Thursday, November 17, 2011

Zusatz: Crossing the frontier

Even after six years living in the Netherlands, the little things can trip me up.

This week, the big medical device show, Medica, is running in Dusseldorf.  The easiest way to get there is by train: NS to Roermond, Veolia to Venlo, then the VRR to Dusseldorf.  Simple.


The problem is that the station is two miles from the German border.   And any train ride, even a two-mile one, requires a ticket.

The solution is a Zusatz.

A Zusatz is a train ticket that covers that two mile stub: I’d never heard of it but it’s required to ride the VRR out of the Netherlands.  They can only be obtained at the point where the VRR embarks, using a separate ticket machine.  And, since the trains only run once each hour, there’s no time to learn about that process during a five minute transfer.

So, cooling my heels in the Venlo station for an hour and five minutes, there was plenty of time to understand and document the process for those who may follow my tumbling footsteps:

1) Find the special Fahrkarten ticket machines.  (Men and women seem equally confused by the process: the difference is that women cluster and consult, men frown and jab at buttons in solitary frustration).

2)  Hit the Zusatz Tickets button, then the Ausgabe… option.  They are the same price, but the top Tickets option gives you a stamped ticket good for only 90 minutes, while the lower Ausgabe choice gives an unstamped ticket that is good anytime.


3) Add a ticket: since I want to return to the Netherlands, I need two for the round trip, and I can’t buy a Zusatz in Dusseldorf.  In fact, buy several, so that this won’t happen again tomorrow during a tight connection.

4)  Pay the extortionate fare.

5)  Wait one hour for the next train.  (Bring reading material – there is little to do at 8 am in the Venlo station.)

6) Stamp the Zusatz.  Don’t do it earlier – don’t do it in Maastricht:  the ticket is only good for 90- minutes once stamped.

7)  Have the Zusatz ready when the conductor comes by to ask for it.  They actually did.

8) Remember to stamp the remaining Zusatz before leaving Dusseldorf.  Otherwise you have to hunt for a machine in stations along the route down.


PS:  Don’t forget to punch-in and punch-out during transfers from NS to Veolia.  Although both trains accept OV-Kaart, they run different accounts and you have to be checked in with the carrier you ride.

And, yes, at least I did that bit right…

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