Amsterdam Public Transport Simplified

Last Updated: August 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.

Disclosure: This article has affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. It costs nothing extra, but you'll help keep my content free. It's a win-win!

Save the article (#20)

WANT TO SAVE THIS ARTICLE?

Enter your email below & I'll send it straight to your inbox!

And each week, I'll send you new tips to plan your Netherlands vacation. If you decide it's not for you (any longer), unsubscribing is always just a click away.

Gerrit profile image.

Hi, I'm Gerrit

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

Are you wondering about Amsterdam Public Transport? Is it any good? Is it safe?

You’re in the right place. I’m a Dutch local. I’ve lived here most of my life. And I use Amsterdam Public transportation almost weekly. In this article, I’ll ensure you’re equipped with a guide to Public Transport with everything you need to know to get around Amsterdam quickly.

Amsterdam has a public transport system that’s impressive. They take the concept of greener cities to heart: less car-friendly, electric vehicles, et cetera. If you’ve been there, you know what I’m talking about. If not, let me tell you, you’re in for a treat.

It’s incredibly efficient, with trams, buses, and ferries running like clockwork, taking you to all the iconic sites in Amsterdam. Trust me, it’ll make you fall in love with the idea of public transport.

But here’s the thing – while it’s efficient, it can also be a bit daunting if you’re unfamiliar, especially if you’re a first-time visitor. You might feel a bit like a fish out of water. But don’t worry. I’ve got your back. In this article, I’ll walk you through the ins and outs of navigating Amsterdam’s public transport.

GVB trams are part of the Amsterdam Public Transport network.
GVB trams part of the Amsterdam Public Transport network – © Hidden Holland

Types of Transportation

Let’s cover the different modes of public transport in Amsterdam you’ll come across. These are trams, metro, ferries, buses, and local trains. Let’s review them individually in this order, from the most useful to the least useful for visitors.

But three modes of public transport are most useful for visitors. Those are trams, metro’s and buses.

Trams in Amsterdam

GVB tram in Amsterdam passing.
GVB tram in Amsterdam passing – © Hidden Holland

For most visitors, Amsterdam GVB trams are the most practical mode of transportation. The network is dense and reaches almost every corner of the city.

Another benefit of using the tram is seeing some of Amsterdam’s picturesque city center. The efficient GVB Amsterdam tram public transport network within the city quickly takes you to most tourist attractions.

Some handy tramstops are:

  • Amsterdam Central Station (Amsterdam Centraal in Dutch) most tram lines and all metros
  • Dam Square – Madame Tussauds, Royal Palace, New Church, Anne Frank > Tram lines 2, 4, 12, 13, 14, 17 and 24
  • Museumplein – Amsterdam Museum Area > Tram lines 2, 5, 12 (2 and 12 go to Central Station), 5 to the Jordaan and Amsterdam Zuid station.
  • Vijzelgracht – Heineken, de Pijp > Tram lines 4 and 24, but metro 52 will be the fastest.
  • Koningsplein – Flower Market > Tram 2 and 12
  • Leidseplein – Busy square with lots of restaurants, Rembrandt Experience > Tram 2 and 12

The transport company GVB operates all trams in Amsterdam. This is the Amsterdam transportation operator. Buying a GVB ticket is only valid on GVB vehicles (which are all trams).

Metro in Amsterdam

Metro Amsterdam M52 arriving at station.
Metro Amsterdam M52 arriving at station – © Hidden Holland

The Amsterdam metro is the next most helpful mode of transportation for many people, especially with the opening of the North-South line M52 (running from Amsterdam Nord to Amsterdam South). The Amsterdam metro is the fastest way to get around the city, but it runs underground, so you miss the sights along the way.

