After living in the Netherlands for three, I’ve become frugal as I find the Dutch trains expensive. I’m here to dish my insider tips for how to buy cheap train tickets in the Netherlands.
I’ve divided this post on how to save money on the Dutch trains into two sections: tips for tourists to save money on the Dutch trains and one more suited to residents of the Netherlands who are looking to save on the Dutch trains.
For the latter, a bit of this will be in Dutch, so you can click for my article on how to use Google Translate with some useful hacks.
Why bother trying to find a cheap train ticket?
If you’re visiting the Netherlands, you might be interested in visiting some of the other cities in the Netherlands. Depending on how far you’re going, you will end up paying a certain amount.
Generally, if you go an 30-60 minutes on the train, you should expect to pay around 10 euros (give or take) per way. The maximum one way journey within the Netherlands is 25 euros for reference.
If you’re planning on visiting Maastricht or a few cities that are much further than the ring of Holland (e.g. Maastricht, Groningen, Leeuwarden, Den Bosch), expect to pay more than 20 euros round-trip for the train. However, there’s a hack for getting cheap Dutch train tickets for when the cost is more than twenty euros if you’re willing to put a bit of effort in…
Almost every single month, the Dutch train system sells an unlimited day ticket for travel within the Netherlands, sometimes restricted by line, called a dagkaart with retailers around the Netherlands. Sometimes, they sell these passes online online, however at least once a month, they sell the Dagkaart in stores—and they sell out fast. (This is also for residents!)
Generally, you will find it at Kruidvat, Albert Heijn, Etos, Jumbo, and Blokker. However, the NS rotates who stocks this money-saving pass for the Dutch trains, so you need to check to see who sells them at the store on treinreiziger.nl OR goedkooptreinkaartje.com. Usually if you’re walking around various Dutch cities, you’ll see a sign with a train that looks like what you see below advertised outside of the shop.
If you buy it in the store, I strongly recommend that you ask the clerk (who will probably speak good English) about the terms of yours as some dagkaart passes only work on NS, Arriva, or specific trains. They are only valid during a certain period. Most of these passes only work after 9:30am on weekdays although you can use it all day (and night) on weekends. Basically, find out the conditions of your pass as they vary a bit.
If you see a good deal online, you may have issues if you do not live in the Netherlands as most websites are not optimized for non-Dutch or non-Belgian addresses or refuse to sell it to non-Dutch bank account holders. If you have good Dutch friends, they should be able to help you with this by purchasing you one prior to your visit as I often do with my visiting family and friends.
When using a dagkaart, you just need to tap it as you enter the gates and it’s valid the whole day after you check in. I usually wait until after 9:00 to hop onto the train and then wait until 6:30 to head back if I take a day trip.
Most people don’t realize that you can bring your bike on the train during non-peak hours for only six euros for the day. Occasionally, I’ll bring my bike on the train, even if it costs six euros, with the intention of cycling back from my destination. Even if you’re renting a bike in Amsterdam, you can do this to take a day trip from Amsterdam and cycle back from where you go.
If you’re visiting a part of the Netherlands where you’d need to take a bus, a bike might save you a lot of money by enabling you to get around independently. I’d definitely recommend it if you visit Texel. You must purchase a bike supplement using the ticket machine.
I should note here that it’s usually cheaper to rent a OV Fiets (for Dutch residents only) if you have the subscription for it.
[learn_more caption=”More tips on traveling around the Netherlands” state=”open”]
- Best day trips from Amsterdam
- Biking in Amsterdam
- Dutch food to try
- Three days in Amsterdam: Insider’s guide
- Things to know before traveling in the Netherlands
[box type=”warning”] If you’re only visiting the Netherlands, stop reading as you cannot take advantage of the offers below without having a Dutch friend or being a resident of the Netherlands![/box]
How to buy cheap Dutch train tickets as a resident
Discount train tickets in the Netherlands online
I love finding a good deal. (Maybe this is why I love living in the Netherlands…) Anyways, many of the Dutch coupon websites host discounted day passes and/or routes in collaboration with NS, Arriva, or a destination.
Treinkaartjes from Actievandedag
Recently, I bought a discount pass for a friend of mine who was visiting me. He was traveling from the Hague to Groningen with a stop over in Gouda. He was considering buying the ticket from The Hague to Gouda—then Gouda to Groningen. I searched on Google for “goedkope treinkaartje” (cheap train ticket) in Dutch. I end up checking the monthly specials for NS only to see a deal for him where he would only pay 16 euros for this lengthly one day journey.
I ended purchasing it using ActievanDeDag.nl, one of my favorite discount websites for the Netherlands after checking the terms and conditions (Dutch only). Then, this website sent me my code to be redeemed. Then, I had to go to the NS website to register the code to register the ticket, enter his name/birthday, and date of travel.
