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Train Tips for European Traveling -- Chapter IV

Bill Malchisky  March 30 2016 04:54:11 PM
This month, I took another trip to Europe, with a smaller focus and duration. I took the Dutch commuter rail round trip from Amsterdam to Eindhoven. What I learned about ticketing is that the Dutch rail system has not improved much over the past several years, despite reports that it has. Yes, they do accept some non-Dutch bank cards for purchasing rail tickets--which is welcomed by many travelers--there are limitations which can cause you to miss your train.

This Year's Story
What really surprised me that is today, in 2016, the antiquity of the Dutch rail system ticketing. As a couple people I know said they used their credit cards with ease, I resisted my usual approach of pre-purchasing the ticket whenever possible. Instead, I arrived early at the Eindhoven rail station (5:15a) for my 5:31a train intent on buying a ticket via the machine. This should be about a three minute process. For me, the machine would not accept my bank card, nor would it accept paper money, only coins and I could not get EUR32 in coins in the train station.

There were no ticketing agents available to assist at that hour, but I did find two rail employees who spoke English. After several tests, we all concluded my best option was to take a cab back to the hotel (another EUR10), get my fare in coins, and return. That would have me missing two trains and put getting through increased security at risk for the baggage check cut-off, which would then introduce a change fee and a fare increase. Upon running the numbers, I told the taxi to redirect to AMS (Amsterdam Schiphol Airport) and we ultimately negotiated a fare of EUR225 (down from EUR300) - much cheaper than the alternative airline fee, plus missing a customer meeting.

Lesson Learned
So, if traveling in The Netherlands by rail, you can not guarantee that your American bank card or non-bank charge card will be accepted at either the rail ticket purchasing machines or the ATM for that matter--my ATM card was declined, despite working fine in two other countries recently. Ensure that you research the fare before leaving the hotel and convert your paper money into coins (as heavy as it may be) to ensure that you get your ticket with ease, and avoid the hassle of missing the target train or an expensive taxi ride to the airport.

Additional Reading
Rail Europe --- tickets, schedules, deals, and maps for all European train networks --- offers two booking sites:
US Site
World Site

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© 2010 William Malchisky.