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As someone who regularly travels through Schiphol airport, I figured that it was time to write a guide to Schiphol Airport, one of my favorite airports in the world, with some insider tips to help others traveling through Schiphol more easily find their gate, find good airport food, and get to their destination as quickly as possible!
Index of this article
- How to get to Schiphol Airport to/from Amsterdam
- How to get to Amsterdam from Schiphol Airport for free with the iAmsterdam Card
- What you need to know about taxis at Schiphol Airport
- Schiphol Terminals: What you need to know about departures out of Schiphol Airport
- How early to arrive at Schiphol Airport before a flight
- Currency Exchange and ATMs at Schiphol
- Toilets at Schiphol Airport
- How much can you do in a 12 or 24 hour layover at Schiphol Airport?
- My hack for saving money on souvenirs and food at Schiphol Airport
- The best food and drinks in Schiphol Airport before security
- The best food and drinks in Schiphol Airport after security
- Insider hacks for Schiphol Airport
- Where to sleep in and near Schiphol Airport
- Where to take a shower during a layover at Schiphol Airport
- Transferring between terminals
- Handy apps to have on your phone for flying through Schiphol
- What you need to know about flying on budget airlines out of Schiphol: Terminal M and H
- Schiphol Passport Control
- Baggage claim
- Best meeting points near Schiphol airport
- Schiphol overnight and arriving into Schiphol late at night
- Wifi and outlets at Schiphol
Notes about terminology: Schiphol Plaza is the part of the airport before you go through security and where you’ll find departures. This area is open to the public and where you’ll catch trains/buses.
From here, you’ll pass through security and passport control en route to the terminals for departure. If you’re arriving into Schiphol, you’ll arrive at the Terminals prior to going through baggage claim and passport control (if applicable) prior to exiting in Schiphol Plaza.
How to get to Schiphol Airport from Amsterdam
The fastest and best way to get from Schiphol Airport to Amsterdam is by train. You can pick up a train ticket per way for about five euros (plus one euro for a single ride supplement) from the machines in the main area of the Schiphol public terminal. The journey takes about fifteen minutes if you get on an intercity direct to Amsterdam Centraal (no extra stops), but it on average takes about 20-30 minutes if you take a train that stops off at other stops (Sprinter).
A word of warning: Amsterdam has multiple train stations, so don’t get off at the first station that begins with Amsterdam. You’re likely to pass through Amsterdam Sloterdijk and Amsterdam Lelylaan depending on the train, so if you’re intending to get off at Amsterdam Centraal, stay on the train until your final destination.
Remember to tap your new ticket card in as you pass by the gates and to tap it out as you leave as it will open the gates! Don’t lose your ticket!
How to get to Amsterdam from Schiphol Airport for free with the iAmsterdam Card
If you’re planning on visiting quite a few museums in Amsterdam, the iAmsterdam card might be a good deal as it includes public transit as well as a canal cruise. However, the iAmsterdam card does not include the train from Schiphol airport, however it does include the bus.
To reach the buses, follow the signs out towards Schiphol Plaza. Go outside towards the buses. My bus of choice during the day heading to Amsterdam Centre is bus #397 with the final destination of Leidseplein (Amsterdam). If you’re staying in Amsterdam’s city center, you should be easily navigate to your hotel from here by tram, bus, or on foot. (If you have a lot, you can take a taxi from here!) If you’re arriving late at night, you can take the N97 bus follows a similar route.
What you need to know about taxis at Schiphol Airport: Avoid them if you can.
Schiphol has a problem with rogue taxis, some of whom have taxi licenses. I wish that I was kidding, but I also had drivers try to rip me off. Always ask before you get in if the taxi meter is on and if they accept credit cards.
If you’re keen on taking a taxi without blowing your budget, I recommend taking the train to Amsterdam Centraal prior to taking a taxi from there to your hotel. It’s usually about half the cost (even with two people) and this is what I do when I have large bags.
