Oliebollen in Dordrecht

Dordrecht located in the west of the Netherlands (just South of Rotterdam) was granted city rights in 1220 making it one of the oldest cities in Holland although its importance waned over the intervening centuries its beautifully preserved historic city and picturesque canals as well as it's hefty festival calendar makes this a must see city!

If you jump on an InterCity (IC) train from Amsterdam (€17.20 one way) you will get to Dordrecht in under 90 minutes. You can easily purchase tickets from www.ns.nl


Besides a nice ramble around the city centre 'binnenstad' to see one of the hundreds of monuments, at this time of year it is also nice to drop in to the Dordrechts Museum (and on a side note I do recommend the museum card if you plan to visit more than 2 museums during your holiday).


 

There are so many gems in this museum but my favourite one (perhaps due to the time of year) is a painting from the 17th Century by Dutch Painter Albert Cuyp. You probably recognise the name if you have spent anytime in the Netherlands. The painting is called 'Vrouw met schaal oliebollen'  or woman with pot of oliebollen.




This painting is from  the 1600's so eating oliebollen to usher in the new year is not only a nice and tasty tradition, but one that really makes you feel you are living in continuity with past Dutch generations!

Don't forget to check out the VVV Dordrecht website for info on what to do when in Dordrecht. 

So Happy New Year I hope you get to visit Dorcrecht or at least have some Oliebollen to usher in the New Year!


Amsterdam Travel Ticket

NS (the Dutch Railways) promote a travel card called the Amsterdam Travel Ticket.  I have recent seen it promoted at Schiphol Amsterdam Airport. 




For €16 you can get:
  • 2nd class travel from Schiphol Airport to any station in Amsterdam (see stations below)
  • travel on trams, buses, night buses, metro and GVB ferries
  • also valid on the Amsterdam Airport Express (397) and Nitliner (N97) bus
Advantages 
It is great to have a one card for everything instead of having to buy each ticket along the way. So ease of use is the main advantage. It can be busy on public transport around Amsterdam and it is nice to have one card to scan in and out (check in and out) and not worry about having to buy each ticket along the way


Disadvantage
Given that a single ticket from Schiphol to Amsterdam Central for only €4.30 (€8.60 return) unless you plan to spend more than €10 on buses/trams and ferry travel in one day it is cheaper to pay as you go! If you are coming and going to the airport in one day (as well as taking €7.40) worth of public transport it will also work out cheaper to pay as you go. 

Some ferry transport is free so, unless you plan to travel a lot by bus and tram in one day I would opt for point to point unless you don't mind paying extra for having a handy card.


There is also a €21 2 day option and a €26 3 day option available



You can read more about the card here: https://www.ns.nl/producten/en/overige-kaartjes/p/amsterdam-travel-ticket

Luggage Lockers / Bag Storage


There are a few ways to store your bags when railing the trails around The Netherlands. The first and most convenient are the luggage lockers (bagagekluizen in Dutch) at the train station. These are at all the large train stations (Utrecht, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, etc.). They are really easy to find as signs are typically in English in the bigger stations or you can follow the pictogram.

Luggage lockers are easy to use and are apparently secure. I say apparently because if anyone tries to break into them they do emit a very loud siren. How do I know this - well one day while trying to force my stuck locker open I managed to set it off - although many onlookers gave me the evil eye and it was quiet embarrassing- no security came and I had to jimmy the door open to retrieve my bag. So ‘secure’ but not 100% secure – but then again what is 100% secure really? Although the prices are not really bad, if you are on a budget it’s better to just travel light then having to depend on luggage lockers.

Luggage Lockers Prices:


Small locker:
0-24 hours= €3.85
25-72 hours= €5.55(per 24 hours)
After 72 hours=€3.85(per 24 hours)

Large locker: 
0-24 hours= €5.70
25-72 hours= €8.45(per 24 hours)
After 72 hours=€11.25 (per 24 hours)

You pay for the first 24 hours upon storage and the rest when you return. If you loose your ticket the lost ticket claim will cost an extra €10.00. It is important to remember that you can only rent a locker for 3 days. If it runs longer than this you will pay €7.60 per 24 hours but your locker can also be opened by NS. After 10 days the locker will be emptied and a fee of €70.00 will apply – the removed luggage will be sent to a Lost Property Office in Utrecht.

