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The Dutch simply love to grumble about their public transport system, especially the overcrowded trains, delays and seemingly ever increasing fares. Yet in reality they have very little to complain about – indeed, public transport in the Netherlands is highly affordable, extremely punctual and exceptionally efficient when compared to many other countries. If only the use of that infamous OV-chipkaart (public transport chip card) could be simplified, especially for tourists and other infrequent visitors to the Netherlands!
Punctual and efficient
Many Dutch mistakenly believe their buses and trains are more often late than on time. However, whilst every public transport passenger will occasionally experience a delay, the trains in the Netherlands are generally extremely punctual: in 2014 for example, an impressive 92.3% of all NS trains ran on time, whilst some 94 9% even reached their destination 5 minutes ahead of schedule (Source: NS Annual Report 2014). Public transport is also relatively efficient in the Netherlands: the network is extensive, with almost every corner of the Netherlands now accessible by either train, metro, tram / light rail, bus, or ferry, and good connections and transfer times. In fact, public transport in the Netherlands is so well organised that there’s never any need to travel by car.
The Dutch public transport chip card
Unfortunately for foreign visitors to the Netherlands, the new OV-chipkaart (public transport chip card) system is rather confusing. The purchase of the card via an automated vending machine is unduly complicated and sometimes near impossible (the device only accepts credit cards with a chip or Dutch debit cards, something that many foreigners don’t possess), and the check in and out requirement both before and after a journey is often forgotten, which can result in fines or additional charges. In Amsterdam and other major Dutch cities, such as The Hague and Rotterdam, tourists can happily purchase a handy day card that allows them unlimited travel by bus, tram or metro. In addition, visitors can buy a single-use paper chip card for the train – although this costs 1 euro extra per ticket, it avoids having to invest in an OV-chipkaart, which is obsolete after their visit.
Prefer to read this article in Dutch? Then visit our sister blog, Heimwee.info, specifically intended for Dutch emigrants.