The most helpful stops on the M52 Amsterdam Noord – Amsterdam Zuid line are:

  • Rokin for the Rembrandtsplein and the Flowermarket
  • Vijzelgracht for the Heineken Experience and the Rijksmuseum
  • De Pijp for the Albert Cuijp Market and De Pijp Neighborhood
  • RAI for the Convention Center
  • Amsterdam Zuid Station for the Amsterdam South train station with quick airport connections

Other useful metro stops on the other metro lines (M53 M 54 +) are:

  • Waterloopplein for the Rembrandt House, Jewish Quarter, Artis Zoo, Hortus and flea market.
  • Bullewijk for IKEA, if you crave Swedish meatballs, even though you’re not in Sweden.

The Metro is branded as RNET, though the reason for this branding is unclear. They’re operated by GVB, just like the trams. Your GVB ticket is valid on all metros in the Amsterdam area.

I notice I use the metro more than the tram because it’s much faster. The tram is usually the nicer way to travel when you’re visiting.

Please read my full article for a much more in-depth guide about the Amsterdam Metro.

Ferry in Amsterdam

Ferries in Amsterdam they're free to use.
Ferries in Amsterdam they’re free to use – © Hidden Holland

The ferries in Amsterdam are not only fun, they’re also free! If you want to do something free, hop on a ferry on the north side of Central Station and enjoy a ride across the IJ River.

Two ferry lines are most useful for visitors:

To Buiksloterweg: This is the most frequent route, going straight across every 5-10 minutes and taking only 5 minutes. It is the one to take to get to the ADAM Lookout tower and the awesome 5D Flight: “This is Holland.”

To NDSM wharf: Home to the Street Art Museum, the cheaper Doubletree Hilton (compared to the Doubletree Amsterdam Central Station location), trendy restaurants, and the Pancake boat. The crossing takes 15 minutes and offers good photo opportunities.

Other ferries run more to residential areas, but you can take them for fun.

All of them are free, after all. You don’t need a ticket for them, just walk on.

Buses in Amsterdam

Entrance to Amsterdam Central Bus station.
Entrance to Amsterdam Central Bus station – © Hidden Holland

Local buses operated by GVB (the white and blue buses) are usually not useful for most tourists. They connect residential areas not served well by tram.

There is one exception to that, and that is Bus 22, which stops at the NEMO Science Museum and the Amsterdam Maritime Museum (Scheepvaartmuseum.)

The N397 bus from Leidseplein to the airport and buses to surrounding towns like Volendam, Zaanse Schans, and Marken are helpful. But these are NOT part of the GVB bus network, and city tickets are NOT valid.

This includes GVB day tickets and the I amsterdam City Card. You need separate tickets if you own these passes for the destinations above.

The Amsterdam + Region Travel Ticket (ARTT) is the ticket you need if you want to use those connections, but more about that ticket is below.

Local Trains (Also From Amsterdam Schiphol Airport to Amsterdam)

Here are a few local train stations in Amsterdam:

  • Amsterdam Centraal Station
  • Amsterdam Sloterdijk (hotels and Flixbus)
  • Amsterdam Bijlmer (hotels and Johan Cruijff Arena)
  • Amsterdam RAI (convention center)
  • Amsterdam Zuid is the nearest station to the airport.

But these are not frequently used within the city and are poorly connected. Except for Amsterdam Central to Sloterdijk. There are more local stations, but these are commuter stops.

The national operator NS runs trains, and GVB Amsterdam public transportation tickets are NOT valid on these trains. You need a separate train ticket or buy the Amsterdam + Region Travel Ticket (ARTT), valid on local trains.

My complete travel guide from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol to the City Center 🚈.

Amsterdam Public Transport Tickets

Different GVB travel passes.
Different GVB travel passes – © Hidden Holland

While it might sound complicated, Tickets for public transport in Amsterdam are straightforward. Here is the rundown:

If you only need transportation within the city by tram and metro (ferries are always free), you need a GVB Ticket (Amsterdam Public Transport Tickets).

OR

If you want access to the trams and metros PLUS trains to and from the airport and buses to surrounding villages, you need an Amsterdam + Region Travel Ticket (ARTT), which is affordable.

