One of the most often asked questions to hotels and locals is how the public transport system in Amsterdam works. Now, this isn’t all that difficult, but nowadays it does need some explanation there has been quite a big overhaul since June 2010. Amsterdam’s public transport cards changed from paper and ink to mostly plastic and electronic. The so called “strippenkaart” is gone and the OV-chipcard made it’s entrance.
As most other major destinations, Amsterdam has an extensive public transport network within the city. People can travel by train, tram, metro, and bus. Even the ferry can be used if needed. In addition, the bicycle is of course our preferred means of travelling in and around Amsterdam.
What is the OV-chipcard?
In 2010 the GVB, the company who exploits the largest part of the public transport in
Amsterdam, introduced the OV-chipcard. The OV-chipcard is an electronic card the size of a credit card. The system works like a pre-paid system. You buy a card and charge it with credit to be used for public transport. Purchasing of the card can be done at the larger train stations at the counter and special vending machines on several locations around the city. The credit can be topped up at special machines at the stations but also at the entry of various shops like supermarkets and bookshops, and in some busses.
While most tourists in Amsterdam only spend a few days here, you also have the option to buy an ‘hour’ OV-chipcard instead of a pre-paid one that you can top up over and over again. On this hour card, you have UNLIMITED travel time for the duration of the card. There are 24, 48, 72, 86, 120, 144 and 168 hour OV-chipcards.
There is also a 1 hour OV-chipcard but if you plan to use the public transport in Amsterdam longer than 1 hour we advise you to buy a longer lasting hour card due to the high costs of the 1 hour card. The 1 hour card costs €2,60 at the moment, this is quite expensive compared to €7 for the 24 hour version.
The hours start as soon as you check-in for your first trip (you swipe your card entering a station, tram or bus). A lot of people think that with buying a 1hour card they can make use of public transport for 1 hour and a 5 minute trip will only cost them 5 minutes. This is not true, you can use you card for the duration it mentions starting from the moment of check-in on your first trip.
The use of the Dutch OV-chipcard is very simple. You check-in and check-out when you start and finish your journey, and when you change lines. In all forms of public transport in Amsterdam where you can use your OV-chipcard a reader is installed. Hold your card up to this reader until a little green light appears. The reader will bleep when your card is read. Don’t forget to check-out! If you forget to check-out, your card will be charged with a (higher) set amount -this will drain your prepaid OV-chipcard and you risk a fine by not checking out from the same transport you entered.
Where to buy the card?
OV-chipcards can be bought at most of the major stations in and around Amsterdam. Easiest is to go to the GVB main office (VVV Tourist Information) opposite Amsterdam central station.
The 1=hour OV-card (paper version) can also be bought on the tram or bus from the driver or conductor.
Forms of Public Transport
The tram is Amsterdam’s main form of transport if you want to take short journeys. They run regularly until 12:15AM. The routes run throughout all parts of Amsterdam.
Payment method: OV-chipcard or in cash at the driver/conductor.
Busses also run throughout the center but are primarily used to travel to other suburbs.
Payment method: OV-chipcard or in cash at the driver/conductor.
The metro as the bus is primarily used to reach the suburbs of Amsterdam. They are faster than the bus but have fewer stops. You can find a detailed metro map here
Payment method: OV-chipcard.
Trains are of course your best choice if you want to explore other parts of the Netherlands.
Trains are not part of the OV-chipcard so you need to purchase a ticket at the stations. You can purchase tickets from machines or from counters. You cannot purchase a ticket in the train so make sure you have one before entering!
Payment method: OV-chipcard charged for train use, or a train ticket.
If you need to cross the river IJ you can hop on one of the ferries behind the central station. They will bring you across quickl. Some specialist ferries even bring you further along the river to other districts.
Payment method: Free for the normal ferry. Prices for the specialist ferries differ.
In opposite to other countries it’s very difficult to hail a taxi in Amsterdam, especially in the weekends. Taxis can be found in various taxi hubs throughout the city like the central station, Leidseplein and Dam square. You can also call city cab services (0900.677.7777) or let your hotel call one for you. Amsterdam Taxis costs €1,80 per km and a tip of 5-10% is normal.
Another sort of taxi that can be seen on the Amsterdam streets are the bike-taxi’s. A bike taxi is a human powered taxi. They do hold a set of batteries but these are only engaged for extra heavy loads or for bridges. The cost for the bike taxi is about €1 for 3 minutes per person. This sounds like a lot but because the bikes ride pretty quick it is fairly cheap. More information can be found here.
Payment method: Cash at driver
Traveling in Amsterdam by bike is probably the best way to really experience the city.
The Amsterdam city center is small enough to reach everything easily. Amsterdam and also the rest of the Netherlands have dedicated bike lanes for safety. Since the Netherlands is also known as the country with the pancake flat surface you will not encounter any hills except for some steep bridges. This makes biking quite easy. There are many bicycle rental companies in Amsterdam where you can rent a bike for around €8 per day with discounts for longer day rentals.
Tips for Tourists:
The Canal Bus:
The canal bus is a hop-on hop-off canal cruise which has 20 stops along Amsterdam’s major tourist attractions like the Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum and Anne Frank House. On board of the Canal Bus there is a multilingual guide who provides you with all kinds of information about Amsterdam. Next to the bike this is one of the best ways to experience Amsterdam. Prices start from €22 for a 24 hour pass. More information can be found here.
All Amsterdam Transport Pass:
An unlimited tourists travel pass for seeing Amsterdam. This ticket combines a one day public transport ticket with a one day canal bus ticket. On top of that it holds discounts for all kinds of tourist attractions with a combined worth of €133. The price of this ticket is €28
This ticket can be bought in front of the central station or at the office of Canal bus on Prins Hendrikkade.
The Iamsterdam city card:
Another unlimited tourists travel pass for Amsterdam, this time without the canal bus ticket. Instead it includes over 50 free and 60 other discounted offers on major Amsterdam tourist attractions and restaurants. Prices start at €39 for a 1 day pass. More information can be found on the site of Iamsterdamcard.