For this ticket, it was only valid if printed. If this is the case, your pdf will say “Dit ticket is enkel afgedrukt geldig.” This means that the ticket is only valid if printed.
I find this whole process quite involved and difficult for non-Dutch speakers, but worthwhile if you’re motivated. I used to use Google Translate to navigate this. I consider this Level 3 money saving as you really need to know what you’re buying before you buy it and many of these discount websites aren’t very English friendly.
Combination discounts from Spoordeelwinkel
If I’m visiting a city further away, I’ll look on Spoordeelwinkel. This website is owned by NS, one of the private train companies. They offer discounts on the train along with something extra. In some cases, you get admission to an amusement park, a free orange juice/coffee, or even a boat tour.
Personalized OV Chipkaart
I strongly recommend getting a personalized OV Chipkaart if you regularly take the trains. The main benefit is that if you lose it, you can cancel it—and it’s very hard for others to use your card as it has your photo.
As this pass is linked to your bank account, you only need 10 euros on your card to take the train. I often take short journeys that cost less than 10 euros, so it’s a huge cost to need to add an extra 10 euros just not to pay the extra 1 euro supplement per ticket.
It only costs one cent to add the OV Fiets subscription to your subscription, which gives you access to the discounted bikes that you can rent from most train stations in the Netherlands for as little as 3-4 euros per day.
I have the dal voordeel pass from NS. This NS subscription can be purchased once a year for 50 euros. (You can sometimes find it on special for 30 euros like I did.) It enables you to save 40% on off-peak trains by using your personalized OV Chipkaart to check-in.
Specifically, this is between between 9:00 and 16:00 and after 18:30 on weekdays. It’s all day on weekends and holidays. There’s also some kind of perk called “Keuzedagen” for those over 60, which gives you free travel 7x per year.
Better yet, you can share your discount with up to 3 other people, even if they have an anonymous OV Chipkaart. They’ll need to go to the machine, hold their OVchipkaart over the card slot, then add the supplement “Samenreiskorting,” then okay. They’ll only need ten euros to take the train in this case. This gives your friends/family 40% off their journey.
Between me and my husband, I made my money back on this steal of a pass within two months! (This is only for Dutch residents with Dutch bank accounts.)
Through the NS website, you can purchase a supplement for your kids between 4-11 where they travel for free. (Each one needs their own OV chipkaart.) You just need to purchase this supplement in advance.
If you’re a Dutch student, you are entitled to some discounts. If you’re a current student, you might be able to travel on public transit for free or with a discount elsewhere in the Netherlands. Ask your university or look on NS.
Within three months of graduating, you receive the Dal Voordeel pass (40% off non-peak hours) for free for one year. Alternatively, you can get 50 euros off another seasonal pass.
Travelling as a student
You can choose from either a weekly season ticket or a weekend season ticket, which you can download to your personal OV-chipkaart. With a student travel product, you can travel on public transport for free or with a discount anywhere in the Netherlands, simply by checking in and out!
The NS offers a really great alternative for people who don’t travel as often around the Netherlands, but enjoy a nice city break. (I recommend Den Bosch!) This pass enables you to take the train during three different weekends during the year during each season. You can only use it over the weekends. It’s sold typically at the beginning of summer/spring, so keep an eye out for it on the NS website.
Ugh, I miss the old group tickets. If you’re traveling with a large group to the same place, see if someone can buy a group ticket for you all. Costs can be as long as low as 8 euros per person for a round-trip ticket to/from your destination although the group must be traveling together with the main ticket holder present.
My friend Lerissa had this while living in the Netherlands and I think that it’s such a good deal, especially if you love taking city trips in the Netherlands. It means that you can travel anywhere in the Netherlands for free on the weekends. It costs 33 euros per month, but I think that it’s really worthwhile if you have a significant other or family in another city OR you travel a lot over the weekends.
I recently visited Middelburg thanks to the NS Magazine, which I received because my husband receives a NS business card for his work—and I have the Dal Voordeel card. They send this magazine monthly to subscribers and often featured a destination. Always leaf through this magazine as I often see great coupons.
I recently saw a deal where you could visit Middelburg for only 8 euros round-trip. From me, this journey would cost over 40 euros and it takes 2.5 hours. I’ve wanted to visit this city in Zeeland, so I took the opportunity to visit. I also saw a coupon for the attractions.
On their website, NS is always offering specials to/from different cities, often in conjunction with events around the Netherlands (such as GLOW Eindhoven). I recommend getting on their mailing list to keep abreast of their specials as you might find a steal to visit a city that you’d want to visit.
I generally don’t book things in advance, but I’ve been recently really impressed by the NS International website, which featured a cheap ticket on the Eurostar to London or the Thalys to Paris about two months out. It’s definitely worth a look if you need a weekend away as there’s nothing like the comfort of a nice train.