AMSTERDAM FAQ'S

How do I get from the airport to my hotel?

Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport is located approximately 8 miles southwest of the city center. If you have not booked a private transfer with us then you have a few options. Netherlands Railways (Schiphol Station is beneath Schiphol Plaza) operates between the airport and the city 24 hours a day, with service to Amsterdam Centraal Station and to stations in the south of the city. There are up to six trains each hour to Centraal station during peak times and one train every hour at night. The trip takes about 20 minutes and costs €3.80. The Gemeentevervoerbedrijf (GVB) Amsterdam Municipal Transport booths found in front of Centraal Station can provide directions, fare information, and schedules for tram and bus routes. From Centraal Station, trams 1, 2, and 5 go to Leidseplein and the Museum Quarter.

The Connexxion Hotel Shuttle runs daily every 30 minutes from 6:30am to 9pm between the airport and most of the city's major hotels. Reservations aren't necessary and tickets can be purchased from the Connexxion desk inside Schiphol Plaza or on board from the driver. Buses depart from in front of Schiphol Plaza. The fare is 16€ one way and 26€ round trip; children ages 4 to 14 pay half the adult fare.

Taxis are expensive, but they are the best choice if you have a lot of luggage. There is a taxi stand directly in front of the arrival hall at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. All taxis from the airport are metered and you can expect to pay around 40€ to the center of Amsterdam. A service charge is included, but small additional tips are not unwelcome.

How do I get from the train station to my hotel?

Dutch trains are modern and the quickest way to travel between city centers. Amsterdam Schiphol railway station is a major passenger station located directly beneath the terminal complex of Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. There are several trains an hour to the Amsterdam Centraal Station and frequent service to the rest of the country as well. From Centraal Station there is an extensive tram and bus network; and you can use Metro trains to reach both Nieuwmarkt and Waterlooplein in the central zone.

Note: You cannot buy domestic train tickets in the Netherlands with credit cards. Currency exchange desks and/or ATM machines can be found at most stations. The yellow touch-screen ticket machines, located in every railway station, accept debit cards with a four-digit PIN code, but not credit cards. Fares are slightly lower than if you purchase from a ticket window. Also note - you can't buy tickets aboard the trains, and you risk a hefty fine if you board and travel without one!

How do I get around using the Metro?

Amsterdam has its own Metro system, operating between 6:00am and midnight daily, but travelers will usually find trams and buses more convenient for getting around, as most metro stops are geared for city residents traveling to the outer suburbs. However, the Amsterdam metro, consisting of four lines (50, 51, 53, and 54) that run partly over ground, can get you from point A to point B much faster than a tram, which makes many stops along the way. From Centraal Station, you can use Metro trains to reach both Nieuwmarkt and Waterlooplein in the old city center. You'll need an OV-chipkaart, used the same way as for other public transport.

How do I get around the city using other public transportation?

Amsterdam offers an extensive network of trams and buses that operate from about 6:00am to midnight daily. Night buses operate a limited service thereafter, usually on an hourly schedule. The tram routes, with a network of 80 miles of track, make this characteristic form of transport more useful than the bus for most tourists. The newer fleets of buses are clean and nice; and bus lanes (shared only with taxis) are not congested, ensuring that you travel more quickly than the rest of traffic during rush hour. To avoid rush hour, don't travel between 7:30 and 9 in the morning or between 4 and 6 in the afternoon. As with all public transportation systems, keep an eye out for pickpockets!

Most tram and bus stops and all Metro stations display maps showing the entire urban transit network. All stops have signs listing the main stops yet to be made by trams or buses at that location. Detailed maps of the network are available free from the GVB Tickets & Info office. The central information and ticket sales point for GVB Amsterdam, the city's public transportation company, is Stationsplein (tel. 0900/9292 for timetable and fare information, tel. 0900/8011 for other customer services), in front of Centraal Station, open Monday to Friday from 7:00am to 9:00pm, Saturday and Sunday from 8:00am to 9:00pm.

