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I have read Can I use the OV-chipkaart to get from Schiphol to the center by train? and Is it possible to recharge an OV-chipkaart without a Dutch banking card? and Train and tram tickets in Amsterdam? but I am still a bit confused as to which kind of card I need.

I'll be coming to Amsterdam for 4 days (only Amsterdam) and need to move about the city to go from my hotel to the conference location.

As per Bart's comment from the airport to Amsterdam central, I can get a 4 EUR ticket for the train:

An addition about the train tickets: you can indeed still buy paper tickets. The price for a ticket from Schiphol to Amsterdam CS is €4.

However within the city if I am to use the tram or bus, do I need to buy the ov-chipkaart or the GVB day pass?

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    Bart's comment is not current anymore, paper tickets have been replaced with disposable RFID cards, which cost EUR 5.00 instead of EUR 4.00 (plus credit card fee when relevant). – Relaxed Oct 16 '14 at 11:11
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Basically, everything is now an “OV-chipkaart”. There are three main types of cards, all with an RFID chip in it: personal (for people with a discount card, yearly rail card and the like), “anonymous” (for infrequent use) and disposable (for punctual use). Depending on the card, you can load credit and travel using a pay-as-you-go system or directly load a product like a single trip or a day pass that will be valid on a specific trip or specific network. This system is used by the national train company (NS), municipal transit companies like GVB, HTM (the Hague) and RET (Rotterdam), by private train operators like Arriva or Veolia and by other bus companies like Connexxion or Veolia (those two are now part of the same group but not fully merged as far as I know).

With NS, paper tickets have been replaced by single-use chip cards (with a EUR 1 surcharge over regular fares). Those do have an RFID chip too but cannot be used for pay-as-you-go on other companies' networks. The GVB day card is also such a chip card. It's only valid on the GVB network (metro, bus, tramway, and ferries in Amsterdam) but, just like the single trip NS card, it is technically a disposable OV-chipkaart.

Whatever you do, you are supposed to check in and out using an OV-chipkaart card every time you use public transport (incidentally, with day cards, you could imagine the card would be valid nonetheless but I have been told several time that you really need to check in and out…). Even one-hour bus tickets everywhere in the country are actually chip cards (which the driver will often “check in” for you if you look like a tourist). So you have to use some sort of RFID card in any case and, as a visitor, your choice is between using a disposable card for each trip/network or an anonymous chip card for pay-as-you-go on several networks.

If you choose to use disposable NS tickets and a GVB day card, you don't need to get anything else. But if you do get an anonymous OV-chipkaart and load it with enough credit to travel on the train, you might just as well use it on the Amsterdam local transit network and you wouldn't need the GVB card. It's up to you.

In terms of costs, it's going to depend on exactly where you want to go. With NS, you have to pay some surcharge anyway and the biggest problem is that you need to have at least EUR 20.00 on the card when checking in for pay-as-you-go. So for a short trip like Amsterdam CS-Schiphol (where the regular fare is EUR 4.00), you would have at least EUR 16.00 tied into the card when arriving at the airport, which is annoying.

If you don't travel a lot in the city, paying single trips with an anonymous chip card would probably be cheaper than a multi-day card (you pay per kilometer) but not by much. The main drawback is that the anonymous non-disposable chip card must be purchased for EUR 7.50 (before loading any credit on it) and you would then need to deal with the whole pay-as-you-go system.

One variant would be to buy an anonymous card, load it with EUR 20 and use that for the way from Schiphol to the center and then in the city. After four days, you would have used most of your credit and probably spent less on the GVB network than the price of a GVB multi-day card (at least if you don't travel all day). Then you could buy a disposable NS ticket for EUR 5.50 (that's EUR 4.00 with disposable card surcharge and credit card fee) for the transfer to the airport to avoid loading too much credit on your anonymous chip card at the end of the trip.

But at the end of the day, no matter what you do, the total cost will be over EUR 30 and the difference between anonymous chip card and GVB day card is not going to be large. What you must definitely avoid is paying the trip to the airport with pay-as-you-go (except if you intend to reuse the card for a future trip or intend to give it away to someone else who can use the credit).

The easiest solution is therefore probably to buy single-use train tickets from the NS machines (for transfer to and from the airport) and then use a GVB multi-day card for all your journeys within the city.

Assuming two ~3 km trips in the city a day (to fix ideas that's approximately the distance between the Central train station and the Museumplein), the costs would be:

  • Single-use NS tickets and GVB day card: EUR 5.50 for each train trip + EUR 21.00 for the GVB card. Total: EUR 32.00
  • Anonymous chip card and single-use ticket for the return to Schiphol: EUR 7.50 + EUR 0.50 + EUR 4.00 for the way from the airport to the city center + EUR 11.00 for tram/bus + EUR 5.00 tied into the card at the end + EUR 5.50 for the transfer to the airport. Total: EUR 33.50.
  • Anonymous chip card only: EUR 7.50 + EUR 0.50 + EUR 8.00 for the train + EUR 11 for tram/bus journeys + EUR 16 EUR tied into the card at the end. Total: EUR 43.00
  • Disposable cards all the way (buying train tickets with credit card and bus tickets with cash each time you step into a bus or tram): EUR 5.50 for each train journey and EUR 2.80 for each tram/bus journey. Total: 66.40 EUR

Also, it's now possible to load credit on an OV-chipkaart with foreign cards in all train stations but NS applies a EUR 0.50 surcharge for credit card transactions.

