By Mike Kerr
From the time you land at Schipol Airport in Amsterdam you will notice how quick and easy it is to get around inside and on the outskirts of the city. While everyone will have their personal favourite there certainly isn’t a shortage of options. With both tourists and locals in mind, centuries of planning the infrastructure in the city has paid of in one of the most easily commutable, and accessible cities I have seen in the world.
When you have found your way to the main concourse there will be a bombardment of options, cabs can get you from door to door for a flat fee of €40 with a driver to do the heavy lifting. My favourite route is the trains, there are electronic ticket stations which in my experience have always had short lines, and with tickets at €3.70 a person, the price is (almost) unbeatable. Once you have your tickets, look for platforms 1 and 2, head down the escalator and jump on the next train. There aren’t always seats, but if you have a bag as big as mine, it easily becomes multipurpose in a jiffy. If you choose to stay in a hotel versus an apartment, check to see if there is a complimentary shuttle. They provide similar door to door service like the taxis, but with no cost they beat even the train for pricing.
Central Amsterdam is where you will see the payoff of the planning that went into the streets, and Damrak, the central street in Amsterdam, is a prime example. The streets are extremely walkable. The sidewalks on the outside of every street are all cobblestone so a good pair of shoes is a must, without them you might end up stepping right out of your shoes like I did and walking home in your socks. Click here for some examples of great footwear.
Right next to the sidewalk you will find the bike lane, you can rent bicycles and electric scooters from many locations. The best I have found through trial and error is Amsterbike, they can offer better rates for groups, but even single rentals are affordable for both bikes and scooters. While the scooter can be a little intimidating it is quick to learn how to accelerate, brake and turn smoothly; if you are unsure of which to take they will be happy to let you have a quick test drive. The parking loop upstairs outside of the ferry terminal is a great place to practice before you head out. The city is incredibly flat and easy to bike. I must warn you not to play around while getting from A to B, there are more bikes in Amsterdam than people, and locals use the bike lanes to get to, from, and even for work. If you are blocking a lane or causing a fuss, you will definitely hear about it from those around you.
In the middle Damrak you will notice there aren’t any cars, but instead, this area is for designated trams. In the morning and evening rush hours the trams can get pretty full, but while the city folks are at work, you won’t have a problem. For long trips to the Zoo, Holland Casino, or the like the tram is ideal. At staffed stations you can purchase tickets that are good for anywhere from 1-hour (€2.60) to 7-days (€30) starting from when you board the train and swipe your ticket, with tram routes bringing you within walking distance of Amsterdam’s most popular sights, it offers great value.
While there are roads in Amsterdam, I would discourage traveling by car. It is more difficult to get to a lot of areas in the city. When you can finally find a route to your destination, you will be shocked at how hard it is to find parking (if you can find it at all). Unlike North American cities, this city was built before cars, and it can certainly be unforgiving to them and their drivers.
One of Amsterdam’s most beautiful features is the canals, they don’t stop at just looks though, they are incredibly useful too. This past year, Steven and I brought a large group with us to the city, instead of spending all day on foot or bike to show everyone around we used The Canal Company. We found that their Canal Bus was the best way to familiarize everyone with the major attractions in the city. The operators give brief overviews of every notable location en route, so it gives everyone a good idea of where they would like to go later. They offer a variety of tickets that allow you to hop on or off at any stop for 1 – 3 days. If you are more of an independent traveler you can also rent Canal Bikes, a paddle boat, you can rent them for 1 – 2 hours, and allow you to go of the designated bus routes and explore at your own pace. You can return the bikes to any of the Canal Company mooring docks, so if you venture away from your departure point, there is still a home for your canal bike when you are finished.
If you are interested in renting your own boat for a group or personal tour I highly recommend it. It is an unforgettable experience to be able to tell a local what it is you are interested in seeing, and having a unique route planned to fit your needs by someone who not only has knowledge of the city, but has the means to get you there.