The city has efficient and cheap public transport (trams and buses), though if you're staying in the centre most places are reachable on foot. Locals tend to get around by bike: the streets are busy with cycles all day and most of the evening. There are also boats, barges and water taxis.
Handy new service 9292ov (0900 9292, www.9292ov.nl) groups national bus, train, taxi, tram and ferry info; besides phoning, you can use their Dutch-language website for 'door-to-door' advice. Under van (from), type in the straat (street), huisnummer (house number) and plaats (town) you want to start from (see Addresses for more information); then, under naar (to), the details for your destination; select the date and time, then select aankomst if that's your ideal arrival time or vertrek if that's your ideal departure time; then press geef reisadvies (give travel advice).
For information, tickets, maps and an English-language guide to all types of public transport tickets, visit the GVB, Amsterdam's municipal transport authority in person (an office is very conveniently located right opposite Centraal Station) or use their useful website.
Stationsplein CS, Old Centre: New Side (0900 8011/www.gvb.nl). Tram 1, 2, 4, 5, 9, 13, 16, 17, 24, 25. Open Telephone enquiries 8am-10pm daily. In person 7am-9pm Mon-Fri; 8am-9pm Sat, Sun.
The GVB runs Amsterdam's Metro, bus and tram services, and provides information on all.
GVB transport maps: Several handy maps are available on the GBV website including Metro, ferry and night lines (www.gvb.nl/english/travellers/maps)
Other locations Head Office: Arlandaweg 100 (lost articles); Bijlmer station; Metro stations; Rembrandtplein; Leidseplein (night buses only, midnight-6am Fri, Sat).
Fares & tickets
Don't travel on a bus or tram without a ticket. Uniformed inspectors make regular checks and passengers lacking a valid ticket will be fined €35 on the spot. Playing the ignorant foreigner won't work.
A 'strip ticket' system operates on trams, buses and the Metro. It's initially confusing, but ultimately good value for money. Prices begin at €1.60 for a strip of two units or €6.40 for 8 units; these you can buy from any bus or tram driver. But you only really start saving if you spend €6.80 for a 15-unit card or €20.10 for 45 units; these can only be bought at GVB offices, post offices, train stations, major supermarkets and many tobacconists and souvenir shops. Children under 3 travel free, and older children (4s-18s) and seniors (+65) pay reduced fares (€4.50 for a 15-strip card).
Tickets must be stamped on boarding a tram or bus and on entering a Metro station. The city is divided into five zones: Noord (north), West, Centrum, Oost (east) and Zuid (south); most of central Amsterdam falls within Centrum. Strip tickets are also valid on trains that stop at Amsterdam stations, with the exception of Schiphol.
For travel within a single zone, two units must be stamped, while three are stamped for two zones, four for three zones and so on. On trams, if a conductor is not there, you can stamp your own tickets in the yellow box-like contraption near the doors: fold the ticket so that the unit you need to stamp is at the end. On buses, drivers stamp the tickets, and on the Metro there are stamping machines located at the entrance to stations.
More than one person can travel on one 'strip ticket', but the correct number of units must be stamped for each person. Stamps are valid for one hour; during this time you can transfer to other buses and trams without having to stamp your card again. If your journey takes more than an hour, you have to stamp more units, but no single tram journey in the centre should take that long. Strippenkaarten remain valid for one year from the date of the first stamp.
A cheap option for unlimited travel in Amsterdam, a 'day ticket' costs €6.50. All pensioners aged over 65 (with Dutch ID or valid passport), students with ID and children (4s-11s) pay €4.50. Child day tickets are valid on night buses. A day ticket is valid on trams, buses and the Metro on the day it is stamped until the last bus or tram runs. You need to buy a new ticket for night buses (€3). Only the one-day ticket can be bought from drivers on trams and buses. After you've stamped the day ticket on your first journey, you don't need to stamp it again. You can also buy tickets for two days (€10.50) and three days (€13.50). The I Amsterdam Pass is an extended day ticket valid for one, two or three days (€33-€53), from GVB or the Amsterdam Tourist Board.
