Most of Amsterdam is easily navigable on foot or by bicycle, but it’s a rite of passage to take a ride on the clanging trams that wind through the city streets. The underground Metro can also come in handy if you’re visiting farther-flung destinations; buses you’ll likely use less frequently. The city’s public transportation system, GVB Amsterdam, is entirely cash-free. A single-use ticket (3.20€) is valid for one hour and can be purchased from automated ticket vending machines which take cash and credit cards. Onboard trams and buses, non-chip-and-pin credit and debit cards, which most Americans use, will not work.
Note: You will see locals using a plastic electronic card called an OV-chipkaart to pay for public transportation; this is probably not the best option for a short-term stay as the card alone costs 7.50€.
If you plan to use public transportation often, your best bet is to buy a 1-day or a multiday card: 24 hours (8€), 48 hours (13.50€), 72 hours (19€), 96 hours (24.50€), 120 hours (29.50€), 144 hours (33.50€), and 168 hours (36.50€). There are reduced fares for children aged 4 to 11 and ages 3 and under travel free. Public transport in the city is also free when you purchase an Iamsterdam City Card. With any of these cards, you must check in and out—just hold your card up against the electronic reader at both the start and the end of the ride.
The central information and ticket sales point for GVB Amsterdam is GVB Tickets & Info, Stationsplein (www.gvb.nl; tel. 0900/8011 for timetable and fare information and other customer services), in front of Centraal Station and next to the Amsterdam Tourist Information Office. It’s open Monday to Friday from 7am to 9pm, Saturday from 8am to 9pm, and Sunday from 9am to 9pm. In addition, tickets are available from GVB and Netherlands Railways ticket booths in Metro and train stations and from ticket vending machines at Metro and train stations and at certain stops along the Tram 2 line.
The network of trams, buses, and the Metro is in service starting at 6am until 12:30am; there are also night buses between 3am and 7am which cost 5.50€.
BY TRAM -- Half the fun of Amsterdam is walking along the canals. The other half is riding the blue-and-gray trams that roll through most major streets. There are 14 tram routes, 9 of which (lines 2, 4, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, 24, and 26) begin and end at Centraal Station, so you know you can always get back to that central point if you get lost and have to start over. The city’s other tramlines are 1, 3, 5, 7 and 19. Lines 2, 3, 5, and 12, are useful for visiting the sights south of the city around Museumplein, while 1, 4, 7, 11, 12, 19, and 24 serve the city center. Tram 2 travels from Centraal past many of the city’s major sites including Dam Square, the Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht canals, Leidseplein, and the Rijksmuseum.
Trams have one access door that opens automatically, normally toward the rear; arrowed indicators point the way to the door. To board a tram that has no arrowed indicators, push the button beside the door on the outside of any car. To get off, you may need to push a button with an “open-door” graphic. Tram doors close automatically, and they do so quite quickly, so don’t hang around. Always remember to hold your card against the reader as you get on and off the tram. Note: If you don’t “check out” as you get off, your card will carry on being charged and will run out of credit.
BY BUS -- An extensive bus network complements the trams and Metro, with many bus routes beginning and ending at Centraal Station, but it’s generally much faster to go by tram or Metro.
BY METRO -- Although it can’t compare to the labyrinthine systems of Paris, London, and New York, Amsterdam does have its own Metro, with five lines—50, 51, 52, 53, and 54—that run partly over ground and transport commuters in and out from the suburbs. From Centraal Station, you can use Metro trains to reach both Nieuwmarkt and Waterlooplein in the old city center. The newest line, 52, opened in July 2018 and travels between Amsterdam-Noord (North), and Amsterdam Zuid (South) in just 15 minutes.
BY FERRY -- Free GVB ferries (www.gvb.nl) for passengers and two-wheel transportation connect the center city with Amsterdam-Noord (North), across the IJ waterway. The short crossings are free, which makes them ideal micro-cruises as they afford fine views of the harbor. Most ferries depart from Waterplein West behind Centraal Station. The two most popular routes are to Buiksloterweg (for attractions like the Eye Film Institute and A’dam Tower), with the journey taking 5 minutes and ferries running every 4 to 12 minutes around the clock, and to NDSM-Werf, a 14-minute trip, with ferries running from 6:45am to midnight on weekdays and from 7:15am on weekends. A third route goes to IJplein, a more easterly point on the north shore, with ferries every 7 to 15 minutes from 6:30am to midnight.
BY TAXI -- It used to be that you couldn’t simply hail a cab from the street in Amsterdam; occasionally they will now stop if you do. Best is to find one of the taxi stands sprinkled around the city, generally near the luxury hotels, at major squares such as the Dam, Spui, Rembrandtplein, Westermarkt, and Leidseplein, and of course at Centraal Station. Taxis have rooftop signs and blue license plates, and are metered. Hotel reception staff can easily order a cab for you, too.
Fares are regulated citywide and all cabs are metered; the meter starts at 3.19€ and there is a charge of 2.35€ per kilometer. If you don’t see a cab stand you can call the generally reliable Taxi Centrale Amsterdam (TCA; www.tcataxi.nl; tel. 020/777-7777). The fare includes a tip, but you may round up or give something for an extra service, like help with your luggage or for a helpful chat. In fact most Amsterdam cab drivers like to talk and are pretty knowledgeable about their city, so take full advantage of them.
Uber (UberX and UberBLACK) is also available in the city and to and from Schiphol airport. Generally, the airport rates are slightly less expensive with an UberX than by taxi (around 35€–40€ versus 45€–50€).
BY CAR -- There’s no point whatsoever in renting a car if you are intending to stay in Amsterdam and not venture out of the city, as the public transport system works efficiently and most attractions are within walking distance of each other. In addition, the streets are narrow, many are one-way, some are pedestrianized, and all are crowded with bonkers cyclists; in short, driving in the city is a nightmare. However, if you are travelling outside Amsterdam, it’s usually cheapest to book a rental car online before you leave home. Try AutoSlash.com which applies current coupons against the cost of your rental, whether it be from Avis, Hertz or any of the other major companies. Then, it tracks your rental, so if the daily cost drops before you pick it up, they rebook you at the lower price.
If you must have a car, know that there are are limited parking facilities in the city itself but plenty of Park + Ride options in the suburbs, with rates of 8€ per 24 hours. Useful P+R parking lots include Olympisch Stadion and RAI in the southern part of the city, and Noord and Zeeburg in the north; all are near public transport facilities. If you insist on parking in town, there are designated car parks centrally, the most useful for tourists being at Waterlooplein (Valkenburgerstraat 238) or Beursplein 15 and charging 3€ to 8€p er hour.
Don’t risk leaving your car on the street as the limited public parking in the city is managed with a gauntlet-grip by Cition, which will tow your car away at the drop of a hat for the slightest parking violation and then whack you with a 373€ fine; cash payments not accepted. If you do have the misfortune to get towed, the collection depot is at Daniël Goedkoopstraat 9 and it’s open daily around the clock.
Bag a Bike Taxi
If you’re keen on your green credentials, use a bike taxi or rickshaw to get around the city. They’re clean, relatively comfortable, and can zip along the cobbled streets giving Amsterdam’s cyclists a run for their money. The rickshaws are easy to spot all over the city, but especially around Centraal Station, Leidseplein, Museumplein, and Waterlooplein, or you can order your eco-taxi in advance. Contact Amsterdam Fietstaxi (www.amsterdam-fietstaxi.nl; tel. 065/348-1860). Charges start at 10€ for rides in the city center; half-hour tours are 25€.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.