When visiting the Netherlands as a visitor, I realized how confusing the public transport payment system could be if we did not live in the country. The first thing to know, all public transport in the Netherlands is integrated into a single payment system called as the OV-chipkaart. It is a card with a chip that you can use on the train, buses, subway and tram. I was told that using the OV-Chipkaart was more efficient and cheaper. Following is an instruction how to buy OV-Chipkaart for the first time as a traveler/tourist. Thankfully, the machine usually has two languages – Dutch and English, some machines have more languages like the ones in Schiphol airport for instance.
First: Look for this type of machine to buy your first OV-Chipkaart. Usually, they are available at the train stations and Schiphol Airport. (Image from NS website – Ticket Machine Types).
Second: Select the language, then usually the next message will appear like the following image. Choose “Buy an OV-chipkaart.”
Third: On the next screen there are several options. “Buy an OV-chipkaart” option means you get the card only and you can decide on the amount of money (credit) to be included in the card. “OV-chipkaart with Rail Runner” means an OV-chipkaart with a train ticket for children (age 4 to 11) – children’s ticket usually called in Dutch as ‘Railrunner Kaartje’, it costs less than 3 Euro and last for one day. “OV-chipkaart with One Day Unlimited Travel” means an OV-chipkaart with unlimited travel using as many as public transports that you wish just for a day (btw, it is not cheap!). The last option, “OV-chipkaart with Joint Journey Discount” means an OV-chipkaart with any discount travel card. If you have a special discount card that related to OV-chipkaart, then you have to choose this option.
Since I was traveling alone, without kids, no intentions to travel around the Netherlands, and certainly having no discount card, then I chose the option “Buy an OV-chipkaart.”
Fourth: The next option is to fill in the credit into your card. The minimum credit when traveling by train is 20 Euro. If not traveling by train then, you can choose any amount.
Fifth: The next screen will show the total amount of the OV-chipkaart and credits that you have to pay. The OV-chipkaart alone is 7.50 Euro.
Sixth: Enter your payment card into the slot area and click OK once it has successfully read your payment card.
Seventh: Congrats on your first OV-chipkaart! All you have to do just put the card into the following pink sign when in and out the public transport. After you check out from the train or buses or tram, usually there will be an information of how much credit left on your card.
- You can add more credit to your card at the similar machines at train stations or available refill machines around the city. The refill machines usually available at tram or bus stops or Dutch bookstores such as Bruna.
- After traveling in the Netherlands, you can return the OV-chipkaart and get a refund for the card and the rest of the credit. Please visit the following website for more information: Refund of OV-chipkaart credits.
- I suggest buying the OV-chipkaart only if you were traveling more than one city in the Netherlands.
- If you were going to visit Amsterdam, do consider the I Amsterdam Card. The I Amsterdam Card covers free public transport around Amsterdam, free entrance to museums and the canal cruise. I will explain more about this card in the future blog post.