Amsterdam Travel Guide
Public Transportation in Amsterdam
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Amsterdam has a full-fledged subway system, called the metro, 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 can get you from point A to point C in a quantum leap—for instance, from Centraal Station (at the northern harbor edge of the city) to Amstel Station (a train station at the southeastern area of the city, with connections to many buses and trams)—much faster than a tram, which makes many stops along the way. You'll need an OV-chipkaart, used the same way as for other public transport.
Four metro lines, including the express tram (sneltram), serve Amsterdam and the surrounding suburbs. A fifth, the much-vaunted Nord-Zuid metro line, is still some years away after lengthy delays—and is the cause of all the heavy construction work you may see around Amsterdam Centraal railway station. Although many stops on the existing metro lines will not be of use to the tourist, several can prove handy. Nieuwmarkt lets you off near the Red Light District and is near the famous sights of the Oude Zijde area. Waterlooplein is near the eastern edge of the Oude Zijde, stopping at the square where the Stadhuis-Muziektheater is located, and offers access to sights of the Jewish Quarter and the Plantage; a walk several blocks to the south leads you to the Eastern Canal Ring and its many historic houses. Wibautstraat is not too far from the Amstel River and provides access to the southern sectors of the city, including De Pijp. Amstel Station is a train station near the Amstel River in the southeastern area of the city, with connections to many buses and trams. Amsterdam Zuid/WTC (South/World Trade Center) is at the southern edge of Amsterdam Zuid (South) and rarely used by tourists. VU (Vrije Universiteit) is in the suburb of Buitenveldert. It's possible to transfer from the metro to trains at several shared stops, either by crossing the platform or merely going outside to an adjacent train station. Line 50 (Ringlijn) travels from Isolaterweg in the northeastern part of the city to Gein, a southeastern suburb. Lines 51, 53, and 54 all start at Centraal Station and follow the same routes until they head into the suburbs. They ride as a subway from Centraal Station to Amstel Station, then whiz along the rest of the routes above ground, parting ways at Spaklerweg. The No. 51 passes through Buitenveldert, stopping at the VU and continuing south into Amstelveen. The 53 passes Diemen and ends up southeast in Gaasperplas. The 54 also travels southeast and shares the rest of its route with the 50, passing through Holendrecht and ending at Gein.
Trams and Buses
Many tram and bus routes start from the hub at Centraal Station. A large bus depot is on the Marnixstraat, across from the main police station, and there's another one at Harlemmermeer station in the Overtoomseveld neighborhood of western Amsterdam. Trams and buses run from about 6 am to midnight daily. The tram routes, with a network of 130 km (80 miles) of track, make this characteristic form of transport more useful than the bus for most tourists. Night owls can make use of the hourly night-bus services, with double frequency on Friday and Saturday night, but routes are restricted.
Between stops, trams brake only when absolutely necessary, so listen for warning bells if you are walking or cycling near tramlines. Taxis use tramlines, but other cars are allowed to venture onto them only when turning right. The newer fleets of buses are cleaner, and therefore nicer to use, and bus lanes (shared only with taxis) remain uncongested, ensuring that you travel more swiftly than the rest of the traffic in rush hour. If the bus is very crowded, you may have to stand, so hold on to a handrail, as the buses can travel quite fast; 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 urban systems of transportation, keep an eye out for pickpockets.
There are 16 tramlines servicing the city. Trams 1, 2, 4, 5, 9, 13, 16, 17, 24, and 25 all start and end their routes at Centraal Station. The most frequently used trams by visitors are the 1, 2, and 5, which stop at the big central Dam Square and, along with 6, 7, and 10, also stop at Leidseplein square. The numbers 2, 3, 5, and 12 will get you to Museumplein and the Museum District. Trams 5, 16, 24, and 25 travel through Amsterdam's chic Zuid district. The No. 4 tram stops at the RAI convention center and the No. 5 will take you to Station South/World Trade Center. The remaining lines pass through East and West Amsterdam and take you farther outside the center city (Centrum) to areas generally more off-the-beaten-track for tourists.
More than 30 GVB buses cover all the city's neighborhoods and are a good way to get closer to specific addresses. The Conexxion bus company operates about 50 different buses that will take you from Amsterdam to all areas of Holland. Most of these depart from Centraal Station. Buses 110 to 117 travel to the "folkloric" area of North Holland, just to the north of the city, where favorite tourist destinations include Volendam, Marken, Edam, Hoorn, and Broek in Waterland.
Four GVB ferry lines leave from Centraal Station, but not all are of interest to tourists. The Buiksloterwegveer leaves from Pier 7 behind Centraal Station every eight to 15 minutes, day and night. The ferry transports pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists across the IJ channel to North Amsterdam. There is no fee for the service. North Amsterdam may prove to be less interesting than the refreshing trip, which takes about five minutes.
Besides the OV-chipkaart system, in Amsterdam you can also buy 24-, 48-, 72-, and 96-hour travel-anywhere tickets (€7.50 for one day, €12 for two days, €16 for three days, €20.50 for four days), which cover all urban bus and streetcar routes. You can also buy chip cards from the driver that are valid for one hour of unlimited travel. Fares are often reduced for children ages 4 to 11 and for people who are 65 years or older.
The electronic I amsterdam Cardprovides free or discounted admission to many top attractions, plus a free canal round-trip, and free use of public transport. These can be bought online or from tourist offices in Amsterdam, and cost €40, €50, or €60 for 1, 2 or 3 days, respectively.
GVB (Prins Hendrikkade 108–114, Centrum, Amsterdam, North Holland, 1012 AB. 0900/9292. www.gvb.nl.)