Discounted train travel in the Netherlands – tips & tricks

By Õnne Kask

I'm a Master student in Landscape Architecture & Planning, s...

Updated on: 28 April 2021

Let’s start with a frank fact. As an international student, you cannot travel in the Netherlands for free.  Yes, Dutch students do have that privilege, but unfortunately, that doesn’t extend to us internationals. So now you must wonder if you really have to purge out all that money for a train ticket to Amsterdam or elsewhere. Travelling by train in the Netherlands certainly doesn’t seem cheap. But, if you learn your way around, you can travel with huge discounts!

Getting an OV – the Dutch public transport card

The easiest way to travel around by train, bus, tram etc, is by using the OV chipkaart. When you first arrive in the Netherlands, you can get an anonymous card OV chipkaart. You simply have to upload money on the card and travel around. But once you have a Dutch bank account, you can get a personal OV. With this one, you can sign up for all kinds of discounts.

Don’t rush into buying the personal OV immediately. As you sign up for a travel subscription (abonnement in Dutch), you will get the OV for free (otherwise it’s €7,50). Now, let’s look at the different travel discounts for the train.

OV chipkaart Wageningen University travel

My personal OV chipkaart


Choosing between different train discounts

Of course, signing up for a discount makes sense if you travel more often (Although, of course, now due to Covid-19 it is not possible). If you travel less than twice a month, check out the next section!

The NS website (the website of the Dutch train system) gives you an overview of discounts available (and you can change the website into English). Then, from the menu, choose “season tickets”. That’s where you’ll find the following options, and I’ll give you a quick overview of these options. I’m not going into all of the options, just the most relevant ones for you.

  • Dal voordeel – allows you to travel with 40% discount off-peak hours (6.30 – 9.00, 16.00 – 18.30), weekends and holidays.
  • Altijd voordeel – with this one the previous applies, but you also travel with 20% discount during peak hours.
  • Weekend vrij – travelling for free during the weekend, as much as you want, everywhere you want (but by train only).
  • NS Flex – This is a new and quite an interesting option – you can change your subscription every month. Let’s say you are eager to travel a lot during the weekends in October – then you sign up for the “weekend vrij” for that month (€31). During your internship you may have to travel more during peak hours – then you can change for the “altijd voordeel” for those months (€23). Or if you go away for the summer months, you can change it to “no discount” and pay nothing for that month (€0). If you opt for the “dal voordeel”, that’s just €4,10 a month. Instead of making sure you always have money before you travel, you will simply get a bill at the end of the month with all your travel costs.

Occasional discounts without the OV card

Now, if you don’t have to the OV, you can look for discounted return trips at the spoordeelwinkel. This one is unfortunately in Dutch, but quite easy to navigate, I’d say. What you find here, is return trips to specific cities. Usually, these come together with an entrance to a museum or a free coffee and cake at a specific café. Sometimes you are also free to choose your destination. The prices of these return trips are usually between €20 and €30. PS! If you travel further, these cards may even be cheaper than travelling with the 40% discount on the OV!

And last, but perhaps the cheapest option of all. Sometimes you’ll see the popular stores selling discounted day tickets as well. These usually allow you to travel as much as you want on a given day off-peak hours. These usually cost around €16 but may vary of course. You can find them at the Albert Heijn, Blokker, Etos, Kruidvat, etc. So keep your eyes open when passing these stores in the city centre to get the best deals.

NS day card from the Albert Heijn

My personal experience

Honestly, I’ve made use of all the options I explained above. During my master, I mainly had the “dag voordeel” for discounted trips during the weekend. But sometimes I still sought out even cheaper options via the spoordeelwinkel or from the AH and other shops.

As you see, there are many options available at different prices. I hope my tips help you to get ahead with choosing the best option for you.

Do you already have experience with travelling with a discount in the Netherlands? Do you know other tips other students can benefit from? Let us know in the comments!

By Õnne Kask

I'm a Master student in Landscape Architecture & Planning, specialising in Land-Use Planning. I come from Estonia, but have lived in the Netherlands for more than five years as I also did my Bachelor in the south of the country. Since I've been an international student on the Dutch grounds for a while, I hope to give you good insights on what it's like to study at the WUR and in the Netherlands in general.

There are 11 comments.

  1. By: Claire · 18-06-2019 at 14:04

    Really nice and useful article!! Thank you for your advice!

  2. By: Temesgen gebrengus · 16-05-2021 at 16:36

    Hey dear sir/madam
    I have been ordered already ov-chipkaart but i didn’t do subscription for a year please could i activate in online

    1. By: Luisa Fernanda · 17-05-2021 at 09:30

      Dear Temesgen,

      For that, you can check in the ov-chipkaart website or you can also check directly on the website of NS..

      Kind regards,
      Luisa Gomez

      Team International Students Advice |

  3. By: Jay · 09-06-2021 at 21:24

    Dear Luisa,

    Really nice and relevant content.

    However, can you clarify how to sign up to get a free OV chip card?

    1. By: Luisa Fernanda · 16-06-2021 at 10:25

      Dear Jay,

      As Onne explains in the blog, you will get a personal OV chipkaart for free once you sign up for a subscription However, if you are getting to the Netherlands for the first time and need to use public transport, you have to either buy tickets for the train/bus/tram or get an anonymous OV chipkaart at the station for €7,50.

      Kind regards,
      Luisa Gomez

      Team International Students Advice |

  4. By: Saudi · 12-06-2021 at 17:32

    I’m an international student and I have free ov

    1. By: Elias · 05-07-2021 at 13:30

      Hello, do you mean free ov as in a free ov chip card or actually free travel? If its the letter could you please elaborate how you did that?

      1. By: Luisa Fernanda · 20-07-2021 at 09:44

        Dear Elias,

        As Onne mentioned in her blog, as you sign up for a travel subscription (abonnement in Dutch), you will get the OV for free (otherwise it’s €7,50). You can read about the travel subscriptions on the NS website

        Kind regards,
        Luisa Gomez

        Team International Students Advice |

  5. By: Amit · 29-08-2021 at 23:46

    Student OV; weekday or weekend
    A Student Travel Product lets you travel by public transport for free or with a discount in the Netherlands. If you’re living with your parents, you might enjoy having a weekday season ticket to travel to uni or school. If you have your own place, you might have more use for a weekend season ticket. You can’t use your Student Travel Product (student OV) for night buses and train travel with Thalys and Eurostar. To travel with Intercity Direct, you will have to pay a supplement.

    Check the following link for student OV

  6. By: kabir · 07-09-2021 at 22:11

    Loved this! Thank you for sharing such a valuable piece of information which is of great importance for me as well as everyone. I was looking for this information, so thanks for giving us proper information regarding the Netherlands discounted train travel.

  7. By: Matyas · 02-12-2021 at 23:51


    although you provided some interesting tips, I must say, the first “frank fact” is quite misleading. You are entitled to get a student free travel as an International if you work for 56hrs per month for a Dutch company.

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