For tourists, only the Amsterdam tram network is important to understand. After all, Amsterdam is a small city and all main tourists attractions are reachable by foot or by bike. The subway and public buses are only useful if you want to go outside of the city centre. Trains are the best public transport to visit other cities in Holland.
Amsterdam by tram
The extensive Amsterdam tram network, make the trams the best public transport available. Trams go on all main roads, they stop very regularly, are fast and pleasant. Most start at Amsterdam Central Station, go past Dam square and then further south. Trams 1,2, 5 go via Leidseplein. Trams 7,9,10 and 14 go from West to East (and back).
Amsterdam Tram Map
The company that runs the trams is called: GVB. They have a good map with the public transport routes available.
Ticket price Trams
A tram ticket costs €2,60 within the center. You can travel in the centre for one hour on this ticket. See below for an explanation of the new Chip card system in all Amsterdam public transport. See also other prices in Amsterdam.
Amsterdam Subway / Metro
The Amsterdam subway (Metro) is only useful if you want to go to the suburbs of South-East or West of Amsterdam. Other than that, there is no real reason to go by tube/subway, because only the first 3 stops are in the centre and possibly useful for tourists. You can easily walk these distances or, better yet, rent a bike.
The public bus route in Amsterdam is quite basic in the center of the city. Basically all buses take the same route through the center, so taking a bus is not very useful if you want to visit tourist attractions. Also, because of privatisation of the bus system, ‘public’ buses are run by different bus companies, which makes it more difficult to find your way.
The Netherlands has one of the most dense railway systems in the world. To get to other cities like Utrecht, Leiden, Haarlem, The Hague or Rotterdam, it’s best to take a train.
To all these cities, trains run every 15 minutes. Train tickets can be bought at the vending machines at the stations or at the desk (extra €0,50). Trains have started to use the new Chipcard as well (see below), but old school tickets are still available.
How to use the Amsterdam transport system
New Chip card system
The last couple of years, public transport (buses, trams, metro and train) in Holland has slowly been introducing a new card system, called OV-chip card.
In Amsterdam, all buses, subway and trams have now changed to this system. The idea is that everyone owns their own personalised (or anonymous) chip card. The card itself costs €7,50 and is valid for 5 years. At stations and in certain shops (such as Albert Heijn), there are vending machines where you can add value to the card, paying by cash, bankcard or credit card.
Using the Chip card
To use the chip card, on entering, hold the card to the machines inside the trams and buses and hold it again when you leave the bus, tram of metro. They call this “chip in – and – chip out”.
Disposable cards for tourists
Tourists can buy a disposable chip card, to be used only once from the tram- or bus driver. This ticket is valid for one hour and costs €2,60.
If you intent to use the public transport more frequently (if your hotel is a bit out of the way), it might be more economical to buy a 24-hour ticket (€7), a 48-hour ticket (€11,50), 72-hour (€15,50) or 96-hour (€19,50). Ticket are available up to 168-hour tickets.
If you park your car at a P&R Amsterdam, the return ticket for bus, tram or metro is included.
There are also all kinds of combination tickets available that include all sorts of ‘extras’ such as transportation by canal bus and (discount) entrance to museums. Keep in mind though, that in the center of Amsterdam you really don’t need public transport; practically all museums are within walking distance. Holders of these I Amsterdam or All Amsterdam Transport Pass generally feel they are stressed out because they have to make use of the card, to get their money’s worth.