Schiphol Airport (AMS IATA) is one of the busiest airports in the world, situated 15 km (9.3 mi) southwest of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. It serves the city of Amsterdam and the rest of the Netherlands. It is one of the major hubs in Europe with flights between many destinations in Asia, Europe and North America. It is home to KLM, the Dutch flag carrier airline. As of 2016, Schiphol airport is the third busiest in Europe behind London Heathrow and Paris Charles de Gaulle and ahead of Frankfurt Airport as measured by passenger numbers.
Schiphol has a one terminal concept. Which means, that all the departure halls are in one building. However, this can mean long walks from one connection flight to the other. The airport is divided in many different zones. The ground floor before security has the entrance of the airport, the railway station (with the platforms underground), the four Arrivals halls, and Schiphol Plaza, the central shopping zone. On the 1st floor you can find the check-in desks and Departure Halls 1, 2 and 3. From this floor you can go to security and passport control if catching a non-Schengen flight and enter the transit area.
The terminal is divided into three lounges designated 1, 2 and 3. Piers (also known as concourses) connect to these lounges. It is possible to walk from one concourse to another, even to those connected to different lounges. However, keep in mind that if you're going from lounge 1 to lounge 2 and 3 you must clear immigration as you are leaving the Schengen area.
The exception to this is Lounge 4: it is only connected to Concourse M for low-cost carriers. Once past security, passengers in Concourse M cannot access any other lounges or concourses. Lounge 4 has very few facilities. If catching a connecting flight from one of the M gates, you must exit the secure zone though baggage claim and enter lounge 4 like any departing passenger.
Few airlines and destinations have a dedicated concourse. KLM and Transavia use all gates except for Concourses H and M.
- Lounge 1 consists of concourses B and C, dedicated to Schengen areas. Gates D59 through D87, the Schengen flights departing from gates D are reached by escalator from Lounge 1.
- Lounge 2 consists of concourses E and gates D3 through D57,
- Lounge 3 consists of concourses F, G and H. They serve non-Schengen areas. Concourse H is used by low-cost carriers.
- Lounge 4 consists of concourse M, a dedicated Schengen area for low-cost carriers.
Schiphol opened on 16 September 1916 as a military airbase, with a few barracks and a field serving as platform and runways. When civil aircraft started to use the field (17 December 1920), it was often called Schiphol-les-bains. The Fokker aircraft manufacturer started a factory near Schiphol Airport in 1919. Schiphol's name is derived from a former fortification named Fort Schiphol which was part of the Defense Line of Amsterdam. Before 1852, the Haarlemmermeer polder in which the airport lies was a large lake, in the shallow waters of which sudden violent storms could claim many ships. This was the main reason for reclaiming it. In English, Schiphol translates to 'ship grave', a reference to the many ships lost in the area.
KLM was founded on 7 October 1919 by Albert Plesman, making it the oldest carrier in the world still operating under its original name, though the company stopped operating during World War II—apart from the operations in the Dutch Antilles in the Caribbean. The first KLM flight was on 17 May 1920, from Croydon Airport, London to Amsterdam carrying two British journalists and a number of newspapers. In 1921 KLM started scheduled services, and by 1926 it was offering flights to Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Brussels, Paris, London, Bremen, Copenhagen and Malmö. Intercontinental flights to the Netherlands East Indies started in 1929. This was for several years the world's longest scheduled air route.
On 1 November 1958 the airline opened the trans-polar route from Amsterdam via Anchorage to Tokyo. Each crew flying the transpolar route over the Arctic was equipped with a winter survival kit, including an AR-10 carbine for use against polar bears in the event the plane was forced down onto the polar ice. KLM merged with Air France in May 2004 to form Air France-KLM, but both airlines continue to fly under their distinct brand names.
KLM offers worldwide connections. Asia, Europe and North America are particularly well served. Delta Air Lines connects Schiphol with nine US destination. British Airways offer up to 15 flights per day to three airports in London. Transavia, Easyjet and other low-cost carriers provide a fairly economical way to city-hop to Amsterdam from other cities in Europe.
For most travellers, the most convenient way to reach Amsterdam or other major destinations in the Netherlands from the airport is by train, with most destinations reachable either directly or with one transfer.
