Amsterdam has one of the finest and most reliable transportation networks in Europe; one of the reasons that makes it a popular location for industry. Fast and frequent trains and buses run throughout the Netherlands and are an excellent way to travel from Amsterdam to other parts of the country. Both rail and bus provide efficient links to Centraal Station and Schiphol International Airport.
The Netherlands has one of the best road systems in Europe and as a result is very accessible. Toll-free, multi-lane expressways link all the major towns and cities, but even the picturesque country routes are very usable. The A4 / E14 links Amsterdam to The Hague. In Amsterdam centre, like all major cities, traffic can be busy. Many of the streets are narrow and certain lanes are reserved for bicycles. The best way to travel across the city is by tram, but the fastest way is by bike, via the special cycle lanes. Parking in Amsterdam is expensive so the best advice it to park on the outskirts of the city and make use of the efficient public transport system.
Once in the city, the local public transport system is cheap and a good way of getting around. Tickets covering bus, tram and metro journeys can be bought from automatic dispensers on the metro, bus and tram drivers and news-stands. The layout of the city makes sightseeing on foot quite easy, with most of the museums situated close together. Canal cruises provide a relaxing and unique view of the old town and its impressive buildings whilst the 'Museum Boat' offers a shuttle service linking 20 museums and sightseeing attractions. For longer excursions there are water taxis, trams or the ubiquitous bicycle (550,000 at the latest count).
Conditions of hire vary, although, in most cases, the driver will have to be 25 years old and have held a valid national licence for one year. An International Driving Permit (IDP) is not needed, as long as a valid national licence is produced. Payment is usually made with a credit card bearing the name of the driver.
The major European firms are represented in Amsterdam. Cars are also available for hire through the airport and most hotels. The companies that have branches in the city centre include Avis, Nassaukade 380 (tel: (020) 683 6061), Budget, Overtoom 121 (tel: (020) 612 6066), and Hertz, Overtoom 333 (tel: (020) 612 2441).
Alternativley, use our booking tool to book your car rental in Amsterdam before you arrive. Fare conditions vary and some companies have an additional mileage charge. Those hiring a car should always check that the rates include the minimum insurance cover required in Amsterdam.
Amsterdam’s integrated public transport system is run by the municipal transport company GVB, which has an information office at Centraal Station. The best way to get around the city is either on foot or by using the extensive tram, metro, bus and ferry networks. A map of all tram and bus routes in Amsterdam is available from tourist offices or the GVB office by Centraal Station.
Trams are a great way of getting around. Trams operate Monday to Friday from about 0600 to 2400 (Saturday from 0630 and Sunday from 0730). All trams leave from Centraal Station - trams 1 and 2 traverse the main canals, tram 17 provides a frequent, fast and dependable service, tram 16 takes a route to Museumplein and Concertgebouw, while trams 9 and 14 go to the Muziektheater and Waterlooplein market.
Amsterdam’s four metro lines all start at Centraal Station and serve the southeastern business district and the suburbs. The trains run Monday to Friday from about 0600 to 2415 (Saturday from 0630 and Sunday from 0730). An extension south to the RAI is planned for completion in 2011.
The outlying areas of the city (mostly the suburbs that the trams do not reach) are served by more than 30 bus lines, which run until midnight. Night buses run from about 0030 to 0730, after the other services have stopped (numbered from 71 to 79).
A free ferry service provides cyclists and pedestrians with connections to Amsterdam Noord, the area across the IJ. The main ferry landing is on De Ruijterkade (behind the Centraal Station). Ferries are frequent and operate between about 0615 and 2100, with a limited service at the weekend (most ferries do not operate on Sunday). When taking a bicycle aboard, passengers should make sure to not break local etiquette and always go through the cyclist channel rather the pedestrian one. The Noord Canal across the IJ is a quiet and less-taxing cycle route for visitors who find navigating the busy city too traumatic.
For single rides, a strippenkaart can be used. This needs to be stamped every time a tram, bus or metro is boarded - each journey uses one strip, plus a strip for every zone travelled. Once stamped, a ticket is valid for an hour, regardless of how often a change of tram or bus is made. It is cheaper for one to buy a strippenkaart before boarding the public transport system than it is to pay a cash fare. Strippenkaarten are available from tourist offices, tobacconists and large hotels. Not having a valid ticket incurs a spot fine, plus the cost of the ticket; ticket inspections are common.
Visitors spending plenty of time travelling around the city are advised to buy a dagkaarten day pass, a two-day pass or a three-day one.
Not surprisingly, there are several modes of water travel in Amsterdam. In addition to public ferries, canal buses (tel: (020) 625 5574) travel between Centraal Station and the Rijksmuseum, every 25-45 minutes - fares vary between the different service providers.
Canal taxis, which can carry up to 40 passengers, are also available. They can either be hailed from the canal-side or ordered in advance daily from about 0800 to 0100, from Water Taxis (tel: (020) 535 6363), visitors can hire pedalos (also known as canal bikes) and boats to explore the canals. These are available from Canal Bike, Weteringschans 24 (tel: (020) 626 5574), who have 100 canal bikes. A deposit is required. Canal Bike also organises group tours of Amsterdam and Utrecht.
Rather than hailing a taxi in the street, it is more usual in Amsterdam for one to either order a taxi by phoning the Central Taxi Office (tel: (020) 677 7777) or pick one up at a taxi rank, which are located at Centraal Station, Rembrandtplein and Leidseplein. Taxis, which have an illuminated ‘taxi’ sign on the roof, usually come quickly - unless it is raining or a Friday or Saturday night. Although they provide a good service, taxis are relatively expensive. A new system allows taxi drivers to set meters at different rates, so keep a keen eye on the rate in play.
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Professor Tulpplein 1, 1018 GX Amsterdam, Netherlands
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