Getting from Amsterdam airport to Centraal Station and downtown

klmschipholIf you are landing at Amsterdam’s Schiphol (pronounced SKIP-ul) Airport, you’ve got several options for getting into the city, and some are much better than others. You might be happy to know that a direct and fast train will take you from just below the airport directly into the heart of the city, namely Centraal Station, in about 20 minutes. But if you are staying somewhere that isn’t too close to the train station then you might consider one of the other options.

Centraal Station and downtown explained

If you’ve seen a map of Amsterdam then you know the city is basically shaped like half of a bicycle wheel, and Centraal Station (the main station, of course) is the hub. If you arrive at Centraal Station then you are steps from the Red Light District and also a short walk from about half the hotels in the city center. But if you are staying near Rembrandtplein, or Leidseplein or the Museum District, then it’s not a terribly short walk if you have heavy luggage.

The train is the fastest and cheapest way into the city, and from there it’s fairly easy to take a tram for only a little more money out to one of the other neighborhoods. Your hotel or hostel probably will have instructions on doing this on their website, but if they don’t you can check the Amsterdam public transportation page for tips on how to ride the tram and how much it costs.

Your options are:

  1. The train
  2. The special airport shuttle bus to the hotels
  3. A taxi

Taking the train from Schiphol Airport to Centraal Station

traincentraalLike in quite a few major European cities, there is an actual train station just below the airport. After you get out of Customs, you’ll go straight and then turn right. Schiphol is a large and slightly confusing airport, and all the airport shops make it feel a bit like a maze, but look for the big signs overhead and you’ll find the train station easily enough.

One way fare: €3.90 in 2nd Class and €6.60 in 1st Class
Note: You can buy a round-trip/return ticket, but the second part is only good on that same day. If you are just on an airport layover then check the Amsterdam layover guide for instructions on how to pull that off. If you are staying overnight, then just buy a single/one-way ticket.

Train schedule

  • 5:30am through 9pm – 6 or 7 per hour
  • 9pm through 1am – 2 or 3 per hour
  • 1am through 5:30am – 1 per hour

Buying a train ticket

Once you find the train station ticket area, which is on the main airport level you are already on, you’ll notice that there are ticket vending machines as well as ticket counters with live people. The vending machines require a credit or debit card with a special PIN, and most Americans and Canadians can’t use them, but most Europeans should be able to.

The lines at the ticket windows move quickly so just get in one of those. There is an extra 50-cent charge for using the windows, but again, most North Americans have no other choice.

The ticket seller will tell you which tracks these trains leave on. You’ll find the numbers for those side-by-side platforms and then take the escalator down to the platforms themselves. Trains on either one of these go to Centraal Station so just get on whichever one is there already or pulls in first, on either side.

These trains are on the main network so this isn’t just an airport shuttle. You’ll normally only have to wait a few minutes at most, so pay attention. The trains either go directly to Centraal Station in 19 minutes, or they make 2 stops at suburban stations first and it takes about 23 minutes. If you are groggy from an overnight flight then this can be a bit confusing, but in general, if you aren’t sure you are at Centraal Station, then you aren’t. The suburban stations are pretty big so you can be fooled, but Centraal Station is all covered and almost everyone will leave the train at that stop, so just follow the crowd.

Connexxion Hotel Shuttle

connexxionshuttleIf you have a lot of luggage, or if your hotel isn’t close to Centraal Station, then you might consider the airport shuttle bus. It goes on a set route starting at 6am and going until about 7pm (last departure), and will get you to or very near most of the hotels in the city center. You can buy a ticket from the Connexion window in the airport, or from the driver.

  • One-way: €14.50 per person
  • Return: €22.50 per person

Official Connexion site

The door-to-door service is convenient, especially if you arrived on a red-eye flight, but the buses take a long time, especially if you aren’t one of the first stops. Expect a minimum of about 40 minutes and up to 90 minutes if you are one of the last stops. There is often traffic between Schiphol and the city center, so the train is always faster.

Taxis from Schiphol to Central Amsterdam

Of course you get a taxi from the airport to anywhere in the city, but it’s going to cost you. Expect to pay around €50 each way from the airport to most places in the city center, and if there is traffic (and there often is) it can be closer to €60. The good news is that you can have up to 4 people riding for the same price, so it’s not a terrible deal for a group of 3 or 4, especially if you have a lot of luggage and aren’t staying near Centraal Station.

A taxi from the airport will usually take between 30 and 50 minutes to most hotels, depending on traffic.