Welcome to Amsterdam! You are planning a trip to the Netherlands or its capital Amsterdam by plane. Perhaps you are already on your way. Then, you may want to to know how you can continue traveling to Amsterdam, other destinations in the Netherlands, or even abroad after arriving at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS).
There’s good news. The Netherlands is a small and densely populated country with an extensive and well-functioning public transport network. You can travel almost everywhere by train, bus, metro, light rail, taxi or ferry. Renting a car is often not necessary. The roads and cities in the Netherlands are busy and, although the road system is well organized and maintained, driving can be stressful. Traffic jams are part of daily life here and parking your car is often expensive and difficult. Using public transport you can often reach your destination within 30 minutes to 3 hours. Traveling by train from Schiphol Airport railway station to Amsterdam takes only 7 to 18 minutes, and trains to Amsterdam leave every couple of minutes.
This article was written by a born and raised Amsterdammer. It’s intended for the vast majority of travelers and covers the most important options. If you are looking for detailed information or if you are traveling to less visited locations, then consult other sources:
The best option to travel from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol to Amsterdam City or other destinations in the Netherlands is by train. You will usually travel by a train from Dutch Railways (NS / Nederlandse Spoorwegen), although you might also spot foreign trains. In the more remote areas of the Netherlands there are also trains from other Dutch companies.
Schiphol has a train station that is connected to the arrival hall on the ground floor of the airport. You don’t have to go outside, and in most cases the railway station is only a few minutes’ walk away. On your way to the station, you’ll pass shops and restaurants (Schiphol Plaza), so you can pick up items, food and drinks along the way.
The train platforms are located under the airport and can be reached by elevator, escalators, or moving sidewalk.
Basic guide for traveling to Amsterdam by train
1. After picking up your luggage in the baggage hall, and passing the passport control and customs, you’ll pass the sliding glass doors into the arrival hall. Welcome to the Netherlands! You’re now on the ground floor of the airport.
2. Now follow the dark yellow information signs with the words ‘Trains‘. In most cases, the train station is only a few minutes’ walk away. On your way to the station, you’ll pass shops and restaurants (Schiphol Plaza), so you can pick up items, food and drinks along the way.
The most striking point between the arrival hall and the train station is the Burger King. Schiphol Airport railway station is more or less situated, behind the Burger King, on the ground floor.
3. Buy a ticket for the train at a yellow NS ticket machine, or from the NS Service Counter. You can also purchase a ticket before your trip, using the NS travel planner on the Internet or the NS App for mobile devices.
4. Look at the screens of Dutch Railways to find out at what time and from which platform your train departs.
5. Don’t forget to check in by gently holding your ticket or OV-Chipkaart at a at a dark yellow OV-chipkaart card reader in the station hall. You can not check in at the platforms downstairs.
6. Use the escalator or elevator to go down to the correct platform. The platforms are located under the train station. The airport luggage carts may NOT be taken down to the platforms. At the top of the escalators of each platform and above the platforms downstairs, there are digital displays providing information on departing trains.
8. Upon arrival in Amsterdam, walk towards an exit and check out at a ticket barrier with the NS logo on it.
When arriving at Amsterdam Centraal station, most visitors should walk in direction of platform 1/2 to an exit at the city center side. At the center side you will find metro entrances and two tram platforms. Welcome to Amsterdam!
Schiphol Airport railway station
This is an important railway station in the Netherlands and is situated pretty central in the country. From this station you can take trains to Amsterdam (in 7 to 16 minutes) and other destinations in the Netherlands in all directions (north, west, east and south). Some international trains also stop at Schiphol.
You can for example go to the following railway stations and major cities:
Amsterdam South station, Amsterdam RAI station, Amsterdam Bijlmer ArenA station, Amsterdam Lelylaan Station, Amsterdam Sloterdijk station, Amsterdam Centraal station.
- North: Almere, Lelystad, Zwolle, Groningen, Leeuwarden.
- South: Utrecht, ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Eindhoven, Breda, Venlo.
