Getting Around in Amsterdam
Getting around in Amsterdam becomes easy once expats get to know the city, thanks to its extensive public transport system consisting of buses, trams, trains and a metro.
The road signage is clear, abundant and helpful in traffic for pedestrians, drivers and cyclists alike, and all bus and tram stations have maps, schedules and lists of stops to help expats when they aren’t sure which way to go.
If they get lost, expats can always ask the locals, as most speak English fluently and are generally happy to help.
Public transport in Amsterdam
Amsterdam's public transport is based on zones, and costs get higher with distance, especially when crossing zones. There is an equal base price for any trip, and additional costs are added to that.
Boarding trams and buses can be quite confusing in the beginning, but it should only be done using the designated doors. Boarding trams is done in the front near the conductor, in the middle or rear where a person sits in a little booth – the other doors usually prevent entry. Buses should always be boarded in the front, next to the driver.
Expats also need to pay attention when exiting the metro at larger stations which are shared with trains. It’s easy to mistake metro exit gates for train exits, which results in paying significantly more.
Paying for public transport
The OV-chipkaart smart card system can be used for payment on all kinds of public transport in Amsterdam, and there are different types of cards available, ranging from daily to yearly subscriptions. At metro stations, commuters can swipe their cards at card readers built into the gates and yellow standing card readers on the platforms.
It’s important that expats remember to check in and out with their cards when getting on and off public transport, which is done by holding their OV card up to the yellow card readers when they board and get off.
An extensive tram network covers central Amsterdam. The main disadvantage is that trams are a relatively slow way to travel, but they do provide a picturesque view of the historic city centre and its old streets.
The bus network in Amsterdam mostly covers the city’s periphery and extends beyond it to other cities. Some streets are only covered by buses.
Day buses and trams stop running around midnight, after which night buses take over on some routes. Night bus tickets are pricier and waiting times are longer than for daily transport.
The metro system in Amsterdam is well maintained but isn’t as extensive as trams or buses and doesn't cover the whole city, being mostly relegated to the ring road and eastern side.
Taxis in Amsterdam
Taxis can be found at taxi ranks (taxistandplaats) or ordered by telephone. It’s quite difficult to hail a taxi on the street, which carries the risk of getting an unofficial taxi at an exorbitant price. All licensed taxis have a blue number plate.
Driving in Amsterdam
It’s not necessary to own a car in Amsterdam unless expats want to travel outside the city regularly.
Driving to work isn’t a good option because parking is expensive and difficult to find. The streets are narrow and the authorities do their best to discourage usage of cars – between parking permits, road taxes, insurance and fuel it gets expensive.
When a car is absolutely needed, there are various car-sharing and rental services for quick transport or longer trips.
Walking in Amsterdam
Walking around Amsterdam is easy. It isn’t a big city, and most of the time the distance between places can be covered on foot.
When they’re walking, expats should make sure they don’t confuse cycle paths with the sidewalk, which is a common mistake newcomers make. The difference between the two is always the colour used for the pavement. Cycle paths are usually crimson or marked with a bicycle sign. Expats should look out for these signs, as cyclists are generally in a hurry and don't stop for anyone, which leads to collisions.
Cycling in Amsterdam
Amsterdam is a bicycle-friendly city and cycling is one of the best ways to get around. The so-called bakfiets are popular – these cargo bicycles have an open or enclosed box (bak) that’s used to carry children, pets and shopping bags.