Don’t follow anyone who comes up to you in the terminal offering you a taxi. There is an official taxi line right outside of the airport. In many cases, the people offering you taxis do not have licenses and tourists have been basically held hostage until they paid up. In one case, a tourist was charged €595 for a thirty-minute ride to the capital. Luckily, the police got involved, but tourists get ripped off at Schiphol every day.
Make sure the meter is on and do not trust fixed rates. A typical fare that is reasonable from Amsterdam to Schiphol is about 40-50 euros to Amsterdam Centraal. You’ll pay a little more if you’re going outside of the city center, but you should pay less if you’re closer to Schiphol in Amsterdam West. If possible, ensure that Google Maps is on before you leave in the taxi, so you can verify the route.
Regarding the credit card comment, I write this as some taxis that “say” the credit card machine works will magically have it break mid-journey, so they can attempt to rip you off and/or they don’t need to report the journey to their employer. Both situations are bad, so verify both before you get in whether the meter and the credit card machine works.
I typically use the company Taxicentrale Amsterdam (TCA) and I will call them in advance if I need a taxi. Their phone number is +31 (020) 777 77 77. Operators speak English well.
Schiphol Terminals: What you need to know about departures out of Schiphol Airport
As soon as you step off the train, head upstairs and look on the big board of departing flights to see which terminal you’ll be flying out of. This make a big difference as you can lose a lot of time if you end up at the wrong terminal.
Once you determine your terminal, you’ll need to take the escalator up towards the terminal where your flight will take place. If you’re already checked in, I still recommend waiting in line to ask the flight attendant for the gate as that is not always announced in advance–and it’s often unclear until the last minute. This will avoid unnecessary walking in Schiphol.
From here, you’ll scan your ticket and go through the assigned security specific to your terminal. If necessary, you’ll go through passport control after this. From here, you’ll be in the main terminal area and you can follow the signs to find your gate. I include specific information about flying with budget airlines out of Schiphol as this is a bit different as the gate will not be announced until the last minute.
How early to arrive at Schiphol before a flight
For international flights, I recommend arriving 3-4 hours ahead. Immigration lines can be sizable if you’re flying at a popular time, especially in the mornings on weekdays.
For EU flights, you will have an easier time as you don’t need to deal with passport control. I typically arrive two hours ahead if I don’t need to check any bags. I add in an extra thirty minutes if I need to check a bag to be safe.
Currency Exchange and ATMS at Schiphol
In general, I do not advocate for exchanging your currency upon arrival. I find that you generally receive better exchange rates if you use the ATM at your destination, but sometimes this is unavoidable.
I typically use the ABN AMRO ATM in Schiphol Plaza (before security) near the Albert Heijn. (Hint: The Netherlands uses the euro, but dollars have been handy in a few destinations.) This ATM gives you the option of dollars or euros.
Once you’re through security, you’ll find several ATMs close to lounge 1, 2, and 3 as well as Terminal D. I generally use the ATM near Terminal D (close to the Starbucks) if I’m near there.
Within Schiphol Plaza (before security or upon arrival), there are several places to exchange currencies. The best, in my opinion, is ABN AMRO. They sit behind the Albert Heijn. For exchanges with a minimum value of 200 euros, the transaction is free at the rate posted. (They have 60 currencies on hand.)
Toilets at Schiphol Airport
Schiphol has free toilets! To be fair, they’re not so easy to find, especially before security. I recommend downloading the Schiphol app (iPhone / Android) to locate more toilets. If you’re going to fly out of Terminal H or M, try to use the toilet before you arrive in this area as there are fewer toilets.
How much can you do in a 12 or 24 hour layover at Schiphol Airport?
If you have a 12 hour layover at Schiphol Airport, you might be able to exit to briefly see Amsterdam. Just be aware of time as I recommend giving yourself 3-4 hours for international flights and it will take around 40 minutes to get to Amsterdam. You’ll need to choose your activities carefully, but at least you can get a taste of Amsterdam.
