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The OV Chipkaart is now in full swing within Amsterdam and across the whole country being valid on most trains, trams and busses. Locals buy a card and put money on it and fares are subtracted by the different transport companies.
If you have used the cards such as the Oyster in London or the Octopus in Hong Kong this system is similar. You check in and check out on each vehicle and pay for the kilometers. It is a great system... for locals.
Tourists unfortunately, cannot take advantage of this. The cost of the empty card (€7,50) makes no sense for visitors since you still have to put money on it. But once you have an OV card, you generally pay half for your Amsterdam tram trip. And for regional bus journeys the advantage is also considerable, half price or even better. Actually journeys on regional buses are the main reason why tourists would go for (anonymous) OV card; possibly in combination with trips inside large towns if you do not travel enough to benefit from the (multi-) day cards. But do note that most regional bus companies also have some type of paper day ticket, also cheaper than paper single rides and maybe cheaper maybe more expensive than using (anonymous) OV card depending on your exact travel times and group setup. E.g. Waterlanddagkaart for EBS (northeast of Amsterdam, e.g. Volendam); Buzzer for Connexxion (northwest and west of Amsterdam); Familiedagkaart for Arriva (e.g. near Leiden) and Dalurendagkaartje for Veolia (e.g. Brabant and Dordrecht area). Conditions vary widely, many are for a group of 2+ family members and only valid off-peak. The 9292 site has for some bus companies a way to find out both single ride prices (non-PAYG) and special tickets; this next to the PAYG single ride price which is always shown. At the bottom of the results screen, click "Show discounts and details" and then "All possible prices? Click here (Dutch)". Note that the info might not be as precise as the PAYG pricing; e.g. for EBS (Amsterdam Waterland) it only mentions the price per 'zone' and not the specific price/zones for the ride you selected.
Another reason for using the anonymous card is frequent transport in some cities. Notably in The Hague the 24-hour card is the only one available as disposable product. The 48- and 72-hour cards, considerably cheaper per day than 24 hour, are only available as products to be loaded on the anonymous OV-chipcard.
Visitors to Amsterdam have to pay €2,80 on the tram (egads!) and the 24 hour card (€7,50 - available on the tram) is a good value only by comparison. 48/72/96 hour cards are available at GVB Tickets and Info in front of Centraal Station and are more reasonably priced.
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If you are moving here...
There are three types of OV cards:
1 - The anonymous card: This you can pick up at GVB offices and GVB and NS ticket machines and NS counters, and anywhere with an add value machine which basically means most of the places you previously could buy strippenkaarts like tobacconist shops (Tabacs), newsagents, etc. Note that the latter is at the discretion of the shops: their yellow Chipcard machine does not dispense new cards, but some have a stock of anonymous cards for sale as has the Service Counter at the airport. Topping up, with banknotes, can also be done at the NS counters at a bigger station (not the NS sales points in e.g. station kiosks). The card costs € 7.50 to buy (seems a lot for a small bit of plastic). Please be aware though that the machines in the small shops will ONLY take Dutch bank cards and Maestro debit cards so not useful to many of the tourists. The GVB site says that one can also pay the shopkeeper to load up the card, but this will again be at the discretion of the shop as it's quite timeconsuming for them. The GVB machines do accept notes (bigger stations only) and some also coins, and also sell anonymous cards including a top-up balance - saving you an extra step. The NS machines do accept Maestro foreign debit cards, the odd one coins and the even more odd one (at Central Station and Schiphol) even credit card, at a surcharge. This card can be loaded with most travel products such as the 24/48/72/96/120/144/168 hour ticket and of course you can load it up with PAYG money. Unfortunately you cannot use this card for weekly or monthly tickets. Previously for the weekly ticket all you had to do was go to a GVB office or any Post Office with a photo and your passport. The weekly ticket was actually cheaper than the 4 day ticket. Also you cannot share these cards (or any others for that matter) like you could with the strippenkaart. You must get a card for each person.
2 - The paper disposable card: This card replaces the single trip ticket which you used to buy from the driver. However previously you could buy one and two zone tickets which were €1.60 & €2.40 respectively. They have now introduced a one hour ticket which is valid for the whole of Amsterdam which costs €2.80 or €5.40 for a 2-ride card. With this ticket you can travel for up to an hour anywhere in the Amsterdam GVB area. However if you are only travelling one zone it’s clear that this is much more expensive than before. If you are going to use public transport quite a lot then it might be better to get day tickets (also on disposable cards) or get an anonymous card and load it up with PAYG. Disposable cards are available at the normal outlets as mentioned above. The single trip tickets and the 24 hour tickets are also available from the driver but as before the 48/72/96/120/144/168 hour ones are not. Speculation is that this is to avoid the drivers having to handle lots of cash. Note that the 24/48/72/96/120/144/168 hour tickets are available in two forms: as paper disposable card or as a product to load on the anonymous card. For tourists generally the disposable option is better (and saves you €7.50).
