The most sustainable way to travel in Amsterdam is of course by foot or by bike. Walking around is THE best way to explore and enjoy the city. If you want to go a bit faster, and cover a bit more ground, you can rent a bike. Public transport is also very well arranged in Amsterdam. We think that trams are a great way to get around town. Especially when the weather is not at its best. Driving a car in Amsterdam on the other hand is something we strongly do not recommend. The streets are narrow and the traffic hectic with pedestrians, cyclists, trams and other traffic.
Note: If you look for travel options from Schiphol Airport, check our page Travel to Amsterdam.
Explore Amsterdam by foot
Besides it being the most sustainable way to travel in Amsterdam, it is also the best way. When walking around, you get the time to absorb the beauty of the city, to soak in the atmosphere. Look up now and then and admire the beautiful canal houses. Absorb that truly unique Amsterdam energy. But be aware of the traffic, (including cyclists!) that share the narrow roads with you!
Rent a bike to cycle through Amsterdam
Another sustainable and easy way to get around Amsterdam is by bike. The small streets and canals are well equipped for cyclists. There are lots of dedicated bike lanes on the more trafficked roads too. You travel relatively fast from A to B, covering more ground than when you walk. You will experience the city like a local.
Please keep in mind when renting a bike:
- Don’t rent a bike if you have no experience! Traffic can be erratic in Amsterdam.
- Be careful not to get your wheels stuck in tramlines. Cross tramlines at as much of an angle as possible.
- Don’t act like a local when it comes to rules! Adhere to all traffic lights and signs.
- Make sure you signal (put your hand out) when intending to turn a corner.
- Always lock up your bike to something secure and immovable.
With these do’s and don’ts in mind: enjoy your bike ride!
Public transport in Amsterdam
Amsterdam has a good, reliable and comprehensive public transport system. The city is full of tramlines (fourteen to be precise), there are a few metro lines and there are many city buses and regional ones, driving to the suburbs and cities around Amsterdam. You need an OV-chip card to travel around Amsterdam by public transport. More detailed information on public transport in Amsterdam can be found on the GVB site.
Trams are ideal for short journeys in and around the city centre of Amsterdam. They are a very popular mode of public transport, also with locals. There are fourteen tramlines heading in all directions. Most trams run every 10 to 15 minutes. On most trams you can only enter in the front, near the driver, or at the first last doors near the conductor booth. You check in with your OV-chip card as soon as you get on the tram and you check out when you leave. More and more tram stops, show a time indication so you know what time your tram arrives. It’s always nice to know what to expect, right?! The other reason we love the tram network is that they run on green energy, supplied by the local Amsterdam refuse-energy facility.
The metro can be a faster, more direct route to your destination than a tram. There are a few metro lines that run partly underneath the city centre from Central Station to the outer suburbs. In 2017 (current estimation) the new metro line from North to South is going to open. This metro runs underneath the city centre from Amsterdam Noord to Amsterdam WTC. You check in and out with your OV-chip card at gates, before you enter or exit metro stations.
Amsterdam operates a comprehensive bus network, which will take you everywhere you need to go. There are city buses that run out to the suburbs and regional busses that go to towns outside Amsterdam. Most buses either start at (and end), or pass by Amsterdam Central Station. Like in the tram you check in with your OV-chip card when you enter the bus and check out when you leave the bus. You can enter and leave a bus via either door.
As most modes of public transport normally finish around 00.30, there is a special network of twelve night buses serving all parts of Amsterdam. The night buses have their own fare structure that differs from the standard daytime fares system. To make your OV-chip card suitable for the night bus fares, you have to load a special “Night bus e-purse” product on the card. You only have to do this once at the GVB Tickets & Info kiosks, yellow ‘Add Value Machines’ and at various supermarkets, bookstores and tobacconists.
Behind Amsterdam Central Station, you have a choice of three free ferries that bring you across the river IJ. They bring you to either Buiklsoterweg, IJplein or NDSM Wharf in Amsterdam Noord (North). So check carefully on which one you hop, to make sure you get to where you want to be. There is also a free ferry from KNSM Eiland to North and one from Westerdok to Distelweg.
Official taxis can be recognised by their blue number plates. There are more than fifty official taxi ranks located around the city. You can identify a taxi rank by blue boards with “P Taxi” on it. There are many of them around the city, especially around tourist areas. You can also try to hail a taxi, although this doesn’t always result in success. And note that just as cars are not a very efficient way to get around the city, taxis can also be inefficient (and expensive).
We suggest you read more information on what to expect from Amsterdam taxis and taxi fees on iamsterdam.com. A conscious option is Taxi Electric. This taxi company drives 100% electric cars such as the Nissan LEAF and Tesla Model S. You can call them or book online.