- West: Leiden, The Hague, Rotterdam, Dordrecht.
- East: Arnhem, Nijmegen, Amersfoort, Enschede.
From Schiphol Airport railway station you can also go abroad by train. You can for example take trains to the following cities:
- Belgium: Antwerp Central, Brussels-South.
- France: Lille, Paris Nord, Bourg St. Maurice.
- Engeland: If you want to travel by train to London St. Pancras International, you have to travel to Amsterdam Centraal station first.
- Germany: If you would like to go to Hannover Hbf of Berlin Hbf, you have to change trains in Hilversum or at Amsterdam Centraal station.
From Schiphol Airport railway station to Amsterdam by train
The railway track from Schiphol Airport railway station to Amsterdam City splits into 2 main routes shortly after leaving the Schiphol tunnel:
1. Western route
This track goes via Amsterdam Lelylaan station, Amsterdam Sloterdijk station to Amsterdam Centraal station. If your hotel is situated in or near Amsterdam-West, Amsterdam-Centrum(‘Amsterdam Centre’), or Amsterdam-Noord (‘North Amsterdam’), then this route is often the best option.
2. Southern route
This track goes to Amsterdam Zuid station (‘Amsterdam South’), Amsterdam RAI station, and Amsterdam Bijlmer ArenA station. If your hotel is situated in or near Amsterdam-Zuid (‘Amsterdam South’), Buitenveldert, Museumkwartier (Concertgebouwbuurt), Amsterdam Oud-West (‘Old West’), De Pijp (‘The Pipe’), Duivendrecht, Amsterdam-Zuidoost (Bijlmer, Bijlmermeer) (‘Amsterdam-Southeast’), then you will usually choose the southern route.
You’re on the wrong train?
You’re on a train on the southern route, but your destination is Amsterdam Centraal station or the opposite? Don’t worry, even when you’re on the wrong route, you do not have to go back to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. There are no trains between Amsterdam Zuid/Rai station, and Amsterdam Centraal station, but the railway stations are connected by metro or tram:
- Metro 50 (‘Ring Line’) runs between Amsterdam Zuid station and Amsterdam Lelylaan station / Amsterdam Sloterdijk station. Head towards Isolatorweg for Amsterdam Sloterdijk Station. Amsterdam Sloterdijk station is one stop before Isolatorweg. Conversely you go in the direction of Gein (Zuidoost / Bijlmer).
- Since July 2018, metro 52 (‘North/Southline’) runs between Amsterdam Zuid station and Amsterdam Centraal station (and on to Amsterdam-Noord).
- You can take tram 4 between Amsterdam RAI Station and Amsterdam Central Station. Tram 4 stops just outside Amsterdam RAI Station, under the viaduct. At Amsterdam Centraal station, tram 4 stops on the eastern platform. To get there, immediately turn left when exiting the railway station at the city center side.
(Click to open full size map in new window)
Journey planner | NS
You can plan your trip in advance using the NS website (Dutch Railways). The website is available in English. Note that there are direct trains to Amsterdam every couple of minutes, so detailed planning is usually not necessary.
The NS Dutch Railways Journey planner is also available as an App for Android and Apple iOS. Search Google Play or the App Store for ‘NS App’. Using this app, you can plan your trip when waiting for your luggage in the baggage hall. To change the language to English tap More > Settings > Language.
Purchasing a train ticket at Schiphol Airport railway station
There are several ways to buy a train ticket.
NS ticket machines
You can recognize NS ticket machines at Schiphol by the dark yellow with dark blue colors and by the blue illuminated sign displaying the NS logo on top of the machine. In the baggage hall of Schiphol, travelers waiting for their luggage can also buy a train ticket at a ticket machine. The NS ticket machines are equipped with a touch screen. The menu is also available in English. All functions are available at this type of ticket machine:
- Buy a single ticket (single-use OV-chipkaart)
- Buy an anonymous blue plastic OV-chipkaart
- Buy tickets to go abroad
- Top up your balance
- Pick up/terminate products
- Class swap
- View OV-chipkaart information, travel history and products on the card
- Pay with coins (machine gives change)
NS Tickets & Service shop
Handy if you want some personal assistance, purchase a season ticket or a single use chip card.
