Amsterdam: trains and buses and ferries, oh my!


Let’s dive right in!

I was going to write about how to get to specific places, but I’m just going to type and see where we end up!

As we begin, here are a couple of helpful links, and please feel free to ask questions in the comments.

I Amsterdam’s website was very informative and a huge help while planning.

Suggested by a Nederland native, 9292 is a great application to have on your phone if you’re going to be using public transportation. Although Google Maps was right on point, too, 9292 tells you how much the rides are; which I really like! Oh, also…it’s free!

We arrived at Schiphol Airport and rode the train to Amsterdam Centraal. Having come from a city where there is negligible public transportation (though we stay hopeful for big changes in this regard), it was sort of surprising to see the many options available to us; surprising in an exhilarating way!

From the central station we took a short walk to the ferry, and as soon as we exited the train station we were transported into the old and vibrant city that Amsterdam is.

We took the ferry that takes you to Amsterdam Noord, and a few minutes later we were across the waters and pulling our luggage on beautiful side walks.

If you look at the streets in the photographs, you will mostly see grey and red/burnt orange ground surfaces. Typically people walk on the gray side while bikers use the red lanes. That’s not a hard & fast rule, though, as seen in the photograph above. In the midst of this there are also cars (though not many), an excellent tram & bus system around town, of course the various trains that take you pretty much everywhere (including to other countries), scooters, e-bikes, and bicycles. Oh are there bicycles! Check this link to get some rental information. There are other rental options, too.

Oh, I must add that water taxis and boat rentals are also available, though you may want to check for COVID-19-related availability.

Now, speaking of trains, buses, and such…

***Please be aware that there is more than one transportation company and although getting the pass to ride all transportation is the best decision you can make (in this regard), it is easy to get check-in at one company’s scanner & check out at a different company’s scanner. Let me break it down a little more….

Let’s say you’re at Schiphol airport and you’re ready to buy your local transportation pass (it’s a plastic card.) You buy it, and now you’re all set to go. If I recall correctly, you have Metro R-NET, GVB , EBS and of course NS. There are different scanners through the different train & metro stations. One helpful thing to look for is the company colors. The buses and trams have scanners inside once you hop aboard.

Now let’s imagine this: You’re at the train station, and you need to board the NS train. Your trip is from Amsterdam (AMS) Centraal to Zaandam. You scan your pre-paid card on the yellow scanner (some of them are stand-alone 3-foot tall metal posts, but at AMS Centraal you swipe your card on the scanner and walk through an automatic door.) The NS system will calculate the cost of your trip based on your point of entry and your point of exit.

ATTENTION: It is imperative that once you get off the train you scan yourself out of the NS system so that Zaandam will be your point of exit. Otherwise, NS will take out 20 Euros off your card. To board NS trains you have to have a minimum of 20 Euros loaded on your card.

On the bus and tram you scan on when entering & off before exiting the vehicle.

So what happens if you check in with NS and check out with GVB and you’re out 20 Euros? Have no fear! If I am not mistaken, it takes about 24 hours for the system to have caught up with your transactions. The next day go to any of the NS customer service (CS) desks, explain the situation and they will see what happened. They will even see that you scanned in at GVB. Just beware of the fact that once you pass 10 transactions, they may not be able to see beyond that at all the CS desks, but only at the major ones. I made this mistake myself, but the 20 Euros was refunded to my card within two days.

While walking with our friends, we joked about how everyone who lives there, travels around town using common sense. Meaning, if you see tram tracks, don’t walk on them. The trams will drive by you and may catch you by surprise! I don’t know if they would hit you, but I didn’t stick around the tracks to find out 🙂

Well, that’s all for now. Please ask any question about this & I will do my best to answer. Please make sure to keep your prepaid transportation card somewhere safe. They are easy to lose and pickpocketing is reportedly a thing in Amsterdam. I am not making any social judgement by saying this (LOL), and I would just suggest that you walk around enjoying life, enjoying the moment, but also being mindful of where you have your wallet & valuables.



PS: I would suggest having a light impermeable jacket with you as it rains very often in the Netherlands. We still walked around without a problem, but when it gets cold, it can feel like a weather double-whammy!

PPS: Check with the Netherlands‘ government website for updates on COVID-19 requirements for entry.

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