The easiest way to get around Amsterdam is by bike. Bicycles can be hired from Bike City, Bloemgracht 68-70 (tel: (020) 626 3721; www.bikecity.nl), Damstraat Rent-A-Bike, Damstraat 20-22 (tel: (020) 625 5029; www.rentabike.nl) or Macbike, Stationsplein 5 (tel: (020) 624 8391; www.macbike.nl). A deposit or a credit card imprint is usually required, along with an additional form of identification. Cycling two abreast is illegal, as is a bicycle without reflector bands on both front and back wheels. Bikes should always be securely locked with two locks (one connecting the front wheel to a lamppost or railing and one securing the frame to something similarly as solid) as there is a thriving stolen bike market in the city.
The best way to get around Amsterdam is either on foot, by bike or by using the extensive tram, metro, bus and ferry networks, all run by GVB (www.gvb.nl), which has an information office at Centraal Station. You'll find a useful point-to-point route planner at www.journeyplanner.9292.nl. Trams are a great way of getting around Amsterdam, with routes heading out from the centre in all directions. Amsterdam's four metro lines serve the southeastern business district and the suburbs.
The outlying areas of the city are served by more than 30 bus lines. Not surprisingly, there are several modes of water travel in Amsterdam. A free ferry service, departing from De Ruijterkade (behind Centraal Station), travels to Amsterdam Noord, the area across the IJ. Canal buses travel between Centraal Station and the Rijksmuseum (tel: 0900 333 4442, www.canal.nl/bus/en). Canal taxis, which can carry up to 40 passengers, are also available. They can either be hailed from the canal side or ordered from Water Taxis (tel: (020) 535 6363; www.water-taxi.nl/watertaxi).
Alternatively, visitors can hire pedal boats to explore the canals - available from Canal Bike (tel: (020) 623 9886; www.canal.nl/bike/en); pedal boat landings can be found by the Rijksmuseum and Leidseplein. Pay for bus, tram and metro rides with a pre-paid public transport chip card (OV-chipkaart). For short-term visitors, the best option is to purchase single or multi-day cards, allowing unlimited travel on public transport during a specified period. A 24-hour card costs €7, a 48-hour card €11.50, a 72-hour card €16.50 and a 96-hour card €19.50. These can be purchased at the GVB ticket outlets or vending machines. Otherwise, it is possible to purchase a one-hour card when you get on the bus or tram. To use the OV-Chipkaart, hold it on one of the card readers when getting on and off the vehicle. For more information see www.ov-chipkaart.nl.
Rather than hailing a taxi in the street, it is more common to either order a taxi by phoning the Central Taxi Office (tel: (020) 677 7777) or pick one up at one of 50 official taxi ranks, including ones at Centraal Station, Rembrandtplein, Dam Square, Leidseplein, Museumplein and Nieuwmarkt. These can be identified by the blue taxi sign. A fixed rate of €7.86 is charged for the first 2km. Environmentally friendly bicycle taxis and tuk-tuk taxis are also available.
Driving in Amsterdam is not recommended. Parking spots are limited and expensive. Visitors are advised to park their car at a P+R (park and ride) lot, from where there are bus, tram and subway lines into the city centre. Locations of these can be found at www.parkeerlijn.nl/pr/amsterdam. Motorists need to watch out for cyclists and the special cycle lanes. In the city centre, parking meters can be recognised by a blue sign with the letter ‘P' and charges are split into three zones. Meters accept coins. Parking regulations are quite strict and there are tough measures for violating the city's car-parking laws, with towing of vehicles common.
Conditions vary but in most cases, the driver will have to be at least 21 and have held a valid national licence for one year. An International Driving Permit (IDP) is not needed, as long as a valid national licence is produced. Those hiring a car should always check that the rates include the minimum insurance cover required in Amsterdam. Car hire companies with branches in the city centre include Avis (tel: (020) 683 6061; www.avis.com), Hertz (tel: (020) 612 2441; www.hertz.com) and Sixt (tel: (020) 624 2955; www.sixt.com).