'Season tickets' can be bought at GVB offices, tobacconists and post offices, and are valid for a week, a month or a year. A weekly pass for the central zone (Centrum) costs €10.80, monthly €35.80 and yearly €358. Children (4s-18s) and seniors get cheaper season tickets: €7.15/day, €23.60/month and €236/year. You'll need a passport photo to get yourself a season ticket.
Train, bus, tram and bus travellers are also able to pay using an 'OV-chipkaart', a sort of credit card, available from GVB ticket and information offices. The card itself (valid for five years) costs €7.50, and different ticket types can be uploaded; weekly, monthly and annual season tickets can only be bought at GVB offices, while other jouneys can be added at ticket machines. There are also 'disposable' OV cards. See www.gvb.nl for a full explanation of OV-Chipcard rates and fares.
Trams & buses
Buses and trams are a good way to get around. Tram services run from 6am from Monday to Friday, 6.30am on Saturday and 7.30am on Sunday, with a special night bus service that takes over late in the evening. Night buses are numbered from 351 to 363; all go to Centraal Station. Night bus stops are indicated by a black square at the stop with the bus number printed on it. Night buses run from 1am to 5.30am daily from Monday to Friday, and until 6.30am on weekends.
During off-peak hours and at quieter stops, stick out your arm to let the driver know that you want to get on.
Yellow signs at tram and bus stops indicate the name of the stop and further stops. There are usually maps of the entire network in the shelters and route maps on the trams and buses. The city's bus and tram drivers and conductors are generally courteous and will give directions if asked; most can do so in English.
Other road users should be warned that trams will only stop if absolutely necessary. Cyclists should listen for tram warning bells and be careful to cross tramlines at an angle that avoids the front wheel getting stuck; motorists should avoid blocking tramlines: cars are allowed to venture on them only if they're turning right.
To get on or off a tram, wait until it has halted at a stop and press the button by the doors, which will then open. On some trams you can buy a ticket from the driver at the front; on others from either a machine in the middle, or a conductor at the back; on new trams, conductors sit in a booth in the middle.
Note that Metro 51, 53 and 54 are, confusingly, fast trams that run on Metro lines. This is not the same as the number 5 tram, which is actually called a sneltram (fast tram).
Despite being continually threatened with termination, the Opstapper, an eight-seater white minibus, continues to plough along Prinsengracht between Centraal Station and Waterlooplein (30min trip, 9am-5.30pm Mon-Sat) picking up mostly the elderly along the way. That said, absolutely anyone can use it as long as they pay with strippenkaarten or €1.60 cash. Just wave one down when you see it.
The Metro uses the same ticket system as trams and buses (see Trams & buses), and serves suburbs to the south and east. There are three lines, 51, 52 and 53, which terminate at Centraal Station (sometimes abbreviated to CS). Trains run from 6am Monday to Friday (6.30am Sat, 7.30am Sun) to around 12.15am daily. See Transport maps for a map of the Metro.
Cycling is the most convenient means of getting from A to B: there are bike lanes on most roads, marked by white lines and bike symbols.
Cycling two abreast is illegal, as is going along without reflectors on the wheels. At night you should use bike lights; the police set up periodic check points. Your option if you are stopped is to pay a fine or buy lights from the police on the spot. Watch out for pedestrians stepping into your path.
Never leave a bike unlocked: it will get stolen. Attach the bike to something immovable, preferably using two locks: around the frame and through a wheel. If someone on the street offers you a bike for sale (fiets te koop), don't be tempted: it's almost certainly stolen, and there are plenty of good and cheap bike hire companies around, of which we list a selection below. Apart from these, check the Gouden Gids under the section 'Fietsen en Bromfietsen Verhuur'.
Note that almost all bikes in Amsterdam now use the reverse-pedal brake system rather than manual brakes attached to handlebars. Those used to the latter will find that this takes some getting used to, so be sure to practise before setting out on the streets.