One closeby attraction is the Royal FloraHolland Aalsmeer flower auction. If you’re lucky enough to arrive in the morning on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday in time to arrive by 7am. This is when they hold a guided tour of the largest flower auction in the world. If you love tulips, you need to try to visit this!
During tulip season (April-early May), you can easily take the bus to Keukenhof to see the Dutch tulip fields. There is luggage storage at Keukenhof in case you want to maximize your layover. Read tips for visiting the Dutch tulip fields.
With twenty four hours in Schiphol Airport, definitely leave the airport. One day in Amsterdam is enough to see most of the major sights, even if you can’t go into the museums. I’ve created a self-guided walking tour of Amsterdam showing you my favorite parts of it.
My #1 hack for saving money on souvenirs and food at Schiphol
I love the Albert Heijn in Schiphol Plaza! I always arrive in Schiphol just a little early in order to have a meal before getting on the plane or to get a souvenir. Prices at this Albert Heijn are slightly higher than what you’d find in Amsterdam, however compared to what you pay after security, it’s cheap.
My favorite gift/souvenir to bring abroad from the Netherlands are balls of Dutch cheese, which you can buy for a reasonable price at this Albert Heijn. You don’t need to refrigerate them if they’re sealed in wax. Otherwise, I love bringing a Tony’s Chocolonely (a fair-trade Dutch chocolate) with me as a gift for friends.
You can’t bring your drinks from Albert Heijn through security, but the rest of the food that you buy at the Albert Heijn can come with you! I know that it’s not great sushi, but I like the sushi from this AH. You can sit eating your food on the chairs near the exit.
The best food and drinks in Schiphol Airport before security
My favorite option for a delicious and healthy meal is at Leon, which is in Schiphol Plaza before you go up to Terminal 3. This to-go eatery is where I noticed a lot of KLM staff goes–and I was impressed with the vegetarian-friendly options. For a coffee, I usually head to Grand Café Het Paleis, which has a great outlet situation. For breakfast, I recommend Yoghurt Barn, which is vegan-friendly and not surprisingly sells yogurt. Their coffee is always delicious and I love the toppings for the yogurt!
The best food and drinks in Schiphol Airport after security
I’ll just give a short list of my favorites. I usually stop off at Amsterdam Bread Company for a sandwich although I warn that the sandwiches tend to be very dairy-heavy. My go-to place for healthy food is Harvest Market although I often stop off for a coffee at Starbucks once I’m through security.
Two newer restaurants are Jamie’s Deli and Fair Taste Cafe. For a slightly nicer meal, head to Kebaya for a delicious Asian meal if you’re in less of a rush. The other sit-down restaurant that I like in Schiphol is Tastes from the Lowlands, which stocks locally sourced Dutch basics (including frites).
Schiphol is trying out Deliveroo (a food delivery app for your phone) within the airport for certain gates. The idea is that you can order food from other places in the airport and your food will be delivered to you in about fifteen minutes!
For a quick bite, I usually stop at GrabandFly for a drink before I board as I typically bring some snacks with me from the Albert Heijn before security. Close to Terminal M, you’ll find Urban Food Market, another good place for sandwiches. If you have an empty water bottle, you should be able to fill it at one of the water fountains.
Insider hacks for Schiphol Airport
If you’re looking for some fresh air during your layover at Schiphol once you’re through security, you can head to the rooftop Airport Park for a breather. There’s wifi and exercise bikes. It’s absolutely free and close to Lounge 1.
Many people don’t know that the Rijksmuseum has a free outpost in Schiphol Airport. During the day (until 8pm), you can view ten paintings by Dutch masters for free at the exhibition between Gates E and F.
Where to sleep in and near Schiphol
It’s good to note that if you have a longer layover at Schiphol, you need to show proof of onward travel to remain in the terminal. Airport hotel prices near Schiphol can be expensive and rise even more closer to your date, so book your Schiphol hotel ahead if you’re likely to spend the night at Schiphol Airport.
