I had already communicated earlier that my next post would be about the ease and joy of transportation in Amsterdam. I must admit, it’s been a long two months since my last blog post. However, better late than never, right? You may think of it as the additional time I needed to excel on my navigation with Amsterdam’s transportation system. There is one thing that hasn’t changed since my last post, and that is my opinion on how amazing the transportation options are around here!
Obsessed with the idea of owning a car? Think twice…
If you are coming to Amsterdam as an experienced professional who has climbed up the corporate ladder and earned bunch of perks, it is the natural instinct to protect those while you are transferring. One of the most important compensation elements in most countries is the company car benefit. And once you get the taste of having a nice car with no worries of the cost of fuel, insurance or maintenance, it is hard to let go. The first question you ask during your interviews is “What make/model of car would I have as the company car?” Well, let me tell you; once you start living here, you quickly realize that owning a car is more of a burden than a benefit. The parking permits in Amsterdam run as high as a few hundred euros a month and if you live in the core center of the city, you may wait more than a year to get one! The cost of owning a car does not stop here. Local taxes can run as high as 300 Euros a month. Also, having a company car as a benefit does not excuse you from the cost of driving. The company cars are strictly considered as means of doing business, and if you drive your car for more than 500 km per year (that’s right, per year!), then you are taxed based on the value of your car each year, so in about 5 years you end up paying the full price of your car in taxes.. So, there is no way out of high costs when you join the car owners family in the Netherlands.
Thought about going ‘green’?
If you insist on driving, there are more green options than owning a car. There are car clubs, where you become a member for a small fee, and you are able to lease a small and environment-friendly car on an hourly basis. Readers from the U.S. will immediately relate this to companies like Zip Car. This is a great option if you don’t need a car on a daily basis, but occasionally need one for either driving out of town or running errands. The most commonly known companies are Green Wheels and Connect Car. They offer a variety of car categories and membership types that suits your specific needs. This can however become another costly experience if you go long distance or extended periods of rentals. But, there is always the traditional way of renting a car for this.
Who needs a car anyways?...
Yes, this is so true for Amsterdam! Before I came here, I did a ton of research on lease company cars, rental cars and car clubs. I was even tempted to sign up for it to make my life ‘convenient’ the minute I arrive. Well, I am glad I didn’t… The public transportation in Amsterdam as well as in the Netherlands is absolutely amazing! The city is literally wired with railways, metros and tramlines. You rarely have to walk more than 5 minutes to get connected to one of the public transports. All trains run on exact schedules, you can follow them on most of the stops and of course you can track your next ride online. Google Maps does an excellent job of routing you through the city on public transportation, including the walking connections in between. If you really want to get ‘local’, you have the 9292.nl website or the 9292 app on your smart phone. You can plan your trip, check for delays and customize your personal frequent locations for easier use. It works like magic!
Unlike many urban cities, the trams and trains are very clean and modern. You don’t get the feeling similar to riding the NYC subway or the Bay Area buses. Chances are that the person sitting next to you is either an executive of a multinational firm or a tourist having a time of his life in Amsterdam. The cost of public transportation is also relatively decent. A direct train ride from the airport to the city center costs you 4 Euros, and a tram ride is about 1.50 Euros if you get a ride card called OV-chipkaart. If you are just visiting for a few days, daily passes are also very efficient as they include both the airport transfers and the local rides. The tickets and daily passes can be purchased at major stops, online or on the trams. If you don’t want the complexity of planning, you can always keep it simple and pay 3 Euros for each tram ride.
The pleasant experience of public transportation is extended throughout the Netherlands. The national railway system is called NS, and the official website is simply ns.nl. Here, you can also do pretty much everything relating to your travel needs, including a seamless connection to the extended European railways. With the on-time and fast express lines, long distances become really short. For example, Rotterdam is only 25 minutes away from Amsterdam, and Brussels is only about an hour.
What if I am not the public transport type of guy?...
You can immediately think that taxi would be a good option. Nope, it’s definitely not! Unlike other major cities, taxi rides are crazy expensive, despite the relatively short distances. Just to give you an idea, a taxi ride from the airport to the city center costs more than 50 Euros. If you need to go for a 10-minute ride across the town, you can bet at a minimum 20 Euros. The new trend of Uber may be a creative alternative for you in Amsterdam, despite the fact that it was recently deemed illegal by the local authorities. It comes in options of black car service or simply a local driver taking you from one place to another. This experience will cost you about half of what you would pay for the taxi. If this is the first time you heard about Uber, I encourage you to test it out (here or in your own town) as it is a unique experience…
Well, I saved the great news for the last… If you can let go of roaming engines and comfortable seats and go back to basics, I have yet to talk about the best option for you.. Yes, bicycles! Bikes have become a lifestyle, even a symbol of Amsterdam, for a very good reason. But, I am afraid you need to wait for my next blogpost, because this definitely deserves a full post of its own… I promise, I will not wait for another 2 months to do the third post of my expat memoirs series, as I am already excited about it :)