Should you rent a bike in Amsterdam in 2023?
My advice would be no, you should not rent a bike in Amsterdam, not for exploring the city. There you go, I’ve said it.
Dutch directness at its finest 🤷♂️🤗.
MacBike says in their ad about Bike Rental Amsterdam: The way to discover Amsterdam is by bike.
I disagree. I think it’s great for trips outside the city with the right bike, but Bike rentals in Amsterdam are not so great.
I get it. The canals of Amsterdam, world-renowned museums, and bicycles. It’s advertised as a bike city.
PS: Looking for ideas to do in Amsterdam? Check out my “3 days in Amsterdam” article.
It sounds like a cool idea to join the locals and embark on an adventure with an Amsterdam bike for the true Dutch experience.
It’s the bicycle capital of the world, after all. There are more bikes in town than people.
The catch is that it is a bike city for locals, but ads somehow seem to forget to tell you that.
If you’re visiting, it’s not even fair to try to compete with the locals who seem to be able to take themselves, their kids, and bags full of groceries on the front and the back all at once, and it all looks so effortless.
The city also doesn’t have any patience with you. Locals won’t just shake their heads and move on with their day.
As one of the top cities suffering from over-tourism, they’re really not happy to see you on “their” bicycle lanes, and they will let you know with descriptive language and even try to cut you off, causing dangerous situations.
In my article: “Are Dutch people rude?” I say that they’re not except on their bikes. That is very much true.
Here are six reasons your Bike Rental Amsterdam might not be the best idea:
- Amsterdam bike rentals are expensive
- Amsterdam rental bikes are usually sturdy and SUPER uncomfortable
- Traffic is dangerous, bicycle paths are often narrow, and there are trams
- Locals travel fast on their bikes. If you’re unaccustomed, you can get hurt
- Strict travel rules for bikes, with significant fines
- Locals won’t like you being there trying to adapt to a bike, and they’ll let you know
I’m sure this is not the post you’re expecting to find. And tons of blog posts will write about how great it is to rent a bicycle in Amsterdam and where to do it (so they’ll get an affiliate commission when you do) without having your best interest at heart.
I don’t think that’s the right post.
As a local, I know a thing or two about riding a bike in the Netherlands, and I want you to have a fantastic experience, and biking in Amsterdam City will most likely not contribute to that.
No time to read the article? Here is the tl;dr summary:
If you stay in Amsterdam City > Don’t rent bikes. Get a public transport pass instead. Get one here:
When you’re considering a bike tour outside the city, a bike is a great idea. Locals outside the city will have more patience with you. It’s less busy, and bike paths are wider.
This is where to get the best bikes in Amsterdam (at the lowest price) for your bike ride day trips to surrounding areas:
PS: I recommend the Stella e-bike for most people.
Table of Contents
Bicycle Rental in Amsterdam is NOT Cheap
Renting a bike in Amsterdam is not exactly wallet-friendly. Bike rental prices around Amsterdam for a basic bicycle will easily set you back €10-€20 for the day, then the optional insurance is added, and all kinds of upsells.
Those advertised rates of less than €10 are for 3 hours only. That is too short to do anything. Full-day prices will double.
This might come as a bit of a sticker shock, especially when you compare it to the 24-hour public transport ticket, which costs about half that. And the extensive tram network and metro system will get you anywhere, fast.
Basic Bikes, Not-So-Basic Comfort
It’s essential to manage your expectations when renting a bike in this city, to say the least. These bikes are made to last, not to bring you comfort.
Dutch local acrobats seem so comfortable on their bikes, but that is because many of them have comfortable bicycle saddles and other amenities you will not get with your rental bike.
The images portrayed in travel magazines — of cycling in Amsterdam alongside picturesque canals — are fantastic.
In reality, riding a bike in Amsterdam usually means a bumpy ride, and these rentals don’t have any shock absorbers to help you out.
Also, be seriously mindful of tram tracks. Always cross them. Never ride parallel. If your front wheel gets stuck in the track, you’ll be sent off flying, and it won’t look pretty.
Amsterdam’s Traffic: Not for the Faint of Heart
This city is undeniably bike-friendly – for locals – for those not used to it, it will be a whirlwind and not precisely the perfect city to explore on two wheels.
There’s too much to watch between the trams, other cyclists, pedestrians darting about, the cars, and assertive taxi drivers.
It’s not just about volume; it’s also about understanding the flow. Locals have a seemingly innate sense of when to stop, start, turn, or yield, something tourists can find impossible to grasp.
Locals Travel Fast And Have No Patience
E-bikes are a godsend in many cities and even more so in the countryside. You can cover considerable distances, and people leave their cars at home more often.
In a city like this, they’re plain dangerous. They go fast, and their riders often have no idea how fast they’re going.
Now mix that in with unknowing tourists, either crossing the road as pedestrians without looking correctly or those riding unaccustomed on their MacBikes rentals, more occupied with their friends and looking at the sights than paying attention to surrounding traffic.
Many bicycle accidents happen due to e-bikes.