When buying a single use chip card from the cashier or the NS Ticket Machine, you will be charged a € 1,– supplement in addition to the price that you would pay to travel with an OV-chipkaart or online ticket.
The OV-chipkaart (short for Openbaar Vervoer chipkaart, meaning Public Transport chipcard) is a contactless NFC smart card system used for all public transport in the Netherlands. You can choose from a number of different chipcards.
One-time paper disposable card
If you use the train, bus, tram or metro only once or sporadic, then the paper disposable OV-chipkaart is perhaps the best option. This card can be purchased at a large ticket machine, at a service counter and from bus or tram drivers. When buying a single use chip card, you will be charged a € 1,– supplement in addition to the price that you would pay to travel with an OV-chipkaart. You do have to check in and out, but reusing the card and topping up your balance is NOT possible.
Anonymous plastic OV-chipkaart
If you regularly travel by public transport in the Netherlands, the reusable anonymous blue plastic OV-chipkaart without a photo will probably be the most convenient option for you.
This public transport chip card is useful if, for example, you go by train to Amsterdam and will explore the city by tram or metro later. The plastic top-up card is also useful if you’ll visit the Netherlands more often in the near future. You can share the anonymous card with the whole family (but not at the same time). The card is available at service counters, from vending machines, at tobacco or magazine shop and some supermarkets. An anonymous plastic OV chip card costs € 7.50 once. If you load balance on it, the card can be used immediately. The card is valid for five years. You can always reclaim the balance on your OV chip card, once it isn’t needed anymore.
Personal (photo) OV-chipkaart
If you often travel by public transport in the Netherlands, then the personal plastic OV-chipkaart with photo is convenient. All products can be loaded on this card, such as discounted travel and season tickets. The personal OV-chipkaart can be topped up automatically via a bank account. However, for most tourists and other visitors, an anonymous card will usually be more practical, because a personal card must be ordered well in advance and is delivered by snail mail. In addition, the applicant must have an address in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany or Luxembourg.
How do I top up the anonymous plastic OV-chipkaart?
You can load your card in different ways.
1. Place your order online and load the credit at a pick-up device
You can order credit online HERE. The site is available in English. You pay by iDEAL. At this site you can not pay with a credit card or PayPal. After placing your order, you must pick up your credit at a pick-up device.
2. Buy the balance at a small yellow charging and pick-up devices
All over the Netherlands there are dark yellow small charging machines where you can top up your OV-chipkaart. These machines are available at railway and metro stations, in supermarkets and at tobacco or magazine shops. You can pay using a debit card. Paying in cash or using a credit card is not possible.
3. Purchase balance at large sales & charge machines
These are large machines, such as the dark yellow NS machines at Schiphol. At metro stations you’ll often find similar machines. At these large vending machines you can buy an OV-chipkaart, load the balance on your card and buy all kinds of other products. You can pay with a debit card, credit card, but often you can also pay in cash.
4. At the service counter of a public transport company
You can also top up your OV-chipkaart at the service counters of public transport companies. At some counters you might pay a service fee.
Minimum required balance
To use the plastic OV-chipkaart, it is necessary that a minimum balance is loaded on the card, because the fare is only calculated when you check out. The minimum required balance is usually € 20,– for the train and € 4,– for the metro, tram and bus. So, if you arrive at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and decide to buy a plastic blue OV-chipkaart, you pay € 7,50 for the card. If you then want to travel to Amsterdam by train, you must also top up the balance with at least € 20,–. So you so spent at least € 27.50. However, you can use the plastic card and the balance in Amsterdam again for the metro, tram and bus. Of course you can also use the card with balance for other train journeys, for example for the return trip to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol or for your next visit to the Netherlands.
If you travel on credit, the boarding fare will be debited from your card when you check in. When you check out, the boarding fare will be refunded and you will be charged for the number of kilometers you traveled. If you do not check out, you will pay the full boarding fare.
