Once arriving in the Netherlands, I quickly realized that there are two good ways to get around; by bike and by public transit. Going by bike is much better for shorter distances, but the trains run both frequently and are relatively inexpensive. There are three ways to buy tickets:
1. Paper Tickets (Point A -> B)
2. Paper Day Discount Tickets
-Starting off with a normal paper ticket, these will force you to pay full price for a ticket, no matter what. On trains, this isn’t that much compared to the cost with a chipkaart, but on buses and trams you can quickly wrack up huge transit costs. These are good if you need to just go once or twice to another city, and not sustainable if you live in the Netherlands. Great for short term visitors.
-The Day Discount tickets take the normal day ticket (around 45 euros) and makes it cost only 20 or 25, depending on the deal. These tickets are NOT bought at the train station. Blokker usually has these for sale, but only for limited times. These are good if you happen to have someone here who can get them, as they allow for unlimited travel for the entire day. These are harder to get a hold on, but worth the wait.
-Finally the OV-Chipkaart, both the best, and sometimes the most frustrating one. There are two main types, anonymous and personal. The personal one can only be used by the person whos photo is on the card, and the anonymous one can be used by anyone, but only one person at a time. They are both valid for around 5 years and cost 7,50 Euros.
The anonymous card is good for visitors or for people who do not use public transit often. The personalized one is really for people who live here and use transit fairly often, even for just a couple of times a month. The other positive for the personalized one is that it can be loaded directly from a Dutch bank account, so the balance never goes below 0. It can also hold discount cards, like the very popular NS Off peak discount.
This Off Peak discount comes from the NS directly, and if you don’t already have a OV-Chipkaart, I would advise that you get the card at the same time as the discount. The discount costs 50 euros for 40% discount during the off peak hours, and it includes a FREE Chipkaart. This is one of the best deals for international students, because you can also have up to 3 other people travel with the same discount, even if they buy paper tickets. A great deal for people who will travel by train often, especially with visitors.
*One word of caution: You can only find the NS discounts on the DUTCH side of the NS.nl website. Use Google Translate. Also, you must have a Dutch bank account with online banking to buy the card and discount.
My plan is to have my OV-Chipkaart from NS with the discount, have it top up automatically from my bank account, and just buy paper tickets under my same discount for visitors. This was decided after talking to many many other *non-Dutch* students.
*Note: Dutch Students have their own transit card… Non-Dutch students as of this time can NOT buy them, as it is part of their stipend from DUO, which only Dutch students receive.