One of the joys of Amsterdam is that all areas of the city are within easy reach of the visitor, by foot, bicycle, or public transport, and one of the best ways to get to them is by tram (Amsterdammers are historically, very proud of their trams). The trams are frequent and fast and are an important means of public transport in Amsterdam.
The tram network consists of 17 tramlines; the hub is Centraal Station and trams route from here to points in the east (Oost), south (Zuid) and west (West). Other lines connect these city areas.
An exception was the recently discontinued line 20, the Circle tram, which ran through the city center with Centraal Station as both start and end of the line, and passed many stops of interest to tourists.
How to Use the Trams
At the many tram stops around the city you should hail a tram to signal you want to get on. Press the button near the door to open it. If the tram has a conductor you must use the rear door to board. Press one of the red STOP buttons inside the tram to signal the driver that you want to get off at the next stop. Press the button near the door to open it when the tram has stopped.
You can buy a ticket from the driver, the conductor at the back of the tram, or a machine in the middle of the tram, depending on the sort of tram it is. Once stamped, a ticket is valid for an hour, regardless of how often you change trams or buses. However, it is considerably cheaper if you buy a strippenkaart from a tobacconist, post office or railway station beforehand, they're available in various denominations. They are valid anywhere in the country, and they do not expire. On most trams, those in which you do not purchase a ticket from the conductor, you stamp these yourself in the yellow machines in the tram: each journey uses one strip plus a strip for every zone you travel in. If you stay within the centre of town (one zone), you leave one strip blank and stamp the second. If you travel over a zone border, you are travelling in two zones, you leave two strips blank, and stamp the third.
If you are starting at Centraal Station with a fresh strippenkart fold the paper so that the first 2 segments are on the bottom and the third segment is on top and at the end of the paper so that when you insert it into the machine it will stamp date and time on that third segment. You will have one hour to travel in both zones until you have to punch another segment. Zone maps are usually located within the larger covered tram stops; it helps to know your zones in advance.
Several people can travel on one strippenkaart: you just stamp it for the first person, and then for the second, and so forth.
Day and week passes are also available. Day and week passes and strippencards are valid on all trams, buses and metros, and also on trains within the city limits ( an exception is Schiphol airport: you have to buy a train ticket ). You must stamp a day or week pass the first time you use it only. Get a tram pass if you're going to be here more than a few days, it simplifies things somewhat, and you'll feel like a native when you flash it.
The trams run until just after midnight ( the last trams leave Centraal Station at 12.15). After that there is an hourly service of night buses from Centraal Station.
Riding the Trams Without a Ticket
Getting caught by the (increasingly frequent) spot checks will set you back a hefty fine. The free ride days are, alas, a thing of the past.
Note: Trams are non-smoking. Don't light anything up in the trams.
The fastest way to get around the city. Go here.
Bus and Nightbus
Buslines- Mostly important in Amsterdam Noord and the suburbs. Amsterdam is also the starting point for several regional buslines.
Nightbus- After midnight, when normal public transport is not in service, nightbuses cover most of Amsterdam and some points outside the city.
Taxi and Stadsmobiel
A taxi is usually ordered from the Taxicentrale
(tel: 020-677-7777) or at one of the many taxi ranks. Taxis are not usually hailed from the street; although there has been some relaxing of this regulation recently, it's still rare for locals to do so, so don't expect the taxi to stop. Taxi services for senior citizens and the handicapped are provided by the Stadsmobiel.
The taxis in Amsterdam are not cheap and are among the most expensive in Europe, typically the fare to Schiphol runs 25€ /$27US. It's only a distance of about 11 mi/18kms, so taking a train to the station, then a taxi to your final destination is somewhat more economical.
With several railway stations in Amsterdam trains also play an important role in urban transport. For instance, the railway provides the best and least expensive transport between Schiphol, the airport, and Centraal Station, the heart of the city.
Ferries provide cyclists and pedestrians with a connection to Amsterdam Noord, just across the IJ. The ferries are free. The ferry landing is located behind Centraal Station.
Cars in the City Centre
Driving in the city centre is actively discouraged. If you do not purchase a parking voucher from one of the dispensing machines, you will be wheel clamped. The wheel clampers are quite diligent and enjoy their work, and seem to pay particular attention to foreign license plates. If clamped, a yellow sticker on the window will tell you where to pay the fine. For an extra fee a courier will go for you (tel: 020-620-3750). Getting towed (illegal parking and failure to pay within 24 hours) will cost you another considerable amount. Take your passport, driving license and credit cards to: Cruquiuskade 25. Someone, somewhere must have a sense of humour: trams may run almost everywhere else perhaps, but not here.
Tickets and Information
The main source for information about public transport and tickets is the GVB ticket office opposite Centraal Station, next to the VVV.
There is also a free map of all tram and bus routes available from VVV tourist offices or the GVB office by Centraal Station. Public transport information for all of the Netherlands can be obtained by calling 020-900-9292, weekdays from 6.00 am to midnight and weekends from 7.00 am until midnight. You tell them where you wish to go, and they tell you how to get there---for a small fee. Small fee or not, it's not really worth what it costs.
Very complete information can be found at the following sites:
Amsterdam Public Transportation
A taxi fare table is of particular interest here. Maps, instructions on use, history, and now even general tourist information are all offered.
Anyone wanting to travel from A to B will want to know the quickest way. 9292 (Openbaar Vervoer Reisinformatie, Public Transport Journey Information) offers that information. 9292 knows all the departure and arrival times, all the changes and all the connections. That means they can offer complete travel advice from door to door using all forms of public transport in The Netherlands. Click the "zoek route" at the top.