Here is a basic guide to trains, buses, trams, airports and taxis in the Netherlands, including information for those with special needs.
The Netherlands has excellent public transport links, and the swipecard payment system OV-chipkaart is the official transport payment system for the metro, bus and tram throughout the Netherlands. Paper train tickets were abolished mid-2014, and infrequent train travellers can buy a single-use chipkaart at EUR 1 extra per trip. The card system has raised residents’ concerns, particularly the need to have EUR 20 credit on the card to travel, and the extra travel cost for infrequent users.
The 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 (EUR 7.50): anonymous, which anyone can buy from the OV-chipkaart machines or station, or personal, which you can apply for online. Your pass can be loaded from one of the OV-chipkaart machines strategically placed at train and metro stations, or you can arrange for your personal card to ‘load’ automatically from a bank account.
You pay for the distance travelled by 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.
The OV-chipkaart website (www.ov-chipkaart.nl) also has an English language section where you can find lines of action should you lose your card or forget to swipe out (you will automatically be charged the maximum travel price but refunds can be requested). Helpline: 0900 0980 (EUR 0.50/min) or @OVchipkaart.
Forgot to check out on your OV-chipkaart?
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. Otherwise, you can call 0900 0980 (EUR 0.50/min), which number is for transport on buses and metros (run by the GVB).
The OV-chipkaart website (www.ov-chipkaart.nl) also has an English language section where you can find lines of action should you lose your card or forget to swipe out, or contact @OVchipkaart.
Trains in the Netherlands
The Nederlandse Spoorwegen (www.ns.nl) is the national train company. NS offers season tickets and discounts for off-peak travel (dal voordeel abonnement), which include up to 40 percent discount off the price of your tickets and up to three people travelling with you. See a NS counter or online for more information. Tickets are checked regularly and fines are heavy.
You may save 50 eurocents through purchasing your train ticket via the ticket machines (also in English) rather than at the counter.
Forgot to check out on NS service?
You need an OV-chipkaart to travel on the NS. Make sure you have a minimum EUR 20 uploaded on your card (EUR 10 if you have a discount pass), and that you swipe out on arrival or your travel costs could triple. If you forget to swipe out, you have up to six hours to go back and check out, otherwise you must claim back the added costs. Call 030 751 5155 (fees apply) for help with claims, and have your personal OV-chipkaart number ready along with your travel dates and times. They can then check the information on their system.
For certain cities, you can organise the NS Zonetaxi when you buy your train ticket. This is a door-to-door taxi service at fixed prices, for up to four people (starting at EUR 6).
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.
Trip planner: 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 0.70/min)
0900 555 9292 (EUR 0.70/min) Text telephone
www.9292ov.nl (includes a travel planner, Dutch)
OV-fietspass: www.ov-fiets.nl (Dutch)
Nederlandse Spoorwegen (trains): 0900 9296 (EUR 0.35/min), 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.
Schiphol Airport: www.schiphol.nl (English section)
0900 72 44 7465 (EUR 0.40/min, general information)
0900 0141 for arrivals and departures (EUR 0.40/min)
020 316 1417 International Help to the Disabled
Schiphol Travel Taxi: 020 653 1000
National Treintaxi: 0900 8734682 (EUR 0.35/min).
Valys (Regional Assisted transport): 0900 9630 (local rates), www.valys.nl (Dutch)
(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