AMSTERDAM - GETTING AROUND

Walking

Half the fun of Amsterdam is walking along the canals. 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.

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.

By 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.

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!

Note: The new Noord-Zuidlijn Metro line 52 is currently under construction to link Amsterdam-Noord (North), under the IJ waterway with the city center and Amsterdam Zuid station. It's due to be completed in 2017.

By Tram

Amsterdam offers an extensive network of trams and buses that operate from about 6:00am to midnight daily. There are 16 tram routes, 10 of which (lines 1, 2, 4, 5, 9, 13, 16, 17, 24, and 26) begin and end at Centraal Station, so you know you can always get back to that central point if you get lost and have to start over. The city's other tramlines are 3, 7, 10, 12, and 14. Lines 3, 5, 12, and 24 are useful for visiting the sights south of the city around Museumplein, while 4, 9, 14, 16, and 24 serve the city center.

The ubiquitous blue-and-gray trams have one access door that opens automatically, normally toward the rear; arrow indicators point the way to the door. To board a tram that has no arrow indicators, push the button beside the door on the outside of any car. To get off, you may need to push a button with an 'open-door' graphic or the words deur open. Tram doors close automatically and quite quickly, so don't linger.

Note: Always remember to hold your card against the reader as you get on and off the tram. If you don't 'check out' as you get off, your card will continue to be charged and you will run out of credit.

By Bus

An extensive bus network complements the trams, with many bus routes beginning and ending at Centraal Station, but it's generally much faster to go by tram. Some areas of the city are served only by bus. Night buses operate a limited service, usually on an hourly schedule. 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.

By Bicycle

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 move 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.

By Rickshaw (Bicycle Taxi)

If you're environmentally conscious, use a bike taxi or rickshaw to get around the city. They're clean, relatively comfortable, and capable of zipping along the cobbled city streets along local cyclists. Fully insured, rickshaws are easy to spot all over the city, but especially around Centraal Station, Leidseplein, Museumplein, and Waterlooplein, or you can order your eco-taxi in advance. Contact Amsterdam Bike Taxi (tel 645/412-725). Charges are 30€ per half hour per rickshaw.

By 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. 020/650-6506) 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 useful 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.

By Ferry

Free GVB ferries for passengers and two-wheel transportation connect the city center with Amsterdam-Noord (North), across the IJ waterway. The short crossings are free, which makes them ideal mini cruises since they offer beautiful views of the harbor. Ferries depart from Waterplein West behind Centraal Station. One route goes to Buiksloterweg on the north shore, with ferries every 6 to 12 minutes around the clock. A second route goes to IJplein, a more easterly point on the north shore, with ferries every 8 to 15 minutes from 6:30am to around midnight. A third ferry goes west to NDSM-Werf, a 14 minute trip. A fourth ferry runs between theAzartplein on Java/KNSM Island to the east of Centraal Station and Zamenhofstraat on Noord; and three others from Houthavenveer, west of the city, across to Noord.

By Car

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 too 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.