All public transportation in the Netherlands uses an electronic payment card called the OV-chipkaart. The best bet for short-term visitors who plan to use public transportation a lot is a 1-day or a multi-day card: 24 hours (7.50€), 48 hours (11.50€), 72 hours (15€), 96 hours (18€). Note that the cards are valid for use throughout the Netherlands, no matter where you purchase them. But the fine for riding without a valid card is 37.50€, plus the fare for the ride, payable on the spot!

How do I call/hail a taxi?

Taxis in Amsterdam have rooftop signs and blue license tags and are metered. It is possible to hail a taxi in the street, but the better option is to find one of the taxi stands located throughout the city, usually near luxury hotels or at major squares. Taxi Centrale Amsterdam (tel. 020/777-7777) offers reliable service. A three mile ride will cost about €20. The fare includes service, but you can round it up if you like, or tip for good service, like help with your luggage or for helpful information.

Since you're in the city of canals, consider splurging on a water taxi. You move more quickly than on land and you get your very own boat tour. For reservations, call VIP Watertaxi Amsterdam (tel. 020/535-6363) or hail one from the dock outside Centraal Station, close to the VVV office. Travel within the city center for one to eight passengers costs 20€ per half hour; for travel outside the city center, the rate is 50€ per half hour.

I will have a car in Amsterdam, where can I park?

Our best advice on driving in Amsterdam would be: don't. The city is a maze of one-way streets, narrow bridges, and no-parking zones; and you'll find the ease and efficiency of public transportation to good to pass up. If you are renting a car we suggest you pick it up as you depart the city to avoid excessive rental/parking expenses. However, if you must have a car while you are in the city then there are parking garages throughout town; most cost 3€ to 6€ an hour and 25€ to 50€ a day depending on the location. The largest lots are at Centraal Station, Damrak, Marnixstraat, under Waterlooplein and adjacent to Leidseplein. Additionally your hotel may offer a car park (for a fee).

Warning: Don't leave anything in a parked car! Luggage, cameras and laptops are commonly stolen from parked cars and are easy money for drug addicts.

Is Amsterdam a walking city?

The best way to see Amsterdam is by bike or on foot. Central Amsterdam is very small and its concentrically circular layout makes it easy to navigate (or get lost in). We strongly advise you to do your exploring with map in hand as it is quite common to find yourself walking in the opposite direction from the one you thought you were heading. For safety sake, always watch out for bikes and trams. Keep off the bike paths, which are well paved and often mistaken for sidewalks. Bikers have the right-of-way, so if you hear a bell, move quickly. Trams function in the same manner, and will ring their bell before they move. Always look both ways before crossing streets.

Is Amsterdam a dangerous city? Are there certain areas I should avoid?

Although Amsterdam has had certain problems with crime, including abuse of legalized prostitution and drugs, the violent crime rate is exceptionally low. Having your bike stolen is probably the worst thing that will happen to you. Nevertheless, it is always best to be street-smart and take safety precautions. Be wary of pickpockets in crowds and on trams, buses, Metro trains and in train and Metro stations. And use common sense when going out at night as muggings do occasionally occur. There are some risky areas, especially in and around the Red Light District and Vondelpark so keep to well lit areas and the main thoroughfares and take a taxi if you are going a long distance. Distribute your cash, credit cards, passports/IDs, and other valuables between an inside jacket pocket or hidden money pouch.

A Note on Discrimination: In Amsterdam, of all places, there is a rising incidence of gays being verbally abused and sometimes assaulted. The offenders are often young Muslim men and teens. Also, tensions caused by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have led to some anti-Jewish attacks (though rare) from the same minority source. Additionally, U.S. visitors are welcome but might occasionally encounter hostility due to the conflict in Afghanistan. Report any crime committed against you to the police, most of who speak English and are generally helpful to visitors. Holland's emergency phone number for the police, the fire department and the ambulance service is tel. 112.

