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Ladies And Gentlemen - You Find Yourself Needing At Least 20 Euros In Coins (Or THe Perils Of The Dutch OV Kaart and System)
Well, the Dutch Government were threatening to have a debate about ways of making the OV Kaart (or Dutch version of the "Oyster Card") easier for tourists to use!  I just decided to help them along a bit!!!

The announcement came over the tannoy on the boat from Harwich to Hoek van Holland - "OV Cards are available from the Guest Service Desk on Deck 9 - You will not be able to buy them at Hoek van Holland".

That announcement (as I was to find out) contained two partial untruths.

The first untruth was the fact that the so-called "OV Cards" on sale at the Guest Service Desk were actually only "Day Ticket" type for nearly 18 Euros.  The OV Card I had misplaced somewhere at home was an "Anonymous"one which cost me 7 Euros and 90 cents and was valid for 5 years.  All I had to do was top it up if I wanted to travel (more about that sneaky idea in a bit).

The second untruth was - there is in fact a machine on one of the platforms at Hoek van Holland Haven railway station which will happily dispense an OV Card in exchange for either the insertion of a Credit or Debit Card or at least 20 Euros in coins (lets just say that catching a bus to some very obscure part of The Hague is cheaper than getting the train to Rotterdam [this is before you even consider boarding it] - you still need an OV Card though).

The best places to get OV Cards from (if you are nowhere near a Central Railway Station and you haven't got the patience to argue with any kind of Ticket Machine (be they yellow or pink and white) are a bookshop or a newsagent.

Before I confuse you further with my attempt at explaining the strange Dutch "thought" processes behind the OV Card - I think I will take you back in time to when things were simple when it came to Dutch Public Transport - and methods of paying for it.

Back in the Dark Ages (before the entire Netherlands decided to go Electronic) you could appear at any railway station desk and buy a train ticket in person.  Nowadays, if you want to do that you have to go to somewhere like Rotterdam Central Station.  Smaller stations have all reverted to machines.

When it came to Buses, Trams, Local Trains, and Metro (Underground), there was a different ticketing system - called the "Strippenkaart".  This was a long thin strip of paper which you could either turn into a concertina (thus rendering it absolutely useless - it was not even wide enough to use as a fan on really hot days) or you could fold it into the required zones you wanted to travel in and feed it into something called a "Stempelautomaat" to get it validated.


A Stempelautomaat in Hoek van Holland Haven Station (Most of these have been removed)

Back to the con-trick commonly known as the OV Card.


OV Chipkaart (or OV Card)

This can be used on just about every form of public transport going (except Taxis).

We have discussed the discrepancy between the price of the card and the amounts you need on it to travel on Public Transport?  We will now attempt to explore them more deeply.

If you choose to travel on a bus, Metro, or Tram, you can do so as long as you have at least 4 Euros on it.  The scanner will take the 4 Euros as a deposit for your journey when you swipe the card to check in at the start of your journey and will refund the difference when you check out at the end of it (it will show you the price of your journey when you check out).

If you choose to travel by train you will need at least 20 Euros on it before you even approach the scanner.  It will not even let you check in if you have not got that 20 Euros on it.  (Trust me - I tried!)

There are two ways around this - especially if you are camping in somewhere like Delft.

You can either go to a bright yellow ticket machine and buy a single or return journey ticket (this is expensive as it charges you at least a Euro extra compared to what you would have paid using an OV Card) or you can do what I did.

I went to the bookshop in Delft railway station and bought myself an Anonymous OV Card which had been pre-loaded with 10 Euros (this cost me approx 18 Euros) - then I caught the bus to Rotterdam Central Station (remember - I only had to have 4 Euros on the card for that journey) where I topped it up at the Service desk so I could use it all week (repeating visits to Rotterdam Central whenever I needed to top up).

Now - if some bright spark in the Dutch Ministry of Transport who is in charge of the OV Cards happens to be reading this - I have some information for them.

English people (and other foreigners who do not live in the Eurozone) find it impossible to get their hands on large amounts of Eurozone coins - if any at all.

I, for one, am wary of using my Debit Card to pay for anything in The Netherlands.

So, if you would like to reset your Ticket Machines so they go back to accepting Euro Notes you will find Tourists will be very happy to use your machines.

I - on the other hand - will be esctatic when you realise that it is stupid to have the same OV Card for Train and local transport but keep the two systems separate as far as charging is concerned.  Just merge the NS Ticketing System and the Local Transport Ticketing System.

Here endeth the lecture!




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