If you have a longer short-term transfer, you can stay at Yotel, a pod hotel in the terminal, if you’re in need of a nap or a shower. Similarly, you can stay at the Mercure Terminal Hotel if you’re looking for a traditional hotel to sleep at. Both of these don’t have many rooms, so be sure to book ahead to save money.
There are numerous hotels close to Schiphol. Notably, the Sheraton Schiphol is a popular pick that is just outside of Schiphol Plaza. If you’re traveling on business, you’ll find all you need. Another large hotel that caters to business travelers as well as luxury travelers is the Hilton Schiphol Airport, which is just a short walk from the airport exit.
For those on a budget, CitizenM Amsterdam Airport hotel is a great pick just outside of the main building.. This modern “boutique hotel” has small rooms with some serious amenities, including 24/7 room service, a common area that is always open, free movies, blackout blinds, and fast wifi. Simply, all you need for a good night’s rest.
If you have a little more time (12 hours) and you’re finding the prices at hotel prices in Amsterdam outrageously high, my insider tip is to look for hotels in Leiden. Leiden is just 15-20 minutes by train from Schiphol Airport.
This lovely day trip from Amsterdam is a stunning city in itself and you’ll find boutique hotels in Leiden around 40% cheaper than their counterparts in Amsterdam (Click for a self-guided walking tour of Leiden.) Expect the beauty of Amsterdam without the crowds!
Where to take a shower during a layover at Schiphol
Several of the toilets once you pass through passport control have free showers although no soap or towels. You should be able to pick up soap at one of the airport shops although I’d recommend bringing your own miniature travel towel to dry off with.
If you’re desperate for a shower, you can pay for a shower at one of the airport hotels or pay for special access to one of the airplane lounges. The KLM Crown Lounge has showers, but you must have a business or first class ticket for the same day with a Skyteam, KLM, or Air France flight. Those part of KLM’s Flying Blue program as well as SkyTeam Elite Plus and Delta’s SkyClub program can access this lounge.
If you’re not a member of any programs, you can pay for a shower as an extra fee at Lounge 41. This comes with a towel. You’ll pay about 27 euros to get in although those flying with certain airlines (Star Alliance) will gain access if they have business class/first class flights.
Transferring between terminals
Schiphol is a fairly easy airport to transfer at and it has good signage in English. I’ve transferred a couple of times although I do warn that it is much bigger than many people realize. You’ll have some good food options as well as toilets close to your gate, so don’t dally–and get to your flight area before settling in.
There are transfer desks where you can check for information using a screen or by asking a flight attendant. There are moving walkways, but it can take as long as 30 minutes to do your transfer at Schiphol depending on which terminals you’re switching between. If you require assistance, ask the flight attendants!
Handy apps to have on your phone for flying through Schiphol
The Schiphol app is very helpful for locating your flight information as well as finding things in the airport. For figuring out transportation to your hotel, I recommend having Google Maps and Reisplanner Xtra (iPhone / Android) on your phone. Reisplanner Xtra is the official app from the Dutch railways with real-time updates about the trains and routing to your destination.
Flying on budget airlines out of Schiphol
If you’re flying with a budget airline out of Schiphol airport, expect to fly out of Terminal H or M. This is the furthest terminal. You fly out of Terminal M when it’s a EU flight and Terminal H when it’s not. It generally takes at least 20-30 minutes to walk out there, so don’t dally.
Once you arrive, you’ll realize that you can’t go to your gate as it’s not open. Gates for budget airlines are only opened once it’s time for boarding and there are no seats until you get on the plane. You’ll need to wait in an area with strange seating watching a screen waiting to see where your flight will be boarding. There aren’t many announcements, so you need to pay attention.
