When you travel by train in the Netherlands, you must buy a ticket before boarding a train. You can’t buy tickets on the train, and you may expect a € 50 fine if you do so.
Luckily, there are various options to buy a train ticket in advance.
The price of your ticket depends on the distance of your journey, and the travel class (first class or second class). Tickets for first class are more expensive, but you travel in more comfort compared to second class.
You can easily find out what the ticket price for your trip is on our page on ticket prices. Reservations are not needed (nor possible) for domestic journeys, and unless you have a discount pass, you do not have to pay more to travel during peak times.
When you travel back on the same day, it's easier to buy a return ticket (as opposed to two single tickets). However, there is no price difference between two single tickets and a return ticket.
All stations in the Netherlands are equipped with ticket vending machines. Those machines are bright yellow and have a sign ‘Tickets’ on top of them. You can buy single tickets and return tickets to every train station in the Netherlands. Indicate that you do not have an ‘ov-chipkaart’ (see below) and follow the instructions on the touch screen to buy a train ticket. When asked, choose second class for economy comfort, or first class for premium comfort. Do not choose a discount option unless you possess a discount card.
When using a ticket machine, you can set it to English language by pressing the flag icon in the bottom left corner. The machines also offer German and French as language.
You may pay for your ticket:
Banknotes cannot be used to pay for tickets at ticket machines. When paying by credit card, a surcharge of € 0,50 is added to the ticket price.
Large stations have ticket offices where you can buy train tickets. The staff is also able to help you with providing you with travel information. You can pay by cash (coins and banknotes), Maestro, and usually also by credit card. You’ll get a disposable chipcard ticket, the same as you would get from the ticket machine.
When you buy a ticket at a ticket machine or at the ticket office, you’ll get a disposable chipcard ticket. You must ‘check in’ and ‘check out’ at train stations with turnstiles. Do not dispose of your ticket unless you have exited the station.
The disposable chipcard tickets cannot be re-used and you pay a € 0,50 surcharge.
You can also buy your train tickets online. For domestic journeys, you can buy them on the NS E-ticket shop. Tickets for international journeys (including Belgium and Germany) can be bought on the website of NS International.
You can pay for domestic train tickets with your credit card (MasterCard, VISA or American Express) or with iDeal (only for holders of a Dutch bank account). The process is quite easy: select your departure and arrival station, the date of travel, enter your name and birth date, and pay for the ticket.
The ticket will be sent as a PDF to your e-mail address. You must either print this ticket and show it to the ticket inspector, or you must download it in the NS app. It is officially not allowed to show the PDF on your phone or laptop. Most ticket inspectors won't make a problem about this, but it might be safe to print it just in case. You may be fined if you do not have a printed copy.
The PDF ticket contains a QR code. You can use this code to open the ticket gates: look for a gate with a barcode scanner, and scan your barcode to open the gate. It is not necessary to scan your ticket when your station does not have ticket gates, or when all the gates are open. In case the gate does not open after scanning your ticket, go to a station employee, or use the information/emergency phone next to the ticket gates.
You can also travel with an OV-chipkaart (which literally translates to public transport chipcard). This is mainly useful when you stay in the Netherlands for a period longer than a few weeks. You can buy chipcards on many places or order them online at ov-chipkaart.nl. The card costs € 7,50 and is valid for 5 years. An OV-chipkaart is not only valid on trains, but also all buses, trams and metro lines in the Netherlands.
You must top up the balance on your chipcard. When you travel, you check in with your chipcard, and when leaving the station, you check out. The system then automatically calculates the correct fare for your journey. When checking out, the display shows the price that will be deducted from your balance.
There are two types of chipcards: personal cards and anonymous cards. Personal cards are required when you have a railway pass (e.g., a discount card) and they can only be used by the card holder. Anonymous cards may be used by more than one person, but not at the same time (so you may lend your card to someone else, but you can’t travel with two persons on one card).
An OV-chipkaart is mainly useful when you are going to make a lot of journeys or when you have a railway pass. You can use your chipcard also to travel with other forms of transport (buses, trams and subways).
Travelling to the Netherlands by train from Belgium, France, Germany or the United Kingdom? See our page about international trains to the Netherlands, including information about purchasing tickets.