How to Get Around Amsterdam Like A Local: Public Transit & Navigation Guide

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Amsterdam's historic canal-side architecture and houseboats

Amsterdam is a popular tourist spot in Europe that welcomes 20 million visitors yearly. Its world-famous canal system, artistic heritage, unique architecture, top-tier nightlife, and abundant museums are significant draws. But it’s also a well-connected city with affordable and reliable public transport, making planning any trip to this incredible city much easier.

In this article, we’ll run through some top tips on how to get around Amsterdam. From arriving at Schiphol Airport to getting around the various forms of private and public transportation, we’ve got you covered. With our handy tips, you’ll have all the info needed to help make your time in Amsterdam go smoothly.

How to Get to the City Center from Schiphol Airport

I Amsterdam Sign at Schiphol Airport
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

The distance between the airport and Amsterdam’s main train station, Centraal Station, is only 18km, so don’t expect a massive trek to get to your hotel once your flight lands. Also, public transport from the airport and the city center is readily available and reasonably priced for easy transfers.

Ticket prices for using the train to make this journey are as cheap as chips! Fork out a measly $5 on average for the quick 20-minute trip to Centraal Station. Express bus services leave the airport every ten minutes and can get you into the city in around 25 minutes for about $7. If arriving at Schiphol Airport late, you can take the night bus, which follows the same route as the day service and runs from midnight to 5 am.

A taxi or Uber might be preferable when traveling late, especially after a long travel day. The drive to the city center from the airport will take around 20 – 40 minutes (depending on the traffic), and a taxi should cost around $49, with an Uber more likely charging less. For ultimate comfort, finding reasonable private transfers from the airport to your hotel is easy and sometimes a little cheaper than a taxi.

How to Navigate Your Way Around Amsterdam

Map of Amsterdam Attractions
Nick Furnari / ViaTravelers

Once in Amsterdam, you’ll find Google Maps works a treat for navigating your way around the city.

Also, get onto the GVB website to download pdf public transport system route maps before getting to Amsterdam. This will make life so much easier when figuring out the easiest ways to get around, including working out the best available transport and connection options.

See Related: My Favorite Reasons to Visit Amsterdam

Public Transportation Options in Amsterdam

Amsterdam’s public transport system is affordable, reliable, and well-connected. Most of the time, you will find card and cash payments accepted, and whatever time of day or night, there will be an option at your disposal for getting from A to B.

Transport Option Average Cost
Train (Airport to Centraal Station) $5
Express Bus (Airport to City) $7
Night Bus (Airport to City) Varies
Taxi or Uber (Airport to City Center) $49+
Tram, Metro, or Bus $3.50
Ferry Free
Cycling $7-$11 (Bike rental)
Walking Free

Trams

Blue and white Amsterdam tram en route to Station RAI
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Covering most attractions in Amsterdam that you’ll want to pop onto your itinerary, like the Rijksmuseum or the Van Gogh Museum, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the local tram system.

Regarding accessibility, look for a pink ITS symbol on the door, indicating that a particular tram is wheelchair accessible. Unfortunately, not all of the older trams are accessible to all, and it’s a bit of a hit-and-miss whether or not the tram arriving at your stop will be accessible.

See Related: The Ultimate Guide for Visiting the Rijksmuseum

Metro

Centraal Station Metro Stop in Amsterdam
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Amsterdam metro trains cover a total of five metro routes around the city. This extensive network covers seven different areas of the city, and trains run early from 6 am until 12:30 am and will generally provide a reliable train schedule every ten minutes.

Buses

Amsterdam city bus interior with modern design and accessibility features
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

The major transport companies of Amsterdam include GVB, Connexxion, and EBS. Over a full 24-hour basis, many routes within the city center and to the broader metropolitan area are available, mostly starting from Amsterdam Central Station.

If you want to make the most of the famously top-notch Amsterdam nightlife, night buses are ready to come to your rescue every night from 12:30 to 7:00 am. You can buy your ticket on the bus from the bus operators via debit cards or contactless (no cash).

Buses are also an excellent option for touring Amsterdam. Many open-top and hop-on-hop-off bus services operate in the city to show tourists the must-see highlights and the very best nightclubs!

Ferries

GVB Ferry in Amsterdam
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Every two to 30 minutes, you’ll find free ferries running across the IJ River to Amsterdam Noord for mopeds, pedestrians, and cyclists. The main ferry terminal is just behind Centraal Station.

You generally won’t have to wait long to catch any of the ferries, and a countdown clock takes out the guesswork as to when your next ferry will be.

See Related: IJ-Hallen: An Ultimate Guide to Europe’s Largest Flea Market

Other Options for Getting Around Amsterdam

Taxis & Uber

Taxi fares within the city center are expensive but worth considering if you find yourself in a pinch. The minimum cost is about $3.50 for the first 2,000 meters and about $2.50 for each kilometer after that.