A note on the OV chipcard and other options that have been sunsetted:

You might read about the (anonymous) OV Chipcard, the (former) Amsterdam public transport smart card. If so, ignore all that information.

Locals still use it since they can hold subscriptions available to locals, but as a visitor, it’s completely redundant with the arrival of contactless payments.

The same holds for ticket vending machines. There is no need for paper travel tickets anymore. So skip them. They’re confusing and sometimes also charge a surcharge.

Before, you could buy a ticket from the driver. That is not possible anymore with the introduction of OVpay (contactless). Ticket sales on board public transport in Amsterdam have ceased.

Amsterdam Public Transport GVB Tickets

There are three GVB public transport tickets you need to know about:

  1. Individual tickets: These are easy nowadays. You don’t have to buy them. Just use your contactless-enabled debit or credit card or phone like Apple Pay. Tap the machine when you enter the vehicle or platform, and tap out when you leave. The correct prices will be deducted from your card.
  2. Day Tickets and Multi-Day Tickets unlimited travel: These are great if you want to explore the town. They’re inexpensive; choose the number of days you need and use it to your heart’s content while it is valid. You can buy your GVB Amsterdam public Transportation tickets here.
  3. I amsterdam City Card.” It’s a city card with free access to many museums and attractions and includes using the GVB transport network for the duration of your card. I’ve written a post on the I amsterdam Card to see if it might be worth it for you.

Transportation to and from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is NOT included with any of the above tickets. They are great if your airport transport (private transfer, taxi, Uber, or Hotel Shuttle) is covered.

Hour tickets are still available from some places but are a waste of your money because contactless tapping in and out will work out cheaper.

Regional Tickets To And From The Airport And Surrounding Towns

For traveling between Schiphol Airport and Amsterdam Central and for other places around the city, these two ticket options are best:

  1. Individual tickets work the same for every public transport company in the country. Just tap in and out with your contactless debit or credit card, and you’re good to go. It works on trains and buses. For the train, check-in and out on the platform BEFORE you board the train. There is no need to buy a ticket. You can skip the ticket vending machines and the €1 surcharge they charge.
  2. The Amsterdam Region Travel Ticket: If you plan to use public transportation to and from the airport and travel inside the city regularly, it’s often cheaper than individual tickets. I highly recommend the Amsterdam + Region Travel Ticket (ARTT) ticket.

How to Buy Public Transport Tickets

For individual trips on public transport in the Netherlands, you don’t need to buy tickets. Use your contactless debit or credit card, Apple Pay, or Google Wallet.

Amsterdam Travel Cards, like day passes and multi-day tickets, can be bought online in advance. I advise you to do so. And remember, they allow unlimited public transport.

Here are the links to buy:

How to Use Your Tickets

Once you know how to use your tickets, it’s super simple.

If you use your contactless debit or credit card (or Apple Pay/Google Wallet), you tap your card to the front of the reader in a tram or bus. These are inside the vehicle where you enter.

You see the contactless logo or watch your fellow passengers first. Do the same when you exit. For trains and the metro, you do this when entering the station. Usually, there are entry gates where you scan your card.

There is one extra step for Amsterdam travel cards like multi-day tickets: You must exchange your voucher for physical tickets at GVB service points. Instructions are in your booking, but often it’s at the white wooden building in front of the central station (center side).

Then, you use it the same way as the one described with the contactless card.

For the “I amsterdam City Card”, it’s a little different. You activate the card in the cards app when you want to use it. That generates a QR code.

This code is then scanned at the ticket barriers at stations (train/metro) just the same, but in trams and buses, you scan the QR code BELOW the tapping device, not in front like with a contactless card.

Scan your ticket with contactless OR QR code on tram Amsterdam.
Scan your ticket with a contactless OR QR code – © Hidden Holland

I read several negative reviews about the card, claiming it’s not working. I’ve seen people holding it in the wrong spot.