I have owned an e-bike for many years now. And I love it. But would I enter the city center of Amsterdam myself with it? Absolutely not.
Fines For Bicyclists – You Better Know What To Expect
Tourists often underestimate local regulations, leading to unexpected fines that can hurt your travel budget.
Rules are (much more) strict in Amsterdam than elsewhere, especially when it comes to where to park your bike.
Parking in the wrong spot? It’s not just a thing for cars. Very likely, your bike gets confiscated by the city if not in a designated spot. Getting it back is time-consuming and costs €22-€70.
Using Your Phone (just holding it is enough for a fine) €140.
Not turning your light on when it’s dark €60.
Ignoring a red traffic light €110
Always step off your bike in pedestrian zones like shopping streets, or it will set you back €95.
And never cycle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Or you might not go home anytime soon and face a judge being charged for willfully endangering others.
You might retort, but Gerrit, I’ve seen it before. Amsterdam locals do (don’t) do all of those things. You’re right, but I don’t know about you, but law enforcement always seems to be able to catch me.
TIP: Here are some traffic rules tips. Use hand signals if you want to turn. Stick out your arm in the direction you want to go. For example, when turning right, stick out your right arm. And remember, traffic coming from the right always has the right of way, as do trams!
Pedestrians have to stick to rules, but if you hurt them, you’re always at fault, even if they’re wrong because they’re the weaker party.
The Right Reasons for Bike Rental Amsterdam
Wow, I didn’t sell you a day trip in Amsterdam with a rental bike, did I? First and foremost, I want to be honest with you and avoid regret. But I also said there are good reasons to rent a bike.
So when is that?
When you leave the city!
A bike is fantastic for exploring further afield. Want to go see the Kissing Couple XXXL for yourself near “Hempontplein” and then get a delicious sandwich at “Boer Geert” in Zaandam (may I recommend the chicken bacon sandwich)? A bike is excellent.
Or it’s lovely to visit the Zaanse Schans with your bike. Even Volendam and Marken are easily doable on an e-bike.
E-bike? You’re fine outside the city, separate from traffic with wide bike paths.
Whatever you do, don’t go out in the countryside on those sturdy city bikes. Your butt will stay angry with you until you get home.
And the land might be flat but also windy. You want gears as a minimum. Get a Tour Bike with many more features, or an electric bike rental in Amsterdam.
Where to Rent The Best Bike In Amsterdam?
Do you still want to rent a bike? Brave soul. I am kidding. Are you planning a day trip outside the city? Or was I not convincing enough not to rent a bike?
Amsterdam has many bike shops, from the Jordaan to Dam Square to the Leidseplein. Bike rental shops are all over the city of Amsterdam.
I recommend using bikebooking.com. They’re one of the best places to rent a bike. They offer a variety of bikes, from sturdy city bikes to better quality bicycles like tour bikes, and e-bikes, to tandems (one bicycle for two people).
They offer it all at very reasonable prices. But book a bike well in advance. Prices go up closer to your travel date.
Another benefit (at a surcharge) is the option to drop off your bike at your hotel. Saving you the hassle of taking your bike back to the rental location.
PS: It’s always possible to book extras like child seats when needed or a helmet.
Rent A Bike Amsterdam Centraal Station Recommendation
For the best Amsterdam Central bike rental location, I would say MacBike. They are the largest bike rental company in Amsterdam. And have locations around the city.
You can rent one of these sturdy city bikes from them, with handbrakes. But they do offer three gears, which is somewhat helpful.
This location could not be more convenient: on the north side of Central Station (IJzijde), right next to the Tours and Tickets office. On the right (facing the water, train platforms behind you). They’re efficient and open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
But the downside is those bikes will be uncomfortable if you go on a day trip.
If you’re planning a trip outside of Amsterdam then it’s worth traveling to a rental location with more bicycle options.
Once again, I advise Bike Booking for the best bike rental options; they usually give you the best price.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a bike helmet mandatory in Amsterdam?
A helmet is not mandatory on a bike. You can rent one from every rental location, but you won’t see them often on the streets. I know they’re safer, but I don’t use one. This is very different mentally than in Germany.
Do I need to return my Amsterdam bike on the same day?
Most bicycle rental locations rent in 24-hour periods, not calendar days. You can also return your bike the day after as long as it’s within the terms of your contract.
What happens if my Amsterdam rental bike gets stolen?
You’re liable for the costs of the stolen bike unless you took out the optional insurance. It is also essential to know that you must hand in the keys if your bicycle gets stolen. If you forgot to lock your bike and it gets stolen with the keys in it, you’re liable regardless, also with insurance.
Can I park my bike safely in Amsterdam?
All over town, there are underground parking garages for bicycles available. They’re open early to late, are supervised, and often offer amenities like toilets and repair services. Parking is free for the first 24 hours. Tap your contactless bank card or credit card to check-in and when you leave to check-out.
Although this article was probably not what you expected, I hope the information and tips were helpful. Renting a bike is environmentally friendly and could be fun under the right circumstances, especially when you want to explore outside the city.
I hope you’ll have a fantastic time when you visit. Stay safe!