Most major destinations in the Netherlands can be reached from Schiphol either directly or with a single transfer. Use the ticket machines or ticket desks. All machines accept credit or debit cards but do require chip-and-PIN cards.
Alternatively, you can buy an Amsterdam Travel Ticket, which includes a train return ticket to and from Schiphol to any of Amsterdam's stations, plus unlimited travel on all GVB trams, metro and (night)buses for 1, 2 or 3 days.
The train station at Schiphol is located underground, under the main airport hall; trains to Amsterdam Centraal usually run from platform 1 or 2. Note: this is not specific, one is never sure which platform it arrives. Information signs are updated when the train enters the tunnel. It is the same platform, though it matters on which side the train stops. This is why you'll see a lot of locals and tourists waiting just at the end of the escalators or stairs. They eventually go to the right track when it is updated.
For most destinations there are 1 or 2 trains per hour, for more regional destinations trains are more frequent. There are 4 to 5 trains per hour between Schiphol and Amsterdam in peak times. Regional trains run all night, although between 1am and 5am only once an hour. The price and duration of the journey are the same as during the day. However, trains for further destinations will generally not run at night. Check before you travel.
- Schiphol to Amsterdam Centraal. There are plenty of direct trains from the Schiphol to the Amsterdam Centraal. A journey takes 16-18 minutes. €4.20 if using an OV-chipkaart; €5.20 single ticket.
- Schiphol to Amsterdam Lelylaan. If your accommodation is located near Vondelpark or Museumplein it's fastest to catch a train to Amsterdam Lelylaan station and connect to a tram from there. Trains leave every 5 to 10 minutes. €3.00 if using an OV-chipkaart; €4.00 single ticket.
- Schiphol to Rotterdam Centraal. If traveling to Rotterdam the fastest way to travel is by taking the IC direct that takes you directly to Rotterdam by high speed rail in 24 minutes. €14.80 if using an OV-chipkaart; €15.80 single ticket.
- Schiphol to Paris Gare du Nord. Direct high speed Thalys trains run from Schiphol to Antwerp, Brussels-Midi and Paris. Tickets cannot be booked by using the machines at the station and need to be booked in advance or at the ticket office. There is no set price so it's cheapest the earlier you book.
- Amsterdam Airport Express (Bus #397). Connexxion operates a service between the airport and Museumplein, Rijksmuseum, and Leidseplein. The bus is only worth taking if these stops are closer to your accommodation. Buses depart from platform B9 daily from 05:01-00:21 every approx. 15 minutes. In the night bus #97 runs the same route roughly every hour. €6,00 (from driver); e-ticket €6,00 (single) €10,00 (return) € 1,00 (child under 11) or consider Amsterdam Travel Ticket.
Do not use a taxi unless there is no alternative; travel to Schiphol by train or by bus, if possible. Taxis from Schiphol are unexpectedly expensive. You pay around €7.50 (as of Oct 08) as a minimum charge and that includes the first 2 km. Then the meter starts racing. The ride costs about €40-50 to go to, say, the Leidseplein. Depending on the time of day and traffic levels, it could take only 25 min. If you're unlucky, it could take twice as long. Choose the nicest cab as that driver is more likely to be reputable. You don't have to pick the first taxi in line. If possible, reserve a cab up-front , this will ensure a fixed price for the ride. If taking a taxi to Schiphol from the city there's a flat fee of €35. You can also catch an Uber from the city center to Schiphol, there is no fixed price.
There is a way to get 50% discount on your ride to Amsterdam or 20% discount to other destinations. Here's how it works: Look for an upcoming TCA taxi (spot the roof light!) at the departure halls (on the first floor). Say 'hello' to the driver while the passengers step off. This works out for you and the driver as he's not allowed to wait for customers at the airport and this way he doesn't have to drive back empty.
By shuttle service
- Connexxion Hotel Shuttle serves over 100 city centre hotels, with 8-seater shared van departures about every 30 minutes between 6 AM and 9 PM, cost to most city centre destinations €15.50/25.00 one-way/return—more convenient than the train if you have heavy luggage and still cheaper than a taxi. Buses depart from platform A7 and can be reserved for the trip back ☎ +31 38 3394741.
- UberBlack rides to/from the airport cost a fixed rate of €60.
