book well in advance. More information about PriceTime Deals can be found here.

TIP: Discounts are never available for travel to and from the airport because these trains are always busy.

Just pick a train departure close to your intended departure. Domestic tickets are never train-specific, so it doesn’t matter much which you pick. You can travel on any service.

Except for off-peak discounts. You cannot travel during rush hours when you buy an off-peak discount ticket (for hours, see above). But you still have the flexibility to choose your train within off-peak hours.

Once ready to order, click the Order Train Button to move to step 3.


Step 3. Choose the Right Ticket Options

Step 3 booking a train ticket on a NS website.

In this step, you’re selecting the right ticket options:

  1. Choose how many Adults and Kids are traveling
  2. Choose if you want a single ticket or a day return
  3. Choose 1st class or 2nd class
  4. Choose regular fare or off-peak
  5. ICE or IC Direct Add-On, if applicable

Adults and Kids are self-explanatory. If you return the same day, I advise clicking “Day Return” because you have both tickets taken care of. If you take a multi-day trip, select “Single Ticket.”

A Day Return is only valid that day and costs twice the one-way fare.

I recommend First Class for journeys of more than 30 minutes. It is not worth the extra money for shorter trips like to the Airport, Zaanse Schans, or Haarlem.

Step 3 booking a train ticket on a NS website off-peak condition.

Select Regular full fare if you want full flexibility. This allows you to choose to travel on any train at every hour for the entire day of travel you’ve selected.

Never select the 40% discount option that you might also see (joint-travel ticket) unless you travel with a Dutch friend with a paid discount subscription called a “Voordeelurenkaart.” and they have sent you a “code.” That is for locals only.

If you book it incorrectly you will be fined €50 plus the fare difference.

(But if you recognize me at a station, walk up to me, say hi, and travel with me at a discount 😀) 

The only discount available for everybody, including tourists, is the “PriceTime Deals,” with discounts up to 60% (not for travel to and from the airport and busy trains).

If you see a box for an ICE or IC Direct supplement at the end of the screen, you can take a high-speed train for that route at an extra fee.

I would ignore the ICE option and not travel on an ICE train (which is easily recognizable because it’s a white train; it’s the German high-speed train).

That train is always busy, doesn’t run that often, and doesn’t go fast yet in Holland. You can better travel on regular domestic trains at no extra cost. Leave unselected.

IC Direct for trains between Amsterdam and Rotterdam. You DO want to select that option. That extra €2.90 will bring you to Rotterdam 30 minutes faster! IC Direct trains run every 15 minutes between Amsterdam and Rotterdam. It’s worth the pay.

If you’re not traveling between Amsterdam and Utrecht or Amsterdam and Rotterdam, these options won’t be visible.

Click the Yellow Passengers Button to Continue.


Step 4. Passenger Name(s)

Step 4 booking a train ticket on a NS website - passenger details.

This screen is self-explanatory. Just fill out the names of the people traveling on this ticket.

Click the Yellow Button To Payment Method to continue.


Step 5. Purchase your ticket

Step 5 booking a train ticket on a NS website - payment.

You must fill in a valid e-mail address to receive your tickets here.

Then select your payment option. iDEAL is for Dutch customers only. But you can pay with a credit or debit card (Visa / Mastercard / American Express)

PS: I recommend the WISE debit card. Your currency conversion will be a lot cheaper! I use this debit card myself when I travel. You will get a virtual Visa or Mastercard for free (Apple Pay / Google Wallet), or you can order a physical card for a small fee.

The Lowest Priced Debit Card For Travelers

Save Money
Wise Debit Card

One of my travel hacks is the WISE borderless debit card. This is the most international debit card in the world. Spend abroad with the real exchange rate. I use this card myself for all my overseas trips and saves a lot of money!

De-select the newsletter box. And accept the conditions.

Then click “To Payment” and finish paying for your ticket. But before you do, double-check everything. Once paid, the order is final. It can NOT be canceled.

This is what NS says about that:

“Unfortunately, purchased tickets cannot be canceled. This is because the ticket cannot be invalidated, so it would still be possible to travel with it even after the refund.” – NS Customer Service


Step 6. Download Your Ticket To Your Phone (or print it)

The Final step is easy.

  • Wait for your confirmation from NS in your email (also check your spam box if you can’t find it). It comes from: (no-reply.eticket@ns.nl).
  • Then click the yellow button inside the e-mail “Get Tickets.”
  • It opens your browser.
  • If you’re on a computer, you can print your tickets.
  • Or, if you’re on your mobile device, you can load them into the NS app.

