In and around Amsterdam

This item appears on page 14 of the December 2011 issue.

I spent three weeks in Amsterdam and the Netherlands in August ’11. If you have the pleasure of spending more than four or five days there, here are some ideas for saving money.

A tram/bus ticket in Amsterdam costs more than €2.50 (near $3.50) and is good for only one hour. However, if you initially spend €7.5 for an OV-Chipkaart (kaart means “card” in Dutch), adding on however much more you wish, each ride costs about half of the single-ticket price; the card pays for itself in just a few days. In addition, you don’t have to worry about the length of your stay before the next ride.

I put €60 on my card and it lasted my three weeks. I took at least two in-town rides a day (I was staying in a nearby suburb) and also used the card for the tram/bus in The Hague and Rotterdam.

To use the card, you hold it up to the logo on the screen at the entrance gate to “check in,” and you repeat the process to leave the station. The screen will display how much money you have left on the card (look quickly). Announcements on the trams remind you to “check out with your transportation chipcard.”

You can purchase the OV-Chipkaart in Schiphol Airport at the train service desk or at the bookstore between the service desk and the Amsterdam tourist information booth, and add your desired amount at the same time. You can also use the card for train service (as from Schiphol to Centraal Station), but I chose to pay for those separately.

(I was told at Schiphol Airport that the Strippenkaart that was described in Rick Steves’ guidebook on Amsterdam is no longer being used.)*

A Museumkaart costs €45 ($62) and covers entry to almost every museum in the Netherlands. I used it in all the museums I visited in Amsterdam as well as in The Hague and Rotterdam.

Like the Paris museum card, the Museumkaart makes it feasible to see many of the smaller museums and not feel that you must stay a long time to get your “money’s worth.” There are many small, canal-house museums in Amsterdam that are delightful for 30-minute visits.

With the card, you even get to pass the long lines at the Van Gogh Museum. And don’t miss the Hermitage Amsterdam museum, which houses rotating exhibits from the Hermitage in St. Petersburg.

In his Amsterdam book, Rick Steves describes a delightful “Historic Triangle” trip north of the city. The Museumkaart makes it an even better deal. Ride the steam train from Hoorn to Medemblik and the boat from Medemblik to Enkhuisen and visit the open-air folk museum there. All are covered by the card (the train and boat are considered to be historic conveyances); the card almost pays for itself in this one trip.

You can purchase the Museumkaart in any museum. It’s best to buy it at a small museum, skipping a long line at one of the more popular museums. I bought mine at the Nieuw Kirk on Dam Square.

One last tip to save you embarrassment — the letters “ui” in Dutch are pronounced “ow;” so “uit” is “out.” I learned this after I asked the train service desk for a ticket to Station Zuid (zooeed) and later realized that he looked at me strangely because zuid (south) is pronounced “zowd.”

Amsterdam is such a delightful city that you can easily enjoy it and the nearby attractions/cities for several weeks.

Ft. Lauderdale, FL

*The Strippenkaart is being phased out over the next few years. The OV-Chipkaart has replaced it in Amsterdam and Rotterdam and the older card cannot be used there, but some other cities in the Netherlands still may allow you to use the Strippenkaart.