- Amsterdam Airport Taxi Services has fixed rate Schiphol Airport transfers to or from the city centre at €49 for a Mercedes E class including a meet and greet special, €65 for a minivan.
By rental car
If you plan to rent a car for the duration of your stay, Schiphol has several car rental companies on site . Typical opening hours are 6AM-11PM daily. The car rental desk can be found in Schiphol Plaza, on the same level as the Arrivals. The A4 motorway leads straight from Schiphol to the Amsterdam ring road A10, in about 10 min.
If you decided to bring your bicycle on the plane with you, there is a 15-kilometer sign-posted bike route from the airport to Amsterdam. Turn right as you leave the airport terminal: the cycle path starts about 200 metres down the road. There is a map of the cycle paths around Schiphol available on this PDF (green lines are cycle paths).
The airport is one large terminal, so you never need to leave the building or take a shuttle train. However you can only get around on foot (and travelator, such as the hallway to Concourse B). Expect to walk long distances. This is especially true if you arrive on a Schengen flight and connect to a non-Schengen flight or the other way around, likely in another concourse (pier).
If you are departing, you will go through security first and then passport check if exiting the Schengen area. EU, EEA, Swiss can use fully automated e-gates on departure and arrival. When departing through Schiphol, American, Australian, Canadian, Hong Konger, Japanese, New Zealander and South Korean citizens can use automated immigration facilities in a separate queue. A border agent will still manually stamp your passport after using the machine. Other nationalities will go through another line where manual passport inspection by a border agent takes place.
During busy times (such as the rush around 6 to 9 am), the separate security and passport sessions can take 20-30 or more minutes. Choose flights with adequate connection times.
Schiphol had a major redesign of its concourses to simplify security procedures, which are no longer conducted at the gates. Because the Netherlands is a part of the Schengen area, connecting to a Schengen destination one has to clear immigration at Schiphol even if the Netherlands isn't your final destination in Schengen:
- If you are staying within the Schengen area, you will not clear immigration, if departing from Schiphol you will pass security. If connecting through Schiphol, you will not go through security.
- For example if you are flying in from Spain and connecting to Sweden you will not pass security or immigration.
- If you arrive from a non-Schengen country that has as strict or more strict security procedures than Schiphol (usually the US, UK or Canada), then you will not pass through security again at Schiphol. However you will need to use the Passport Control to cross into the Schengen Zone for most European connections.
- For example: if you fly in from the United States and are taking a connecting flight to Italy. You will not pass security but will pass through immigration as you are entering the Schengen area in Amsterdam.
- For example: if you fly in from the United States and are taking a connecting flight to Russia You will not go through security and immigration as you're not entering the Schengen zone.
- If you arrive from Africa, Asia, or most other nations outside the EU (except the US and Canada), then you will be guided through security processing. There are separate security sections based on whether you will be staying in Schengen or remaining outside of it. If you are entering the Schengen area you'll also pass immigration.
- For example: if you fly in from South Africa and are heading to Canada, you will go through security but not through immigration as you are traveling between non-Schengen countries.
- For example: if you fly in from South Africa and are heading to Germany, you will go through both security and immigration as you're entering the Schengen area in Amsterdam
- Panorama Terrace (Panoramaterras), 3F (go upstairs from Schiphol Plaza between Arrivals 1 and 2 or at Arrivals 3). Nov-Mar 09:00-17:00, Apr-Oct 07:00-20:00. The panorama terrace at the top floor oversees planes arriving and leaving gates C, D, E and F. Bring your camera or use the telescopes. A Fokker 100 airplane is displayed on the terrace; it has a tiny museum inside about the history of Fokker, the largest Dutch airplane manufacturer. Especially fun for children. There are restaurants and bars on and around the terrace (smoking allowed). Free.
- Sheraton Fitness & Spa, Sheraton Hotel, Schiphol Boulevard 101 (between Schiphol Plaza and the World Trade Center), ☎ . 24 hours daily (sauna, steam room 06:00-23:00). You can get a day pass for an unlimited use of the fitness room, sauna, rainforest showers, steam room and wellness area. €20/day.
- Airport Library, Holland Boulevard, Schiphol World Avenue (between gates E and F). The world's first airport library. Reading books and listening to music is mostly done digitally, using tablet computers. You can download the books to your own digital device for reading on your journey. An interesting way to learn more about Dutch culture and literature. Free.
