Living in Amsterdam: The Public Transportation Part 1

By Elie - 4:10 PM

People say time flies when you're having fun, and I guess it must be true because it's already been 4 months since I left my friends and family behind in Malaysia. Admittedly I do miss the food, the weather, and the people I love but I definitely enjoy the convenience that Amsterdam has to offer, especially in the public transportation department. 

Here's a Boomerang from Instagram on one of my morning tram commutes.

Unfortunately, public transport in Amsterdam isn't as clear cut as what we have back in Malaysia and after seeing countless tourists struggle with it, I figure it's quite different to whatever everyone else back in their countries too. And that's why on one of those random days while I watched several rude tourists trying to get on, I came up with the idea of writing a guide to Amsterdam's public transports which include the tram, the metro, and the buses owned by GVB - the public transport operator for Amsterdam.


There are 3 different types of cards you can purchase to travel on the GVB, and they're namely the hour tickets, the OV-Chipkaart, and the personal OV-Chipkaart. 

An hour ticket, designs may sometimes vary

The hour ticket is just as its name suggests and you can use them for unlimited rides on the tram, metro, and buses around the city. This however does not include the night buses that run at midnight and you will have to purchase a different ticket for €4.20 per person. For the regular tickets, prices start at €3.20 for an hour or €8 for a day, and can go up to €36.50 for a week. These tickets come in a tougher-than-paper type of cardboard but are not the friendliest when it comes in contact with water for obvious reasons. They're easily purchasable when you get on the tram or from machines at tram stops and metro stations.

The good thing about these tickets however is that you could pre-purchase them in advance because they have a validity of 1 year, but the "timer" starts from the first time you tap them on the reader so you'll want to have some mental math on when your card will expire.

An OV-Chipkaart

The OV-Chipkaart on the other hand acts like an e-purse, where you'd have to consistently reload in order to travel on any of the public transportation. The deduction method is similar to a Touch & Go back in Malaysia or an Oyster card in the UK, where the amount is decked off whenever you tap out after your ride. It's purchasable for €7.50 at major train stations and lasts for 5 years from the date of issue.
This is something that's ideal especially for companies that consistently sends their staff around for travels as the card can be used by multiple people, although not at the same time obviously. Once you get the card, reloads are available from the machines at tram stops and metro stations or from reload machines in selected Albert Heijn markets. 

My personal OV-Chipkaart

The personal OV-Chipkaart on the other hand has a same-same but different use from the regular OV-Chipkaart. For starters, you'll similarly have to ensure you have sufficient balance in the card to travel and reload them when the time comes. You'd have to register your details to get your card and provide them with a picture, as you see on mine. It first costs €7.50 and will take several days to be delivered to the address you've provided during registration. The card obviously cannot be shared because your details are on it, and can be immediately disabled in case you lose it - after which the balance will be transferred into your new card when you get it.

For locals and even expats like myself, the personal OV-Chipkaart is a better choice because we could subscribe to monthly passes for unlimited rides at discounted prices. For example, my card is pre-loaded with a dual zone allowance so my balance is not deducted when I travel within my designated zones. This would mean I can travel as many times from home to work and back without paying the per-ride fee as you would on a regular OV-Chipkaart. It's financially a sounder choice and much more convenient because you wouldn't have to look for a reload machine every time.

Bonus: The Sprinter ticket

Just as a little bonus, this is a ticket from the intercity trains that run around Netherlands called the NS Sprinter. These tickets are location specific, so you'll have to include your end destination the moment you purchase them from the machines at the train station. I believe they may offer more travel choices if you approach their counters to ask, but I'm hardly on the Sprinter so I unfortunately can't offer more help in this department.

At this point it feels like I've gone into a nagging mode just on tickets and travel cards, so this is where I'd stop with part 1 of the public transportation in Amsterdam. I'd definitely come back for part 2 because I think it's one of the more important parts - getting on and off the trams. It sounds like child's play for sure, but when people get it wrong, the tram doesn't move (for safety purposes) and it delays my journey especially when I'm rushing to work. Perhaps I'll get writing on my next day off but until then, do travel safe, everyone!

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