I like to add my tickets to my phone in the NS app (download here)—no paper tickets to deal with and no printer necessary. The app is free to download and easy to look up train departures when traveling.

As soon as your ticket is in the app, you can find it by clicking “More” in the bottom right corner, then My Tickets. You then see a giant QR code that you can use to open the gates to the platforms.

Make sure you have a cheap internet bundle on your phone when you’re traveling (if you’re from outside the European Union). I advise an eSIM card, since they’re cheap, flexible, and allow Personal Hotspot so you can share your data connection with other devices/people in your party.

The Lowest Priced And Most Flexible eSIM cards (incl. tethering)

Airalo Netherlands eSim

Stop searching for WI-FI; get an affordable eSIM for the Netherlands. From just $4.50 for 1GB, but I recommend at least 10GB. TIP: Get the App for easy top-up.

That’s it.

It sounds like a lot. But once you’ve done it once or twice, it will be fast and automatic.

Ready to buy? You can buy your Netherlands train tickets here >>


Discount Passes (Day Passes and Group Tickets)

There are many ways to save on your train tickets other than purchasing an off-peak ticket with a discount if you’re ok with traveling 2nd class.

If you’re looking for cheap train tickets in the Netherlands, these can be great options for you:

Amsterdam & Region Travel Ticket

I’m a fan of this product if you travel inside Amsterdam and to destinations around the city.

It includes all modes of public transportation in the Amsterdam Area: train, bus, tram, and metro.

Within the city and also to popular destinations around Amsterdam.

It is perfect for day trips to places like Zaanse Schans, Volendam, the Airport, Haarlem, and more.

You travel in 2nd class (the blue seats) on train journeys, which is great for these shorter distances. 1st class would be overkill anyway.

Order your Amsterdam & Region Travel Ticket card here.

Prices start from €21.

Holland Travel Ticket

The Holland Travel Ticket is a day ticket allowing unlimited travel in the country.

The Holland Travel Ticket is also valid on buses, trams, and metro’s anywhere in the country.

It’s priced at €48 if you travel after 9 a.m. on weekdays or during weekends. And €70 if you also want to travel before 9 a.m. on weekdays.

The main drawback is that you can only travel 2nd class and to get your money’s worth, you must make a long journey.

I would skip this travel ticket and travel 1st class with a regular ticket for these long distances.

NS Group Ticket

The Group ticket is one of the most unknown bargains if you travel with more than one person in your party on longer distances.

The NS Group ticket is valid for any single trip at a fixed price, regardless of the distance traveled.

It costs €34 for two people (€17 each) or three people (€11.33 each) traveling together. After that, it’s €4 more per person. if you travel with four people, you pay €38 (€9.50 each).

It’s not an unlimited-day pass. When booking, you need to provide a departure and arrival station. You can use it as a single ticket.

When is this cheaper? Usually on journeys longer than 60 minutes.

Look if the regular single ticket price in the booking tool I described step-by-step above is higher or lower than the per-person price of the NS group ticket.

If it’s higher, buy an NS Group Ticket instead.

A few things to know: it’s only valid for off-peak hours and in 2nd class. You can not upgrade to 1st class. Also, getting regular tickets can be cheaper if you travel with kids under 12 since kids travel for €2.50.

So above, I said not to bother with a Holland Travel Ticket because of the 2nd class restriction. But I’m more positive about the group ticket because it is lower priced. Then it can be worth having a little bit less comfort.

My Favorite Travel Books

My Favorite Travel Guide
Rick Steves Amsterdam & the Netherlands
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I love how Rick Steves' guidebooks offer a traveler's perspective. This is my favorite Amsterdam guidebook by far! Rating 4.8/5 on Amazon.

04/18/2024 06:12 pm GMT
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Click here for more Netherlands book recommendations.
(travel books, art books, language books, and maps)

Kids Ticket (Railrunner) 4-11

Kids 3 and under travel completely free.

Kids aged 4-11 (under 12) can travel for only €2.50 with a special Railrunner ticket. You can buy a Railrunner ticket here. Or add kids when you purchase regular tickets for the adults.

Kids always need to be accompanied by an adult.

Purchasing Tickets in the NS App

You can purchase tickets directly in the app. But I’m not too fond of it.

It’s a small screen with a lot going on. Many people, including me, find that confusing.