The QR code reader is at the bottom. You see a red light shining. This confuses many people because contactless cardholders hold their device/card in front of the reader. If you have a QR code always use the bottom scanner of the machine.

But the card readers are also of exceptionally bad quality. I tested the I amsterdam card myself at the start of September 2023. I was only able to successfully scan my QR code on average 2 out of every 10 times I tried in a tram. If this happens don’t stress. Just show your card to the driver or steward and you’re fine. My experience at the metro gates was that the QR code worked perfectly. I had no issues with the Metro.

Public Transport Ticket Prices

Individual tickets are charged by distance. That is why you check in when you board and check out when you leave again. So they know how far you have traveled.

Day passes have fixed prices, but these can change. When I publish something, it can quickly be outdated after that. Prices vary depending on your chosen days and whether you go for just the GVB city transportation or a regional ticket. Check the provided links in this article to the relevant product for current, up-to-date prices.

Difference Between The Amsterdam Travel Ticket (ATT) And The Amsterdam Region Travel Ticket (ARTT)

The difference is that the Amsterdam Travel Ticket (ATT) includes all city transportation plus travel between the airport by train or bus.

The Amsterdam Region Travel Ticket (ARTT) has the same included city and airport but is also valid on all public transport in a broader area outside of Amsterdam. For example to Volendam, Marken en The Zaanse Schans.

Read more full posts about Volendam and Marken and, of course, the well-known Zaanse Schans.

The price difference is so small I would not consider the Amsterdam Travel Ticket (ATT). Just go with the Regional ticket, and for about the same price, you have a lot more flexibility to travel around.

Either travel ticket can save money, so it’s well worth getting one if you’re planning to travel around Amsterdam. 

Public Transport Safety Tips

Traveling by public transport in Amsterdam is usually safe. There is NO homeless issue since tickets are actively checked—no courtesy rides on the Dutch system.

But here are some pointers to help increase safety on your journey:

  • Trams and buses won’t stop unless the “Stop” button is pressed, so ensure you do so.
  • Information screens show the process of your journey and the following stops. This is super helpful.
  • On vehicles where you don’t have direct access to a steward or driver, there are alarm buttons. These are meant for emergencies only! Don’t use them to request the Museum stop, or you’re in trouble.
  • When something falls on the track (Metro), leave it there. Inform via the alarm button and wait for instructions.
  • Pickpockets are the most considerable risk in terms of crime, especially when it’s busy. I have often seen mobile phones sticking out of back pockets, open backpacks, or cameras being put on the empty seat next to someone. The fact you’re holidaying in magical Europe doesn’t make it Disneyland-safe. Tourists often let their guard down. But this is a big city. Use common sense like you would at home. And be extra careful during peak hours when trams and metros are the busiest.
  • Don’t board when doors are closing. This is dangerous and forbidden.
  • Stay away from the tracks. Trams are heavy machines.
  • Trams always have the right of way.
  • Areas that may be a little less safe are Amsterdam West and Amsterdam Zuidoost (Bijlmer), especially at night. These are residential areas and are usually not of interest to visitors.

Night Options

Trams, buses, and metros operate daily from around 6 in the morning until 12:30 at night. Times vary a little on a stop-by-stop basis. Between those hours, GVB operates night buses on the most important routes.

The ferry to Buiksloterweg and NDSM also runs through the nights.

The Metro M52 (North-South line) also runs during the night.

Night buses are more expensive, but the correct fare is charged when you use your contactless card. If you use a multi-day ticket, rides are included.

The Amsterdam Airport Express bus 397 and trains run around the clock to and from the airport.

Amsterdam Public Transport Map

The Amsterdam GVB website offers a detailed tram map. Just click the image to go to the GVB website.

Map of Amsterdam Public Transport – GVB

Amsterdam Travel Planners

For planning your trip within Amsterdam, I don’t personally like the GVB website that much. My phone doesn’t take a liking to it. It’s too interactive. I prefer using Google Maps or even Apple Maps.

