Central Station & Trains, Amsterdam
After taking several trains in Europe, the trains in Holland were the least punctual. Warning: if you buy a ticket to a location, the trains will often change tracks so make sure you are constantly reading the computer screens to avoid missing your train or getting on the wrong one. If you are not in Amsterdam and speak no dutch, all the announcements are in Dutch and not in English. Ask someone if you don't know what they said and most people will tell you.
I booked train tickets from Amsterdam to Paris through NS Hispeed Internet , but I did not print the tickets as the confirmation was in Dutch - I printed the confirmation form instead. So, I had to pay again for the same tickets on train.
I thought I had everything I needed so that I wouldn't have to go to a T/Info centre. I did, but I didn't know where the Bus station was to get the bus to Muiderslot castle. It wasn't either of the two by Central Station, I was told by a Bus driver, Out of town. So, I went to the Info/centre outside central station, and it was jammed full of people. I took my number, and to my horror, saw that there were 50 people infront of me. I stayed for a little while, in that time, nobody had moved, the centre was grossly understaffed, and you couldn't help yourself to information. Wasted time, and I never got there. My Hotel told me where to catch the Bus, but I didn't have time left to visit. Try to avoid if possible.
Hollands trains are generally good but for the disabled or elderly some can be difficult to board or alight from. Some of the platforms at Centraal Station are slightly curved too which extenuates the problem ( see photo).
The Dutch Railways website does have advice for disabled travel but it seems that advance notification of travel is needed so that ramps can be put up to the doors from the platforms and it also seems proof of disability is needed.
This is a pity because the trains go virtually everywhere and are frequent but the disabled traveller (in my opinion) is at a great disadvantage.
As in any large city you should beware of pick pockets. A few years ago, thefts on the trains to Amsterdam Centraal from the Schiphol airport and back were a real problem. I don't know what's the situation now, but at the time I spoke to guy whose laptop was nicked because he left it unattended for a few seconds, as he went to alert someone that they left their mobile phone behind by accident. Of course, the mobile phone was left behind on purpose and it turned out to be a stunt that the thieves were trying to pull on some unaware tourist and it worked.
If you do travel on the trains to Amsterdam, do not under any circumstances leave any of your belongings unattended (not even for a second).
If possible, take a train that doesn’t stop on any of the other stations within the city limits, in particularly Amsterdam Lelylaan, where lots of the thieves used to get on the trains because it's the first station on the way to town from the airport, and therefore an easy target for the thieves.
Around the Central Train Station works are in progress.
A new busstation will be build at the North side of the building with a pedestrian area at ground level and a motorway underneath.
Furthermore new metro and (high speed) train tracks are under construction.
The metro works needs digging and the train works need overpasses to be build.
At times expect heavy construction works going on. It's is well planned, but may confilct with your plans at times.
Ok everyone says it "watch out for pickpockets" and I did. I lived there a good part of a year before it happened to me. Always wore a over the sholder strapped purse and kept one hand on it at all times..and never used a cash machine anywhere near the station...(they will actually walk behind you as you enter your code and then follow you to steal your bank card.)Anyway it happened to me on the way back from holiday, one of the busiest travel days of the year for dutch...it was crowded and I had a huge winter coat on from skiing and was carring a bag or two..and somewhere between getting off one train and getting onto another..it was cut off of my body without me noticing because of the full hands. I was not alone either, I was traveling with 3 other people who didnt see it happen it was so fast. Usually its when someone bumps into you...but i didnt even notice that with the crowds. My bank card was actually used within 15 mins of being stolen too! So everyone watch out! ohhh and the train station police are nice, try to help, but there really isnt anything they can do.
* Beware of pickpockets (mostly junks), and do not ever leave baggage unattended.
* When travelling take care of choosing the station you wanna go for, because some cities have different "central" station (e.g. The Hague Central and The Hague Hollands Spoor - Amsterdam Central and Amsterdam RAI)
* Want to change money, then visit the GWK (Grens Wissel Kantoor), that is the best for money-change in Euro (Western Union money transfer service). You can find one just outside of Amsterdam Central Station, Stationsplein. For credit-card find ATM.
* Be aware the public toilets in malls, official buildings may ask some money when visiting ...
These coffeshops often time make you purchase a minimum to hang and smoke. I admit, I'm a light weight, and if I had to sit there and smoke three "J"'s I would not be able to move for a week....LOL. Stay away from the big, flashy places. A very cool place is De Rokerij. This is the place to chill!
In and around Central Station they are very busy with making a new metro line ( the North - South line). Some parts are covered up and the shops have been replaced to the West wing of the station..
The main entrance to the station has been closed and will remain so for at least a year. Please use the entrance at the western side (left if you facing the station) All places are still accesable of course but it might not be were it was last time you visited.
Pickpockets frequent the trains in Amsterdam and a lot of them are relatively young and well dressed men. If a group of guys try to distract you by asking questions, beware. This is done to distract your attention while atleast one of them try to get hold of your belongings. Unfortunately, the announcements on the trains warning the travelers comes on Dutch and so if you dont speak the language, you could be caught by surprise by these pickpockets.
Trains leave absolutely on time! I was on Centraal Station to get train back to Schiphol Airport on time, but on wrong side of platform, just a few meters away as well as some other tourist couple. And when we all realized that, we moved to correct side of platform and waved at the train. And still, the train left leaving us behind, waiting for next train or alternative transportation.
I had a very creepy feeling like me and my friend were being targeted for pickpockets. A man came up to my friend and asked to have one of her french fries and of course she said yes because she was stunned. I think he was leting a group of wierd looking creatures know we were the "ones" to hit. Needless to say, we crossed the street and kept moving!
Beware of toothless crack fiends that try to offer you accomodations.
we were stalked all over the city by one of them, despite the fact we said we were not interested.
he was trying to sell us a room in a boarded up hotel.
I'm sure that person is probably still there, trying to lure unsuspecting tourists .
Amsterdam, like mostof the big European cities, is a very safe city. I have spent lots of time walking around both day and night, by myself and with my girlfriend and have never felt uncomfortable or in danger. Like any big city however, you do need to watch yourself in certain areas. The two main places to be careful are Central Station when it's busy and the Redlight district at night. Be smart, watch your valuables and don't buy drugs from the junkies in the Redlight district. They may sound scary but their bark is much worse than their bite as they are easily ignored.