Trains, buses and trams are plentiful and incredibly on time. Even better, you can use an OV chip card anywhere in the Netherlands and avoid buying train tickets or having coins for buses or trams. You simply buy a card and load it with money, and before boarding a train, bus, or tram, you scan your card. The scanner automatically deducts money from the card; when you arrive at your destination you scan your card again and based on your destination, you are credited back the amount that exceeds the round-trip cost of travelling between your starting point and your destination. And, if you buy a personalized card, you get a 40% discount during off-peak hours.
Sounds very easy, and it is. But. You DO have to remember to scan your card both ways. That sounds easy, too, but for me, somehow it just isn’t! The first time I used my card on a bus, I forgot to scan my card when I got off. What happens? Well, you wind up paying the maximum fare no matter how short a trip you took. Which is rather painful if you forget to scan at the end of a train trip, as that is 20 euros! (Did that, too!) You do not want to forget to scan your card before boarding, either. The fine for being on a train without having paid is hefty, and getting cited by Mr. Conductor (decidedly not an affable Ringo Starr or George Carlin at the Shining Time Station!) does not look like much fun.
Recently as I waited on the platform for the train, I could not remember whether I scanned my card. My companions did not remember seeing me doing it either, so to be safe I ran back into the station, scanned my card and ran back to the platform. On the train, Mr. Conductor came to check on cards and very sternly informed me that I had not paid! I protested that indeed I had double checked, but he was not convinced. (Understandable, as I am sure these folks have heard it all!) Well, as it turns out, I HAD scanned it in the first place, and scanning again effectively checked me out. Although Mr. Conductor could see this on his scanner, he didn’t seem convinced it was not deliberate. However, he did let me get off the train at the next station to scan back in. It was a very brief stop, and he advised if I did not get back on the train before it left I would have to wait 30 minutes for the next train. As it was a chilly night I was not very keen on that possibility, but I did manage to scan in and get back in time. No fine, just a very skeptical Mr. Conductor who huffed that I still managed to save a little money by checking in at that station rather than the first one!
So, the moral of story, always remember to scan your card – and remember doing so! And, if like me, you have a spotty memory for such things, you can use your OV chip card to buy an actual ticket with the non-peak discount. Although this is supposed to be for companions, sometimes you just want to show your ticket to ride!