The iamsterdam City Card: Is It Worth It?

23 Mar 2019

If you've been keeping up with my socials, you'll know that I've just come back from a trip to Amsterdam - one of my favourite cities in the world! This was a bit of a surprise trip that Alex booked as an early birthday present, so as you can imagine, we had the most amazing time. But one thing that I was quite wary of before we hopped on the plane was how expensive Amsterdam can be. We were going for 4 nights, meaning we had a lot of time to fill, so we wanted to visit a few of the tourist attractions without spending a fortune. We are a student-and-fresh-graduate couple after all!

So we did what any modern day couple do when they have a burning question that needs answering - we took to Google. From a simple search, we quickly found out about the iamsterdam city card. This was a magic little card that seemed too good to be true! It offered entry to some of the most expensive Amsterdam tourist attractions, free travel around the city, discounts in restaurants and a free canal tour.

I was more than sold, whereas Alex spent a lot of time researching into other cards to see what else was on the market. However, we settled on the city card because the free travel and attractions really grabbed us, but I want to talk you guys about whether we thought the cards were really worth it or not.

How much did it cost?

As I mentioned, we were really keen to save money rather than spend a whole heap because, in all honesty, we can't afford to just throw money away right now, so this card that promised to give us a ton of benefits for a decent price seemed like a miracle. There are city cards for a variety of timescales, from 24 hours up to 120 hours, so it's great for city breaks and longer stays in the city.

We worked out that we wouldn't need the card when we first arrived because we landed at night and our hotel had a free shuttle to and from the airport (which became a huge lifesaver as you'll see later in the post) and we wouldn't need it on the day we were flying home, which left 3 days of time in the city. With that in mind, we opted for the 72 hour cards, which worked out at €93 each, so around £166 in total. Now, that is quite a lot of money, so we started making a list of things that we definitely wanted to go to from the attractions list. A little further on in the post, I'll tell you where we went and whether we actually saved money.

The pressure to visit everything

Because we had spent a fair amount of money on these cards, we felt a lot of pressure to actually visit all the attractions we'd listed when we got to Amsterdam. We wanted to make sure that we actually saved money because £166 is a lot for us, and at times, it felt like we were overdoing it trying to fit everything in.

This made us questions whether the cards for smaller timescales, like 24 hours, were really worth it because we couldn't imagine how anyone could fit enough in to cover the €60 price tag. Unless they were Usain Bolt and managed to speed around absolutely everything that they wanted to do! But, for example, the most expensive attraction you can get free entry to with the card is ARTIS zoo and you would end up being there for at least 4 hours, so that's already a huge chunk of the day gone.

The Van Gogh issue

With the city card, you are promised entry into almost all of the biggest museums in Amsterdam, including the Rijksmuseum, the Hermitage, the Amsterdam Museum and of course, the Van Gogh Museum. We were so so interested in going to the Van Gogh and noticed that you had to book a time slot for it. "No problem," we thought. The only thing is that you can't book your time slot until you had picked up your card, whereas we thought we'd be able to book a time slot in the card purchasing process.

So we didn't think too much of it, activated our cards and went on to the Van Gogh site to book our time slot - only to find out that absolutely every single day of our trip was completely fully booked. The pair of us were gutted! This is something that I think iamsterdam need to consider changing in order to help people get the most out of their cards because without a time slot, there was no way to enter the museum.

What "free travel" really means

As I mentioned, the free travel was something that really attracted us to the city cards. The last time I went to Amsterdam, I got around on foot because I was staying in the centre. However, this time, we were staying closer to the airport, so we needed travel options to help us get into the city. With the city card, you're able to travel on any GVB bus, tram, metro or ferry, so this sounded right up our street.

Thankfully, our hotel had a free shuttle to and from the airport, so we didn't need to start working out transport until our first full day in Amsterdam. There was a bus stop just 2 minutes from the hotel, so we were more than certain we could get a bus from there into the city. We couldn't have been more wrong. To cut a long story short, the way we had to travel into the city by using the cards was to get the free shuttle back to the airport, get a bus to a tram stop, take a tram and then sometimes a metro. This trip took around one hour to an hour and a half, so that is something you really need to consider before buying this card.

