Amsterdam Travel in 2020 - Social Distancing, Rules & Tips

Visiting Amsterdam in 2020 - Social Distancing & Covid-19 Restrictions

(UPDATED NOVEMBER 2020) As a local Amsterdam resident, who is NOT travelling anywhere else (especially not abroad) any time soon, I thought it would be useful to summarise some of the things you CAN and CANNOT do in the 2020 in Amsterdam, specifically in autumn and winter of 2020, in relation to social distancing and restrictions relating to Covid-19 (Coronavirus).

Right now, in November 2020, all but essential travel is banned by most countries. Compared to the summer, we are definitely seeing fewer tourists in the city, and with a recent increase in measures closing more places, many of which would be where tourists would be going, I expect the rest of 2020 to be fairly free of tourists in Amsterdam. However, we also know that some people are still travelling here or are still making plans to travel here, so I think it's wise you have all the information you need to either cancel or postpone your travel to Amsterdam in 2020 (or beyond!) and/or to move around the city as wisely as possible.

Here is a post with links to information about the most up-to-date situation of Coronavirus in Amsterdam and I would definitely keep an eye on the most updated number of cases in the Netherlands.
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Before I go any further, the most important thing to do is to check for all regularly updated information from official sources before you travel. The website with the most up to date information about visiting Amsterdam is Iamsterdam.com and this is their latest update for what are the social distancing requirements as of 13th October 2020. Secondly, you should also look at the national tourist board's information which is kept updated here.

In terms of the Dutch government's advice about who can and can't travel to Amsterdam (or the Netherlands) in 2020 (or beyond) during the Covid-19/Coronavirus pandemic, this is the official government advice, which links to several other pages with FAQs and answers to commonly asked questions or specific examples (in English!). And this is where you need to go if you think you could have Covid-19/Coronavirus while visiting Amsterdam or the Netherlands.

If you don't have much time you can scroll down to the final section of this post where there is a short list of the tips and rules summarised.

DISCLOUSRE: This post contains some affiliate links.

Can I Travel to Amsterdam in 2020?

As it currently stands (November 2020), Amsterdam is not closed to tourists but there stance is that only essential travel should be made, and that popular tourist areas (so yep, Amsterdam!) should be avoided. This page is where you can find information about holidaying in the Netherlands right now.

The Netherlands is currently in what they're calling a partial lockdown, where many things are closed but most shops and some other specific services remain open. Schools and daycares are also still open so while this is considered a form of lockdown, it's not like the spring and early summer when Amsterdam's streets were eerily empty most days - even in the centre of the city.

However, the situation is also quite precarious at the moment and the number of cases of Covid-19 are still significantly high in Amsterdam and we are waiting to see the number drop before any loosening up of measures takes place.

Also with the seasonal change into autumn and winter, there are concerns that this will mean more transmission of Covid-19 so most indoor events and gatherings of more than 3 adults in 24 hours at private residences will be banned until the end of the year. This should be taken into consideration before any travel here, and you should also be aware that other countries are introducing quarantine requirements or travel bans for those travelling to the Netherlands.

Should I Travel to Amsterdam in 2020?

As we move into autumn and then winter, we are also seeing high daily numbers of cases in the Netherlands, and it's my personal feeling and indeed the advice of many government officials and pandemic experts that ONLY essential travel should be made at this time. Therefore, if you don't need to visit Amsterdam, please don't for your own safety and that of others around you.

Needless to say, but I'm going to write it in caps and bold and underline it anyway so it's clear, YOU SHOULD NOT TRAVEL TO AMSTERDAM OR ANYWHERE IF YOU HAVE COVID-19 SYMPTOMS OR YOU KNOW YOU HAVE THE VIRUS (or have had it in recent weeks OR you have been in contact with someone who has/ had it or someone who was/is displaying symptoms - this includes anybody who has had cold symptoms and/or a temperature.

I really, really hope we are at a stage now where this doesn't need to be said, but you will see below that there is no point coming to Amsterdam if you are displaying symptoms because you may be refused access to most public places and possibly into the country too.

As far as travel to the Netherlands and who can or can't come to visit Amsterdam in 2020 depending on where you're travelling from, again this is the official government advice. I strongly advise you to read this page IN FULL and take special care to look at the sections about social distancing, print a few copies of the Health Declaration form (if arriving by plane at an airport in the Netherlands) and also look at the part about how arrivals from certain countries are STRONGLY ADVISED to self-isolate for two weeks. (At the time of writing, this includes Sweden, UK and two areas in Portugal but refer directly to this page before you both book travel to Amsterdam and before you depart.

