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The Netherlands has excellent public transport links, but the newly installed swipe-card payment system has come under much scrutiny and is costing the Dutch government considerably more than anticipated.
Smart-card system, the OV-chipkaart, is now in use throughout the Netherlands as the official transport payment system for the metro, bus and tram.
There are two types of cards: anonymous, which you can buy from the OV-chipkaart machines, or personal, which you need to apply for online or via the post and submit a photo. Your pass can be loaded from one of the OV-chipkaart machines strategically placed at train and metro stations. You can arrange for your personal card to ‘load' automatically from a bank account. You pay for the distance travelled through swiping it upon entering and leaving your transport station. Personal products, such as season or discount tickets can be loaded to your personal OV-chipkaart and you are automatically eligible for discounts. You can now travel on the NS with your OV-chipkaart. Make sure you have minimum EUR 40 uploaded to an anonymous card and that you swipe out on arrival or your travel costs could triple!
The OV-chipkaart website (www.ov-chipkaart.nl) also has an English language section (the helpline #: 0900 0980, EUR 0.10 p/m)
This link from the GVB gives a useful overview in English of OV-chipkaart products and discounts (Korting).
Forgot to check out?
If you forget to check out or bought the wrong pass using one of the yellow machines (found in the main stations, newsagents and AH supermarkets), then you might consider using the metal pillar you see in stations with a button to press to get service via the loudspeaker --you can even place your card on the square in front and have them change the product details (or call 0900 8011 @ the local rate). This number is for transport on buses and metros (run by the GVB).
The Nederlandse Spoorwegen (www.ns.nl) is the national train company. NS offers season tickets and discounts for off-peak travel (Voordeelurenabonnement) including a kortingskaart (‘discount card') which takes 40 percent off the price of tickets, not only for you but for up to three other people travelling with you. This only costs EUR 55 a year, and it has an OV-chipkaart built in. To find out the best deal for you, visit an NS counter and tak to any representative. Tickets are checked regularly and fines are about a minimum of EUR 40. You save 50 eurocents through purchasing your train ticket via the ticket machines (also in English) rather than at the counter.
For smaller cities, you can organise a treintaxi when you buy your train ticket. This is a shared door-to-door taxi service at a fixed price (EUR 4.30).
Forgot to check out on NS service?
Should you forget to check out, you will automatically be charged the maximum train fare within the Netherlands. To have your money refunded, call 0900-202 1163 (EUR 0.10 p/m), and have your personal OV-chipkaart number ready along with your travel dates and times. They can then check the information on their system.
Special needs on the train
You should, if required, call and pre-book assistance (number below), at least three hours in advance of your journey from the Bureau Assistentieverlening Gehandicapten (Help for the Disabled). Most wheelchairs can travel on the trains, although width and weight restrictions apply, and those that use a fuel-based motor are not allowed on the train. If you travel regularly with a carer, you can apply for a special travel pass, or OV-Begeleiderskaart from Dutch Rail NS (see below) that allows free travel for your carer. Seeing-eye or hearing dogs also travel free on all forms of public transport. No transaction costs will be applied for those with a disability purchasing tickets from the ticket office instead of ticket machines.
Other special services in most stations include: guidelines for the visually impaired and removable bridges for wheelchairs. For the hearing impaired there are special sockets for hearing aids at most ticket counters – although you will have to purchase the cable.
Other Special Needs Transport
In many towns Collectief Vraagafhankelijk Vervoer, or collective transport on demand, can be arranged. Call the general transport number (below) to inquire if your town offers this service. Also, if you are crossing more than 5 transport zones, there is a special transport service called Valys (see below).
For assistance at Schiphol there is a free service from the International Help to the Disabled: 020 316 1417.
Taxis are expensive and not allowed to pick up people on the street except by reservation or at a taxi stand, look for the 'standplaats taxis' sign. In the larger cities, at bar closing times, you can sometimes flag one down. Look for one with the taxi sign lit.
As in other major service industries in the Netherlands, the taxi market has been decentralised, although there are still main taxi bureaux (Taxi Centraale). 'Official' taxis have a blue number plate. For independent companies, check your local a-z listings under 'Taxibedrijf'. There is also a special service to and from Schiphol airport that offers fixed rates and must be booked in advance (see below). (Visitors to Amsterdam should read Taxis in Amsterdam).
From some train stations (except the large, main stations: Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam) Treintaxis operate. These are shared taxis that shuttle people back and forth to the station for a fixed fee per ride (EUR 4.30 each or six for the cost of five in the automatic ticket machines). Tickets can be purchased from the ticket counter or machine in any NS station. You will pay more if you buy tickets from the driver.
The website www.9292ov.nl provides door-to-door itineraries for national travel and now is in the English language.
National transport (local and city to city information)
0900 9292 (EUR 0.70p/m)
0900 555 9292 (EUR 0.70 pm) Text telephone
www.9292ov.nl (includes a travel planner, Dutch)
0900 0980 (EUR 0.10 p/m)
Click here for a full list of OV-chipkaart travel products (English)
Nederlandse Spoorwegen (trains)
0900 9296 (EUR 0.35 p/m).
www.ns.nl (English section)
030 235 7822 (to book assistance 07.00 – 23.00)
030 235 3033 (fax for the hearing impaired)
OV-Begeleiderskaart (Carers Travel pass, you will be asked to enter your phone number after the beep, including area code)
0900 1462 (EUR 0.10 p/m)
Railrunner: Kids of 4-11 years pay a flat rate of EUR 2.50.
0900 72 44 7465 (EUR 0.40 p/m, general information)
0900 0141 for arrivals and departures (EUR 0.40 per minute)
www.schiphol.nl (English section)
020 316 1417 International Help to the Disabled
Schiphol Travel Taxi
020 653 1000
0900 8734682 (0.35 euro p.m.).
Valys (Regional Assisted transport)
0900 9630 (local rates)
(if you do not make a menu choice, you will be automatically connected to an operator)
Main taxi numbers
Amsterdam: 020 677 7777 (read our article on taxis in Amsterdam)
The Hague: 070 383 0830
Rotterdam: 010 462 6333
Utrecht: 030 230 0400
Het Gooi: 035 691 8888
*Edited and Updated by Alissa Reinach
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