How to get around Amsterdam: Guide to Amsterdam Public Transportation

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If you are wondering how to get around Amsterdam, then fear not. Like many bustling European cities, Amsterdam is a well-oiled machine when it comes to public transport. This practical guide explores the various forms of public transport as well as how and where to purchase tickets. 

Traveling around Amsterdam in the Netherlands is surprisingly easy. As someone who has a knack for getting lost, knowing that there is always some form of transport nearby to get me to where I need to go really helps. So I tend to research public transportation religiously wherever I go.

What a waste it would be to put that quality time I spent with Google to waste. Every little tidbit of knowledge I picked up, and subsequentially experiences while exploring Amsterdam is right here. After reading this I hope that the public transportation in Amsterdam will hold no more mysteries for you!


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Getting around Amsterdam at a glance

HOP ON HOP-OFF BUS: The classic red hop on hop off bus that whizzes through Amsterdam has not been included in this article. Costs €/$25 a person for 24 hours. Find tickets & timetable.

BIKE TOURS: We cover how to rent a bike in this article but do not go into detail about the various bike tours available. Find the top-rated bike tour and check prices.

TOURISM OFFICE AMSTERDAM: They have two locations, one at Schiphol Airport (Holland Tourist Information at Arrivals Hall 2. Open daily from 7.00 am to 22.00 pm) and the second one at the Amsterdam Central Station (Noord-Zuid Hollandsch Koffiehuis, Stationplein 1. Open every day from 09.00 am to 17.00 pm except Sunday when they close at 16.00 pm)

Overview of public transportation in Amsterdam
Trams in Amsterdam outside of Amsterdam Central Station

An overview of the Amsterdam public transportation

All of the public transport in Amsterdam is operated by GVB (the municipal public transport operator for Amsterdam). GVB transport is easily recognizable by its blue logo which can be found on every bus, tram, metro, and ferry line in Amsterdam, along with the night bus. The shuttle bus to the airport is not operated by GVB.

The fact that each form of public transport in Amsterdam is operated by GVB means that in practice the tickets for the various modes of public transport are the same. Yep, you read that right. Purchasing a ticket for bus, metro or tram can be done from the same vending machine.

Day passes purchased at the machine will cover every single form of transport e.g. you can try out trams, metro and busses until your heart is content without having to purchase three different types of tickets. Hurray for simplicity!

Good to know: Aside from the night buses, all public transport runs from 06.00 am to midnight, seven days a week.

You might also like: Enchanting weekend trips from Amsterdam.


Practical information for getting around Amsterdam with public transport

Various types of tickets for public transport in Amsterdam

  • iAmsterdam Card: The iAmsterdam City Card includes entrance to various museums, canal cruises, and bike rental but also, all public transportation in the city for the validity of the card. Purchase online or at the Amsterdam Tourism Office.
  • Amsterdam & Region Travel Card: Provides access to all the public transport in Amsterdam, as well as the surrounding region (Keukenhof, Zaans Schans,…). Purchase online, at the Amsterdam Central Station vending machine or at the Amsterdam Tourism Office.
  • OV-Chip Card: The OV-chip card is a plastic card, the size of a credit card which you fill up with credits to use public transport. When the card is purchased, a one-time fee of €/$7.5 is charged. The card can be topped up online or at a specific loading point.
  • GVB single fair tickets and (multi) day passes: You can buy unlimited day or multi-day tickets that range between €/$8.50 to €/$37.00. Any child over 4 is required to have a ticket at the cost of €4. Child tickets can be bought for 4-11-year-olds and are valid on all GVB transport in Amsterdam but cannot be used on the airport train or 367 airport bus. These tickets can be bought online, at vending machines or ticket desks, and at the stations and bus stops.

UPDATE: The OV-chip card is slowly being phased out in the Netherlands in favor of digital and mobile payments. Checking in and out of public transport is set to happen by touching one’s bank card/credit card/mobile phone at the checkpoints on board and/or turnstiles before leaving the station.

Amsterdam public transportation app

Download the GVB application to help you decipher the city’s tram bus tram and metro lines and enable you to determine both the best and fastest way to get around Amsterdam.

Alternatively, if like me, you are hesitant to download an app, Google Maps works perfectly too. And finally the Dutch route planner 9292 works, however for this service you will need to be familiar with the Dutch names of places.

Discounts & day passes to get around Amsterdam

Prices for public transport tend to vary, depending on the length of time you want your ticket to be valid. A one-day pass will cost roughly €/$8.50, while a 4-day pass will cost €25.50. Therefore if you are staying in the city for a few days, invest in a multi-day pass as opposed to individual day tickets.

Similarly, a 4-day iAmsterdam City Card will cost €/$121.00 but this also includes access to museums, attractions, and bike rental, in addition, to the use of the public transport network, which represents a great saving and a considerable discount than purchasing all of the things separately.