Be sure to use the toilet while you’re in this common area when you have the time as there’s just two toilets along Terminal M–and you don’t want to miss your flight. I like the Urban Food Market for a quick sandwich. Once it’s time for your flight to board, you don’t typically have that much time as the flight will be boarding. The walk down to the boarding gate can take 10-15 minutes, so hurry down.
After this, you’ll wait in a line with no seating, possibly waiting on the stairs, until you’re allowed on the flight. Standing waiting in line can take about 20 minutes. If you have issues with standing for 20+ minutes, flying budget out of Schiphol may be an issue and it might be worthwhile to notify the airline/Schiphol beforehand to ensure that they can accommodate you.
Schiphol Passport Control
If you’re flying to/from outside the Schengen area (even if it’s EU), you will need to go through passport control. If you’re simply transferring with one ticket, you won’t need to go through passport control, unless you leave the airport.
If you’re departing from Schiphol, you’re likely to pass through the passport control area where EU citizens as well as certain nationalities (including Koreans and Americans) can simply scan their passport while a machine checks your photo. Remember to get a stamp from the immigration if you’re non-EU to ensure that there’s physical proof of your exit.
In general, there’s two lines: one for EU citizens and one for non-EU citizens. In theory, if you’re a non-EU Dutch resident, you should be able to skip the non-EU line for the EU line, but sometimes the agents don’t allow this. It typically takes about 20 minutes to get through immigration, but I’ve had it take up to 45 minutes when a big international flight was departing.
Upon arrival, it works similarly. I find that the non-EU line can take between 15-45 minutes on average. I recommend having your paperwork in order prior to arriving at immigration as agents have the right to ask you questions about what you intend to do in the Netherlands as well as relevant information about where you intend to stay, etc.
Once you go through passport control (or not), you can pick up your bags at the baggage claim. There’s a toilet there in case you need one, however right after, you exit into Schiphol Plaza. For Dutch residents, I often use the OVchipkaart machine to top up my OVchipkaart there to avoid the lines for the train ticket machines in Schiphol Plaza.
Best meeting points at Schiphol airport
Meeting up at Schiphol can be a bit tricky as people don’t always come out of the same area as where you’d expect them to come out. A lot of people wait with banners, however you’ll need to stand waiting at what you think is the correct arear and when my mom recently visited, I ended up missing her as she exited the baggage claim from another exit.
I tend to use the airport shops as my meeting points and I find that the Starbucks near the toilet and Arrivals 4 is the best meeting point for international guests who have long journies. There are some seats, so it’s a good place to sit and relax while waiting for family. It’s best to agree on a Arrivals number or meet at another landmark (e.g. McDonald’s or Arrival 1).
Schiphol overnight and arriving into Schiphol late at night
Schiphol overnight is a bit weird. As someone who has been stranded at Schiphol Airport due to the train problems as well as slept at Schiphol Airport, I’m very familiar with Schiphol late at night. It’s mostly quiet and nobody bothered us. If you arrive too late or get unlucky, the trains might not be running.
Schiphol Plaza mostly shuts down after midnight although technically, it’s still open to the public. Shops generally start opening up around 6:30 am. We were able to just plop on the ground close to the Albert Heijn, near an outlet, prior to taking turns sleeping. If you have the choice, opt for an airport hotel as I promise that a hard floor is not fun to sleep on.
You’re not allowed inside the airport early before your flight is ready to board. If you arrive overnight into Schiphol, you will not be allowed to stay at the airport unless you can show proof of transfer for a flight within a reasonable length of time.
Wifi and outlets at Schiphol
There’s free wifi at Schiphol although you’ll lose the signal and need to reconnect if you’re walking around the airport. The wifi is only good for three hours. If you’re looking for slightly more secure internet or need more high-speed wifi, you can pay a little extra for the private wifi network.
The outlet situation at Schiphol is improving, but not great still. I generally recommend having a fully charged phone as they’re adding outlets, but they’re still harder to find on the terminal side. In Schiphol Plaza, there are limited outlets as well although they recently added an emergency phone charging station near arrivals.