I prefer to buy tickets on the normal website and then load them to the app when the email arrives after booking by clicking the button in the email confirmation.

How OVpay works

OVpay is super easy. It’s the name for paying with your bank card (contactless).

Checking in at ticket gate Dutch train station.
I check-in at a station’s entry gate – Photo: © Hidden Holland

You just tap your card when you enter the station (either at the ticket gate, or check-in poles). Then when you arrive you tap out the same way.

Make sure contactless payments are activated on your bank and or credit card(s).

The WISE debit travel cards allow Apple Pay / Google Wallet and that can be used for travel with OVpay.

The Lowest Priced Debit Card For Travelers

Save Money
Wise Debit Card

One of my travel hacks is the WISE borderless debit card. This is the most international debit card in the world. Spend abroad with the real exchange rate. I use this card myself for all my overseas trips and saves a lot of money!

So why bother buying a train ticket, when you can also travel this simply by using your bank or credit card for travel?

First, if you can purchase your ticket at least four days in advance and travel during off-peak hours you can get a 10-20% discount with a regular ticket via the website.

That discount is not available with OVpay. OVpay always charges full fare.

Kids discounts are not available with OVpay.

You can only travel 2nd class (blue seats) with OVpay. If you want to travel 1st class you need a regular ticket too.

Train Ticket Netherlands at the Machine

Since the introduction of OVpay, the app, and discounted tickets on the website, ticket machines have become obsolete.

But they are surprisingly still available at every station. And most visitors use them to buy their tickets. Just look at the lines at the Airport. Insane. People just don’t know. Don’t use them.

You pay a €1 surcharge for every ticket purchased at these machines for the paper chip ticket it prints. It’s such a waste of money and completely unnecessary.

Be extra careful at Schiphol Airport, where they programmed the machines to sell you first-class tickets as the default option for tickets to Amsterdam. That is ridiculous for such a short trip, change the setting to 2nd class. Better yet, don’t use the machine.

Train Tickets Netherlands. Where to buy your ticket. Ticket machines are both busy and more expensive. Use the app instead.
Ticket Machines (avoid these to avoid a surcharge) – Photo: NS

Buy Train Tickets Netherlands at a Ticket Office

If you prefer to purchase your ticket from a staff member, you can go to a ticket desk at larger stations.

This can be a good option if you have complex travel plans or prefer personal assistance. But be aware they also levy the extra surcharge of €1. And most information is available on the website or in the app. It’s easy money to save.

OV-Chip Card (do not use)

Before OVpay was introduced, it was almost criminal how complex the Dutch system was for foreign visitors. You had to buy an anonymous OV Chipcard, that cost €7.50 and needed a minimal balance of €20, which was almost impossible to get back when you left.

The card still exists, and locals still use it because they need it if they have a paid subscription. For locals, it’s easy to use, but again there is no reason for a visitor to get one.

If you read blog articles that mention you do need an OV Chipcard it’s good to skip that blog since its information is outdated.

Find A Place To Stay In Amsterdam

Find accommodation in Amsterdam for the lowest prices on your favorite platform. What's great about this map is that it shows both Hotels, as VRBO rentals (AirBNB but then cheaper).

Update your (intended) travel dates for accurate prices. TIP: Zoom out on the map (-) in the bottom right corner. This will show more options and availability.

International Train Tickets

Eurostar high speed train at Rotterdam Central Station.
Eurostar High-Speed train leaving Rotterdam – Photo: NS

Booking train tickets in advance is important when you travel internationally, and it is most convenient to do so through the NS International website.

Here, you can get tickets for international journeys between Amsterdam and Brussels, the Eurostar train from Amsterdam to Paris and London, plus other destinations in Belgium and Germany, like Brussels and Cologne.

The earlier you book, the cheaper international train tickets are. The best prices can be had 2-3 months in advance.

Eurail pass For International Travel

Another option for the international traveler is looking into a Eurail pass. You can buy them for a country, or a combination of countries like the Benelux, even all of Europe.

Of course, prices are according to the size of the geographic your pass will be valid. Double-check if they’re valid on the services you like to use (often there are restrictions for high-speed trains like Eurostar).

Are you looking for more information on these passes? Click here to visit EUrail’s website.

How do I buy Train Tickets in The Netherlands Online?

You can buy Dutch train tickets online via the NS website. You can then print your ticket, or load it directly in the NS app. The website is available in English and accepts all major credit cards. This is the cheapest way to buy Dutch train tickets.

