Amsterdam’s center is fairly small, and almost abnormally flat, so you can easily get to most tourist destinations on foot – from the central station, within half an hour.
In June 2010, a contact-less card called OV-chipkaart (“public transport chip card”) was introduced. Since 3 June 2010, the old ‘strippenkaart’ system has been abandoned on all forms of public transport in Amsterdam, making the chipcard the only valid way of traveling in Amsterdam. To travel with a card, one has to check in at the start of the journey and check out at the end by holding the card in front of the card reader.
Three types of OV-chipcard are available:
- a personal card on which you can load weekly/monthly/yearly subscriptions
- an anonymous card on which you can load money which can be spent on public transport
- a disposable card which can be used for a limited number of hours only
The first two types carry a fee of €7.50 for the card itself, and you have to have at least €4 on it to be able to travel. The OV-chipkaart can be obtained from GVB vending machines in all metro stations, from the desks at some bigger stations (including Central Station) and some shops (see this link).
For visitors, the most useful type of travel pass is probably the 1/24/48/72/96/120/144/168 hour ticket, issued as a disposable OV-card without extra cost. This allows the holder to travel on an unlimited number of journeys on tram, metro and GVB bus services throughout the validity period of the pass. On a tram, only the 1 and 24 hr tickets can be purchased on board. These passes are also available at tourist offices (located at Schiphol airport and just outside Centraal Station), AKO bookstores in Schiphol Airport and Centraal Station, many hotels and GVB Tickets & Info. Day passes are not valid on buses operated by Connexxion and Arriva.
Prices as of March 2017: €7.50/24 hours, €12.50/48 hours, €17/72 hours, €22/96 hours, €27/120 hours, €31/144 hours and €34/168 hours. If you stay longer in Amsterdam, you can buy discounted weekly or monthly tickets from most post offices or other ticket sale points which are cheaper. GVB tickets are not valid on trains to Schiphol airport. You can use them on buses to Schiphol (note: The only GVB bus that goes to the airport is number 69) but it’s usually quicker to get there by train. For current information on the Dutch Public Transportation-system (‘Openbaar Vervoer’ or O.V. in Dutch/NL) check online Openbaar Vervoer (O.V.).
Public transport within the city is operated by the GVB (Gemeentevervoerbedrijf. The tram (16 lines) is the main form of public transport system in the central area, and there are also dozens of night bus routes which run in place of the trams between midnight and 5am. All tram stops have a detailed map of the system and the surrounding area. You can also get a free public transport map at the GVB Tickets & Info offices (just outside Centraal Station) or in the tram.
Most trams have conductors, near the rear of the tram. Board (and obtain tickets if necessary) by the driver or the conductor. If you have questions, the conductor or driver will be sure to respond to your query. Remember that you can only buy 1h and 24h tickets on board the tram.
When boarding and alighting a tram, you must check in and out by placing your ticket/OV-chipkaart on one of the abundant round-shaped readers, even if you have just bought a ticket on board. All trams have pre-recorded audio announcements indicating the next stop, with most also having visual indication. All announcements on board are in Dutch, however some announcements (such as those indicating termini and important stops (such as Dam Square) and reminders to check out when alighting the tram) are also in English.
There is a four line metro, including a short underground section in the city centre, that serves the neighbourhoods of the South East. It takes 15-20min from Centraal Station or Waterlooplein to the Bijlmer (Amsterdam Arena stadium, Heineken Music Hall and Pathe Arena cinema and IMAX).
A fifth metro line, the north/south line, is currently under construction and is due to be opened in July 2018. This big project started in 2003 to build a new underground metro line to connect the north of Amsterdam with the south (the Noord/Zuidlijn or North/Southline). The project has proved somewhat of a disaster for the city government with big budget overruns and delays. Building in the wet underground of Amsterdam is difficult and some buildings along the line have sustained damage due to subsidence. For the visitor to Amsterdam, the only thing to note are the ongoing roadworks along the route of the metro line. Underground metro stations are still being built or finished often causing parts of roads to be blocked off to cars, buses and trams for an extended time. Usually you can pass on foot or bicycle.
Just like the tram and metro, local buses are operated by the GVB. There are also suburban buses to nearby towns such as Haarlem and Uithoorn; these are operated by Connexxion or EBS (the company name and house style is prominent on the bus side) and can be used within Amsterdam if you travel with an OV-chipkaart. Disposable cards are only valid on the GVB buses.
The tram service stops everyday at 00:30 but night buses run from 00:30 until 7:00. They go to the main areas inside the city and then to the suburbs. You can use any day or multiple day ticket in the night buses. If you don’t have one, you will have to buy a night ticket from the driver for the cost of €4,50.
Amsterdam has 6 different ferries that you can take for free. They all leave from Central Station and go to the north of Amsterdam. The most popular one is the one that goes to the Eye Museum (The Amsterdam Film Library). The ferries are available all day and all night long.