It's also worth mentioning that train travel isn't included with the city card, which was a huge problem for us and we ended up having to pay for the train one night to go see Panic! at the Disco, so if you wanted full travel access and weren't too bothered about the attractions, take a look at the GVB travel card.

How much did we save?

In order to keep track of how much we were saving, I kept a little diary of what we did on every day of our trip. This relates a bit to the 'pressure to visit everything', but it's also meant that I can do this price break down for you guys, so every cloud!

  • Arrived on the night and couldn't pick up our cards until Saturday morning.

  • Took free shuttle to airport to get our city cards, then free shuttle back to the hotel (only to realise we had to get the bus from the airport to get to the city)
  • Travel including the 69 bus, fives trams and a metro, free with city card, saving €7.50 each for a day travel ticket (€15 total)
  • Visited the Rijksmuseum - free with city card, saving €17.50 each (€35 total)
  • Visited the Diamond Museum - free with city card, saving €10 each (€20 total)
  • Visited the Moco Museum - discounted with city card, saving €3.60 each (€7.20 total)
  • Total saving for Saturday - €77.20

  • Travel - including the 69 bus, two trams and four metros, free with city card, saving €7.50 each for a day travel ticket (€15 total)
  • Visited the Botanical Gardens - free with city card, saving €9.50 each (€19 total)
  • Visited ARTIS Zoo - free with city card, saving €23 each (€46 total)
  • Two ferries - free
  • Visited the EYE Film Museum - free with city card, saving €10 each (€20 total)
  • Total saving for Sunday - €100

  • Travel - including the 69 bus, two trams and two metros, free with city card, saving €7.50 each for a day travel ticket (€15 total)
  • Went on the Stromma canal tour - free with city card, saving €16.50 each (€33 total)
  • Visited the Poezenboot cat boat - free
  • Return train from the airport to the arena - loss of €18.60
  • Total saving for Monday - €29.40

Cost of the iamsterdam city cards - €186
Cost of activities without card€206.60
Total saving - €20.60

If you do a bit of maths here, you can see that we made a saving of €10.30 each. Now, while that is a saving, we were absolutely exhausted from all of the public transport travelling and trying to cram in as much stuff as possible. So when you think of it like that, is the €10.30 each really worth it? Especially when you consider that iamsterdam advertise these cards by saying 'you'll save at least €50 across the city's attractions'. This goes back to my point about trying to cram everything in. It feels like the only way to get a significant saving on these cards is if you really push yourself and get through every attraction at lightning speed.

It's also worth pointing out that some of the stuff that we went to only came about because we had the city cards. For example, we had no intention of doing the Diamond Museum, but we needed a filler because the line for the Moco was so long. This also goes for the canal tour, which I certainly wouldn't have paid €33 for. This can be viewed as a positive and a negative - we got to see things that we wouldn't have seen otherwise, but we also weren't really interested in doing either of them and felt like we had to because we had the city cards. If that makes sense?
It's definitely not all bad, though! The city card helped us see some really fab things that we didn't know were even in the city. The Moco Museum was fab (despite the staff having no idea of how people could fit into such a tiny building - think sardine can) and I didn't know there was a Botanical Garden, so I can't fault the card for helping us find new things. It also meant that everything was paid off in one go. I know that I would have struggled paying €46 to go to the zoo, but because it was already included in the price I had paid for the card, I didn't have to think about the money.

Overall, I feel a bit meh about the iamsterdam city card. I didn't love it and I didn't hate it. We saw some brilliant things with it, but we also had such a hassle with the travel and the Van Gogh Museum. I'm glad we gave it a go, but next time, I think we'll plan a little bit more and see if we can book things in advance to make them a little cheaper.

Top tips
  • Really think about the things you want to see and do in Amsterdam - if you can't get into the with the city card, don't bother!
  • Research the transport - if it's trains you want, the GVB travel card may be a better option for you
  • Look for free things - we found the Poezenboot cat boat before we visited the city and we highly recommend it to cat lovers. There's also plenty of parks and street art tours!
  • Try and get your city card ASAP if you want to go to the Van Gogh Museum
  • Take a look at other cards on the market before you settle on one
  • Make sure you know the public transport routes

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