Can I buy Train Tickets in the Netherlands at The Station?

Yes, you can buy tickets from ticket machines with a debit or credit card. Or at ticket offices located at major train stations. Note that smaller stations don’t have staffed ticket offices. You can also use OVpay (see article to learn more).

For tickets from the ticket machines or ticket offices, there is a surcharge of €1 per printed ticket. It’s better to get your ticket online.

What’s The Difference Between 1st and 2nd Class?

1st Class: This is where you’ll find more comfortable and spacious seating, including power outlets (on most trains). It’s often quieter too. I chose this class for journeys over 30 minutes. First-class carriages can be recognized by their red-colored seats and the number one next to the entry door.

2nd Class: Second-class carriages are in the majority. And they can be recognized by their blue color. Although most seats are in this standard class, it can still be crowded throughout the day. It’s the best option for short journeys or traveling during peak hours (because first class is also crowded).

Can I Bring My Bike On The Train?

You can take your bicycle on the train, but you’ll need a special ticket and must use the designated spaces. You can recognize the bike logo next to the entry door outside the train. Note bikes can only be in a train during off-peak hours.

The train conductor always has the final say. If the number of passengers is too high, he or she might refuse you and tell you to wait for the next departure.

You can buy the bike ticket online.

Every Coffee ☕️ Counts!

Do you appreciate this article? Consider a coffee donation ☕️ to support this website’s upkeep. Every contribution matters and is deeply appreciated. Thank you for your generosity!

Does All Of This Feel Overwhelming?

Planning a trip well is a lot of work and can feel overwhelming. Know I’m here to help when you need assistance with your Netherlands vacation.

I offer Itinerary Consultations, where I help you improve your itinerary and make your trip planning much faster and less stressful.

Even if you already have a plan, I have local insights you don’t get from a guidebook. Is that truly a nice restaurant? Is your plan efficient or even doable? What to do once you’re inside a museum. The Rijksmuseum is massive. A call is also great if you doubt which options to choose. I can genuinely personalize my advice to you.

Do You Think Train Tickets In The Netherlands Are Complicated?

I’d love your thoughts: Are you planning to travel by public transport?. Please share your thoughts in the comments below, and let’s start a conversation 💬.

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Gerrit shares his love for the Netherlands from his home near Amsterdam, helping thousands plan unforgettable trips to the lowlands. Discover his inspiring journey "From a critical health scare to celebrating Holland's charms". If you want to send Gerrit a quick message, you can contact him here.

5 thoughts on “Train Tickets Netherlands: How To Buy Yours?”

  1. Hi Gerrit,
    Thank you for your very detailed articles and all the useful information you provide!
    I’ll be arriving to Amsterdam next week and trying to plan my trip from Schiphol to Centraal station by train and I’m not able to select any Off-peak fare, no matter which train/timeslot I’m selecting. Did any changes occur to the ticket fares?
    Thanks so much,
    Sebi

    Reply
      • Thanks so much for the prompt reply, Gerrit! I had a look over these new rules and it seems the PriceTime discounts are not applicable to and from Schiphol airport. They are probably not applicable for other short distance travels either, as I was trying to look at the trains heading from Amsterdam to Zaanse Schans and no discount noticed as well. These would be the only destinations we would reach out by train right now.
        Looking forward to coming to Amsterdam!

        Reply
        • No problem. I made changes to the article. Yes, you’re right to and from the airport is never included in the scheme. Conditions states it can be for any other trip other than the airport. But not on all routes, or when it’s busy, so it will be to some extent always be random and the discount changes depending on the time you book ahead. In other words it’s good to check if a discount is available, if not book for the regular prices. It’s really worth it for longer distances anyway because for such shorts trips it would be cents. Have a wonderful trip and have a lot of fun at Zaanse Schans. You might want to look into the Amsterdam & Region Travel Ticket because that ticket includes local transportation in Amsterdam, transportation to the Zaanse Schans by train and or bus, and to and from the airport. It can be a really good deal. Gerrit

          Reply
          • Thanks for the updates, Gerrit!
            I’ve Really looked into all the types of local transport tickets (and read your articles about this as well 🙂 ) and we eventually decided to get IAmsterdam cards for transport, since we also have a list of museums and attractions listed there that we’d like to visit. This seemed to be the best deal possible for any museum lover.
            Thanks so much for all your wishes and sending you all the best wishes and greetings from Romania as well!

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