  • So you need two things, the NS ticket and the GVB card? I thought the GVB card was used to pay for the journey? – Burhan Khalid Oct 16 '14 at 9:25
  • @BurhanKhalid You don't need the NS ticket in Amsterdam but the GVB card does not cover the train to Schiphol. – Relaxed Oct 16 '14 at 10:05
  • @BurhanKhalid GVB service starts 1 train stop away from Amsterdam (though most people take the train all the way to the city center, it's faster and more convenient). They USED TO sell combined tickets, but no more. There is bus service: bus197.nl but it requires a separate ticket as well (which can be purchased from the driver). – jwenting Oct 16 '14 at 11:41
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    @BurhanKhalid GVB is a municipal company operating tram, busses, a metro and ferries in Amsterdam. NS is the historical/national train company. So a GVB day pass is only valid on the GVB network, a NS yearly card is only valid on the NS network but if you travel using the credit (as opposed to a special product like a single trip or a day pass) on an OV-chipkaart you can use a card from either of them on the other network. I will try to clarify my answer on this point. – Relaxed Oct 17 '14 at 6:40
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    @BurhanKhalid and to confuse matters further (for the foreigner especially) there are other bus companies operating between the city and the airport as well. The bus line I mentioned in my comment for example is run by Connexxion, a nationally operating bus company. – jwenting Oct 17 '14 at 6:55
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One way out of the 'need €20 on the OV chip card for the train journey' on the way back to Schiphol is using a bus. I recently researched and found that there is a bus from Leidseplein which does not take more time than traveling from Leidseplein to Centraal station and on to the airport. Bus 197 which costs € 3.09 on your chip card. I used http://9292.nl/en to get you the details.

There is also a multi day pass that covers travel from the airport to the city center as well as city bus and tram travel. I do not know how the price compares to the other options: https://www.ns.nl/producten/en/uitleg-overige-producten/p/amsterdam-travel-ticket At this time it costs €15 for a one day pass, €20 for two days, €25 for three days, including one return ticket from the airport to the city.

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The GVB day pass costs 21 euros for 4 days (96 hours). You can use it in the tram, bus, metro of the GVB public transport company.

See http://www.gvb.nl/ovinmamsterdam/Pages/bestdeal.aspx

However if you want to use the OV-chipkaart you will have to have at least 20 euros on the card to travel with it.

For example; You have 20 euros on the OV-kaart, and you travel from A to B using the train/bus/tram/metro. The cost of this journey is 5 euros. When you reach your destination, you will have 15 euros left. On your way back, you will have to charge your OV-kaart again to 20 euros.

So the question for you is, how much will you be traveling by train? If you only use the train to go from Schiphol to Amsterdam (and back, after 4 days), it would be better to use the GVB day pass and buy a ticket from Schiphol to Amsterdam. That way you will spend;

  • 4 euros for the train ticket from Schiphol to Amsterdam
  • 21 euros for the GVB daypass
  • 4 euros for the train ticket from Amsterdam to Schiphol

Total = 29 euros.

But when you use the OV-Kaart;

  • 7,50 OV-kaart itself
  • 20 euros to be able to use the card
  • Going forth and back between schiphol and Amsterdam might cost about 6 - 7 euros.
  • Costs of other travels.
  • The EUR 20 rule is only for NS trains. You can even go negative on some local transit networks. So if you use disposable chip cards for transit to/from the airport, the only real cost are the EUR 7.5 for an anonymous chip card. – Relaxed Oct 16 '14 at 9:22
  • Realistically, the train ticket would actually cost EUR 5.50. – Relaxed Oct 16 '14 at 10:11
  • Yes, the 20 euro rule is only for the NS. And the 6 to 7 euros is for 2 tickets. But if that price is 5.50 for one card the total would even be more, 11 euros. – Student Oct 16 '14 at 11:26
  • I think we misunderstood each other. EUR 5.50 is the cost without OV chipkaart (so EUR 11 should be the cost of train transfers in your first scenario). If you get disposable NS tickets, then you pay the same price in both cases but don't need EUR 20 credit. If you travel “on credit” with NS, you pay less for the train trips themselves (EUR 8 in total) but you have the EUR 20 credit issue. Either way, your second calculation makes no sense. See my answer for details. – Relaxed Oct 16 '14 at 11:35
  • the 20 Euro minimum credit on the card seems to have been reduced. Last week I could travel with 18 Euro on the card, but not back home with 11 (was a 7 Euro trip :) ). – jwenting Apr 17 '15 at 4:57

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