Trams, boats and bikes: How to get around Amsterdam

Whether you prefer to get around on two feet, two wheels or any of the city’s first-rate public transport options, run by GVB, it couldn’t be easier to explore Amsterdam. Check out the GVB website for timetables and a transport map. Free ferries connect the dynamic, up-and-coming districts that are emerging in Amsterdam’s old docklands to the main city centre. And don’t rule out seeing the sights by boat – the perfect mode of travel in such a watery city.

Tickets

The OV-Chipkaart is an electronic payment card that covers the cost of travelling on all of the GVB transport systems. There are two main sorts of card – rechargeable plastic cards and disposable paper cards set to a pre-determined value and length of time. Cards are sold at the tourist office and on the city’s trams and at the metro. You must scan the card when you get on and off the bus, tram, ferry or metro. A disposable dagkaart (day ticket), for unlimited travel, costs €9 for 24 hours, €15 for 48 hours and €21 for 72 hours; these day tickets do not cover the train ride from the city to the airport.

Trams, metro and buses

Centraal Station is the hub of the system, with trams and buses departing from outside on Stationsplein, which is also the location of a metro station and a GVB public transport information office. Here, you can pick up a free, English-language, public transport information booklet, which is very helpful and includes a free transport map. Trams crisscross the city and are the most agreeable way to explore Amsterdam. Route 2 is even a bona fide travel experience, as you glide along past many of the city’s mega sights, including the canals, Museumplein galleries and the Vondelpark. Buses are mainly useful for going to the outskirts, and the same applies to the metro, which has a handful of city-centre stations. Trams, buses and the metro operate daily between 6am and midnight, supplemented by a limited number of nightbuses (nachtbussen). All central tram and bus stops display a detailed map of the network.

Hop-on, hop-off boats

A really fun way to get around Amsterdam’s waterways is to take a hop-on, hop-off boat. These operate on two circular routes, an outer green loop and an inner red route, which meet at various places. There are fourteen stops in all and together they give easy access to all the major sights. Boats leave from opposite Centraal Station every half an hour or so during low season between 10am and 5.30pm. There are 24-hour tickets for both routes, allowing you to hop on and off as many times as you like, which cost €27.50 per adult, €13 for children (4–11 years old).

Boat tours

A platoon of boat tour operators line up outside Centraal Station. Prices are fairly uniform - a one hour tour costs around €16 per adult, €8 per child (4–12 years old), and around €20–25 for a two-hour cruise at night. The big companies also offer more specialised boat trips – dinner cruises from around €60, literary cruises, and so forth. All these cruises are popular and long queues are common in the summer. One way to avoid much of the crush is to walk down the Damrak from Centraal Station to the jetty at the south end of the Rokin, where the first-rate Reederij P. Kooij offers all the basic cruises at competitive prices.

Bicycles

The city has an excellent network of designated bicycle lanes (fietspaden). The needs of the cyclist take precedence over those of the motorist and by law, if there’s a collision, it’s always the driver’s fault. Bike rental is straightforward. There are lots of rental companies (fietsenverhuur) but MacBike is perhaps the most convenient, with five rental outlets in central Amsterdam, including one at Centraal Station and another on Waterlooplein. They charge €8 (€7.20 if you book online) for one hour, €12.50 for three hours (€11.25 online) or €16.50 per day (€14.85 online) for a city bike with a hand brake. Additional days cost €14.50 (€13.05 online). 21-gear touring bikes require a reservation and cost €25 a day for a minimum of four days. All bike rental companies ask for some type of deposit.

Taxis

The centre of Amsterdam is geared up for trams and bicycles rather than cars, so taxis are not used as much as they are in many other cities. They are, however, plentiful: taxi ranks are all over the city centre and they can also be hailed on the street. Fares are metered and reasonably high, but city distances are small: the trip from Centraal Station to the Leidseplein, for example, will cost around €15, €4 more to Museumplein – and about 15% more if it's late at night.

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