OV-chipkaart: my tricky new travel companion

This morning we went to the city offices of den Haag to pick up our resident permits. We had received a letter saying they were ready. On the way to the station, we got drenched with rain and missed our train, too, so we had a nice soggy damp-jeans kind of wait for the next one and were on our way.

When our number came up (so orderly) at the IND, the man had a resident card for Tim, but none for me. He said this was most unusual, and I had to go get a new number and wait on a different line. When my number came up the second time, a new man helped me by searching for me in a computer (think: Zoolander) and then making various phone calls. First he thought my application (sort of secondary to Tim’s, since Tim’s employment brought us here) had just been overlooked and he was very apologetic. But then the truth came out: I had supplied “insufficient data”! He said my file showed that I had not sufficiently proved that Tim and I are married, so my application had been put on hold. Apparently they sent a letter about this, but neither Tim or I ever saw it (they said they sent it to his workplace). Oh well—I haven’t been deported yet. We need someone to translate the Dutch letter for us though because we already showed our marriage certificate; not sure what other proof we can produce (testimony of witnesses? Any of you want to come over here and testify?).

Way back at the end of July I applied for my OV-chipkaart, a personalized public transportation debit card. It finally arrived a week ago and I was quite excited to use it. You load Euros on it and then swipe it to ride buses, trains, or trams. Fares here go by distance (not a fixed rate for the subway as in Boston) and so you swipe when you board and disembark. I loaded 10 Euro on mine and then tried to swipe it to board a train. Niet goed! The machine flashed an angry red light at me. I took my card to a window and asked the agent to tell me why it wasn’t working. He said I had to go online and activate the new card before I could ride trains with it, so I went home and figured out how to do that (it wasn’t intuitive!). Next occasion, figured I was all set. Nope: blinking red light all over again. This time it turned out that after you activate the card online, you have to swipe it at one of the kiosks in the station and “pick up” your order (of activation?). Somehow I figured this out inadvertently, and got the green light at the swipe machine. Rode a few trains and trams and found it quite simple.

Then today I forgot a swipe-out at den Haag Centraal. So now I have some sort of incomplete journey on the card and tried to swipe it later at a different location and got all sorts of error messages. It seems a likely scenario that riders will occasionally forget to check out (you don’t pass through turnstiles or anything—you have to go find these little pink card readers), so there must be a fix. Groan! I don’t understand you, OV-chipkaart. Can we be friends? I paid a lot of money for you.

Plus, why is this woman the image they chose for the card?

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3 Comments

Filed under Our Dutch Adventure

3 responses to “OV-chipkaart: my tricky new travel companion

  1. Jo Ann

    MARRIED????? You are MARRIED??? Since when??? Prove it, Chickie!
    Seriously, I might have done much damage to the chipkaart thing. I would imagine, however, that you will get it all figured out and you and chipkaart will be BFF!

  2. Joel

    The files are in the computer? Of course, it’s so simple!

  3. HoHoHolland

    Incomplete journey (i.e no swipe out) gets charged a full boarding fee which I think is 4 Euros. And failure to check-out twice will temporarily block your card which needs to be re-activated at any service desk. 🙂

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