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, metro and buses. The OV-chip card can also be authorised for use on NS trains - however standard paper tickets are still in use as well.
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. Can be bought on board from tram drivers/conductors, bus drivers plus GVB sales desk/ticket machines. Check-in and check-out is required. Note, this ticket is NOT valid to/from Amsterdam Schiphol airport nor on any GVB night bus service.
2. OV-chip card e-purse - There are 2 types of OV-chip card available: 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 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 a GVB sales point.
During purchase you should 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 the Netherlands. Fares are calculated at rates based on distance travelled. In Amsterdam there is a boarding fee of €0.87 and then a further €0.148 per km. 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 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.
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. 2014 prices are:
24 hours (1 day) €7.50
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 ticket. 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.
4. GVB Night Bus Ticket - A single ride on a night bus costs €4.50. It can be bought from the driver as a disposable OV-chip card or added as a product on anonymous / 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.
5. Waterland Bus Ticket - Head out of Amsterdam and visit historic Dutch fishing villages such as Edam, Volendam, Monnickendam and Marken. A day ticket costs €10 and is valid on all EBS buses serving the area. The buses depart from just outside Amsterdam central station - head out of the water side exit (north) and then immediately go to the upper level bus stop. 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 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. 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.
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. For train travel you can still purchase paper tickets - however many locals use the OV-chip card for rail travel though you will need a minimum of €20 on the e-purse. For a detailed overview of rail tickets and discount options 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.
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.
For more info on transport in Amsterdam see: