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kittycatangel Apr 12th, 2004 09:17 AM

4 hour layover - Amsterdam (enough time for tour?)
I have a 4 hour layover from US to Asia on Northwest/KLM airline, arriving 7AM, depart 11AM

Is this enough time to get out and see a little bit or are we pushing it? How are the security measures? How long does that take. Our luggage should already be taken care of as we are en route to Asia, so no need for baggage check.

We are adventurous travelers and like to see new places and would LOVE to even see a little of Amsterdam, even if it's a 15 minute walk through the Red Light District :)

111op Apr 12th, 2004 09:28 AM

Sounds tight -- I think that the train ride to town is about 20 minutes.

One thing you should investigate: If your luggage is checked through, can you actually leave the airport? More seasoned travelers can probably tell you.

missypie Apr 12th, 2004 09:32 AM

That's going to be very difficult to plan in advance, since levels of security seem to be ever changing. When you think of the line for passport control to leave the arrival gate, then passport control and metal detector to get back in, that may take up all of your time.

DonTopaz Apr 12th, 2004 09:39 AM

You will absolutely have time. Schiphol airport is one of the best in the world at handling passengers, and it will be easy for you to get into the city and back to the airport in plenty of time. Because you'll already have a boarding pass for your onward travel to Asia, you really need to be at the airport only 40-45 minutes before your flight time. It has never taken me more than 5 or 10 minutes to go through passport control and security at AMS when boarding a flight.

I'm afraid that the red light district will not have much to see at that hour of the day. I'd suggest alternatively that you explore the Jordaan, a lovely neighborhood that's easily accessible from the train station. If you can, get a map and walk along the canals -- if it's a nice day, the early morning is absolutely best for taking pictures, and the Jordaan is the perfect spot for it.

chris1234 Apr 12th, 2004 09:45 AM

I would say yes but plan to only spend about 1 1/2 hours looking around and then I would get on back.

martytravels Apr 12th, 2004 12:07 PM

If there's any city you can pull this off in, it's Amsterdam, but it will still be kinda tight.
The trains into the city are fast, frequent and quite cheap. (20 minute trip, departures every 10 minutes and about 3.50 euro). You could hop out at Centraal Station and take a power walk around the central canal belt then hop back on a train to Schiphol.
One of those canal boat rides (which last an hour) might even be possible.

hopscotch Apr 12th, 2004 01:48 PM

My last departure from Amsterdam required a one hour wait, at the gate, for additional security checks. That said, I would recommend that you jump out of the airport, find a taxi, tell him to give you a tour of the city, and get you back to Schiphol about 2 hours before your connecting flight. Get a price from the cabbie before you get in. Unfortunately, 7h to 11h is awful early for Amsterdam to come alive, though it may be better for window shopping since virtually nothing will be open during your quick tour.

Bird Apr 12th, 2004 03:11 PM

Possible? yes, practical, no. After transportation, you would only have an hour to see the sites. Not much will be open at 8:00am. There is plenty of things to do/see at the airport. Reserve Amsterdam when you have a week instead of an hour.

WanderingTexan Apr 12th, 2004 06:41 PM

We took a tour by water that didn't take more than 2 hours. I enjoyed it.

flanneruk Apr 13th, 2004 12:26 AM

Nothing's predictable in the airline industry, so this is a decision you should take only when you're off the plane, have ongoing boarding passes in your hand, have checked with the airside transfer desk when they want you at the gate, and have checked the length of the queue to go through passport control.

When last I changed planes at Schiphol for Indonesia (not too long after Bali), there were no particularly onerous security checks. Outgoing passports and security took 10 mins max.

Just be at the gate 20 mins before takeoff was the advice. But, with the Schengen system, passengers transitting between non-Schengen countries and Schengen countries like France or Germany have to go through passport control at Schiphol. So passport control queues can be a lot longer than they used to be.

You'll be through immigration just in time for Amsterdam's rush hour. Which is a pretty tame affair by many standards, but goes on till 9.30 or so and will slow road transport. So unless it's a weekend, take the advice or people recommending the train.

But, assuming nothing goes wrong with your flight, and there's no security scare, a quick trip into town, a breath of fresh (and, near the railway station, slightly herring-scented) air, a quick gawp at the red light district (I've always found there are a few ladies on duty at 8.30) and a trip back is easily doable. Won't show you the real Amsterdam (whatever that is), but beats the living daylights out of hanging round what may well be Europe's most civilised major airport - but is still just an airport.

BTW, occasionally people answering questions like this say something like "you may not be allowed to leave the airport".

Has anyone ever, in the civilised world in peacetime, been prevented from leaving a major airport? Indeed, how could anyone stop people from leaving an airport? So where does this odd urban myth come from?

111op Apr 13th, 2004 03:21 AM

Hi flanner -- of course one can leave as one pleases. But if the luggage is checked through to the final destination, it's not an unreasonable concern.

After all, in the US, I believe the procedure is that your luggage is yanked off the plane if you don't board a certain flight. The security concerns are obvious. But, of course, you could argue that the airline has no way of verifying that you've left the airport in the interim.

I suppose if you can get all your boarding passes all at the same time, it's probably not a concern. But if you've to get a boarding pass at an intermediate stop, it could become a concern, in the sense that you'd have to check in again, and the computer would have to know that luggage was already checked through.

I would have this concern and since I don't know what the answer is, I wouldn't claim to know, and I don't think it hurts to check with the airline what the policy is in advance.

AAFrequentFlyer Apr 13th, 2004 03:32 AM

No problem leaving the airport. Having luggage checked through doesn't make a difference.
Make sure you have your passport and boarding pass.

indie May 6th, 2004 01:57 PM

flanneruk : If you are a transit passenger then you will not be allowed to leave the airport and enter a country if you have no visa - for us mere mortals from countries that need visas to enter Europe :) So yes indeed in this civilized world you can be stopped from leaving an airport.

MyriamC May 6th, 2004 02:03 PM

Indie, that was exactly what I thought about being a transit passenger!

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