Originally posted on December 01, 2007 - this information is out of date but was true at the time
Now... as for the Dutch mass transit system. It's still an old punched paper type of system. You pay for a strip card or "strippenkaart" in advance, good for one year containing 2, 3, 8, 15, or 45 strips. Then, when you are ready to travel, you punch one more strip than the number of zones you want to travel through - it helps to know the zone system before you travel. Or, you can pay a flat rate for a "uurskaart" for the entire day to go anywhere, but that's expensive. Or, you get a weekly seasonal ticket sold in 1 through 6 and "N" star values which is the number of zones you wish to travel on any given day flat rate for the entire week for about half the price of a daily ticket on the tram system to visit any zone. It appears to be a local secret for commuters so they can nail tourists. The catch seems to be that you need also apply for a European travel ID or "stamkaart", which is free... but, you need to provide your passport plus a passport photograph to get one, good for 5 years. All my intended tram stops in Amsterdam was within the Centraal Zone, so for 10.80€ I can travel all throughout Amsterdam, including the museums and shops for the entire week, rather than paying 6.50€ per day x 10 days to travel to any zone: about 1/6 the price! The trams themselves are a bit tricky. You can enter from the front or the rear if you have a ticket, but only from the rear if you don't have a ticket. But, you need to punch your ticket in the yellow machine towards the rear of the tram or have the conductor in the middle of the tram punch it for you, so if you have an unstamped ticket it's best to enter from the rear, unless you're getting on a bus in which case the driver in the front stamps your ticket or unless you have a stamped uurskaart. And, you can only exit through the rear. The exception being if the tram has arrows on the side showing which door to enter through, which will probably mean that there's a button by the door to be pressed to open them to get on as well. Sometimes you need to alert the driver as the stop you want, which will suck if you've never been there before - and, there's a button which may need to be pressed to open the door to exit as well. The locals found that it is quite possible to sneak onto the tram on a busy day and avoid the conductor to save a few bucks, so gvb started to add inspectors to nab you - handing out 40€ fines if they catch you, possibly a trip to the police station. In addition to the trams, they have a light rail, also known as the metro, which has three subway lines: 51, 53, and 54 - however, 51 is also known as a "tram" in some places so I don't understand the difference. There, you can't get onto the platform unless you have properly stamped your ticket at the yellow machines. And, neither the trams nor metro has anything to do with the railroad which connects the city to the rest of the world, including the airport. Once you stamp your ticket, it's good for up to an hour for traveling 1-3 zones, 1.5 hours for 4-6 zones, 2 hours 7-9 zones, 3 hours for 10-15 zones, or 3.5 hours for 16 or more zones - which has got to be for the bus because the tram system only serves a fraction of that. The exception being if you have a uurskaart which is good the specified number of days from the first time you use it.
Most tourists walk.