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Cycling from Schiphol Airport to Amsterdam – What You Need To Know

by bromptoning

Unpacking our Bromptons at the Varadero Airport in Cuba

The first time we ever flew with our Bromptons was to Cuba, and we got a kick out of unfolding our bikes at the airport and just cycling to our destination. After all, in North America you can’t do that! Mainly because most every airport is surrounded by a maze of highways that are not safe and usually illegal to bike on. Not so in Cuba, nor in bike heaven Amsterdam. After some sleuthing in satellite view on Google maps, I discovered a bike route leading right from the Schiphol airport into Amsterdam. Perfect!

So I set about trying to plan our route more thoroughly. I’m not the type of person to just hop off an airplane and blindly find my way to a destination; however, buying detailed cycle maps of the Netherlands in Canada proved difficult. I’d have to have one shipped over here and it probably wouldn’t arrive before our departure date. So I turned to the Internet. Google maps shows some bike paths, but doesn’t really label them. Then I found this resource (http://www.hollandcyclingroutes.com/online-cycle-route-planner) and gleaned that cycle paths were EVERYWHERE and that following these step-by-step instructions would be tedious. Besides, the most common advice online stated that cycling in The Netherlands was so easy — just “follow the signs!” At the very least, I could get a cycle map from the airport Tourist Information. So that’s what I resolved to do.

We arrived in Amsterdam and headed to the TI. They had one cycling map, and it wasn’t the nice compact book kind I was hoping for; instead it was a monstrous thing that unfolded to the unwieldy size of a ten-person dining table. But better than nothing, right?

Next, we exited the airport to figure out what street we were on and get our bearings on the map, and were met with what would be the biggest problem we had navigating this country — no street signs. We’ve been to Europe before and know that often street names are on plaques on the side of buildings, but this wasn’t the case outside the airport. There were simply no street signs. Period. Despite our monstrous map, we needed to ask for directions.

We approached two guys in official-looking vests and asked them how to get to the cycle path that leads to Amsterdam Centraal. They were very nice, but we’re pretty sure they were silently laughing at us. Still, they pointed us towards the Sheraton Hotel, saying that the bike route started just on the other side of it, and then all we had to do was “follow the signs to Amsterdam.”

We headed to the Sheraton and lo and behold on the other side is the cycle path. Success!

Sorry for the bad picture, Pier, but we were both too jet-lagged to stand around getting better photos!

Even more miraculous, there are signs! We followed the arrow “To Amsterdam”!

And pushed the bike crossing buttons just like this guy.

And cycled past planes. (Pier is way more excited about this than the photo suggests.)

And then things went south. Literally. We were heading north-east, but somehow we ended up going south. I think that the road curved so slightly that we didn’t realize we were gradually changing direction. Worse, the next intersections we came to didn’t have any handy signs pointing to Amsterdam. The signs pointed other places, towns that we didn’t want to go to, but not Amsterdam. Worst of all, we didn’t know where the hell we were! Because, you guessed it, there were no street signs. Even at major intersections, the signs never named the streets, just pointed in the direction of towns many miles away. Not helpful!

Finally, I located a tiny street sign for the road we were on, and a couple blocks later a sign for a cross street. Time to pull out the map, search through the legend of thousands of street names (many of which are exactly the same except for a letter or two), and figure out where we were.

We found the street on the giant paper map… but it couldn’t be right. We were so far south we weren’t in Amsterdam anymore. Then a guy came out of an auto body shop to help us and confirmed that yes, we were wayyyy south of where we wanted to be. He pointed us in the right direction and away we went.

Eventually we made it to Amsterdam Central, but damn, it was NOT easy. So if you’re heading to Amsterdam and planning to bike from the airport to the city centre, here’s what you need to know.

TIPS FOR CYCLING FROM SCHIPHOL AIRPORT TO AMSTERDAM

  1. Exit the airport and find the Sheraton hotel. I suspect people will laugh at you less if you ask for that instead of the bike path.
  2. Get some data and use Google maps, or pre-download a map app like Ulmon’s CityMaps2Go. It doesn’t need wifi or data, just GPS (free!), but make sure that your phone is not in airplane mode so that the app can access GPS and locate you. Also remember that GPS doesn’t always work inside, so go outside to get the app’s “find my location” feature working.
  3. Follow signs to “Amsterdam Centraal”. If you get to an intersection where there’s no sign like that, I hope you followed Tip #2 and can check where you are! If not, flag down a friendly Dutchman and ask for directions.