Catching an Uber ride in Amsterdam is sometimes cheaper than getting a local taxi. But watch out as fares generally increase at weekends, during rush hour, and in rainy weather when demand is greater.

Cycling

Red rental bikes ready for tours in sunny Vondelpark, Amsterdam
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Cycling in Amsterdam is one of the most accessible and affordable ways to get around the city quickly. You’ll enjoy an extensive network of separate bike lanes for safe travel and many spaces designated for parking your bike.

Finding a bike rental service offering hourly or multi-day rental deals that suit your vacation plans is easy. Expect to pay anything from around $7 for a one-hour rental to $11 for a full-day rental.

If you want to avoid cycling solo, many great bike tours around Amsterdam can take you to all the top spots on two wheels. Simply enjoy the ride and follow a local around rather than having to figure out a route for yourself and potentially miss some city gems.

Walking

Pushing a Stroller on Prinsengracht, Amsterdam
Kyle “family backpacking” (Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers)

It won’t surprise you to hear that walking is the cheapest option for getting around Amsterdam. This basic option won’t cost you a dime, so pack some comfy walking shoes and prepare to clock in some serious steps.

Amsterdam is flat, so you won’t have to tackle mighty hills or endless stairs on your daily excursions. It’s also relatively compact, so getting from one must-see spot to the next doesn’t take long. And for those on a budget, revel in the knowledge that top-rated walking tours around the city can sometimes charge just shy of $6!

Buying Transport Tickets and City Passes

Buying public transport tickets in Amsterdam can initially seem a little overwhelming. But once you understand your options, it’s pretty straightforward.

1. One-hour and Multi-day Tickets

Person Holding 1 Hour GVB Pass for getting around Amsterdam Transportation
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Expect to pay just under $4 for a one-hour GVB ticket and just shy of $10 for a GVB day ticket for unlimited travel via bus, tram, and metro train. Purchase either from ticket vending machines at metro stations or directly on the tram or bus.

You can also buy multi-day passes to save money over purchasing a separate day pass each day of your vacation. Your maximum duration for a multi-day Amsterdam travel ticket is one week, costing just over $44. You will either need to purchase a multi-day ticket ahead of time online or head to tourist offices or GVB service points when in Amsterdam.

2. OV Pay

OVpay App in Apple
OVpay / Apple

For the freedom of paying on the go, have your debit card ready to tap on and off trams, buses, and the metro. You’ll always pay a boarding fee of about $1.08, and then, on average, your trip will cost $3.50.

For extra convenience, an OV Pay app is available on Google Play and Apple. Once you’ve downloaded the app, input your banking details. Then tap on trams, buses, and metro trains with your phone, and tap off once you reach your destination.

3. City Passes

I Amsterdam City Card Web Landing Page
I Amsterdam/ I Amsterdam

Getting a city pass for Amsterdam will be one of your best moves in saving money during your trip. With one ticket, you can enjoy access to numerous top attractions within the city. It also acts as a public transport card for unlimited travel for various durations, depending on which pass you buy.

The official I Amsterdam City Card is a popular city pass for money-savvy tourists. It includes access to over 70 museums and local attractions, GVB transportation, bike rental, and canal cruising. The I Amsterdam City Card is available as a pass for one to five days.

FAQ

Do You Need a Car in Amsterdam?

Consider refraining from renting a car for your trip to Amsterdam. Public transport in Amsterdam is excellent, and it’s also a conveniently walkable city. You will not miss out on anything if you use public transport instead of having your own car.

Moreover, parking in the city can be notoriously expensive, and this extra cost can quickly put a dent in your travel budget. Besides, even if you’re ok with the price of parking, the difficulties in finding a parking space in such a busy city will serve as an extra obstacle that will make using public transportation all the more tempting!

Of course, if you want more freedom on trips out of the city and want to rely on something other than public transport, a rental car would be the perfect option.

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Lisa Ward
WRITTEN BY

Lisa Ward

Lisa Ward is a travel writer based in Jersey. She loves hiking and adventure travel and has hiked to Everest Base Camp and Machu Picchu, as well as through Patagonia and up several volcanoes across the world. Lisa cycled down Death Road in Bolivia, went canyoneering in Costa Rica, climbed canopies in Honduras. That school trip to Honduras sparked Lisa’s interest in the underwater world. She has since undergone basic training in biological research concerning marine conservation, most notably that of coral reefs. She is a PADI qualified Rescue Diver with a specialty in underwater photography. So far, she has dived in Jersey, Honduras, Indonesia, and the Great Barrier Reef.

After gaining her law degree and falling into the world of finance, Lisa gained a qualification in digital marketing before deciding to take the leap into writing full time. Lisa is also a trained English Language tutor with a TEFL qualification and specialty qualifications in teaching online and 1-1. Other interests include playing the clarinet, which Lisa played in orchestras from the age of 10 to 19, martial arts (black belt in karate), and quite literally anything outdoors.

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