Amsterdam Airport Arrivals Tips

Last Updated: December 29, 2023

Gerrit Vandenberg

Gerrit shares his love for the Netherlands from his home near Amsterdam, helping thousands plan unforgettable trips to the lowlands. Discover his inspiring journey "From a critical health scare to celebrating Holland's charms". If you want to send Gerrit a quick message, you can contact him here.

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Hi, I'm Gerrit

I enjoy sharing useful tips about the beauty of this county.

Are you arriving at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol? And looking for arrival tips?

Then you landed – joke intended – on the right page. I will give you every tip I know for Amsterdam Airport Arrivals.

I’m a Dutch local, so Amsterdam is my home airport. I fly out of Amsterdam Airport about once every other month. So I’m very familiar with it.

In this article, you’ll find tips for both local arrivals (final destination Amsterdam) and transfer tips in case you’re transferring flights to Amsterdam.

One of the biggest surprises for first-time visitors is how vast Amsterdam Schiphol Airport is. Given how small the country is, and the fact it’s advertised as a one-terminal airport. It’s big.

The main reason for that is that Amsterdam is one of the main hubs in Europe for transferring passengers.

KLM is part of the Sky Team Alliance together with Delta. That’s why there are a ton of flights to and from the US by both Delta and KLM

Europeans come to Amsterdam to transfer for flights to the US, and many people from the US come to Amsterdam to transfer to their final European destination.

But of course, I’m hoping you’ll make a stopover in Amsterdam. It’s a great city to visit (and so is the rest of the country if you have some extra time).

Here are some posts to make your stay in Amsterdam easier:

But in this article, my goal is to make your arrival at Schiphol Amsterdam Airport as easy as possible.

Arriving at Schiphol Airport.
Welcome to Amsterdam – © Hidden Holland

Stepping Off The Plane

You’ve finally landed at Schiphol Amsterdam Airport. Yes!! Your vacation is about to start.

But if you’re flying in from outside of Europe I’m sure you’re also pretty tired by now, especially if you’ve flown Economy.

I’m going to help you navigate around the airport so you can get to your accommodation the quickest way possible.

The first thing you need to figure out when you land is where to go right?

Then you will be happy to know that Schiphol has award-winning easy signage, just look for the yellow signs, and they guide you exactly where to go.

PS: Do the signs look familiar? They’re also used in New York’s JFK Airport Terminal 4 (as is the announcement voice by the way, isn’t that funny?). JFK Terminal 4 is partly owned by Schiphol.

When you’re final destination is Amsterdam follow the signs for the baggage claim. If you’re transferring, follow the letter for your next gate like A, B, C et cetera. 

If you already have a boarding pass but no gate number yet, you can look up your gate number in the KLM app or on the departure screens.

If you still need a boarding pass head to the transfer desk (also on the signs).

If your onward flight is on a low-budget point-to-point airline like Easyjet or Ryanair you need to collect your baggage first and check in upstairs for your next flight. For most other airlines your bags will be transferred directly to your final destination.

Gates at Schiphol Airport.
Finding your gate at Schiphol – © Hidden Holland

Take a Moment To Refresh 

People usually do one of two things:

  1. They rush straight to passport control and the baggage area.
  2. They use the first available toilets they see. 

My tip is to do neither of these things. Keep walking after the first blocks of toilets and continue to the next, if no flights have arrived in that next area there should be no wait. Also busy? Keep walking to the main central shopping area where there are plenty more toilets. 

Then take a moment to refresh first; maybe change clothes, brush your teeth, use the restroom, wash your face…

If you just crossed the Atlantic, you’ll have flown through the night. It will help to re-create your morning routine as best as possible which in return helps your body adjust to the time difference and beat jet lag.

But even if you arrived from a European destination it’s nice to take a moment because heading straight for the cues at passport control (if applicable, more on that later) or the baggage claim will only result in longer waits at the baggage belt. It’s much nicer to give yourself a short break first.

Schiphol transfer desk.
Schiphol transfer desk – © Hidden Holland

One Terminal at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol

I mentioned it before. Schiphol Amsterdam Airport has a one-terminal concept. The best thing about it is that you don’t have the hassle of transferring to different terminals. The downside is that walking distances are substantial.

There are walkways to assist with covering the distances. And there is lots to do on the way. Many shopping areas and restaurants are from typical fast food to high-end dining. There are kids’ playrooms, a library, and even a depot of the Rijksmuseum.

But if you’re arriving I’m sure you’re ready to get on your way. These are good to know if you depart from the airport later.

