Public transport in Amsterdam is run by city transport company GVB and is generally quite efficient - from trams which criss-cross the city to the metro and buses which travel further out.
There are a number of different ticket options for visitors and residents which basically depend on how long you plan to stay in Amsterdam and where you wish to go...
Firstly you should note that the OV-chip card (OV-chipkaart) smart card system is in use for all public transport in the Netherlands. This means when boarding/exiting your journey you need to check-in and check-out by holding your chip card against the card readers. In Amsterdam this applies to trips on trams, trains, metro and buses.
Note, everyone aged 4 or over must have their own ticket - children 0-3 travel free.
Public Transport Tickets in Amsterdam
1. Single Journey - In Amsterdam the single can be bought as a disposable OV-chip card and is valid for 1 hour travel on GVB public transport including any transfers. It costs €2.80 (2014 price) - it is not really good value if you are only travelling 1 or 2 stops on a tram but is reasonable for longer trips. It can be bought on board from tram drivers/conductors, bus drivers plus GVB sales desk/ticket machines. Check-in and check-out is required, even when making a transfer. Note, this ticket is NOT valid to/from Amsterdam Schiphol airport by train nor on any GVB night bus service.
2. OV-chip card e-purse - There are 2 types of OV-chip card available for e-purse travel: a personal OV-chip card aimed at Dutch residents and an anonymous OV-chip card which anyone can buy. An "empty" anonymous card costs €7.50 (non-refundable) and will last 4-5 years. You can buy one at Amsterdam central station, Schiphol airport station (plus any other NS train station) or at GVB sales points (ticket machines or desks). They can also be purchased at newsagents, tobacconists and supermarkets.
When purchasing from a transport provider, you should immediately load some credit (at least €10-€20, max allowed is €150) onto the e-purse of the card - it can then be used for travel on any form of public transport in Amsterdam or the Netherlands. Note that some cards may need to be pre-authorised to use on the NS rail network (see below).
Fares are calculated at rates based on distance travelled. In Amsterdam there is a fixed boarding fee of €0.87 and then a variable distance fee of €0.148 per km which is actually calculated to every 50 metres of travel. This means a 3km journey will cost about €1.31 - cheaper than the disposable 1 hour ticket above.
If you need to make a transfer you must check-out and then check back in - if this is within 35 minutes you do not pay the boarding fee again.
Note you will need a minimum of €4 e-purse credit to use the card on GVB transport in Amsterdam. At check-in this amount will be temporarily taken off the e-purse. On checking out the €4 fee is effectively refunded whilst the correct fare is deducted.
The anonymous card is good for visitors who plan longer stays in the country with lots of public transport trips. By buying and loading once at the airport you don't have to buy separate tickets each time, so long as you have enough credit. The anonymous card can be used by other people though not at the same time - everyone travelling together must have their own card.
The personal OV-chip card (costs €7.50, lasts 5 years) is for residents who register their details and it contains a photo of the holder with name and date-of-birth. It can be linked to a Dutch bank account for automatic top-ups and can be blocked if lost or stolen. Residents of Belgium, Germany and Luxembourg are also able to purchase a personal card.
3. Unlimited GVB Travel Tickets - These are valid for a set period of time and allow you unlimited travel on the GVB network in Amsterdam day and night (GVB buses, metro and trams). There are a number of different periods available for purchase depending on how long you visit the city. The longer the ticket, the better value it becomes. There is also a cheap 24 hour ticket for kids as well. 2014 prices are:
Children's 24 hour ticket (age 4-11) €2.50
These tickets come as disposable OV-chip cards - the 24 hour and 48 hour tickets can be purchased on board a tram (driver or conductor); bus drivers only sell the 24 hour tickets. The rest can be bought from GVB sales points. It's also possible to load these as a "travel product" onto an anonymous or personal OV-chip card.
* The GVB children's Day Ticket is new for 2014 and is valid for 24 hours for those aged 4-11. The child must be accompanied by an adult with a valid ticket. Children aged 0-3 travel free.
4. Night Bus Tickets - A single ride on a GVB night bus costs €4.50. It can be bought from the driver as a disposable OV-chip ticket or added as a product onto an anonymous or personal OV-chip card. The card is valid for 90 minutes and includes transfers to other GVB night buses.
It is also possible to load 12 night bus rides as a product on a anonymous / personal OV-chip card - this costs €34 (effectively €2.83 per ride). The 12 trip product is valid for 1 year.
Night bus tickets on Connexxion and EBS buses cost €5 (disposable ticket) or €4.50 if using an anonymous or personal OV-chip card.
5. Waterland Bus Ticket - Head out of Amsterdam and visit historic Dutch fishing villages such as Edam, Volendam, Monnickendam and Marken. A Waterland day ticket costs €10 and is valid on all EBS buses serving the area. Waterland tickets can be bought either on-board the bus, the EBS booth or at the VVV tourist office. The buses depart from just outside Amsterdam central station - head out of the water side exit (north) and follow the signs.
Be aware that standard GVB tickets are not valid on EBS which is a different transport company - although see below for a combined ticket option.
6. Amsterdam & Region Day Card - This disposable OV-chip ticket costs €13.50 and gives you unlimited travel on buses, trams and metro for 24 hours in Amsterdam and the surrounding region. It is valid day and night on any GVB transport plus regional bus services from Connexxion (incuding the 197 airport bus) and EBS - so could be used to visit the Waterland region, Haarlem and Zaanse Schans by bus. Note, it is not valid for NS train travel. Card is validated on first check-in, you must check-in and -out for each trip.
7. Monthly/Annual GVB Tickets - If you are resident in Amsterdam and need to commute or travel regularly then there is the option of buying a monthly GVB season ticket (€89) or an annual GVB season ticket (€890). These are only valid on GVB transport (day and night) and must be added to a personal OV-chip card.
8. GVB Bicycle Ticket - Bikes can be taken onto tram 26 or the metro but only outside the rush hour (0700-0900/1600-1830). A bicycle ticket costs €1.60 and is valid for the entire day. It can be added as a supplement to a personal or anonymous OV-chip card. Alternatively there is a disposable 1 hour card + bicycle which costs €4.40.
9. NS Train Tickets - There are a number of train stations in Amsterdam (see: train network map of Amsterdam) and the railway can sometimes be a fast and useful way to travel around the periphery of the city as well as getting to the airport.
For train travel in the Netherlands you will also need the OV-chip card - either a disposable ticket (with €1 surcharge) or e-purse credit (minimum €20 required) from a personal or anonymous OV-chip card. You should check at a NS station that your OV-chip card is authorised for rail trips - if not it can be activated at a train ticket machine or service desk.
For a detailed overview of rail tickets check our How to Buy a Dutch Train Ticket guide.
10. Travel to/from Amsterdam Schiphol airport - The train is the best way to travel from the airport to the centre. For more info see Getting from Schiphol to Amsterdam. GVB tickets cannot be used for the airport train trip. GVB does have a bus service (69) running from Schiphol to Sloterdijk station.
11. Theatre Tickets - If you are attending a performance at either the Concertgebouw or Stadsschouwburg then your ticket gets you free travel on GVB trams and buses before and after the show.
Where To Buy GVB Tickets
You can purchase any GVB public transport ticket type at the GVB Tickets & Info office outside Amsterdam central station (pictured below), next to the VVV tourist office. There are similar offices at the following stations: Amsterdam Central metro, Amsterdam Bijlmer-ArenA, Amsterdam Zuid and near Amsterdam Sloterdijk station. GVB automatic ticket machines accept coins, notes and Dutch debit cards and can be found at all metro stations.
For more info on transport in Amsterdam see: