Getting around in Amsterdam is like finding a nice place to eat: there are so many options available it can be hard to determine which is right for you. Keep on reading to learn more about the options available, from bike, boat and on foot, to tram, bus, metro, ferries, car and train.
How to cycle like the Dutch in Amsterdam
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Amsterdam was designed for bikes. Its exceptionally flat landscape and around 250 miles of cycle paths make it great for cycling! Amsterdammers use their bike to go to school, work, go shopping and even to go out at night. It’s the cheapest and the most entertaining way to visit the city. However, be aware that there are certain rules you need to be aware of. You can get a leaflet about these rules in most rental shops. For regular bikes, use the well-known Donkey app.
If you’re travelling with kids, Amsterdam offers an outstanding experience for them – a cargo bike known as bakfiets. This is a unique means of transportation that allows you to take up to 4 children. Basically, it is composed of a bike and a box in the front. You can rent this type of bike locally from Mac Bike (although it needs to be booked in advance). The price ranges from €13.50 to €25 for a cargo bike for 24 hours. There’s a great selection of rental shops and you can probably find one near the place you are staying.
Note that a helmet is not mandatory although certainly recommendable especially with kids. However, don’t spare on insurance unless you cycle in your own city and are a ‘pro’ city-cyclist. An important note for your security: mind the tram tracks and don’t let your wheel get stuck. If you don’t feel comfortable, try a bike tour. Again several options are available, with prices ranging from €15 to €60 for a tailor-made tour.
All aboard a boat cruise!
You cannot leave Amsterdam without taking a cruise on its famous canals. Several companies offer a large range of cruises. A basic tour lasts about one hour and has an average cost of €15 per person, including a romantic dinner. You can book a night cruise with drinks and snacks for around €20 per person for an hour and a half, or a candlelit dinner cruise for two hours for €40 per person; you can even enjoy a gastronomic 4-course dinner experience made by a renowned chef during a 2-hour cruise. The cleverest way to travel by boat and discover the city is the ‘hop on hop off’ option. Starting at €19 per person, it allows you to make some interesting stops in the city. You will find some cruise options beginning near Centraal Station and most of them offer audio guides in around 20 languages.
Walking in Amsterdam
Although it’s not always the ideal means of transportation, you can use your own feet to get around. Be aware though that Amsterdam is a much bigger city than it appears to be at first sight. If you still want to walk, the centre of the city is easily reachable on foot and is a sure way to ensure you won’t miss anything and are able to appreciate the charming canals and old streets. You can always stop at a coffee shop or restaurant at any time to refresh.
Using public transport: tram, buses, ferries, etc.
The GVB public transportation network in Amsterdam, and throughout the Netherlands, is really impressive. It’s probably the most comfortable and safest way to get around and get to know the city, especially by tram and if you’re travelling with kids. Please note that if you have a pushchair, you have to enter in the middle of the tram where you will find a special area to leave it.
You can choose to use trams only during your stay and buy an OV-chipkaart, thereby saving money. But if you are going to use several transportation means, inclusive from the airport to the city, then it is better to buy a City Card online, which costs from €57 for 24 hours to €87 for 4 days. With the City Card, you will be granted a number of discounts on museum entrance fees and even get a free canal cruise as well as a city map. You can have the card delivered to your home (order it at least 6 working days before departure) or pick it up at the airport or central train station. Ferries are also available for those who are staying in the north of Amsterdam and a trip from the river IJ (IJplein) to the central train station is free of charge.
By car?… Not recommended
Driving in a city that has thousands of cyclists and so many canals might not be a good idea. Parking is expensive at €20 to €40 per day in a private garage. Other car parks are available on the outskirts of the city but then you will have to pay for the parking and for transport to the city. Even on Sundays, it can be difficult to find parking which is free of charge, and this makes driving in the city one of the least appealing options during your stay.
Amsterdam Centraal is the largest train station in the city. You can easily travel to and from the airport and other Dutch cities by train. Once inside the city, check the other transport options. The fare of a train ticket from Schiphol International Airport to Amsterdam Central station is €5.20; there is a discount for children 4-11 years old and travel is free for 0-3 years.
The Dutch railway company is called NS and you will find the ‘Plaza’ station right beneath the airport. Look for yellow/blue self-service machines to buy your ticket and purchase the one-way ticket as it is only valid on the same day. Trains leave every 10-15 minutes from platforms 1, 2 and 3 from 6.00am to 01.00am and one per hour from 2.00am to 5.00am. The trip lasts around 15-20 minutes. Just make sure you jump on the right train to ‘Amsterdam Centraal’ station because otherwise you may end up in another city!
Featured image by Bernard Niess, via FlickrCC