How do They Work

  • The first important thing to remember is that they only accept card payments (Pin, Chip, Maestro, Visa or Mastercard). You have to make the payment in advance and the payment is for the 24-hour rental period.   
  • Choose a locker and put in all your bags. There are typically small (90cm deep, 45cm high and 40cm wide) and large (90cm deep, 60cm high and 40cm wide.) options. Close the door and go to the ticket vending machine terminal beside the lockers. 
  • On the screen you will see your locker number and they will await payment. 
  • Once payment is made the locker will lock and you will receive a card with a bar code printed on it. Be sure you have a card with a bar code- if the payment is not accepted you will get a card with no bar code this is just a receipt of a non-payment transaction. The locker door will reopen if this happens so be sure to double check your card and don’t walk away until you are sure the locker has locked!
  • When you return you simply need to scan the bar code on the bar code reader and your locker will automatically open. 
Top Tip: Take your time and choose the correct luggage to store before payment. If you wish to retrieve it after you have paid you will need to rent a full new 24 hour and pay again
The main rail company in Holland NS have made a video showing how this works- you can find it here. It is in Dutch but it’s pretty self-explanatory. 



Other Options

Schiphol Airport: Luggage storage lockers are no longer available. They were removed in Jan 2018. There is a left luggage office called a baggage depot. This is located  in the basement between Arrivals 1 and Arrivals 2.  Prices start at €6 and all the details of price, size and storage times can be found on this page of the airport information.
Eindhoven Airport: Luggage storage lockers are no longer available at Eindhoven Airport. They were removed December 2017If you arrive at a smaller station that does not have luggage locker wall then  you can still store your luggage in a depot typically located near or in the bike shop/bike rental point. The fees are generally €5/day. These have been replaced by the luggage locker walls so it is not always possible- but at smaller stations worth asking!
 
Typically hotels/hostels will have no problem storing your luggage for you if you have stayed there for the night- you can even try asking/calling an hotel you are not staying in and offering to pay – again worth a try and has worked for me in the past.
 
When traveling in the UK I used to take my bag to the nearest free museum/gallery and store my bags there as if I was a visitor- this really only works if you are just looking for a place for a few hours and perhaps a coffee or donation in return would be a nice gesture.
 
There are offices near Amsterdam central station called 'Drop & Go'. They offer storage and you can even use their outlets to charge your devices print a boarding pass weigh your bags or pick up keys- awesome idea! 

If anyone else thinks of storage options drop me a line railthetrails@gmail.com and I will add it in

Travelling by train with a bike or dog - how to get your train ticket

Traveling with a pet
When traveling with your pet you do need to purchase an extra ticket. The prices are typically €3.00 (that is €3.50 if you book with a credit card) you can purchase this ticket from the ticket machines -as you can see from the images or from the ticket office. You need a ticket per dog/pet

ticket for dog on train

cycling in Holland
Traveling with a Bike
On some trains there is a special compartment for bikes. So be sure to board the train on the carriage where you see the bike symbol. If you have a folding bike you do NOT need a ticket- however you HAVE to fold the bike. Beware you will be fined if you do not fold your bike! The bike ticket costs €6.00 (€6.50 credit card fee). This ticket price may seem step but it is valid all day. You can also consider renting a bike during your travels. Many stations have OV bike rental stations attached to them making it easy to rent a bike upon arrival at your destination.

Be aware that there are some conditions associated with traveling with your bike. You can only take your bike outside of peak travel hours. Peak hours (or what they call in Holland de spits) 06.30 to 09.00 and 16.30 to 18.00 on weekdays. But you can bring the bike on the train anytime during the weekends/public holidays or during the summer (July-August).

If you are traveling on an international train (Eurostar; TGV; City Night Line; Thalys or the international ICE trains) the conditions and prices are different. You can see a full overview of these conditions per train listed here: https://www.nsinternational.nl/en/before-you-go/taking-your-bicycle-with-you.

Buy a Ticket at the Station Ticket and Service Desk


Once upon a time it was easy to purchase a little yellow ticket at the service desk.  You just went to a ticket counter told them your hearts travel desires and for a small booking fee the staff provided you with a little yellow ticket and this was used to travel anytime that on your desired route. Ahh the good old days...........well actually, even with the modernisation of the stations in the Netherlands over the last few years you will be happy to hear that this has not changed too much. You can still buy regular point to point tickets at the train station service desk.  Just find the NS Tickets & Service desks (this is usually the counter with the large queue in front of it! If you are at a small station then look for the 7/11 style store called the 'Kiosk' with Tickets & Service sign and you can get information and your ticket.  
 