- Airport Park, Lounge 1, Schiphol World Avenue (between Het Palais and the Passport Control to Lounge 2). 00:00-24:00. Who would expect a city park right inside an airport terminal? Obviously, it's not an ordinary city park, as the butterflies are projected onto the walls, and the sounds of nature come from the park's speakers. Still, it's the one of the most tranquil environments you'll find in an airport serving millions of travelers each year. Free.
- Holland Casino, Holland Boulevard, Schiphol World Avenue (between gates E and F). 06:30-19:30 daily. A full casino within the airport's terminal walls. Free lockers are provided for hand baggage. A boarding card and valid ID are required for entry, 18+ only. Free.
- Rijksmuseum, Holland Boulevard, Schiphol World Avenue (between gates E and F). 07:00-20:00 daily. Since 9 December 2002 Schiphol has an annex of the acclaimed Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam in its terminal. The permanent exhibition displays ten works by well-known painters from the Dutch Golden Age (17th century). The temporary exhibition changes a few times a year. Souvenirs are available at the museum shop. Free.
Eat and Drink
There are plenty of cafes and restaurants at the airport, both before and after passport control. Most are quite expensive, so the fast-food joints are the only option if you're on a budget.
- Burger King, Schiphol Plaza. 24 hours. Not just your average Burger King, this is the busiest one in the world with 1.3 million visitors a year. It has never closed since its opening in 1993. But the menu is the still the same. Burgers. €.
- McDonald's Lounge 2, Lounge 2, Schiphol World Avenue. 05:30-21:00 daily. €.
- McDonald's Lounge 3, Lounge 3, Schiphol World Avenue. 06:00-22:00 daily. €.
There are drinking water fountains available throughout the airport, but in the majority of cases these are located before security checks. If you want to fill your empty water bottle after security checks: this might be possible depending on the gate. Lounge 4 (pier M) has two fountains near the toilets. On piers H and M, toilets are available with cold drinking water, all the way at the end of the pier. There is a water fountain outside the toilets near gate D8 and one by the toilets at D6.
The most important thing you need to remember in these European airports is the duty laws for the nation it applies to. There are many shopping options in the airport, though.
- 1 Albert Heijn. Average sized supermarket located before security in the Plaza area between the train station and departures. Good choice for budget travelers wanting to pick up some food before their flight. Note that because of its location before security you cannot bring purchased drinks on your flight.
- Left luggage. Coin-operated storage lockers are located along the main hallway through the transit/departure area, across from the start of the E wing. From €6 per 24 hr, maximum one week.
- 1 citizenM Amsterdam Airport, Jan Plezierweg 2, ☎ . Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 11:00. A modern budget hotel with trendy design rooms. Every room has Wi-Fi access, films-on-demand and an LCD television. €69-€120.
- Mercure, Lounge 3, Schiphol World Avenue, ☎ . The only full-fledged hotel after passport control. It can only be booked if you are on transit. €85-95.
- Sheraton, Schiphol Boulevard 101, ☎ . €269-616.
- Yotel, Lounge 2, Schiphol World Avenue (near gate D), ☎ . Automatically operated hotel cabins that can be booked by the hour (with a minimum stay of 4 hours). Good for a short nap if you're in onward transit. Food and drinks can be ordered with the computerized interface. Free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel. €46-68 for 4 hours, €10 for any additional hour.
- 2 Hilton Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, 701 Schiphol Boulevard. Modern 4 star 433 room hotel. Largest hotel near the airport. Reachable by covered walkway from arrivals. Opened in 2015 €180-€650.
Watch out for pickpockets and baggage thieves on trains: a common trick is a knock on your window to distract you, so that an accomplice can steal your luggage or laptop. Another one is to have an accomplice jam the doors and then steal your luggage. The thief jumps out and the door immediately closes, making it impossible to catch them.
However, in recent years, railway police have made a great effort to reduce this sort of crime; nowadays it is at 'normal', big-city like levels. It however is recommended not to leave your baggage unattended. This is also announced in the station regularly.
Schiphol was built on reclaimed land, and so are the suburban cities around it. Hoofddorp is the closest town, but it only has a few hotels that could be of use. The most popular attractions for tourists are in Amsterdam, a 20 minute train ride.