3 - The Personalised OV card: This card is not really designed for visitors as you have to fill in an application form (in Dutch) and send it off or apply on the internet (also in Dutch). With this card you can load up nearly any travel product including season tickets. It's also the only way to get age-based discounts (the former 'red strippenkaart') in Amsterdam - so byebye to that for tourists, sorry. Other towns might fare better - e.g. Rotterdam (RET) has a half-price day card for people aged 65+ or 4-11 years, the same discount they get on a personalised OV-card.
What will it cost? Well, for PAYG it will cost a base fee of € 0,83 as soon as you get on the tram plus € 0,14 per kilometer thereafter so the minimum cost of each journey will be €0.97. Bus companies like Arriva or Connexxion can have different prices per kilometer, and the Connexxion Interliner express buses have an extra surcharge on the kilometer price to account for the higher 'express' service level.
If you need to change trams etc., to complete your journey the base fee will not be charged again as long as you check in again within 35 minutes. After 35 minutes you will again be charged another €0,83 plus the €.0.14 km fee.
For 24 to 96 hour tickets this will not apply as they are valid within the whole GVB area (including the night bus) and the rules for using them apply as before apart from having to check in and out of the tram/bus/metro. However, for all OV cards you have to remember to check in and check out at the electronic check points at the entrance to trams and buses and at the barriers for the Metro. Actually it’s not possible to forget in the Metro as the barrier will not open otherwise. Take care with 'open' metro places like Amstel station and all Amstelveen halts; and in The Hague-Rotterdam region the Randstadrail E stations. For the metro one has to check in before entering in the yellow electronic check points on the platform, for trams (like Amstelveen tram 5 and Randstadrail 3 and 4) one has to check in inside the vehicle!
Failing to check in will mean that you do not have a valid ticket for the tram or bus and this can result in a €35 fine! Failing to check out will result in €4 being deducted from the amount on a card (esp PAYG). Failing to check out more than 12 times in a two week period will result in the card being blocked by the system. Take care with those metro stations that double as railway stations on the same platforms or areas, being Amstel and Duivendrecht. They have two sets of barriers to enter the area; the GVB ones which are by default closed and the NS ones which for the near future are open. Use the GVB ones if you plan to use the metro because they do the check-in automatically in order to open.
You can now pay for train journeys with the OV Chipkaart but before your first journey you must go to the NS ticket counter or any NS vending machine (just hold it at the area bottomright to see the Chipkaart menu) to have the card validated; the main goal of validating is telling NS whether you want to travel 2nd class or first class. Also the 'deposit' (minimum balance needed before allowing to travel) for a train journey is €20, not the €4 for a GVB ride; just something to be aware of, the deposit is returned at the end of the journey. Note that the system of 'base fee will not be charged again as long as you check in again within 35 minutes' does not apply for transfers between train and GVB. You always pay the base fee separately for the train ride and the GVB ride; a clear setback compared to the Strippenkaart validity in Amsterdam city trains.
Just to summarise. For tourists wanting to use anonymous PAYG OV-Chipkaart all the way from the airport, so not the daycards, it's three steps; have creditcard with PIN, Maestro debit card or coins ready or banknotes if you choose to use the NS counter.
a) At a Schiphol vending machine or the NS counter, select to purchase an anonymous OV-Chipkaart. Cost 7.50. Complete the transaction.
b) At the same vending machine, hold card in the bottomright corner and from menu select 'top-up'. Put an amount of at least 20 euro on it. Same can be done from counter.
c) Again in the same machine, activate the card for railway usage. This is a simple menu selection without any cost involved, where you store on the card that you want to travel 2nd (or if you want 1st) class. Again same can be done at the counter.
Now you're ready to go downstairs to the train platform, and check in with the card with the machine there which is located close to escalators and elevators. At Amsterdam Centraal, the check out is in the (opened) barriers close to the exits.
Once you have fininished your stay in Amsterdam, you ask for the rest of the money in the OV Chipkaart to be reimbursed. It's easy if you have under 30€ of credit, formally they are entitled to charge (withhold) 2,50 administration fee. Just do that in GVB office (some are closed on Saturday). If you have more than 30€ in credit, it's complicated, involving filling a form in Dutch.
Some web pages for more information on the OV Chipkaart:-.
Feel free to edit this article if you think that any of the information is incorrect or misleading in any way.