Amsterdam Airport Map 

Are you looking for a Schiphol airport map? Here it is:

Schiphol Airport Arrivals map.
Schiphol Airport Arrivals map – © Hidden Holland

But if I am frank, you don’t need it, I have never used it. The signage is excellent, a map might only add to the confusion. 

Here are some examples of walking distances to give you an idea.

  • If you arrive at the B gates, expect 15-20 minutes to the baggage claim area
  • From the C gates, that’s about 10-15 minutes.
  • From the D gates, this can be 5-15 minutes, the D gates are massive.
  • From the E gates, 5-10 minutes.
  • From the F gates, 5-10 minutes.
  • From the G gates, 10-15 minutes
  • From the H/M gates, 15-20 minutes (these are the low-budget airline gates)

B/C and D (upper deck) are European flights within Schengen
D (lower deck) can also be European flights outside Schengen and US
E and F are intercontinental, mostly US flights with KLM or Delta
G gates are intercontinental non-Skyteam, like United
H/M is mainly used by EasyJet and Ryanair

When You Need Assistance

Amsterdam Airport has services to assist passengers with reduced mobility or hidden disabilities just like any other airport.

Assistance service at Schiphol Amsterdam Airport.
Assistance service at Schiphol Amsterdam Airport – © Hidden Holland

Because of the large distances to cover, if walking is uncomfortable for you, make sure to book this service for a more comfortable arrival.

It’s best to notify your airline 48 hours before departure, and assistance will be waiting for you upon arrival. Usually, you can arrange this without too much trouble in your “my trips” online environment.

I strongly suggest that you book services in advance, though you may also inform airline staff as you check in for your flight (just know this could result in a wait if the airport is busy, and Amsterdam almost always is).

What To Expect At Passport Control

Next up is passport control if you arrive from a non-Schengen country.

Schengen?

Schengen is a treaty many European countries signed that took internal borders away.

The Netherlands is part of Schengen just like 27 other European Countries. If you travel between these countries there is no border, aka no passport control.

This is the full list of current participating countries:

Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark (excluding Greenland and the Faroe Islands), Estonia, Finland, France (excluding overseas departments and collectivities), Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands (excluding Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten and the Caribbean Netherlands), Norway (excluding Svalbard), Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain (with special provisions for Ceuta and Melilla), Sweden, Switzerland.

When you arrive from outside this area (like from North America, the UK, or Ireland), you’ll have to pass passport control.

Weirdly enough, the passport control areas at Schiphol are tiny and can be extremely busy. It’s very different from the large areas you’re used to from other international airports, almost like it was an afterthought.

If they are busy, you can either accept it. Or (my secret, not-so-secret tip) is to go to another passport station.

For example, let’s say you arrive at the D or E gates, and passport control is super busy there because a batch of Delta flights just arriving. Then you might find a much better situation at Passport Control near the F gate area.

But no guarantees, some stations might be closed if there are no flight arrivals. Thus you might be mad at me for going there, for no reason in the end, and having to go back. That is a risk. But it can also be a huge time saver.

Flight departure screens Schiphol Airport.
Flight departure screens Schiphol Airport – © Hidden Holland

Have your photo page open before you arrive at an immigration officer to speed up the process.

If you’re an EU citizen you can also use your EU Identity card (no driver’s license) and the European Only lane (these have a lighter check). Make sure if you’re not from the EU to use the “All Passports” lanes.

The officer might ask you a few questions about your trip before you’re on your way.

PS: You may have heard rumors about ETIAS, a new, ESTA-like system, where you need to get pre-travel approval if you’re traveling from a Visa-free country.

It carries a small fee. But for now, it’s all plans, but there is no exact date yet. It’s been delayed quite a few times already. Maybe other blogs still say somewhere in 2024. But the latest update is mid-2025 (for now).

I’ll update this post when more information comes out.

If you’re arriving from a Schengen country, you won’t see any passport control and you walk straight to the baggage claim area. Which is super nice.

But baggage takes a while at this airport (the distances for your bags are also just as vast) 

Thus, there is no reason to rush. Get a coffee or make a restroom stop before you head to the baggage reclaim area.

Baggage Claim at Amsterdam Airport Tips

Speaking about vast. The baggage reclaim area is an enormous site covering the entire airport from left to right in four different “halls”. 

As soon as you enter the baggage claim area, take a moment to look at the monitors to locate your flight. It will show the correct baggage belt number for your flight.

Then follow the signs to get there.

Once you get to the baggage belt double-check the monitor above it to ensure check your flight is listed on it (usually, there is more than one flight on the same belt).

It also shows the most current real-time status for bag arrivals.

