How to use public transportation in Amsterdam

Like all major cities, Amsterdam has a pretty great public transportation system that’s super easy to use once you understand it. I know that when I go to a new city that I get confused about which ticket to buy, which modes of transportation it works on, and so on. Since I live in Amsterdam, I figured I’m in a great position to explain how to use the public transportation in Amsterdam.

In this post, we’re deep-diving into the city’s transportation. But if you’re looking for information about the airport transportation options, here’s how to get from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol to Amsterdam’s city center.

Tram 26 Amsterdam

How to use public transportation in Amsterdam

The city of Amsterdam uses a card system that requires you to tap in and out when you enter and leave whatever mode of transportation you are on. This obviously means you need a ticket. I’ll get more in depth on which one might be best for you in the next section.

It really is as simple as tapping in and out. But just to be super clear (because every city is different), I’ll explain each transportation option.

Buses

Tap in at the front door and tap out when you leave out a back door.


Trams

Tap in at the entrance doors and tap out when you exit through the proper door. On most trams, enter at the very front door and the door towards the back with a person at a desk inside. It’s easy to know which doors to not enter because they have a do not enter sign on them and gates to discourage you from entering there.


Metros

Tap in at the gate so it will open then, tap out when to open the gates when you leave.


Trains (if your ticket allows this)

Tap in at the gate, or if there is no gate, find a post to use to check in (watch the locals). Yep, you guessed it, tap out before you leave the station.

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Amsterdam transit ticket at Schiphol airport

Which Amsterdam transportation ticket should you buy?

GVB ticket
I amsterdam City Card
Amsterdam Travel Ticket
Regional Travel Ticket
OV chipkaart

Valid on Amsterdam city transportation only. This means buses, trams, metro, and ferry in the city of Amsterdam that is part of the GVB system. Easiest way to know you’re on the right bus is to not get on a red bus. GVB buses are typically blue unless they have an advertising wrap. 

This ticket is not valid on trains, and does not include transportation from the airport. This ticket can be bought in these increments: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 days. 

Purchasing this ticket

There is a GVB visitors’ center right in front of Amsterdam Centraal Station along with a few machines inside and outside the station.

To order online, you can pre-book your ticket here.

If you buy a ticket on the bus or tram, you can purchase a 1-hour ticket and can only use a card. No cash is accepted. At many popular bus and tram stops around town, you will also see a small blue kiosk where you can buy a ticket.

GVB ticket machine

Valid on Amsterdam city transportation only + free entry to museums, free canal cruise, and discounts. This means buses, trams, metro, and ferry in the city of Amsterdam.

This ticket is not valid on trains, and does not include transportation from the airport. Can be bought in these increments: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 days

Purchasing this ticket

You can buy this online before you arrive, at the airport’s visitor center, the I amsterdam visitor center in front of Amsterdam Centraal Station or at the I amsterdam store inside and at the back of Centraal Station. For a map of all locations, check out the I amsterdam website.

Valid on all metro, tram and bus lines operated by GVB plus bus 397 and N97 operated by Connexxion to go from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol to the city center. Tickets are also valid on NS trains in the Amsterdam Area. Can be bought in these increments: 1, 2, 3 days

Purchasing this ticket

You can buy this ticket at the airport’s visitor center, the I amsterdam visitor center in front of Amsterdam Centraal Station or at the I amsterdam store inside and at the back of Centraal Station. For a map of all locations, check out the airport’s website.

Valid on all metro, tram and bus lines operated by GVB, Connexxion, AllGo and EBS, including night buses. Tickets are also valid on NS trains in the Amsterdam Area. Can be bought in these increments: 1, 2, 3 days.

Purchasing this ticket

You can buy this ticket at the airport’s visitor center, the I amsterdam visitor center in front of Amsterdam Centraal Station or at the I amsterdam store inside and at the back of Centraal Station. For a map of all locations, check out the I amsterdam website.

Valid on all transportation options in the Netherlands. This is a plastic, re-loadable card that you must keep topped-up. This is done at the kiosks in the train stations, at kiosks in some shops like grocery stores, and online. There is no difference between traveling during peak or off-peak hours when using this card.

Purchasing this ticket

You can buy these reusable cards at the NS ticket machines found in the airport and train stations. You can also visit the visitor center in front of Amsterdam Centraal Station to talk to a real person and get a card.

anonymous ov chipkaart
Metro 52 Amsterdam

Best apps to use for taking public transportation in Amsterdam

9292.nl

9292 is basically the nationwide public transportation app. It connects all the transportation companies and their schedules around the whole country, so it’s super valuable for when you take day trips from Amsterdam.

Citymapper

My beloved Citymapper. I use it religiously in London but it also works perfectly here in Amsterdam. The best part is that it tells you which exits to take from the metro. Taking the wrong exit can put you blocks away and when you’re in a hurry or it’s raining, that sucks.

Google Maps

Yep, Google Maps work fine. Gives the basic information in a format you’re probably used to.

Find out which are the best apps to use in Amsterdam.

Arrival board Amsterdam public transportation

Tips for the Amsterdam trams

  • Only go in the entrance doors or you may get called out over the loud-speaker or get stuck in the gates. Neither are fun.
  • Hit the red button anywhere on the tram, or the green button by the exit doors, to indicate you want to get off at the next stop.
  • When you are at an exit door, be sure to hit the green button. That makes the doors open when the tram comes to a stop.

Public transportation etiquette in Amsterdam

Every city has its own personality and dos and don’ts when it comes to sharing a metal tube with a bunch of other people. Amsterdam is no exception. I’m going to help you set your expectations because, depending on your home culture, things might be a bit different here.

A queue or line is not so much a thing here when it comes to getting on any of these modes of transport. It’s more of a cluster where you take tiny steps as people file in. People don’t tend to be rude, except maybe during rush hour. It’s every person for themselves at that point.

If you see a big open space without seats and you decide to stand there, that’s completely fine unless someone with wheels needs the space. Those areas are for wheelchairs and baby strollers/prams. There are also marked seats (typically red) for those with limited mobility. You can sit unless you seat someone who might benefit from it. I just try to avoid the seats altogether, but you can make that choice. However, and I shouldn’t have to say this, if you are sitting and see someone who could use a seat, please offer it up.

If you need a seat and someone has their bag on the seat next to them, feel free to ask if you can sit there. It’s totally fine and no feelings will be hurt. Sometimes they will get up and let you in the inside seat because they think they’ll get off before you.

Take your backpack off if it’s busy. Don’t use speakerphone on public transportation…ever.

Talking in a reasonable voice is totally fine, however you may notice during morning rush hour that it’s super quiet.

Dogs are allowed on public transportation but should not take up a seat. Most dogs in Amsterdam seem to be trained to lay under the seat.

If you need someone to move, a simple “pardon” is sufficient and commonly used here.

Discover exciting things to do in Amsterdam and find the perfect accommodation for you!

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How to enjoy Amsterdam

This city is *sigh* perfect. Whether you are here for a 3-day weekend or a 12-hour layover, it’s always worth taking in as much as you can.

Are you a foodie? Excellent! So are we! Watch our sweets tour video of Amsterdam (or read about it here) or read about the must-try Dutch foods that you seriously don’t want to miss out on. Don’t forget to pick up some souvenirs for yourself and your favorite people back home. We have a ton of Amsterdam content on the blog, and a full playlist on our YouTube channel. We want you to love this city as much as we do, so feel free to leave your suggestions below (or on our social media!) on what you’d like us to cover for you in our favorite city!

Wishing you joy and travels!

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