 These days the tickets are printed as single use OV ChipKaarts or Chipcards. Openbaar Vervoer (OV) is the Dutch for public transport. This allows you to check in and out at the barrier gates or at the free standing chip check in card readers when entering or leaving a station. You can’t pre-buy these disposable cards. They must be bought on the day that you travel. Just tell the member of staff where you want to go and they will print the Chipcard. The date (as well as the route) will be printed on the card. To validate this ticket you need to ‘check in’ entering the station and when you arrive at your destination you ‘check out’ when you leave (inchecken en uitchecken). This is not really rocket science but I do get asked a lot how this works so I have created a separate post about this. You can find it here.

Fees for Buying your Ticket at the Service Desk : The disposable chipcards have a €1 supplement when purchasing them at the ticket desk and when buying them from the ticket machines (all hail modern technology!). Remember that there are two types of ticket machines in the stations and the OV - Chipcard can only be purchased from the NS ticket machine with the blue sign and white NS logo across the top. You can read more about these machines and how to use them here.   

The staff at the ticket desk can also sell you a ticket or seat reservation for International trains to Belgium, Luxembourg and German but for this service they will charge you a service fee of €3.50 per booking per person (to a max €10.50 per booking). This applies to tickets that do not require seat reservations. If you want a ticket and a seat reservation the service free is a whooping €7.50 per booking per person (to a maximum of €22.50 per booking). These fees exclude credit card fees. Such high international fee booking costs are supposed to drive you to online payment methods but really they probably drive people to the Ryanair website! 


The Service Desk only Accepts the Following Payment Methods:
  • Cash
  • Dutch bank card
  • Credit card is ONLY accepted at the major stations (Amsterdam Centraal, Schiphol, Amsterdam Duivendrecht, Amsterdam Bijlmer Arena, Amsterdam Sloterdijk, Amsterdam Zuid, Rotterdam, Den Haag, Utrecht, Eindhoven, Arnhem, Maastricht, Groningen, Hengelo, Roosendaal) and at that ONLY VISA or MasterCard are accepted. A credit card transaction fee of €0.50 is applied.


Opening Times of Ticket and Service Desk: If you are depending on making a ticket purchase at the ticket desk then be sure to double check they are still open when you arrive. You can find their opening hours of the major stations ticket desks here smaller stations are generally open during work.

Personal OV - Chipcard

As a resident of The Netherlands you can apply for a personal OV - Chipcard. This is only applicable if you are living in the Netherlands and have a Dutch bank account and address. In order to get one of these cards you need to fill out an application form. If you are not computer savvy then I guess you will not be reading this - but in any case you can go to the station desk and ask for the application form. Once you have filled it in (and you have a photograph) they can help fill in the online details for you. For this pleasure they will charge you an extra €3 as well as the cost of the personal card €7.50. 

Remember that the personal OV-Chipcard these cards can ONLY be used by the person listed on the card (name and picture and DOB are on the card). If you lose your card and report it within 24 hours you can apply for a refund for the credit on your card. You can sync your personal chip card it to your back account so you never have to worry about running low on funds when at the train station you can simply check in and Rail the Trails. The main advantages of these cards are that you can purchase an ‘abonnment’ or subscription.   This may not apply to you internationals unless you are expats but here is the NS infographic showing the deals. I will explain in English underneath: 

OC ChipCard Schemes



  • Off Peak Discount (Dal Voordeel): Cost: €50 per year. With this subscription you can get a 40% discount on your travels anytime expect during peak hours 06:30-09:00 and 16:00-18:30 during weekdays. The card holder still gets the discount anytime during weekends.  
  • Discount at Anytime (Altijd Voordeel): Cost: €25 for a 1 month subscription; €240 for an annual subscription. This gives a 20% discount off travel during peak hours (06:30-09:00 and 16:00-18:30) and a 40% discount at all other times.
  • Free Weekend Travel (Weekend Vrij): Cost: €40 per month 2nd class and €65 per month 1st class. This subscription gives you free weekend (Friday 18:30 to Monday 04:00). During the off peak weekday travel you can get a 40% discount but there is no discount during the weekday peak hours 
  •  Off-peak free travel (Dal Vrij): Cost: €99 per month 2nd class /€172 per month 1st class. This deal allows free during off- peak hours.
  • Free Travel (Altijd Vrij): Cost: €382 per month (2nd class) or €649 (1st class). An annual subscription costs €309 per month (2nd class) or €519 per month (1st class). This allows totally unrestricted free travel for the holder.
  • Kids Free (Kids Vrij): Cost: €15 per year when travelling with an adult. All the cards I mention above are allowed to up to 3 Kids free subscriptions which allow children aged 4-11 to travel free with the card holder at anytime. 
Remember these personal cards and subscriptions are for Dutch residents only. Besides these 6 main subscriptions there are other offers such as senior and student discounts. The subscriptions can be bought online (if you use iDeal) by phone (via NS at 0900 202 1163) or at the ticket desk. If you already have a personal OV-chip card you can add some of the subscriptions mentioned above at the ticket machine. 

