My wife and I spent ten days in Amsterdam before our Viking River cruise in mid-April, 2022.
This is a detailed, opinionated, and personal experience report on our visit here. As we did this trip on our own, I had spent a lot of time before hand researching and planning our itinerary, and since I had been to Amsterdam 40 years ago, when I backpacked through Europe after college, I knew what I wanted to do and see. And while most of my planning went as envisioned, I did have to have a plan B. I hope you can cull something useful from this report for your next trip to Amsterdam. And if you are a local or visitor who knows Amsterdam well, add your comments on how we could have done it better.
Schipol airport nightmare
First, I must mention the nightmare that is Schipol Airport. Beginning in April and into May, 2022, the airport has seen major delays in getting people to and from their flights. If I were only transiting through to somewhere else, I would seriously consider flying via a different airport.
In mid- April, when we arrived, the delay wasn’t so bad. We landed and after the long walk the nearest passport control gate, found it backed up with crowds of people packed tight (we put our masks on) and no organized waiting line and general chaos.
Their (TSA?) security was only letting through EU passports without children because these people could use the facial scan machines. Everyone else was told to wait… and waited we did for over an hour. Though, later, we were finally told to go to a different passport control line, in a different terminal. It was long walk from there back to baggage claim.
The only memorable thing about the experience was that I became impressed with the Dutch people’s mastery of the English language. Young Dutch people, study English (or German) as a second language in school, but never have I seen a group of people whose second language is English, master the nuance of sarcasm, both in understanding it and delivering it.
The TSA personnel announced in English, that only EU passports would be allowed in first. A person called out from the crowd “What about UK passports?”
And without missing a beat, the agent said, her words dripping with sarcasm, “You’re no longer part of the EU. Elections have consequences.”
Train to Amsterdam Central- OV chipkaart
The easiest and cheapest way to get from Schiphol Airport to Central Amsterdam is by train.
From my research, I knew we wanted to buy an anonymous, refillable, OV-chipkaart because we would be traveling to other cities outside Amsterdam during our stay and wanted the flexibility to use the card both in and out of Amsterdam.
We found the yellow ticket machines near the escalator entrance to the train platforms in Schiphol plaza and switched the language on the screen to English and followed the instructions to buy an OV-chipkaart.
Several things to note: A blank chipkaart cost €7.50 and is non-refundable. You add money to the card. And to ride the trains you must have a minimum of €20 on the card. So, my initial purchase was for €27.50. I suppose I could have filled the card with €50 euros on it, to save time when we refilled the card every other day, but I was hesitant, because what if I lost the card?
The other thing to note, is the machines only take credit cards that have an NFC chip and PIN number. When it’s time to pay, you tap your credit card on the circular sensor. There is no credit card slot. Sometimes, it asked for a PIN, most times not. It’s best to get a chip and pin card before you visit Europe. And, almost every place in Amsterdam only wanted us to pay by credit card. (This is in stark contrast to Germany, where they wanted us to pay in cash.)
The cost to go from the airport to Amsterdam Centraal, with an OV kaart was €4.65. If you were to buy a one-way ticket from the airport, it would cost €5.65 because you are charged €1 for the disposable plastic card.