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As for all transport planning in The Netherlands http://9292.nl/en is your friend.
Please note that prices quoted on the 9292.nl site are for when using an OV card to check in and out. If you don't have an OV card (see below) and are buying single ride tickets from the driver or conductor on trams and buses then there is normally a surcharge which can vary from company to company. For trains there is always a €1 surcharge when buying paper single use tickets from a machine so hence a one way from the airport on the train will be €5.10 and not the €4.10 amount listed on 9292.nl. However, if you buy an e-ticket you don't need to pay this additional euro. Belgian railway site (!) www.b-europe.be sells e-tickets for main Dutch routes; the NS sites sells them for all but does not accept credit card, solely Dutch debit cards.
On the ns.nl train site the prices also indicate that there is 20% & 40% discounts available however to get these you need to buy a discount product from NS and for that you need a Dutch address and bank account so not suitable for tourists.
Please also remember that there are a number of different companies operating transport in the greater Amsterdam Area. Mainly NS who run the train system in the Netherlands, GVB who run the Amsterdam network i.e. tram, Metro and Bus as well as the free ferries which run from Amsterdam Centraal and other locations. Their buses are distinguished by blue and white livery. No one else runs trams so all are GVB.
Connexxion, Arriva and EBS also run bus lines around Amsterdam but mostly Connexxion, including the 197 bus, run from the airport.
Amsterdam can also be reached by train. The railway system has a direct line that connects Amsterdam’s Schiphol International ( AMS ) Airportto Central Station. There are 7-8 trains per hour. The trip takes around 15-20 minutes and the trains generally leave from platform 1, 2 or 3. It will either be direct or make a couple of stops before Central Station. The fastest train is Intercity Direct in 14 minutes.
There is now a combi train/GVB ticket Amsterdam Travel Ticket which includes unlimited transport on trams etc on the Amsterdam GVB tranport network plus the train to and from Schiphol to Amsterdam (any station).
Please note that these tickets are only valid from when first used until 04:00 the next day unlike the GVB day tickets which are valid for a full 24 hours after first use. So say you buy a 2 day ticket on Friday afternoon, it will actually run out on Sunday morning at 04:00 so don't get caught out with this.
You can buy train tickets from the machines on the concourse above the train tracks. The single fare is 5,10 Euro, on 2nd class (corrected as of January 2015 as this now includes a surcharge for the OV Chipcard tickets). All the machines accept VISA and Mastercard, but only when they have a PIN and at a surcharge of 0,50 euro (corrected March 2014). You can also buy tickets at the ticket office with card or cash. If you choose to do this you may well have to queue though.
IMPORTANT - With the new paper tickets you have to check in and out of the readers on the concourse and out at Centraal Station.
If you’re travelling with lots of luggage there is ample room to stand in the entrance/door area of the carriage rather than try to struggle with your bags up or down the steep and narrow stairs to the seats. Most people are able to continue their journey from Centraal Station to their hotels by either walking or catching a tram from immediately outside the station. If you want door-to-door instructions for train and subsequent tram or bus or metro: www.9292.nl/en is the site. Select as departure 'trainstation' and then Schiphol, and as destination your hotel address.
When returning from Central Station to Schiphol your train will almost certainly leave from platform 13, 14 or 15. These are the ones furthest from the main station entrance. As you enter the station you will see two screens. One shows all departures, the other just those that are going to Schiphol.
During the night (roughly between 1am and 5am) there is one train per hour between Amsterdam Central and Schiphol Airport.
Additional information on trains and buses at Schiphol can be found on the Touristbuddy website.
Notes about getting the correct train and security.
There are a number of 'Amsterdam' stations. Those using the network regularly often find ourselves amongst visitors on other trains who think they are going to Centraal station. When boarding the train at Schiphol look at the overhead signs on the platforms to ensure your train is actually going to Amsterdam C.S. and not to one of the other ones such as Amsterdam Zuid or Amsterdam RAI, which are a few miles south of the town center. Also it may be easier for you to use another station which is closer to your hotel and quicker than CS so always check the www.9292.nl/en website
Bag snatchers are known to be particularly active on the trains to and from the airport. They see travellers, those who are in a strange country and who may be tired having just come of a long flight, as relatively easy pickings. Don't be too frightened. Crime levels in NL are low and personal security is generally very good. Just stay alert and keep an eye on your bags, especially whilst train doors are open.
