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Getting Around Amsterdam

The best way to get around Amsterdam is by bike. Once you've flown into the nearby Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) and settled into your hotel, we suggest you inquire about getting your own two wheels. Numerous canals, impatient drivers and narrow roads (ringing the Canal Belt) make maneuvering the city via car interesting, to say the least. Plus, Amsterdam is known for its biking, and you'll find that rental shops canvas the city. Pedaling through an unfamiliar place might not be for everyone, though; for those travelers, there's also a perfectly respectable public transport system – the GVB – which offers metro, bus and tram service. And if you purchased an I amsterdam City Card, all your rides on public transportation are covered.

From the airport, you can reach the city center via bus, train or taxi. Taxi fares from the airport to the city center typically cost 40 to 60 euros (about $50 to $75). Travelers are advised not to take rides from drivers soliciting within the airport; instead, find the taxi rank at the airport's exit. This is where officially approved taxi drivers congregate.


Getting around Amsterdam by car probably isn't the best method. If you do decide to drive, frustration and expense will no doubt be your companions. Along with narrow, one-way roads, scarce parking – that's expensive to boot – and multitudes of pedestrians and cyclists on all sides, you also have a disorienting tangle of canals to grapple with. However, if you're planning on seeing other destinations outside of the city, renting a car does make a bit more sense. You can find rental places at the airport, as well as a throughout downtown. For tourists, the most important road to know is the A10, which makes a loop around the city. Intersecting the road are 18 S-routes, which offer direct paths into different districts of the city. Keep in mind that most rental agencies require drivers to be at least 21, or even 25 in some cases, but a valid U.S. driver's license will suffice.


Amsterdam's public bus service, which offers 42 bus routes, is operated by GVB. Many of the buses begin their routes at Centraal Station, which is also one of the places where you can buy your GVB OV-chipkaart, the public transport card that is used for trams and metros as well as buses. The most convenient option for travelers tends to be either a one-hour ticket, which is good for travel within one hour, or the day card, which can be purchased for one day or up to seven days. Although one-hour cards can be purchased aboard buses, visitors will have to purchase day cards at ticket vending machines at metro stops, or at the airport, among other places. One-day passes start at 7.50 euros (a little more than $9); one-hour passes cost 3 euros (less than $4). The GVB also operates night buses on 12 routes, but ticket prices for these are more expensive than their daytime counterparts. Top sites, such as the NEMO Science Museum, can be reached by bus; Nos. 22 and 48 make stops there.


Amsterdam also operates a small metro system, with four numbered lines: 50, 51, 53 and 54. Metro trains are mostly used by residents coming in from the suburbs, but travelers are welcome to use them too with their GVB OV-chipkaart, which can also be used on the metro and tram. If you do decide to take the metro train, be sure to validate your ticket on the platform before hopping on.


After walking or biking, the Amsterdam tram is the most scenic way to travel through the city. Fifteen tram routes crisscross the city, and visitors can use their GVB OV-chipkaart to take a ride on the 200-some trams offered. As with the bus or the metro, the most convenient ticket option on the tram is either a one-hour ticket or the day card, which can be purchased for one day or up to seven days. When boarding the tram, visitors should enter toward the front; to hop out, they can head to the rear and hit the green button on or next to the door. Top sights, such as the Anne Frank House, can be reached by tram; Nos. 13, 14 and 17 all make stops there.


To get across the IJ river, you can take one of seven free ferry routes operated by the GVB. Although you might enjoy a scenic view of the harbor, there's not a ton to do once you reach Amsterdam-Noord (North), though the area is currently undergoing a revitalization. One of the more popular routes takes travelers between Amsterdam Central Station to Buiksloterweg, which is home to attractions like EYE Filmmuseum and Tolhuistuin.

Taxi and Water Taxi

Metered taxis can be hailed on the street, called or picked up at taxi stands. However, in recent years, taxi service has become a little iffy with directionally challenged cabbies, who may or may not speak English. Taxi Centrale Amsterdam tends to offer trustworthy service. Water taxis in Amsterdam are very expensive, but they're also a scenic way to see the city. Uber also operates in Amsterdam.


Biking is the way to travel around Amsterdam. In fact according to the 2017 Copenhagenize Index of the world's most bike-friendly cities, Amsterdam is among the top three behind Copenhagen and Utrecht (another Netherlands city). You'll be able to find bike rental shops throughout the city. MacBike, Yellow Bike and Damstraat Rent a Bike rank highly among past visitors. Prices vary by company, but you can expect to pay about 10 euros (around $12) for a half-day rental and less than 15 euros (approximately $18) for a full-day rental. If you're nervous about traffic, pedal around on Sunday when the city is sleepy. Bike tours are equally popular, especially those offered by Mike's Bike Tours Amsterdam.

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