You should also check what your own country's rules currently are on travel to the Netherlands, and be mindful that this is changing all the time and changes come into play very quickly.

Getting to Amsterdam in 2020

How you get to Amsterdam really depends on where you are coming from as your own country will have its own restrictions, and obviously there will be different methods of travel available to you depending on this also.

As it stands, Amsterdam's main airport Amsterdam Schiphol is open (and indeed never closed fully) and in the last few weeks we have noticed a definite increase in the number of planes arriving and departing in the sky (virtually the whole of the city is on a flight path of some form!). Here is where you can find the latest information about Schiphol and Covid-19. You are not obliged to wear a mask at the airport, and whether you are required to wear a mask on your flight depends on your airline so that's where you should check for that information..

Ferries are currently arriving in the Netherlands with tourists on board, but it really depends on where you are sailing from if there is a normal or restricted service on ferries to the Netherlands. For example, ferries are operating between the Netherlands and the UK. Here you can find more information about what safety measures are being taken at this time to ensure safety of passengers and no spread of Covid-19 (on Stena Line, at least - you will have to check other companies' websites for their updates).

If travelling by train or road you will also need to check the situation in each of the countries you may be travelling through in order to get to Amsterdam, and you should do this when planning your trip AND just before departing because as we all know things can change very quickly. 
When travelling by train, be sure to find out what safety measures and requirements are in place on the service provider's website or by contacting them directly. For example, in the Netherlands, you are obliged to wear a mask on trains (and all public transport) now and will be find if you do not (this does not apply to children under the age of 13). Here is more information about train travel in the Netherlands at the present time.

If you're travelling by car to Amsterdam you should check that you are allowed to travel with the people who will be in the car with you, i.e. if your home country, or other countries you will be travelling through, require you to only share a vehicle with immediate family/people you have already been sharing a household with.

When travelling to the Netherlands and/or planning other travels in Europe, you should research which borders are open or not. This article does summarise which borders are open and what travel restrictions are in place for most of the EU countries and others, but this is a media article not information from official sources, so do keep that in mind.

If you are travelling to the Netherlands and it's your third or more country on a trip (i.e. you spent time in another country that you're not resident in) before arriving in the Netherlands, it is currently still okay to arrive in the Netherlands, but you should definitely keep an eye on this as it's likely this will be stopped should there be a second wave or an increase in cases again.

Right now let's crack on with what you CAN do while visiting Amsterdam in summer 2020 during these strange pandemic times.

What's Open for Tourists in Amsterdam in 2020?

Amsterdam is currently in a partial lockdown (as of 13th October 2020) and so there are some restrictions and exceptions you need to know about. An additional number of restrictions came into play as well on 3rd November, closing museums and other indoor attraction spaces.

For tourists, most attractions, tours and museums are currently open. To get a good idea of what is and isn't open you can look on iamsterdam's website or on an attraction booking site like GetYourGuide or Viator where you can also book tickets, which I strongly recommend doing because this is the only way you will gain entry to most places.

Cafes, restaurants, bars and other places where food and drink are served are all closed until the end of December. Likewise, Amsterdam's famous coffeeshops are also closing for people sitting inside or on terraces. Some of these establishments will remain open for take-away service, but you should always check in advance if they are to avoid disappointment.

Shops and supermarkets are permitted to stay open, for now, as long as they observe the 1.5 metre social distancing rules. There will be some changes to opening hours (many will close in the evening) and there will be more restrictions on the number of people who can come in, and more obligations to wear masks. Most shops and supermarkets are now being forced to close at 20:00, and the sale of alcohol after this time is not permitted.

As of early November, museums and attractions in Amsterdam were forced to close again and it's predicted this will remain the case until at least the end of 2020. You can still enjoy many of Amsterdam's museums online through some virtual Amsterdam armchair travel so you won't be missing out completely.

For what is open in Amsterdam, for tourists and residents alike 1.5 metre social distancing is required inside and outside of all business premises, including shops and all other public spaces, including parks and playgrounds. This does not extend to children aged 12 and under.
Outdoor tours are still going ahead (I think!) but again I think numbers will be restricted and social distancing must be enforced.

The main things that continue to be not permitted and cancelled are large-scale organised events. So festivals, gatherings, conferences, and even private functions like weddings and parties, are heavily restricted so don't be planning on doing any of that while in Amsterdam in 2020. Likewise nightclubs and dance venues continue to be closed. (But don't panic, there are still lots of fun things to do in Amsterdam at night.)

