Monday, April 12, 2010


OV 1 I may not be able to pronounce it, but this has been one of the best discounts going for the past year.

The Voordeelurenabonnement is the NS “Off-peak discount pass”: it’s good for 40% off the price of all Dutch rail travel during off-peak periods.  It costs 55 euro and is good for a year; apply at the NS desk at the train station, bringing a passport photo and cash.  In about three weeks, the permanent pass arrives and you’re good to go.

It took me a few tries to understand that “off-peak” is not the same as “not during rush hours”.  In the US there would be morning and afternoon restrictions: in the Netherlands you simply can’t use it before 9 am (except weekends and in July and August, when the discount is good all day).  I shaved it too close on one trip up to Endhoven and the conductor asked me to leave the train at Weert, 15 minutes shy of the stop, to purchase a new ticket (he relented as I stood, sniffling, at the door).

40% off really adds up over the course of the year, and the discount can be applied to two friends traveling with you.  For an extra 15 euro, the card can be extended to RailPlus, securing a 25% discount on rail trips throughout Europe.  However, as I found when I showed it baffled UK and Belgian ticket agents, it’s only good for trains originating and terminating in the Netherlands, and not the Thayles or Eurostar.  A pity.

OV 2 When the Voordeelurenabonnement arrives, it is embedded in a personal OV-chipcard, the paperless ticketing system coming online throughout the Netherlands.  Similar to an Oyster card in the UK, it’s a swipe-and-go pass for paying for public transportation, whether by tram, metro, train, or bus.  Load money onto the card, then wave it over the kiosk at the journey’s start, and again at the destination.  The sensor lights up as the card is read successfully, and the fare is deducted from the card balance with the discount applied.

The card has to be registered online (not at the station) before starting to use it.  First go to Mijn NS to register the card, then to Mijn OV to connect it to a bank card.  Finally, once it’s set up, you need to back through the OV site to approve the privacy policies before it starts logging your travel.  The registration sites are entirely in Dutch; I enlisted my bookkeeper to walk through it with me.  The information is useful if you want to print transaction histories for reimbursement and recharge the card online.

Overall, the Voordeelurenabonnement is a great deal and getting an OV is a nice side benefit.


Amanda said...

Ah, you totally beat me to this article. I picked up one of these cards a couple of weeks ago and am already pleased with it. I signed up in person at the train station and they required a Dutch bank account at that time.

Dave Hampton said...

Whoops, sorry -- It was on my mind because I was over at the station yesterday morning to get a lesson. The ticket agent was nice enough to walk me through the whole process of filling and using the OV card so I wanted to pass it along before I forgot.

I hope you're getting out to enjoy the warmer weather this week?

Invader_Stu said...

I used to have one of these cards for a year and I was so happy with it. I saved a lot of money travelling between Amsterdam and Rotterdam to see my girlfriend.

But now I have something even better. Now that I am living with my girlfriend and work pays for my travel and the cost of my travel is the same as the cost for travelling any where in Holland work basically pays for me to go where ever I want :)

Ladybird... and butterfly said...

Try not to break it though..... 6 weeks later and you have a duplicate of your card...but in the meantime you don't have 40% discount :(
So be careful with it!!!!

Textual Healer said...

THese are wonderful inventions - and made even better because the NL has a flat rate fare system (peak and standrd) rather than the huge differentials that you face in train fares when you try to buy a ticket in the UK.

In some cities (Rotterdam for sure and possibly Amsterdam) you need a public transport chip card to use the trams, metro and buses. Regretably they have phased out use of the (otherwise nationwide) strippenkart.

A good blog on one of the small joys of the Netherlands.