You can also hail a 'bicycle cab' or order one with at least a day's notice (06 1859 5153 same day, 06 4158 5012 booking, www.wielertaxi.nl). If you're wondering, it's basically a high-tech rickshaw. Rates €1/3 minutes per person; pets and children under 2 free; children aged 2-12 half-price. A €2.50 fee is applied for phone orders plus normal rates. For more on the Dutch bike obsession, Two wheels good.
Bloemgracht 68-70, the Jordaan (626 3721/www.bikecity.nl). Tram 10, 13, 14, 17. Open 9am-6pm daily. Rates from €8.50/day 9am-5.30pm. Deposit €25. Credit AmEx, DC, MC, V.
Centraal Station, Stationsplein 12, Old Centre: New Side (620 0985/www.macbike.nl). Tram 1, 2, 4, 5, 9, 13, 16, 17, 24, 25. Open 9am-5.45pm daily. Rates from €6 for 3hrs; from €8.50/day. Deposit €50 with a passport or credit card imprint. Credit AmEx, MC, V.
Other locations: Weteringschans 2 (620 0985); M. Visserplein (620 0985).
Mike's Bike Tours
Kerkstraat 134, Southern Canal Belt (622 7970/www.mikesbiketoursamsterdam.com). Tram 1, 2, 5. Open 9am-6pm daily. Dec-Feb 10am-6pm daily. Rates from €7/day. Credit No credit cards. Tours Guided tours available.
Damstraat 20-22, Old Centre: Old Side (625 5029/www.bikes.nl). Tram 4, 9, 14, 16, 24, 25. Open 9am-6pm daily. Rates €7 til 6pm; from €9.50 24hrs; €25 deposit and passport/ID card or credit card imprint. Get a 10% discount (excluding deposit) if you mention Time Out when you hire your bicycle. Credit AmEx, DC, MC, V.
You can order a cab by calling 677 7777. The line is often busy Friday and Saturday nights: expect a phone queue.
Check that the meter starts at the minimum charge (€3.40). Always ask the driver to tell you the cost of the journey before setting out. Even short journeys are expensive: on top of €3.40, you will be expected to pay €1.94 per kilometre for the first 25 kilometres, then €1.45 per kilometre thereafter.
If you feel that you've been ripped off, ask for a receipt, which you are entitled to see before handing over cash.
If the charge is extortionate, phone the TCA, the central taxi office (650 6506, 9am-5pm Mon-Fri) or contact the police. Rip-offs are relatively rare but it's always a good idea to check that the cab you are getting into has the 'TCA' sign.
Sometimes it's very hard to hail a taxi in the street, but ranks are dotted around the city. The best central ones are found outside Centraal Station, alongside the bus station at the junction of Kinkerstraat and Marnixstraat, Rembrandtplein and Leidseplein.
Wheelchairs will only fit in taxis if they're folded. If you're in a wheelchair, phone the car transport service for wheelchair users (633 3943, 7am-5pm daily). You'll need to book your journey one or two days in advance and it costs around €2 per kilometre.
Happily, there are now taxi companies out to help break the monopoly of TCA. Tulip Taxi (636 3000) begins with a minimum charge of €2.55 before adding 85 eurocents/minute for the initial 15 kilometres. After that they charge €1.50/kilometre. This can save you up to 50% on inner-city rides. Unfortunately, they do not have a large fleet and you are often left waiting.
Think carefully about bringing a car to Amsterdam. The roads simply aren't designed for them, and parking places are seriously elusive. Alas, public transport provision for those with disabilities is dire. Though there are lifts at all Metro stations, staff can't always help with wheelchairs.
If you absolutely must bring a car, join a national motoring organisation beforehand. This should issue you with booklets that explain what to do in the event of a breakdown in Europe. To drive in the Netherlands you'll need a valid national driving licence, although ANWB (see below) and many car hire firms favour photocard licences (Brits need the paper version as well for this to be legal; the photocard takes a couple of weeks to come through if you're applying from scratch). You'll need proof that the vehicle has passed a road safety test in its country of origin, an international identification disk, a registration certificate and insurance documents.