Next up… Our day trip to Waterland and what I discovered about The Netherlands cycle path system after our trip. *facepalm*

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13 comments

eka October 24, 2020 - 1:59 pm

hello sir, may i ask, what level of tyres pressure for your bicycle when you put them in airplane? should I empty all the air?

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bromptoning October 25, 2020 - 9:46 am

Hi there! Yes, we deflate the tires. Some say you don’t have to do that, others say it’s necessary. We just figure, why take the chance? It’s easy to fill them back up with air when we land.
For more on how we pack our Bromptons, check out this post: https://bromptoning.com/traveling-adventures/packing-the-bromptons-for-air-travel/

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Stanislas January 15, 2019 - 11:53 am

I did it as well. But it was easy with Komoot app. Tray it next time., it changed my biking live.
For ex. I went from Prague to Strasburg never checking any map, just looking at my phone. Never lost.

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bromptoning January 15, 2019 - 8:48 pm

What a funny coincidence – I just got the Komoot app for our trip to Mexico! I love having a cycle app with offline maps. Yes, it would have been handy in Amsterdam. Next time. However, I found Komoot’s knowledge of Mexico lacking, though maybe all the map apps have the same problem with roads in Mexico not being actual roads. But that’s a story for the upcoming Izamal to Chichen Itza blog post. 😉

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Joanne Lee October 17, 2018 - 6:07 am

I did cycled from schipol to amsterdam central once some time in 2005-2007, cant remember! The hotel we were staying in gave us free passes for the bikes, so why not?! You dont get opportunities like that all the time. So i got a friend to join me in this unplanned cycling to city. We didnt have a map, nope. We were daring enough to go blindly just following road signs. And sometimes detour if we see something nice along the way. It was relaxing and Not like any other cities, i felt safe as motorist do give priority to cyclist. I was amazed! Occasional stops along the way to sit on green grass resting out legs while watching the ducks swimming by. It was something i never regret although the bicycle was probably meant for someone with longer legs…. i am only 5’3” and my feet was dangling, i need to hop off the bike when i stop?. There are many places to park your bicycle in the city to walk around but we decided to head back as it was getting dark. Almost took the train back too ? but decided to save the train ticket and find our way back to airport. You need to buy two tickets, one for the bike. Cycling from Schipol to Centra Amsterdam is doable as long as you are not on a tight schedule to do anywhere else that day. Only regret was not wearing flexible pants and comfy shoes (only had my tight jeans n heeled boots?) and rowing our own boat along the canals. I would definitely do that if i see one for rent next time im there. That would prove more challenging i guess because i dont think there are any signs for directions??? Hahaha

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bromptoning October 18, 2018 - 11:01 am

Sounds like a great experience! And I’ve heard that on some trains you need to buy a ticket for your bike, but luckily not for folding bikes like Bromptons. 🙂

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Flying Air Canada with Bromptons | Bromptoning November 10, 2017 - 1:36 pm

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Kristin November 9, 2017 - 6:59 pm

I still can’t believe you were able to ride right out of the airport, every airport should have this feature!!

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brom-admin November 10, 2017 - 9:24 am

I know! Maybe in the future it will be possible. 🙂

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M November 20, 2017 - 7:40 pm

San Diego isn’t bad to ride out of, but Victoria BC is fantastic. (I haven’t done the latter but ride by San Diego International regularly.)

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bromptoning November 20, 2017 - 8:23 pm

Noted! I have a list of places to travel and I’m putting a star beside San Diego and Victoria BC as “airports to bike from”. Thanks for the info!

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DHD March 2, 2018 - 11:40 am

The best one I’ve seen yet is Portland, Oregon – they even have a “bike reassembly area” on the way out (not that you need one with a Brompton, of course).

Montreal and Paris are actually both very nice rides from the airport along tree-lined canals, but at both of them it’s a bit tricky to get out of the airport at first. In Montreal you have to find the secret tunnel that takes you under the train tracks and the autoroute – it’s part of the Dorval commuter rail station.

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bromptoning March 2, 2018 - 3:11 pm

There’s a secret tunnel out of the Montreal airport?! Cool! We’ve always taken the train to Montreal, but maybe next time we’ll fly just to check out that tunnel. 😉
Portland is definitely on our list of places to visit. A bike assembly area is so cool! Even though the Bromptons don’t need assembly, I just want to see that.
Thanks for the great airport tips!

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