How to get around Amsterdam: Guide to Amsterdam Public Transportation
Early morning in Amsterdam

How to get around Amsterdam by public transport?

If there is one thing Amsterdam has nailed it is its efficient public transport system. Unlike Brussels, Amsterdam as public transportation 24/7. At night you might have to wait a little longer to catch your hourly night bus, but at least it will get you where you need to go.

Below I have done my best to outline the various forms of transport in a clear way to help you on your travels. Trains have not been included as you will only really need to rely on those if you are looking to explore around Amsterdam.

You might also like: 15 breathtaking castles around Amsterdam

Taking the ferry around Amsterdam

The ferry in Amsterdam is a fun way to get across the IJ-river. Three regular crossings will take you from Amsterdam Central Station Terminal Wharf to Amsterdam North. These are lines 901/901, line 902, and line 906. Find a downloadable ferry map here.

The ferries are free of charge and open to pedestrians, cyclists and small motorcycles. The departure from Amsterdam Central Station is at the very back of the station simply follow the blue signs with a little white boat depicted on them.

Noteworthy: The ferry is not the same as a cruise on the canals of the Netherlands. If that is something you are looking into. Check out the top-rated canal cruise in a beautiful classic boat.


Taking the tram in Amsterdam

One of the most popular ways to get around is to use the frequent and distinctive trams in Amsterdam. You can spot these means of public transport as they are colored blue and white and come complete with a famous bell that rings to attract the attention of pedestrians and cyclists in the vicinity. 

What is great about this extensive system is there are over 15 tram lines in Amsterdam that can take you from the central station to outlying neighborhoods. It is one of the quickest modes of transport in and out of the city center and it can take you to some of the less notable areas in the city (see above map).

Practical information: Getting on the tram is easy, simply head to your designated tram stop and wait for the tram to arrive. Once you are in the tram, make sure to validate your ticket (unless you have the IAmsterdam City Card). When the tram is approaching your stop, let the tram driver know you want to get off by pushing the red button with the word ‘Stop’ on it.

How to get tickets for the tram

There are four different options to purchase tickets for the tram:

  • You have purchased the IAmsterdam City Card
  • You have an OV-card (OV-chipkaart)
  • You purchase a single-fare GVB ticket at the vending machine
  • You purchase a single-fare GVB ticket on the tram (contact-less and mobile payment only) from the driver or the person sitting in the ticket booth at the very back of the tram.

How to get around Amsterdam: Guide to Amsterdam Public Transportation
Busses in Amsterdam

Getting around Amsterdam by bus

Amsterdam buses are a great way to get around Amsterdam and the bus system is probably one of the most extensive public transport methods offered. There are over 35 bus lines that operate. The exact itinerary can be found in the aforementioned Amsterdam public transportation app.

Practical: Getting on and off the bus works in the very same way as for the tram. Head to the bus stop, wave down the bus, validate your ticket and let the bus driver know you want to get off by pushing the red button that reads ‘Stop’ right before you get to your stop.

Night busses in Amsterdam

There are also 10 night buses in Amsterdam that run the after-hours services from the central station to a variety of locations. This is the best option for getting around Amsterdam late after midnight. The buses operate between 00.30 am and 07.30 am. These buses only run once an hour! Tickets cost €/$5 for 1.5 hours and can be bought from the driver.

How to get tickets for the bus in Amsterdam

Exactly like the tram i.e. four different methods:

  • You have purchased the IAmsterdam City Card
  • You have an OV-card (OV-chipkaart)
  • You purchase a single-fare GVB ticket at the vending machine
  • You purchase a single-fare GVB ticket on the tram (contact-less and mobile payment only)

Traveling around Amsterdam by metro

There are 5 metro lines in Amsterdam and 39 stations that stretch over approximately 43 km. What is great about the metro lines is that they are typically focused on specific sites in Amsterdam that visitors will commonly frequent (see above map).

They also connect to the trams at several stations making it easy to change modes of transport where necessary. The metro is probably your best option if you want to get around Amsterdam as quickly as possible, but personally, I find it a lot less scenic than taking the tram.

Practical: Metro stations are indicated with a big white “M” on a dark blue background. The schedule for the metro can be found in the public transportation app

Transporting bicycles on the Amsterdam metro

This is possible. But only outside of rush hours. The rush hours are Monday to Friday 07:00 am to 09:00 am and 16:00 pm to 18:30 pm. You will need to buy a ticket for the bicycle at the vending machine

How to get tickets for the Amsterdam metro

Purchasing your metro ticket in Amsterdam works the exact same way as for the tram and bus

  • You have purchased the IAmsterdam City Card
  • You have an OV-card (OV-chipkaart)
  • You purchase a single-fare/daily GVB ticket at the vending machine

Amsterdam Airport Shuttle
Shuttle from Amsterdam Airport to Amsterdam City

How to get from Amsterdam Airport to Amsterdam City

Schiphol airport is a busy thriving international hub that serves Amsterdam city. One of its best assets is certainly the accessibility of the airport to the city. The easiest option is to book a private shuttle, prices start at €/$50 per person. This is not bad, but the below options are considerably cheaper and, let’s be honest a lot, a lot more environmentally friendly.

