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Amsterdam 6-hour Layover

Good morning all, I have a 6-hr, 20-minute layover at Schipol and am hoping for just enough time to spend an hour or two in the city. Any tips on smoothly navigating customs - particularly, the time it's likely to take to get out and then back into the airport? My tentative plan is to put my carry-on in a locker and take the train to the city center, coming out of customs with just a small purse and money belt.

Suggestions/warnings, particularly on how much time I can assume exit and reentry to the airport will take from international flights? I'm coming from Florida, USA, ultimately leaving for Vienna.

Posted by
15762 posts

You will arrive in the non-Schengen concourse and pass through Schengen immigration between the two sections of the concourse. Go through immigration before you store your carry-ons, since when you return, you will be flying from the Schengen section of the terminal. You go through customs (luggage inspection) in Vienna, assuming you will be on one ticket with luggage checked through to Vienna. In fact, they generally do not inspect luggage and you just walk out the "Nothing to Declare" door.

6 hours is the bare minimum of time to go into Amsterdam on the train and get back. Head back to the airport 2 hours before flight time from Centraal station. Since you will have a boarding pass, you just have to get through security and walk to your gate.

Posted by
6206 posts

Are you landing in AMS from the US?
Forget Customs, you need to go through Immigration/ Passport Control. I was there last year and the lines were quite long, about an hour to get through. Later , for Customs, walk through door marked as Nothing to Declare.

Posted by
394 posts

To do this, you will need to clear Schengen entry passport control in Amsterdam (which you would have had to do anyway for your connection to Vienna, even if you had stayed in the airport, so it is not an extra step) when you land and head to the train. When you take off again for Vienna, there is no passport control, because the Netherlands and Austria are both in the Schengen area; it's effectively like flying domestically within the US or Canada.

It looks like there is baggage storage at Schiphol located "landside," i.e. after you clear passport control and exit into the public area of the airport.

There may also be lockers elsewhere, but in your itinerary you should not use any lockers in the gate area and you should clear passport control with all your carry-on bags. The issue is that if you are arriving into the non-Schengen area, but you are departing from the Schengen area.

These two areas are separated because non-Schengen flights require clearing passport control (in both directions), while Schengen flights do not. If you leave your bag in an airside non-Schengen locker, you will run into problems getting that bag when you depart because you won't be able to return to the non-Schengen area without a non-Schengen air ticket.

Posted by
2 posts

Much obliged - this was just the information I was thinking about - especially grateful for the Customs vs. Immigration explanation. I plan to play it by ear, and if the timetable just looks too risky, I'll stay in the airport. Am I right that if I stay in the airport, immigration isn't necessary?

Posted by
3046 posts

No, immigration is required as you are flying on to Austria. Those flights leave from B and C gates and to access those you will go through immigration. Normally this is quick, less than 15 minutes, not an hour as stated above which was an exception to the norm. Although the immigration booths that lead to the B and C gates are different from the immigration booths that access Amsterdam, maybe that makes a difference. In your case you could use either bank of immigration booths, whichever has the shorter line, if your intention is to beeline into the city.

I would check a bag and not deal with it for those 6 hours, and just have a pack or purse to carry around.

Posted by
2487 posts

Buy your train tickets in advance at the NS site to save time standing in a queue at the ticket window or puzzling at an unfamiliar ticket machine. A return ticket costs EUR 9 and is valid on all trains from Schiphol to Amsterdam Centraal.