The police do have powers to stop and fine people not observing social distancing rules, and because businesses are the ones obliged to uphold these rules on their own premises (and are subject to hefty fines if they don't) they will also be quick to ensure distance is kept so be aware of this.

Social Distancing for Visitors in Amsterdam in 2020

As mentioned above, social distancing in Amsterdam requires people not from the same household to maintain a distance of 1.5 metres at all times, when inside and outside. This rule does not apply to children aged 12 and under which you can read more about here.

Tours are permitted to take place but there are restrictions as to how many people can be in a tour group, and it's the tour guide's role to maintain social distancing both from people in the group and within the group.

I actually did a tour myself when distancing rules were loosened up a little and we were told by the tour guide what we had to do in order to do this. It may mean that your tour and experience is a little different from what it would have been at a different time but I think this is a perfectly acceptable compromise in these strange times.

Gatherings taking place outside where people are not maintaining 1.5 metre distance can be broken up and dispersed, and the police do have powers to fine you too.

Do I Need to Wear a Mask in Amsterdam?

Yes, and no. The short but possibly unhelpful answer is that it depends! 

BUT at this stage, I think it's ALWAYS a good idea.

In fact, the Dutch government are currently trying to push ahead with legislation that will oblige all people to wear masks when in public so if you're due to be in Amsterdam any time soon, it's very likely the laws have changed and masks will be obligatory.

Masks are already required to be worn on public transport (including trams, trains, buses and in certain scenarios, taxis) so you should already be planning on taking some with you and having one with you wherever you go in Amsterdam.

Rules regarding wearing masks in Amsterdam apply to all people aged 13 or over.

Visiting Amsterdam in 2020 - Museums, Tours & Attractions 

Museums and other tourist attractions are now closed, and will be until the end of 2020.

As and when they re-open, it will be very likely you will need to book tickets for museums and attractions in Amsterdam in advance. Below is some information about how to book tickets for places, but please note that this may not be possible right now until they re-open their doors. Either way, I am leaving the information here in case you are planning a trip far in advance like 2021 or beyond.

The easiest way to book museums and attractions is via their own individual websites. Each one should have an easily visible page for booking tickets for a specific day AND at a specific time. This is essential. Without a valid ticket you will not be permitted entry, and if you are late you may also be refused entry also.

If you have an Iamsterdam City Card (which I highly recommend for ease and also getting around as it gets you free public transport) or a Museumkaart, you can still book your ticket and time slot via the website but you will need to select the option that states you have a Museumkaart or a City Card and then you will not be charged but you will still have a reservation. You will need to take proof of your booked time slot AND your Museumkaart or Iamsterdam City Card (or other valid card/pass) with you when you get there. (Proof of the email or a QR code on your phone is fine, you don't need to print everything out.)

For tours and other attractions, I highly recommend booking via websites like GetYourGuide and Viator as they often offer more flexible booking conditions and even free cancellations should the situation change and you have to cancel what you have booked.

While all of this takes a bit more organisation, I have to say that this is what I would recommend in my general Amsterdam travel tips anyway to ensure that you get to visit the places where you want to go. Also, this is actually a very unique and interesting time to visit attractions and museums in Amsterdam as many places will be considerably more empty right now.

Places have to have a capacity limit so that they can ensure social distancing so you will not have to deal with crowds and will very likely find it a much more pleasant experience because typically summer means big queues and crowds in Amsterdam.

Public Transport in Amsterdam in 2020

As of October 2020, public transport is running a normal service, however like all other spaces in the Netherlands social distancing is required as much as is possible. Because it's very likely that it will not be possible for all passengers to keep the 1.5 metre distance, especially during busy times, the rules state that masks need to be worn at all times on public transport including buses, trams and trains. I couldn't find clarification on whether masks needed to be worn in stations or on platforms too but I think it's sensible to assume it is

In taxis (and Ubers, I believe also), when a 1.5 metre distance is not possible in the vehicle, there will be a screen in place between passenger seating area and the driver. And if this has not been installed and/or it is not possible to maintain a 1.5 metre distance then both the driver and passenger/s will be required to wear masks. This is all explained here on the website of the largest taxi company in Amsterdam.

In practice I have seen many people not fully adhering to these rules, especially in terms of wearing a mask on public transport. But it should be stressed that aside from it being required to keep everyone safe, you may be receive an on the spot fine for not wearing a mask so please do follow the rules for everyone's benefit.

