From 9 July 2014 everybody who travels on public transport needs an OV-chipkaart as paper tickets will no longer be available. "OV" stands for Openbaar Vervoer which simply means "public transport" in Dutch. For people not travelling regularly on public transport a single-use OV-chip card will be available from ticket machines or ticket desks, or from the bus/tram driver.
Single-use OV-chip card
These are disposable OV-chip cards (eenmalige chipkaart) and can be bought at any Dutch NS train station.
Most visitors to the Netherlands and infrequent resident travellers can make do using these single-use tickets. They carry a €1 surcharge in addition to the standard fare. They are made from card, are printed with the date and route and can only be purchased on-the-day of travel. To validate the ticket passengers must check-in and check-out of their journey using the card readers near the platforms or at the gate barriers. The card is disposed after use - it cannot be used again.
Personal or anonymous OV-chip cards
Visitors can buy an 'empty' anonymous OV-chip card for €7.50 (non-refundable, made from plastic and lasts 4-5 years) and then load it with credit up to a maximum of €150. Cards purchased at NS stations are automatically activated for train travel. Cards bought elsewhere (e.g. other transport providers, newsagents, supermarkets) need to be activated for 'pre-paid travel with NS' (reizen op saldo) at a train station machine or desk.
For rail travel with NS the card must be loaded with at least €20 credit. For other public transport a minimum credit of €4 is needed.
To check-in hold the card once against a NS card reader. On successful check-in a green light flashes accompanied by a single beeping sound. The card reader displays "Goede reis" ("Have a good trip"). A check-in error will sound 3 beeps.
At check-in €20 is taken off the balance as an initial boarding deposit. You can then board your train - it is possible to check-in up to 30 minutes before the scheduled departure. On arrival at your destination station you must check-out - if successful the reader beeps twice and shows the fare and remaining e-purse balance. The €20 deposit is refunded back onto the card with the correct fare deducted.
Note, if you fail to check-out you will lose the €20 deposit.
Using an anonymous card avoids the €1 surcharge for single-use tickets. It is valid on all forms of public transport in the Netherlands and means you do not have to buy a separate ticket for each trip.
The personal OV-chip card is offered to residents and includes the holder's name, photo and date of birth. It works the same way as the anonymous card but includes other features such as card replacement if lost and automatic top-ups using direct debit. NS discount cards and season ticket cards can also be used as personal OV-chip cards.
These are available online at the ns.nl website - however payment is only possible via "iDeal", which requires a Dutch bank account. E-tickets can be purchased up to 1 month in advance for a particular travel day and printed out in A4 format. Note, e-tickets are personal and include the traveller's name and date of birth. The holder must have accompanying identification when travelling on the ticket.
Please visit the website of the OV-chipcard for further information on the OV-chip card and prices.
Please visit AmsterdamTips.com for a great overview of train ticket types, fares and how the OV-chip card works.
Please visit the website of NS (Nederlandse Spoorwegen) for buying e-tickets, planning your journey and fares.
Please visit the website of 9292.nl for public transport information from all transport companies in a user-friendly way. Here you can plan your complete journey from A to B whether you are using bus, tram, metro or train, or all of the above.
Please visit the website of HTM for information about travelling with buses and trams in the Haaglanden region (The Hague, Delft, Rijswijk, Voorburg, Leidschendam, Nootdorp, Wateringen and Zoetemeer).
Please also see this very informative newsletter from International Community Platform (ICP): Special edition - Public transport.