Driving in Amsterdam, as already mentioned, is far more of a hassle than it's worth, but major roads are usually all well maintained and clearly signposted. Motorways are labelled 'A'; major roads 'N'; and European routes 'E'. Brits in particular should note that the Dutch drive on the right. Both drivers and front-seat passengers must always wear seatbelts. Speed limits are 50kmph (31mph) within cities, 70kmph (43mph) outside them, and 100kmph (62mph) when on motorways. If you're driving in Amsterdam, always look out for cyclists. Many streets in Amsterdam are now one-way.
Royal Dutch Automobile Club (ANWB)
Museumplein 5, Museum Quarter (673 0844/customer services 0800 0503/24hr emergency line 088 269 2888/www.anwb.nl). Tram 2, 3, 5, 12, 16. Open Customer services 9.30am-6pm Mon-Fri; 9.30am-5pm Sat. Credit MC, V.
If you haven't joined a motoring organisation, enrol here for a yearly €49.50-€69.50 (the Wegenwacht Service), which covers the cost of assistance if your vehicle breaks down. Members of a foreign motoring organisation may be entitled to free help. Remember that crews may not accept credit cards at the accident scene.
Dutch car hire (autoverhuur) firms generally expect at least one year's driving experience and will want to see a valid national driving licence (with photo) and passport before they lend vehicles. All will require you to pay a deposit by credit card, and you generally need to be over 21. Prices given below are for one day's hire of the cheapest car available excluding insurance and VAT.
Nassaukade 344-346, Oud West (685 0111/www.adamsrentacar.nl). Tram 7, 10, 17. Open 8am-6pm Mon-Fri; 8am-8pm Sat. Credit AmEx, MC, V.
One-day hire costs from €32; the first 100km (62 miles) are free, and after that the charge is €0.14/km. Branch at Middenweg 51.
Van Ostadestraat 278-280, the Pijp (662 3366/www.diks.net). Tram 3, 4. Open 8am-7.30pm Mon-Sat; 9am-12.30pm, 8-10.30pm Sun. Prices from €34 per day. The first 100km are free, then it's €0.14/km. Credit AmEx, DC, MC, V.
Overtoom 333, Oud West (612 2441/www.hertz.nl). Tram 1, 6. Open 8am-6pm Mon-Fri; 8am-2pm Sat; 9am-2pm Sun, public holidays. Credit AmEx, DC, MC, V. Prices from €49 per day. The first 200km are free, then it's €0.22/km.
Clamping & fines
Wheel-clamp (wielklem) teams are swift and merciless. A sticker on your windscreen tells you to telephone 251 2222 (24-hour pay-and-go service). Someone will come to whom you can pay the fine by credit card (minimum €103.60) and have the clamp removed. To pay in cash after business hours you must go to Daniel Goedkoopstraat 7-9. During business hours go to any of the branches listed below and hand over your money. Once you've paid, return to the car and wait for the clamp to be removed. Thankfully, the declampers normally turn up fairly promptly, which is a small mercy in the grand scheme of misery incurred.
If you fail to pay the fine within 24 hours, your car will be towed away. It will cost around €150 or more, plus parking fine, plus a tariff per kilometre to reclaim it from the pound if you do so within 24 hours, and around €58 for every 12 hours thereafter. The pound is Daniel Goedkoopstraat 7-9. Take along your passport, licence number and cash, or a major credit card. If your car has been clamped or towed, go along to any of the following Stadstoezicht (parking service) offices to pay the fine.
All in all, it's just another reason to take public tranport.
Daniël Goedkoopstraat 7-9, Oost (553 0300/www.stadstoezicht.amsterdam.nl). Metro 51, 53, 54. Open 7am-11pm daily; 24/7 if your car has been towed.
Other locations: Beukenplein 50, Oost (553 0333). Tram 3, 9, 10, 14. Open 9am-5.30pm Mon-Fri. De Clercqstraat 42-44, Oud West (553 0333). Tram 3, 12, 13, 14. Open 8am-4.30pm Mon-Sat.