Hopefully, your bags have all arrived, but if they haven’t, look at the monitor above your baggage belt for the baggage handler for your flight.

If you’ve flown KLM, Air France, or Delta this will be KLM. If not, it could be another handler.

All agencies have an office in the area to go to if needed.

Customs at Amsterdam Airport

One more hurdle to take before you’re on your way: customs. After you’ve collected all your bags you are on your way to the exit. 

This is where you’ll pass customs. If you have nothing to declare, you can follow the green lane. If you do, follow the red.

Custom officers might ask you a few questions or request to inspect your luggage. If you have nothing to declare, this should take no more than a few minutes.

Make sure if you’re traveling from outside the EU that you don’t bring in any fresh foods like meats, vegetables, fruits, and the like.

Once you pass customs the sliding doors will open and you’ve arrived in the Netherlands.

Welcome!

The arrivals area will be busy, with families waiting for loved ones, drivers waiting for their customers, shops, foreign exchange offices (don’t use them), and taxi hustlers (definitely don’t use them).

It’s a lot to take in, but don’t worry, it’s all relatively easy to manage if you know what to do next.

Amsterdam Airport Arrivals Tips – Money Exchange

Lost and found and lockers Schiphol Airport.
Lost and found and lockers Schiphol Airport – © Hidden Holland

First things first. Foreign exchange offices, should you get Euros here? The answer to that is straightforward:

No, you do not.

If you just want to give money away, then consider buying me a coffee for this content, that will be spent well on website maintenance, but please don’t throw it at a bank and get nothing in return.

I have an article where I go into detail about money exchange. But for now, foreign exchange at the airport is costly, and better options exist.

It’s best to take out money from an ATM, but again be careful. You’re looking for a yellow Geldmaat. Not the blue/red foreign exchange machines.

Also, be aware of the fees you’ll get charged by your bank. And the ATM also tries to make money, asking you if you want your card to be charged in your currency from home.

Always say NO to that. The conversion rate is always better if you get charged in euros.

I recommend getting a Transferwise card well before you travel, including a physical card. The account is free, without maintenance fees. The card costs a few euro/dollars/pounds.

Exchanging your currency into Euros is extremely low cost with Wise and allows you to withdraw 100 Euros free of charge from an ATM. It’s enough to cover a small spending where a place doesn’t accept a card.

You can use the card to pay in stores like a local. I highly recommend getting this card. I use it myself on every trip.

Ground Transportation – Getting On Your Way

The area after customs is a public area called Schiphol Plaza. It’s home to many shops where lots of local day visitors also shop, as do airport personnel and people waiting for loved ones to arrive.

Taking a train from the airport to the city.
Taking a train from the airport to the city – © Hidden Holland

It’s also where you find the convenient indoor train station with many train services to Amsterdam just a short walk from the customs area.

The car rental facility counters are also in this area in case you plan to rent a car here.

Ok, now money is out of the way, and you need to get to your destination. From the airport, you can easily travel by:

  • Train (takes about 15 minutes) 
  • Bus (takes 20-30 minutes) – The bus is outside
  • Private Driver (20 minutes without traffic)
  • Taxi (20 minutes without traffic)
  • Ride Shares (the journey should take 20 minutes without traffic)
  • Rent a Car (it’s a 20 minutes drive without traffic, plus time to collect your car)

But all of that deserves another post on its own. That’s why I’ve written a complete guide on ground transportation from Amsterdam Airport to the City Center and how to book it / get tickets.

Flight Arrivals at Amsterdam Airport – Flight Status

PS: Leave your flight details with your loved ones, so it’s easy to follow your flight status.

I love and always recommend the popular app FlightRadar24. You can download it for free in the app store, and it’s a live flight tracker where you view the plane’s flight track live. Perfect for live flight arrival times.

It’s also helpful to leave your flight number with your tour company, car rental agency, shuttle, or hotel. If there are any delays and cancelations or current weather conditions, they can stay up to date on your arrival and know when to pick you up if applicable.

PS: The airport code for Amsterdam is AMS.

Airport signage to the trains and other ground transportation at Schiphol.
Airport signage to ground transportation at Schiphol – © Hidden Holland

Final Thoughts 

There you have it. All my thoughts, tips, and tricks to make your arrival in Amsterdam easier. 
 
Enjoy your Netherlands Vacation!

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Gerrit shares his love for the Netherlands from his home near Amsterdam, helping thousands plan unforgettable trips to the lowlands. Discover his inspiring journey "From a critical health scare to celebrating Holland's charms". If you want to send Gerrit a quick message, you can contact him here.

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