The most popular means of transportation for foreigners coming to Groningen is the excursion boat. While sightseeing the city from this vessel at least once is a must, it will not get you very far since you’ll end up at the same place as where you boarded. For your daily movement there are other ways to get around in Groningen.
The most obvious way is of course: walking. The centre of Groningen is compact since it’s located between the canals which used to border the city in the old days. This means that it’s easy to get around using your legs. Once you’re in the centre you’ll see most of the public stroll by the shops or walk their way through town.
The most common form of public transport in Groningen is the bus. There are numerous bus lines running through Groningen and there’s always one which can take you where you need to go. There’s no need to wonder which line you need to take since there is a door to door journey-planner on the internet which can give you the fastest way of travelling and which bus line to take wherever you are in the Netherlands. Taxis are not very popular among students, mainly because it’s relatively expensive (tip: share a ride), but when in need they can come in quite handy. For example, you could have a flat tire but definitely don’t want to disappoint that nice boy or girl waiting for you in a bar at the other side of town. In those cases, there are always a few waiting at the station or the central square and of course you can order one by telephone.
Much as using public transportation services might be a mundane matter for many in the Netherlands, it can be tricky for those who are new to using them, especially international students. Therefore, in this article, we intend to talk about some of the nuts and bolts of the Dutch public transportation services, so that international students can use them much easier.
The OV-chipkaart is the general public transportation card which can be used on trains, buses, trams and to arrange a public transportation bicycle. There are two types of OV-chipkaart: the personal OV-chipkaart and the anonymous OV-chipkaart. The personal OV-chipkaart is a yellow plastic card on which the card holder’s photograph has been printed, and contains information on the available amount of credit on the card, on your travel subscription(s) or your pass, and on whether you are entitled to reduced travel costs. This card also gives you the option of automatic top-up. Besides, in case you lose your card, the credit on your card is blocked within a day, and you will receive a replacement card within 3 working days from the date you file a report with the NS customer services. You can request a personal OV-chipkaart online. The anonymous OV-chipkaart is a blue plastic card without the user’s photograph that its use is not exclusive to one individual, hence the term anonymous. For this reason, it is a suitable option for family use. This card, however, does not have many advantages of the personal version. For example, it does not allow an automatic top-up, and you cannot add any travel products such as NS (Dutch Railways) subscriptions or passes to it. Moreover, it is less safe than the personal OV-chipkaart meaning that unlike personal OV-chipkaart holders, if you lose your card or if it is stolen, you cannot protect your anonymous card from misuse by blocking it. A list of sales points for anonymous OV-chipkaarts is available on this page from the official site of NS. Both types of OV-chipkaart cost 7.50. Moreover, no matter how short your trip is, you must have a minimum balance of 20 euros to travel with NS unless you use a travel subscription.
When traveling by an OV-chipkaart, regardless of its type, do not forget to check in before entering the tram, bus, metro, or train and check out when leaving them. Otherwise, a specific amount will be deducted from the credit on your card as a fine. In case of traveling with NS, you can still check out 6 hours after leaving the train and avoid getting fined. However, if you fail to do to so, you can request a refund online or at any of the service counters of the relevant carrier. You can use the online service to request refunds from the most widely used carriers in the Netherlands such as NS, Connexxion, Arriva, Qbuzz etc. No matter what type of OV-chipkaart you have, you can request a refund on your credit.
Students who receive the Studiefinanciering study grant are entitled to a public transportation pass for travelling at reduced prices, called the Studenten OV-chipkaart. For more information on the application procedure, visit this page from the official website of DUO.
Planning your trip
Do you have to rush to be on time for a lecture, and catching a bus seems to be the only way to get there? Then, do not hesitate to visit 9292.nl/en or www.connexion.nl in order to figure out as quickly as possible when and where the next bus departure is. Both websites provide information on bus, train, and ferry departures in the Netherlands, and therefore can be used for planning your trips when you need to use any of those means of transportation. In order to find tram and metro departures, use the travel planner on the official website of GVB. By entering the basic details of your trip, such as the ends of your journey, date, and departure or arrival time, you can receive advice on how to reach your destination from any of these sites. In order to find train departures for NS trains, you can visit the official website of NS or use the software application NS Reisplanner Xtra. These websites and applications more often than not provide reliable information on departures unless public transport is disrupted due to bad weather or other causes.
NS Group Return Tickets (NS Groepsretour)
A popular and rather cheap option to buy a ticket among students is buying group return tickets. The more people travel in one group, the cheaper a group return ticket is. Such tickets cost 7 euros if they are bought in groups of 10 passengers. Many students try to form such groups by visiting Facebook groups created especially for this purpose. There, you can see whether or not any groups of passengers are planning to go on the same journey and on the same date as you are. Unless you agree to buy the tickets for the rest of the group, whether or not you get your ticket is a matter of luck and trust since you usually do not know the individuals who buy such tickets for you. However, the odds of receiving your tickets are usually higher than falling victim to a scam. Although buying return group tickets seem to be an ideal option for reducing your travel costs, especially if you plan to go on long journeys, they can cause you trouble if a train conductor catches you travelling outside the group with which you were supposed to travel. In that case, you might be asked to buy a new ticket or leave the train. For more information on NS group return tickets, you can visit the official page of NS group return tickets.