But I think Google Maps is superior for planning trips. It gives you the nearest stop, the line number, and the number of stops, and you can follow you’re journey live. It also gives you alternative options. I enjoy the interface, and it’s free!

Public Transportation Apps

There are a few apps available for you to download:

  • Google Maps: This is the app that I use.
  • NS: For train travel, it is an excellent app to have.
  • GVB: I don’t particularly enjoy using this app. I would not install it.
  • 9292: A national door-to-door planner. I find it frustrating, but it’s a popular app.

Accessibility Public Transport

Trams, buses, metros, and ferries all have low-floor access. You can get on them without help, also when you’re in a wheelchair or a scooter.

On Dutch public transport, people with disabilities always have priority over strollers and children. If needed, the driver will assist you. There are spaces to park your wheelchair or scooter.

If you’re not in a wheelchair or scooter but have problems standing, priority seats are available (marked in a dark red color). You can ask someone to vacate them unless they need them too.

If you can’t read the information signs, don’t depend on audio cues for the next stop. They’re not always audible. Ensure to inform the driver so he or she can make a clear-to-hear announcement for you.

Metro stations will have lifts available to reach the platforms.

Most trains have low-floor access as well. These are called sprinters. Intercity trains can have steps (used for longer distances).

And don’t forget to ask. Dutch people are not as scary as they sound. Most people gladly provide a helping hand.

For more information about accessible travel in the Netherlands, check my post: “Is Amsterdam wheelchair friendly?

Public Transportation With Kids

When you’re traveling with kids (or you’re expecting), you most likely have extra questions. Here are some answers:

  • Kids aged between 4-11 travel at a reduced rate. Under four kids travel for free. 12 and older pay full fare. If your kids look 12 or older, ensure you have proof of their age.
  • All public transport in Amsterdam now has low-floor entry. There are no steps to enter, making it easy to enter with a stroller.
  • Inside trams, metro, and buses, there are spaces to park a stroller and sit next to it. But know that wheelchairs or scooters have priority over strollers. So if space is tight and a wheelchair enters (it doesn’t happen that often), you may be asked to vacate the spot and in the most extreme scenario, asked to take the next service. The driver has the final say since he or she is responsible for safety on board.
  • There are designated seats (red) for the elderly, disabled, or expecting. Usually, when it’s clear, people will stand up for you. If they don’t, kindly ask them. If they refuse, talk to the driver.
  • Kids love the ferry rides even if you don’t need to take them. Do take them. Just cross. You can stand outside, and it’s lovely!
  • Ask for help if you need it, for example, with boarding or deboarding. The Dutch might sound inaccessible, but my experience is they’ll help when asked.

Is Renting a Bike A Good Alternative?

Gerrit Amsterdam canal with bike.
Me holding a bike in Amsterdam – © Hidden Holland

You might consider renting a bike while you’re here. I would say re-consider that idea. I’ve written an article about that: “Reasons not to rent a bike in Amsterdam for your city transportation.” I recommend walking and taking the Amsterdam trams/metro system to get you everywhere.

A Note on Taxis and Uber

Taxis in the Netherlands use meters. Never negotiate rates with a driver or board a non-metered taxi. Please use official taxis only. You can recognize taxis by their blue license plates. Never board a vehicle claiming to be a taxi if they have a regular yellow license plate, which is not a taxi. Most likely, you will be scammed if you board a yellow-plated vehicle.

Scams are, unfortunately, prevalent at the airport. I heard heartbreaking stories of people being robbed. It’s so easy to avoid, too. Use the official taxi rank in front of the terminal that is signposted. Never listen to people soliciting a ride in the terminal building, no matter how good or authentic their offer sounds. It’s a surefire way to get in trouble.

Taxis are not cheap, and you can quickly get into traffic-jams and delays, especially in the old city center. Expect €50-€60 each way.

Uber operates in Amsterdam, but they have to be licensed. These are not private people earning something extra. They’re on a payroll, and that means higher prices. It’s not cheaper than a taxi, but the benefit is that the price is set. No surprises like you can have with a meter.

