Getting There and Away
Schiphol International Airport (AMS)
Tel: (020) 601 9111 or (0900) 0141. Fax: (020) 604 1475.
Schiphol, located 15km (nine miles) southwest of Amsterdam, is a major European hub with over 90 airlines flying to over 220 destinations. Schiphol ranks fourth behind London, Paris and Frankfurt, handling 36.8 million passengers in 1999. I have never left there on time, or met anyone who has. However, as it has a casino and more bars than you can shake a stick at, I am not complaining too much.
The national airline KLM – Royal Dutch Airlines (tel: (020) 474 7747) flies direct to all major European, North American and Asia-Pacific cities. KLMuk flies to London Stansted and several regional airports in the UK.
Transavia (tel: (020) 406 0406), which is 80% owned by KLM, operates scheduled flights to London Gatwick and Barcelona. On the domestic front, KLM Cityhopper operates between Amsterdam and Eindhoven. Other major airlines include: Aer Lingus, Air France, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, China Airlines, Egypt Air, Go, Northwest Airlines and Swissair.
Easy Jet offers consistently cheap flights from the UK.
Eurostar travels from London Waterloo to Brussels (3 hrs 50 minutes) then a train from Brussels to Amsterdam (2 hrs 30 minutes approx.). There are various tickets available, including:
Leisure Apex 14 (must be purchased 14 days ahead) – £75 return
Leisure Apex 7 (must be purchased 7 days ahead) – £90 return
Leisure fare – £110 return.
All must include a Saturday night away. All tickets are non-changeable and non-refundable except for Leisure (£110), which is exchangeable the day before departure.
Rail Europe‘s offices close at 8pm Mon-Fri, and at 5pm on Sat, so make sure you change any tickets before they shut. A fully flexible ticket will cost around £300.
Stena Sealink (0990 707070) runs two ferries a day to and from Harwich to the Hoek of Holland. Basic single fare from Harwich to the Hoek of Holland:
Car incl. driver: £82 weekdays, £91 weekend.
Additional passengers: £11 each.
Foot passengers: £22.
5-day return for car incl. driver: £119 weekdays/£149 weekend. However, unless you live nearer Harwich than London, it’s easier to book the complete journey by train from Liverpool Street station, London, through to Amsterdam, and Stena’s prices are excellent.
Apex (book 7 days ahead) – £49 return
Apex (less than 7 days’ notice) – £76 return.
Approximate journey time from London to Amsterdam – 8.5 hours.
Call 08705 455455 for more information about this rail service.
Eurolines, part of National Express, runs a regular and cheap coach service to Amsterdam from London Victoria coach station. The journey takes about 10 hours, and the coaches have onboard toilets, reclining seats and air-conditioning. Prices for a return trip are currently £45 or £41 for under-26s.
Getting around Amsterdam is relatively simple and most of the main sites can be seen on foot. As you would imagine with the Dutch the public transport system is reasonably priced, efficient and reliable. Tickets for trams and buses are sold in strippenkaart and are valid for a number of travel zones and a certain amount of time – most kiosks and small stores sell them.
The national train service has a simpler system whereby you purchase a ticket at your departure based on a fiendishly complex system which seems to have been derived by some twisted mathematical genius. It’s so complex that it’s now issued, for free (most unusual for the Dutch) on a CD ROM. Don’t even try to understand this – life is just too short. Even my Dutch friends do not understand this.
But, and you have to admit this is simply 100% Cloggy genius, until recently train tickets weren’t checked. It was only a few years ago, when the railways were losing money hand over fist, that inspectors were introduced. Initially the inspectors wore plain clothes. However, public outcry lead to them being given a distinctive blue and yellow uniform. The reason for this? To allow fare dodgers sufficient chance to escape. That’s why today you often see a flux of Dutch people moving from one end of a train to the other as the inspector moves through it.
You can rent a Dutch bike at various locations throughout the city. Standard Dutch bikes are of the ancient looking sit-up-and-beg type. Mountain bikes are frowned upon by the economical minded Dutch. Be sure that your bike is equipped with a sturdy lock as bike theft is endemic in Amsterdam (the Dutch even have an idiomatic way of telling people to go away, they say “Go steal bikes in Dam Square”). Bikes can be hired at:
MacBike Fietsenmakerij & Verhuur
Mr. Visserplein 2
1011 RD Amsterdam
020 – 620 09 85
1016 TL Amsterdam
020 – 626 69 64
Rent a Bike
Frederic Brouwersgracht 78
1013 GW Amsterdam
020 – 624 55 09
The Bulldog: Rent a Bike
Oudezijds Voorburgwal 216 bg (Next to The Bulldog Mack)
1012 GJ Amsterdam
020 – 421 70 68
Damstraat Rent a Bike
1012 JM Amsterdam
020 – 625 50 29
Holland Rent a Bike/Beursstalling
1012 ZJ Amsterdam
020 – 622 32 07
Take a Bike
1012 AB Amsterdam
020 – 624 83 91
1017 WD Amsterdam
020 – 330 02 00
1015 TL Amsterdam
020 – 626 37 21
If you want more information about this area you can email the author or check out our Europe Insiders page.