Bus from Amsterdam Schiphol to Amsterdam

Price: Single fair €/$ 6.50 | Duration: 30-45 minutes | Frequency: 8 x per hour from 05.00 am to 12.30 pm

Getting the bus from Schiphol airport to Amsterdam city center could not be simpler. The bus terminal is right outside of Schiphol plaza at bus stop B15. Here you will find the Amsterdam Airport Express, bus 397. This bus offers up a fast and direct route into Amsterdam’s city center. 

Bus nummer 397 departs from busstop B17. Tickets can be purchased in advance, from the driver or from the mobile ticket office between 09.00 am and 18.00 pm (on the central square opposite the exit). Note payment in cash is not accepted.

If you come in after midnight: Take the Niteliner N97 bus, which departs every 30 minutes.

Practical: Purchase your Amsterdam Airport Shuttle in advance before you leave


Train from Amsterdam Schiphol to Amsterdam

Price: Single fair €/$ 5.50 | Duration: 14 minutes | Frequency: multiple times hourly between 00.02 am and 23.53 pm

Taking the train from Amsterdam Schip to Amsterdam Central is very easy. Simply purchase your ticket from one of the bright yellow and blue vending machines outside of the arrival gates. Follow the yellow signs for the train station (which is located underneath the airport).

Once you arrive at Amsterdam follow the blue signs with the with letters “Centrum”. To get out, swipe your card at the turnstile (pictured above right).

Important: Not all trains head to Amsterdam Central, double-check the information board if they say “via Amsterdam Centraal” or final destination Amsterdam Centraal then you are safe to board.

Practical: If you are planning on staying in Amsterdam a few days and want to see both the city and a bit of the surrounding. Consider purchasing the Amsterdam & Region Travel Pass which gives you access to the Amsterdam public transportation as well as the rail network. Your train ride from Amsterdam Schiphol to Amsterdam will be included in this travel pass.


Alternative ways to move around Amsterdam: Bicycle

I have not covered getting around Amsterdam by bicycle as technically this does not really fall under public transportation. That being said, this quintessential Dutch form of transport is probably my favorite way to get around the city. Biking infrastructure in the Netherlands is unparalleled making this a very easy and pleasurable mode of transport.

How to rent a bike in Amsterdam

You will be hard-pressed not to find a bicycle rental place. I pre-booked my bicycle rental online because I figured it might be slightly cheaper than inside tourist central. It came down to about the same price truth be told.

Inside Amsterdam Central station you will see signs for bicycle rental. Be aware, while these signs will indeed bring you to a bike rental facility just next to the station, you need an OV-chip card to actually be able to rent them. What you need to do is hunt down MacBike (also inside the station) and rent your bike from them.

What to bring: A valid ID and cash for the deposit (€/$50) or a credit card


Amsterdam
Downtown Amsterdam

Frequently asked questions on how to get around Amsterdam

What is the cheapest way of getting around Amsterdam?

That depends on a number of factors. Walking is by far the cheapest option, that being said Amsterdam is a large city and getting to all the various attractions on foot can be time-consuming (beautiful, but time-consuming).

If you are planning on visiting various museums then the iAmsterdam City Card is the cheapest as it includes discounts to various museums as well as all the public transportation inside the city. If not, than invest in the one-day OV-chip card as this comes out to be slightly cheaper than renting a bicycle for a full day.

Is it safe to get around Amsterdam on a bicycle

Yes, cycling around Amsterdam is very safe thanks to the wonderful cycling infrastructure. Large cycling paths straddle the main roads keeping cyclists safe from cars.

How to get around Amsterdam at night

Between the hours of 00.30 am and 06.30 am the only way to get around Amsterdam is via night bus or by taking a pricy uber.

Is it easy to walk around Amsterdam

Like most European cities, Amsterdam is very easy to navigate as a pedestrian. Just be careful of both the trams and cyclists when crossing the road. Each of them will vociferously sound their bell if you are blocking their path.

How to get around Amsterdam: Guide to Amsterdam Public Transportation

MORE TRAVEL RESOURCES FOR VISITING NETHERLANDS

Amsterdam: Places to see around Amsterdam by train
Amsterdam: 15 beautiful castles around Amsterdam
Amsterdam: The best weekend trips from Amsterdam
Netherlands: Prettiest castles in the Netherlands
Friesland: An adventurous guide to the Frisian Islands
Leiden: Weekend-guide to the city of Leiden

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Getting around Amsterdam
How to get around Amsterdam: Guide to Amsterdam Public Transportation

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Caroline Muller

Thanks for dropping in! With this blog I hope to harness the power of travel to do good in the world. Think connecting with local cultures, sustainable tourism and in-depth guides to known and lesser-known adventures. 

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