Like most of Europe, the best way to get out of the airport and into the city is via public transportation. Amsterdam’s public transportation system is quick and relatively cheap. For the Leidseplein and Museumplein areas you can take the Amsterdam Airport Express (bus 197). This bus departs every 15 minutes from stand B9 to B13 (map here http://www.touristbuddy.org/ ) and takes about 35 minutes to get you into the centre. Tickets for this bus cost 5 euro for a single ticket and 10 euro for a round trip ticket. Alternatively a 'Amsterdam & Region Day Ticket' can be used, which allows you to use public transport within the metropolitan area and Amsterdam itself for 24 hours. If you take the Amsterdam Airport Express, then be aware that at certain times this is also used by workers at Schiphol and it can get quite crowded. However most of them only take the bus as far as the P40 parking. As a strategy you can take any bus going to the P40 parking (this is free) and wait on the Amsterdam Airport Express there. Actually there is a nice heated waiting room there so if the weather is bad, even better. This means that you should be able to get on the 197 with your luggage and get a seat easier.
Do note that GVB multi-day cards and singles are not valid on these buses and neither on the trains. There is one GVB bus line from airport to Amsterdam, 69 to Sloterdijk station, but it's quite a slow way to reach the city unless your hotel is on the Western edge of the town - e.g. Best Western Couture, Nieuw Slotania and the West Side Inn. It does intersect with tram 2 though at Antwerpbaan. Tram 2 then goes all the way to Centraal Station. Despite varying stories from GVB about validity of their tickets on these buses, the one-hour tickets and multi-day cards ARE valid on these (including from and to Schiphol).
The OV chipcards (not the GVB 24 hour passes though) are accepted on all Connexxion and R-Net busses from Schiphol. you can get an anonymous one from the yellow ticket machines i.e. the NS rail ones, in Schiphol Plaza for €7.50 plus any money you want to load on them. Please see the article about the OV card system for more info. http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g18...
For people in wheelchairs this bus might be a better option as it has a dedicated wheelchair space with securing straps and the busses are fitted with hydraulics to lower the entrance to kerb level.
Some alternatives for those arriving with a lot of luggage are the Mozio Shuttle and the Connexxion hotel shuttle. This costs €17 single, €27 return (correct Jun 2014) from bus stop A7. Runs from 6AM to 9:30PM and drops off/picks up at most of the city´s hotels. For pickups (return journey) it's reported as not being very reliable. If you can use the train do it took 2 hours to get downtown waited some 40 minutes for the bus then three arrived. Others had waited longer. There are instances of drivers not turning up and the company not refunding the consequential taxi fare you will have had to take. General advice is to book them at least 30 to 45 minutes before you think you will need them. Note that on the ticket you are advised " that the transportation from the hotel to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol has to be booked at least 2 hours before departure from the hotel for the pick-up from your hotel, the shuttle runs with a margin of 15 mins before and after the scheduled departure". A friendly enough service but they have to work around Amsterdam traffic only consider if you have enough baggage to justify the inconvenience.
A taxi rank is also immediately outside the airport. Simply walk out the terminal building and the taxi rank is right in front of you. Fare to the city center is around 50 euros. You don't need to take the first taxi in the queue, just pick the one which suits your needs. If there are four or more people in your party with luggage then normally larger people carriers are available. These are allowed to charge more than saloon cars by law but it will be cheaper than using two normal cabs.
Mozio Taxis are bookable in advance and run around 26 euros to the center of Amsterdam. https://tinker.travel/ also seem to be a reliable company and the further in advance you book the cheaper they can be.
If you want to be a bit more environmentally friendly then there is a new bookable taxi service Taxi Electric which uses electric vehicles. They are cheaper than normal cabs but they have to be booked in advance. http://www.taxielectric.nl/en
And in January 2016 a new environmentally friendly taxi service started, called Abel. They are much cheaper than ordinary taxis if you show a willingness to share the taxi with other people. They will make the matches. https://rideabel.com/en/