Are there long lines at the museums? Does it make sense to buy a museum pass?

The electronic I amsterdam Card provides free travel on public transportation and free admission to more than 20 museums and attractions, including the Rijksmuseum or the Van Gogh Museum (but not both). The card also provides for discounted admission to additional museums and attractions, a free canal boat cruise, discounted excursions, including reduced rates on the Hop On Hop Off Museum Line and the Canal Bus, and discounts in certain restaurants and stores. The card comes with a public transportation ticket and a color information booklet. A one day pass costs €40, a two day pass costs €50 and a three day pass costs €60. The total possible savings is around 150€. It can be purchased at the Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions at Schiphol Airport's Arrivals Hall 2 and VVV tourist information offices throughout the city. Note that only the person who signs the card can use it.

Can I pay/tip in US dollars?

The currency of the Netherlands is the Euro. US dollars are not accepted. Please be sure to have the correct currency on hand or be prepared to exchange your dollars for euros upon arrival. Currency exchange desks and ATM's can be found at the airport and many locations throughout the city.

I don't speak Dutch. Will many people speak English?

English may be spoken at your hotel and in the tourist areas, but not everywhere. We suggest you get a good guidebook and familiarize yourself with common phrases such as hello, goodbye, please, thank you, excuse me and numbers 1-10.

When is the best time to see the tulips in bloom?

The single most important event in the Netherlands is the flowering of the bulb fields each spring from March to mid-May. Two-thirds of all the cut flowers sold in the world come from the Netherlands. The best areas to view the flowers are between Haarlem and Leiden and between Haarlem and Den Helder. The bulb fields near Amsterdam absolutely burst with color from April to mid-May.

What are the best areas for shopping?

Amsterdam is a city with a long history of trading so the shopping opportunities are plentiful, from traditional antiques to contemporary art to downright funky finds. Mornings are the times for markets in Amsterdam, with locals finding flea market bargains at Waterlooplein while bunches of vibrant tulips and potted plants can be found at the floating Bloemenmarkt (Flower Market). Jordaan's short, maze-like streets are where you'll stumble upon a number of tiny boutiques, jewelers and cafés.

International designers line the posh PC Hooftstraat, Amsterdam's priciest street, while crowded Kalverstraat is home to all the high end names. Even if shopping the P.C. is beyond your budget, you might indulge in some people watching over a pricey glass of wine at one of the trendy outdoor terraces. Amsterdam's best buys include antiques, authentic Delft Blue ceramics, diamonds and Makkum. The Dutch flower and plant industry is a booming business to be sure, but foreign visitors can only take home certain certified bulbs.

Where can I rent a bicycle in Amsterdam?

There are more than 600,000 bikes (fiets) in Amsterdam and navigating the city on two wheels is mostly safe thanks to a vast network of dedicated bike lanes. Bikes even have their own traffic lights. It can take a while to learn to moving smoothly and safely through the mass of trams, cars, buses, fellow bikers and pedestrians, but some common rules to remember are: always yield to trams, cross tram tracks perpendicularly so that your wheels don't get caught in the grooves, which could dump you out of your seat, and never crash into pedestrians!

Bike rental rates are around 12€ per day or 50€ per week; a deposit of around 50€ is required. MacBike (tel. 020/620-0985) rents a range of bikes, including tandems and six-speeds. The company has rental outlets at Stationsplein 12, Centraal Station; Mr. Visserplein 2, Waterlooplein; and Weteringschans 2, at Leidseplein. Bike City, Bloemgracht 68-70 (tel. 020/626-3721), near the Anne Frankhuis, is another good choice. Damstraat Rent-a-Bike, Damstraat 20-22 (tel. 020/625-5029), is centrally located near the Dam.

Warning: Because bicycle theft is common, always lock both the bike frame and one of the wheels to something fixed and solid.