Applying for a credit refund
An OV-chipkaart expires after five years. Naturally it is possible that there will still be credit on it at that time. Of course you can request a refund for this. But you can also request a credit refund if your card has not yet expired. After all, it’s your money. Do you want to reclaim your balance but still be able to use your card later? Then ask for a refund at a service counter. If there is more than € 30,– on your card, you can only reclaim your balance by sending your card with a form. Your card will then be terminated.
It might be more convenient and cheaper to buy your ticket online before departure. You can print your train ticket as a paper e-ticket or load it as a mobile ticket in the NS app on your smartphone. An e-ticket or mobile ticket is € 1,– cheaper than a ticket purchased at a railway station.
Buying an e-ticket is easy. You can purchase your ticket immediately after planning the trip via the NS travel planner. The website is available in English. You fill in the journey details and the name of the passenger, and then pay for your order with iDEAL or your credit card. You can then download and print the e-ticket yourself. An e-ticket is € 1,– cheaper than a ticket from a vending machine. The NS e-ticket is personalized. It is only valid in combination with valid proof of identity (passport, ID card or driver’s license). If you are traveling with an e-ticket, you can open the gate by scanning the barcode on the ticket at one of the gates equipped with a barcode reader.
Mobile ticket in the NS app
After completing your order, you can choose to load your ticket in the NS app. The mobile phone ticket is also personal. Just like a printed e-ticket, a mobile phone ticket is only valid in combination with a valid proof of identity (passport, ID card or driver’s license). When you open your ticket on your phone, you will see a large square code. You can use this to open access gates and to show the conductor your ticket.
- Order your ticket online or in the NS-app
- After payment, you will receive an email with which you can retrieve your tickets. Open this page on your mobile phone.
- You will now reach an overview page for your order, on which you will be presented with 2 options to pick up your tickets:
- Download and print
- Load in the NS-app on your mobile phone
If you choose Load in the NS app on your mobile phone, then the app will open automatically. You can find your ticket under ‘My tickets‘ in the Reisplanner Xtra travel planning app.
! ALWAYS Check in + ALWAYS check out !
Regardless of which public transport ticket you choose, make sure you ALWAYS check in and ALWAYS check out! For the train and metro you do this at a public transport card reader at the stations or at the gates with turnstiles. There are no gates with turnstiles at Schiphol Airport Station. Therefore, don’t forget to walk to a dark yellow card reader in the station hall to check in or out. You can not check in at the platforms downstairs.
How do I check in and out?
At the start of your journey, gently hold the OV-chipkaart against the card reader on a pole or at the gate, you can identify these by the OV-chipkaart logo. If you have sufficient credit or a valid travel product on your card, the gate will open or the card reader will beep to confirm and a green light will show. At the end of your journey, hold your OV-chipkaart against a card reader again to check out. The display will show the cost of your journey and how much credit is left on your card. At Schiphol Airport railway station there are no gates, only card readers (dark yellow poles) in the station hall. You can not check in at the platforms downstairs.
If you travel by train or metro, you have to check in at the start of the journey and check out again at the place of final destination. You’ll often pass gates with turnstiles, but not always. During the journey you can transfer to other trains without having to check in or out again.
When traveling by bus or tram, you check in and out at the readers at the entrances and exits of the vehicle. In contrast to the train, you do not check out at the place of final destination, but when you leave the vehicle. So even if you change busses or trams, you have to check out when you leave the vehicle and check in again in the next bus or tram.
A railway station is sometimes used by 2 or more public transport companies. Make sure that you check in and out again at the card reader or turnstile of the correct company.
GVB is the public transport company of the city of Amsterdam. If you travel by train to Amsterdam, you’ll usually check in at NS (Dutch Railways) at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. If you transfer to metro, tram or bus upon your arrival in Amsterdam, you must first check out at NS in Amsterdam and then check in again when transferring to tram, metro or bus at a card reader or gate from GVB.
Last updated: May 12, 2019