Many questions about trains from Haarlem to Groningen

We will be traveling from Haarlem to Groningen on a day trip to see a friend prior to the start of our RS tour. This will be our first time in the Netherlands. I have some questions about train travel options, and hope someone familiar with train travel in the NL can help!

1.Am I correct in reading that we must purchase tickets the day of our trip, at the train station, using cash only? How much extra time should we allow for this?

2.I see two itinerary options. Option 1 is by bus, from Haarlem to Station Zuid Amsterdam (with many stops in between), then by direct train to Groningen. Option 2 is by train from Haarlem changing trains at Amsterdam Centraal Station and also at Lelystad to Groningen. Option 2 is faster and less expensive. I’m also thinking it sounds easier, even though we’d need to change trains twice, because we wouldn’t have to navigate from the bus station to the train station. Is my assumption accurate?

3.How challenging is it to change trains at Amsterdam Centraal and Lelystad? I notice the itineraries only give us about 5 minutes. Are the trains generally on schedule? Is it hard to figure out where to go, and is it easy to get from platform to platform?

Thanks for any help and details you can provide!

Posted by Andre L.
Tilburg, Netherlands
2374 posts
  1. No, you are incorrect. You can actually purchase tickets in advance, however prices are fixed and you won't get any discount for buying in advance. On major stations you can now use your Credit Card to buy tickets on machines. This includes Schiphol (airport) and Amsterdam Centraal but not Haarlem, at least as of today. It is rare that you'll find a ticket office (where they exist, just some 60 stations nationwide have manned ticket offices) very busy or with long lines, since almost all Dutch passengers use transportation cards. 15 minutes is more than enough time.

  2. Ignore the advice about using bus, take the train all the way instead.

  3. It is very easy to change trains in Lelystad (it has just 4 platforms) and easy in Amsterdam Centraal (it has 17 parallel platforms, connected by underground passageways with electronic monitors indicating (reassuring) which trains departs from where). Traisn to Groningen run every 30 min, so the worst that can happen is that you'll need to catch the next one.

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
7433 posts

You'll have to use cash to purchase your tickets. The machines and ticket windows only accept chip&pin cards.

Posted by Andre L.
Tilburg, Netherlands
2374 posts

Michael, NS recently expanded locations where credit cards can be used on ticket counters and ticket machines.

Posted by Ruth
Ithaca, NY, USA
188 posts

Thank you for all the information -- this is really helpful!!!

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
7433 posts

Does that include magnetic strip??? Credit cards have always been accepted at the machines and windows of Centraal and the airport train station for many years now(all other stations only accept debit)....just chip&pin only.
Though it wouldn't be hard for them to start accepting them again, all they have to do is remove the scotch tape covering the slots for the past 10 years.