Parking in central Amsterdam is a nightmare: the whole area is metered from 9am up until at least 7pm – and in many places up to midnight – and meters are difficult to find. Meters will set you back up to €4.60 an hour. You can buy day passes for the centre (9am to 7pm: €27.60), evening passes (7pm to midnight: €18.40), or a week pass (€165.60 9am-7pm, €248.40 24 hours) – from the Stadstoezicht offices (see above). Car parks (parkeren) are indicated by a white 'P' on a blue square. After controlled hours, parking at meters is free. Below is a list of central car parks where you're more likely to find a space at peak times, although prices can be rather prohibitive.
When leaving your car anywhere across the city, be sure to empty it of valuables: cars with foreign plates are vulnerable to break-ins.
ANWB Parking Amsterdam Centraal
Prins Hendrikkade 20A, Old Centre: New Side (638 5330). Open 24hrs daily. Rates €3.50/hr; €45/24hrs. Credit AmEx, DC, MC, V. Many nearby hotels offer a 10% discount on parking here.
Marnixstraat 250, Oud West (0900 446 6880, €0.45/min). Open 6.30am-1am Mon-Thur; 6.30am-2am Fri, Sat; 7am-1am Sun. Rates €2.80/60min; €30/24hrs. Credit AmEx, MC, V.
De Kolk Parking
Nieuwezijds Kolk, Old Centre: New Side (427 1449). Open 24hrs daily. Rates €3.80/hr; €40/24hrs. Credit MC, V.
There are 24-hour petrol stations (tankstations) at Gooiseweg 10, Sarphatistraat 225, Marnixstraat 250 and Spaarndammerdijk 218.
Boats to rent
Amsterdam is best seen from the water. Sure, there are canal cruises (see below), but they don't offer the freedom to do your own exploring. To follow our canal tour (see Canal Dreams), you can try to bond with a boat owner; otherwise your options are limited to the pedal-powered canal bike or pedalo. Upon rental, don't ignore the introductory run-down of the rules of the water (put simply: stick to the right and beware canal cruisers).
Weteringschans 24, Southern Canal Belt (626 5574/www.canal.nl). Open Summer 10am-6pm; in nice weather till 9.30pm daily. Winter 10am-5.30pm daily at Rijksmuseum; weekends also at Westerkerk & Leidseplein. Moorings Leidsekade at Leidseplein; Stadhouderskade, opposite Rijksmuseum; Prinsengracht, by Westerkerk; Keizersgracht, on corner of Leidsestraat. Price Hire four-person pedalo if 1 or 2 people, €8/person/hr; if 3 or 4 people, €7/person/hr. Deposit €50/canal bike. Credit AmEx, MC, DC, V.
Weteringschans 27, Southern Canal Belt (623 9886/www.canal.nl). Tram 6, 10. Open 10am-7pm daily. Tickets 1 day €17; €11 under-12s. 1 day incl entrance to Rijksmuseum or Van Gogh Museum €26 (not available during special exhibitions).
I Amsterdam Transport Pass
Price €33 (valid for one day plus the morning of the following day). Credit AmEx, MC, V.
Centrale Stationsplein 8, Old Centre: New Side (535 6363/www.water-taxi.nl). Tram 1, 2, 4, 5, 9, 13, 16, 17, 24, 25. Open 8am-midnight daily. Rates 1-8 person boat €60 for first 30min, then €40/30min. 9-12 person boat €120 for first 30min, then €80/30min. 13-25 person boat €155 for first 30min, then €100/30min. 26-44 person boat €170 for first 30min, then €100/30min. Credit AmEx, DC, MC, V (accepted only prior to boarding).
They can pick you up and drop you anywhere in the city as long as they can get to the edge of the waterway. Try to book in advance.
While every effort and care has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this guide, the publisher cannot accept responsibility for any errors it may contain. Before you go out of your way, we strongly advise you to phone ahead and check the particulars.
Getting to Amsterdam
Amsterdam fast facts A-Z
When to go to Amsterdam