Overall, I would recommend booking a private transfer in advance or taking public transportation. If you have too much luggage, question yourself why you have that in the first place.

This is the old world with uneven streets and, if you’re unlucky, even cobbled. You’ll curse yourself so much dragging your luggage around Amsterdam and other European places. The Dutch always chuckle, seeing mainly visitors from overseas trying to haul their oversized luggage around.

And most likely you don’t need it. You’re traveling—travel light. Buy essentials once you get here, and take clothes for multiple occasions. Use a laundromat or a washing service to wash your clothes along the way.

The first tip not to look like a tourist and more Dutch is not to have (too many) suitcases and trolleys with you.

Conclusion

This guide to Amsterdam’s public transportation should equip you with all the tools to confidently navigate the city’s tram network and other modes of transport.

In summary, the tram is the most convenient mode of transport for visitors. The metro will be the fastest but underground. It’s a much safer alternative than renting a bike.

When you have any questions, want to share your experience, or notice any changes, please use the comment section below. I read and answer every comment.

If you found this guide helpful, please consider sharing it with other travelers. Safe travels, and enjoy every moment in this enchanting city!

And if you wonder what to do, here is my “What to Do in 3 Days in Amsterdam by a local (me 🤗).”

You might also be interested in:

Every Coffee ☕️ Counts!

Do you appreciate this article? Consider a coffee donation ☕️ to support this website’s upkeep. Every contribution matters and is deeply appreciated. Thank you for your generosity!

Does All Of This Feel Overwhelming?

Planning a trip well is a lot of work and can feel overwhelming. Know I’m here to help when you need assistance with your Netherlands vacation.

I offer Itinerary Consultations, where I help you improve your itinerary and make your trip planning much faster and less stressful.

Even if you already have a plan, I have local insights you don’t get from a guidebook. Is that truly a nice restaurant? Is your plan efficient or even doable? What to do once you’re inside a museum. The Rijksmuseum is massive. A call is also great if you doubt which options to choose. I can genuinely personalize my advice to you.

Are planning to use Public Transport in Amsterdam?

I’d love your thoughts: What type of ticket do you plan to use?. Please share your thoughts in the comments below, and let’s start a conversation 💬.

Save the article (#20) (#31)

WANT TO SAVE THIS ARTICLE?

Enter your email below & I'll send it straight to your inbox!

And each week, I'll send you new tips to plan your Netherlands vacation. If you decide it's not for you (any longer), unsubscribing is always just a click away.

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.

2 thoughts on “Amsterdam Public Transport Simplified”

  1. Hi,

    My husband and I are planning to visit Amsterdam at the end of April. We will arrive in Sloterdijk Station. We’re planning to visit Keufenhof Garden and Rotterdam. I am confused which ticket should we buy, if it’s GVB Travel Pass or should I proceed with ARTT.

    I just wanna know also if I could use ARTT with Intercity and Sprinter Trains and if it’s valid going to Rotterdam as well.

    Thank you.

    Reply
    • Hi there, I get you’re confused:
      GVB = Amsterdam only, no trains.
      ARTT = Amsterdam Region including trains. That means All Amsterdam transport including GVB but als Keukenhof, Airport trains, also to Sloterdijk, Zaanse Schans and places like Volendam.
      Rotterdam is too far. That is not regional anymore and you need a separate individual train ticket. Which you can get here.

      The ARTT ticket includes transportion to the city center by train (sprinter and regular). But also trams et cetera. Keukenhof transport is also included. But you do need a separate Keukenhof entrance ticket.

      This is general advice without knowing your exact plans and schedule, for personalised advice you can book a consultation call with me, that will then be all about you and your trip and we can look at the trips you’re making and what makes the most sense, plus other tips and optimizations to your plans. I can not get that personal in the comments section. I hope you understand, and the above is still helpful to you. Gerrit

      Reply

Leave a Comment