Tickets for public transport in Amsterdam
GVB Tickets & Info desk
If the website of the GVB doesn’t help you (enough), you can always go to the GVB Tickets & Info desk, opposite Amsterdam Central Station. Here they can inform you and help you get the right ticket/OV-chip card. They can provide you with maps and timetables for all bus, tram and metro routes in Amsterdam.
You need an OV-chip card for tram, metro or bus
For all public transport in Amsterdam, you need an OV-chipkaart (OV-chip card). You can also use the I amsterdam City Card (see below). The OV-chip card is an electronic card with a built-in chip. You can buy the public transport chip card at all ticket vending machines at metro stations and at a GVB Tickets & Info desk. You can also charge the card with an amount at these vending points. You can either purchase a personalized OV-chip card or an anonymous OV-chip card. With the former you can get online insight in your travel behaviour. With the personalised card it is also easier to claim back your money in case you forget to check out.
Don’t forget to check in AND out!!!
We can’t emphasise it enough (as they do in the tram and metro): don’t forget to check in AND out!
When you start your journey, hold your card up to the reader until a green light appears and you hear a beep. The screen on the machine will display: Goede reis (Have a good trip). When you get to your destination, scan your card at the machine again till you hear a double beep. The screen will display: Tot ziens (Goodbye). It will also show you the fare you paid and the total amount left on the OV-chip card. If you change to another tram, bus or metro, you have to check out at one and check in again at the other. If you forget to check out, there will be an amount of €4.- taken off the card. You can get a refund online or go to the GVB Tickets & Info desk.
Public Transport Day(s) Tickets or Amsterdam & Region Day Ticket
Remember that Amsterdam is not very big and if you are healthy and mobile, you will walk a lot instead of taking public transport. If you want to cover more ground, or if you are less mobile and need to dose your walking activity, then you might be better off buying a GVB public transport day ticket or multi-day ticket.
Iamsterdam City Card
The Iamsterdam City Card is an all-in-one pass. This ticket provides unlimited travel on all tram, bus and metro (underground) services in Amsterdam plus discounts for canal cruises, museums and other attractions. Visit the best museums of Amsterdam, take a cruise through the charming canals, enjoy special monthly offers and sample the local delicacies. All for free or with a significant discount!
There is a 24-, 48- or 72-hours card. You can purchase the card at several shops and newsagents across Amsterdam, or at one of the Amsterdam Tourist Offices. Please visit iamsterdam.com for more information on the Iamsterdam Card.
Driving a car in Amsterdam
It is not very wise to drive your car into the city centre of Amsterdam. There are many narrow streets, there isn’t much parking space and the space that is available is pretty expensive (At least €5 an hour in the centre of Amsterdam). Furthermore there is a lot of distraction with traffic that you might not be familiar with, such as trams and bikes. Also check out our Parking in Amsterdam page.
Amsterdam electric charging points
To stimulate electric transport Amsterdam has a dense network of public electric charging points for your electric car. Anyone can charge their car battery here with a charge card. Green electricity is being used for charging. There are over 100 publicly accessible charging points, making Amsterdam one of Europe’s trendsetters in the introduction of electric mobility. Map with electric charging points in Amsterdam (NL)(green means available).
car2go – Electric car rental
If you are comfortable enough to brave the hectic Amsterdam traffic by car: rent an electric car at car2go. This car rental company (a Daimler company) has small city cars that are easy to drive and park. You register once and you pay a small amount by the minute or by the hour. Visit car2go for more information on tariffs and conditions.
Get a unique view of Amsterdam by boat
A unique way to explore Amsterdam is from the water. There aren’t many cities in the world where you get such a good and different feel of the city as sailing through the canals of Amsterdam. Even if you know Amsterdam quite well, you will discover many new and interesting things from the water.
Rent a boat to explore the canals
If you rent a boat, you can explore the canals at your own leisure. There is nothing so wonderful as to enjoy the city from ‘your own boat’, on a beautiful spring or summer day. Bring some drinks and snacks along and have a small picnic with friends while cruising the water. But be aware: the captain is not allowed to drink any alcohol!
Or maybe you would like a bigger boat, for a bigger party or a boat that is a bit more formal, then you could try one of the boats of Rent A Boat Amsterdam. They have a wide variety of boats.
Hop on – Hop off canal cruise
The Hop on – Hop off Citysightseeing is a canal cruise operated by Lovers. With seven stops throughout the city, it is the perfect way to get to all the highlights of Amsterdam. As the name already suggests: you can hop on and hop off at any stop you like. You can get a ticket that is valid for 24 or 48 hours (reduced fees available for kids). A GPS guide is available in 16 languages.
The Hop On – Hop Off Citysightseeing stops at the Anne Frank House, Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, the Heineken Experience and past beautiful sights such as the Old Port, the Magere Brug (Skinny Bridge) and the Jordaan district.