Please feel free to add any other discounts you think should be mentioned on this page and I will update it regularly.  

What is the OV- Chipcard and Should I Buy One?


OV Chipcard
If you are not a resident of the Netherlands and you are planning on travelling a lot by train then a good option is the anonymous OV-Chipcard. This card costs €7.50 and has no personal details on it (no name or photo for example) so it can be used by anyone! This card needs to be toped up before it can be used. 

Where can I buy the anonymous Ov-Chipcard?

  • At the train station ‘Tickets & Service’ counters or other public transport ticket desks
  • At the NS ticket machines (with the blue sign and white NS logo across the top)
  • Supermarkets (e.g. Albert Heijn) and tobacco shops or stationary shops such as the Bruna. You can check this website to find OV-Chipcard service points throughout the Netherlands. At these points you can purchase the OV-chipcard and also load credit onto a card: https://www.ov-Chipcard.nl/klantenservice/adresvinder.
How Do I Use My Anonymous card- IS IT WORTH IT?
The card may look like a great option but remember that this card costs €7.50 so it is only good value if you plan to travel more than 7 or 8 times by train. Remember the supplemental fee for an individual ticket at the vending machine or ticket office is €1. So the card saves you money on these supplemental individual ticket costs only if you plan to travel more than 8 times when you are in the Netherlands or if you plan to avail of ‘samenkorting’. 

1 Activating the OV - Chipcard
The anonymous OV- Chipcard only needs to be activated if you have purchased it from a source OTHER than the NS ticket desk/ticket machine (i.e another public transport operator). You can do that this at the NS ticket machine at the station. So for most tourists arriving in Amsterdam or Eindhoven airport you do not need to activate your OV - Chipcard as you will buy it from the regular NS train station. Just add credit to the card and start using it!

2. Topping up the Card
You can top up your OV- Chipcard with credit using the NS ticket machine. I have a separate blog post about how to use these machines. You can pay at an NS ticket machine with a foreign bank card that has the Maestro logo, a V PAY card or a Dutch bank card. You can pay with coins at some ticket machines but not all. Remember credit cards are usually not accepted (although this is slowly changing) and some credit cards (VISA or MasterCard) can be accepted for an extra fee at some ticket desks (not all!).

3. Fees for using the card
It is free to top up your card. When you travel with the OV-chipcard you are charge a ‘boarding fee’ The minimum boarding fee for travelling with an the anonymous OV-Chipcard is €20 when travelling in NS trains or €10 on Syntus trains and €4 when travelling by tram/metro or bus. This means when you chip in at the main station you are charged €20, and when you check in at the bus or tram station you will be charged €4. If you don’t have this minimum credit in your card you cannot check in. Of course the price of the train journey will not be €20! The price of travel in NS is based per kilometre (roughly 0.84c per kilometre although this varies throughout the country). The money taken from your OV-chipcardd is just a ‘boarding fee’. Once you check out at the end of your journey your train fee will be calculated based on the distance you have travelled and the cost will be debuted leaving the balance in your account. Of course this means that you always need to have a €20 balance on your card to use it! For tourist travel this makes it not such a good deal as you when you finish your journey you will have to go about getting that refund for any cash left over

4. Refunds for credit on the anonymous OV-chipcard
In my opinion this card is a lot of hassle for tourists. First of all you have to buy the card for €7.50 then you have to make sure it is always topped up to a minimum of €20. This means the initial cost is 27.50 before you even board a train! You have to remember all the time to top up your card to a minimum of €20 before you use it. Of course you can top up your card up to a maximum of €150 in one go but I don’t advice this. If you lose your chipcard you have no way of getting a refund. Once you finish your journey there may be credit left on your card and in order to get this back you need to go to the ticket counter to reclaim your balance. They will only refund up to €30 and they charge a €2.50 handling fees.

5. What happens if your card stops working?
This does happen from time to time! It happened to me once and I went to the NS ticket desk. They are not very helpful and told me I had to go online to apply for a replacement or fill out a form to apply for a refund for the amount on the defective card. You can find the eform here: https://www.ov-Chipcard.nl/klantenservice/zelfregelen/kaartisdefect/. There may be a cost involved in getting a replacement card in the case of loss, theft, change of personal details or a technical defect.