Getting Around Amsterdam: Guide to Public Transportation

Cityscape of Amsterdam in Netherlands
serts / Getty Images

Getting around Amsterdam is easy when you know how. You can hop on a tram, bus, or metro train, all operated by the city's primary travel operator, Gemeentelijk Vervoerbedrijf (GVB). Or you can explore the city like the locals: on a bicycle.

As the GVB covers three modes of public transport—metro, tram, and bus—you only need one ticket to access them all. You can buy tickets at all metro stations and the machines' language can be toggled to English, making them very easy to use. Tram and bus operators can sell one hour, one day, or 48-hour tickets but they don't accept cash payments. 

A one-hour GVB Chipkaart costs 3.20 euros, 24 hours costs 8 euros, 48 hours is 13.50 euros, four days is 24.50 euros, five days is 29.50 euros, six days costs 33.50 euros, and a week is 36.50 euros. At the machines you can pay for your ticket using cash, chip and pin cards, or contactless payment methods. The employees can occasionally be temperamental, but there is a GVB office at Central Station where you can buy your ticket from a real person if you choose.

You can either buy a paper or plastic card; the plastic card is recommended for any time period longer than a day (as it’s more resilient than paper). With the plastic card, you can load it with time-based tickets, such as a week ticket, or with credit. For cards loaded with credit, you must tap in and out on buses and trams to avoid being overcharged. 

How to Ride the GVB Metro

There are five metro routes, covering seven major areas in the city (and outside, including Amstelveen, Diemen, Ouder-Amstel, and Noord), and three of the five lines start at Central Station. All stations are accessible by wheelchair either by ramps or lifts. 

The five lines are: 50 (Ring Line) which operates from Isolaterweg to Gein; 51 (Amstel Line), covering Westwijk to Central Station; and 53 and 54 (East Line), covering either Gaasperplas or Gein to Central Station. The newest line is the 52, which travels from Amsterdam Zuid to Noord. Trains run from 6 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. and they usually come every 10 minutes. You can plan your route and find out more information on the GVB website.

How to Ride GVB Buses

There are over 40 bus routes in and around Amsterdam. If you use the digital map on the GVB website you can see real time departures. If you’re out and about, it makes sense to download the GVB app for the duration of your stay, so you can access transport information any time, anywhere.

While the trams and metros stop running at 12:30 a.m., there are 12 bus routes that run nightly from 12:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. every day. The night buses have their own fares: 4.50 euros for 90 minutes or 34 euros for 12 trips. Tickets can be bought from the bus driver with a chip and pin card or contactless card payment.

All buses have ramps and spaces designated for wheelchairs and strollers, but wheelchairs are prioritized over strollers. Depending on the routes, bus can run between every 15 minutes to one hour, so be sure to use the GVB website or app to plan your journey so you don’t have to wait too long at the bus stop.

How to Ride GVB Trams

The tram routes serve most of the big tourist attractions in the city. In fact, the tram line 2 is considered a tourist attraction in and of itself. One of the most beautiful routes, the line runs from Central Station and takes in the sights of Vondelpark, the canals, and the Rijksmuseum. 

You can see all the tram routes on a digital map on GVB's website. Clicking on each of the stations will reveal if it is accessible by wheelchair. The newer trams are generally wheelchair accessible, but you can’t guarantee whether a new tram will arrive at your stop on any given day. Not all older trams are accessible, but if they are they will have a pink ITS symbol next to the accessible door. 

A man riding his bike through Amsterdam
TripSavvy / Christopher Larson

How to Ride a Bike in Amsterdam

One of the easiest and most affordable ways to travel around Amsterdam is by bike. The city is set up with separate bike lanes on larger roads, so it’s not as daunting as it looks. There are a few bike rental companies in the city like Mac Bike, Good Bicycle, and Black Bikes.

Be sure to keep as far to the right as possible in bike lanes, stop at red lights (even if the locals don’t), use your bell to signal to pedestrians (tourists have a habit of unknowingly wandering into bike lanes), and look out for tram lines. When you encounter one, be sure to cross the tracks diagonally or horizontally or your wheel could get stuck, causing you to fall off. 

Free Shuttle Ferries

The GVB runs 14 different ferries that travel from Amsterdam over the water to Amsterdam-Noord, every day, 24 hours a day. The ferries run every two to 30 minutes, depending on the route and time of day. You can take your bicycle onto the ferries, allowing you to explore Noord on two wheels. All the routes are available on the GVB website.

Uber

Uber operates in Amsterdam and is cheaper than a regular taxi if you want to travel from the airport to the city center. Expect to pay around 30 euros. 

Trains Between the Airport and Central Station

It’s quick, easy, and affordable to travel from Schiphol airport to Central Station on the train. You buy an NS train ticket at a machine at the airport, which you can toggle to English. The trains take around 14-17 minutes to get to the city center. They arrive regularly, it’s easy to find the right platform, and platforms can be accessed by elevator if you have a lot of luggage.

Tips for Getting Around Amsterdam

  • You only need to buy one GVB ticket and you will be able to travel on any of the bus, tram or metro lines throughout the day and evening.
  • Night buses run from 12:30 a.m. until 7:30 a.m. and you can buy a ticket from the driver (they don’t accept cash).
  • When it’s raining in Amsterdam the surcharges on Uber can get very expensive.
  • Bikes are a very quick and easy way to travel around the city.
  • Parking is very expensive in Amsterdam, so unless you have parking at your hotel, renting a car is not the most affordable way to get around. If you’re heading out of the city, a car can make sense, and you can hire a vehicle at Schipol airport or from Sixt or Enterprise near Amsterdam’s Central Station.
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