Quick Tips for Visiting Amsterdam & Social Distancing

Below is a summary of my best top tips for making the most out of your Amsterdam visit during these times of social distancing and other restrictions so that you can stay safe, keep others safe AND also enjoy the city.

  • Keep an eye on the following web pages to keep informed about social distancing requirements in Amsterdam, general information about visiting the city at this time, and this page for understanding the country's latest travel rules and restrictions. If you are also interested, you can keep up to date about the situation with number of Covid-19 cases in the Netherlands, and here is where you can find a wealth of information in English about the situation from a number of angles.
  • Please do not travel to Amsterdam unless you have an urgent and essential reason. The number of cases in Amsterdam are high and not under complete control (as of November 2020) and we are in a partial lockdown that will last at least until the end of the year.
  • Please definitely do not travel if you have Covid-19, have symptoms, or have been in close contact with someone who has Covid-19 or has symptoms.
  • It is not permitted to have gatherings inside of more than three adults at a personal residence within a 24 hour period. This is unlikely to apply to tourists and visitors to Amsterdam, but it's worth knowing in case you are going to be visiting Amsterdam residents. This rule only applies to personal residences.
  • Masks are obligatory on public transport, including trains, trams, buses and taxis. You may be fined if you do not wear a mask when asked to do so. This rule does not apply to children under 12.
  • Masks will be obligatory elsewhere in public in due course. The government are working on making this law as I type (13th October 2020) so you should treat this as law already.
  • Wear a mask! Even in places where there are no rules on masks, I would still say you should consider it good practice to wear one. I have already been wearing a mask in busier areas of Amsterdam and in shops and supermarkets, and I'm not alone. Please just make sure you have a mask with you when you visit Amsterdam.
  • Restaurants, cafes, bars and coffeeshops are all closed for seated customers, including their outside terrace areas. Some will stay open for take-away service only, but you should check in advance before going to ensure you can get what you want. Wearing a mask when ordering will be obligatory in most places.
  • Most other shops and supermarkets have to close at 20:00 (8pm) so keep this in mind if you're planning on doing any food shopping later than this. The sale of alcohol after 20:00 is also prohibited.
  • Wash your hands and use hand sanitiser. These are fairly well stocked in most shops in Amsterdam so you can easily get some here if you need it. No need to panic buy before or after, but travelling with a mask, hand sanitizer and some soap is good practise these days.

  • Check your travel insurance is valid to travel to Amsterdam at this time. I am no expert on travel insurance but I have heard many horror stories of trips being cancelled and this causing lots of problems with getting refunds and money back on bookings.
  • 1.5 metres is the magic number! "Anderhalve meter!" is what everyone has been shouting at each other this year and it means 1.5 metres so don't be alarmed if someone says it to you.
  • Stay outside as much as possible. The research continues to show that the virus does not spread as easily if you are outside and trusting the weather is good, this can easily be done in Amsterdam.  The good news is that there are lots of things to do outside in Amsterdam, many of which are free (you can check out over 100 free things to do in Amsterdam here) and check out my list of the best Amsterdam parks and outdoor spaces here, many of which are still worth visiting and exploring in autumn and winter.
  • Avoid busy or crowded places indoors (and out!). It also follows that you should avoid crowded places as much as possible for your own benefit and that of other people. 
  • Places will close if there is an outbreak. Amsterdam's local council will close down places when an outbreak of infections has been found to originated there. This may affect your plans and what you want to do in Amsterdam so be aware of this.
  • If you think you have Covid-19 while visiting Amsterdam, self-isolate and get in touch with a doctor and/or the testing team. More information and contact numbers can be found here.
  • Call 112 if you need emergency assistance. This is the number for police, fire and ambulance. Do not use this number if you think you have Covid-19 unless it is a life-threatening situation.

And that's it. If things change I will do my best to update this post as quickly as possible, and if there's something I haven't answered please mention it in the comments.

Frances M. Thompson

Londoner turned wanderer, Frankie is an author, freelance writer and blogger. Currently based in Amsterdam, Frankie was nomadic for two years before starting a family with her Australian partner. Frankie is the author of three short story collections, and is a freelance writer for travel and creative brands. In 2017, she launched WriteNOW Cards, affirmation cards for writers that help build a productive and positive writing practice. When not writing contemporary fiction, Frankie shops for vintage clothes, dances to 70s disco music and chases her two young sons around Amsterdam.
Find Frankie on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+.

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