Amsterdam Travel in 2020 - Social Distancing, Rules & Tips

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

As Amsterdam opens up to visitors again, I thought it would be useful to summarise some of the things you CAN and CANNOT do in the summer of 2020 in Amsterdam, and most likely beyond in autumn and winter of 2020 too, in relation to social distancing and restrictions relating to Covid-19 (Coronavirus). 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 because if they show an increase there is a greater chance travel restrictions will be reintroduced in coming weeks.
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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 update for what are the social distancing requirements as of 1st July 2020. Secondly, you should also look at the national tourist board's information which is kept updated daily 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.

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Can I Travel to Amsterdam in Summer 2020?

As it currently stands (July 2020), Amsterdam is open to tourists from EU/EEC countries, and the UK, as well as an additional 15 countries (see full list here - you'll have to scroll down a little to find it).

While the months of March and April were very quiet in terms of visitors (and Amsterdam's streets were eerily empty most days - even in the centre of the city), in May and in June I already started to see tourists back in the city, and as of now (July 2020) there's a definite noticeable increase in non-residents being here and moving around Amsterdam visiting places.

Needless to say, but I'm going to write it in caps and bold 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 summer 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.

Getting to Amsterdam in Summer 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 (Summer 2020)?

Nearly everything is open for business again in Amsterdam (as of 1st July 2020) BUT there are some restrictions and exceptions to know about.

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.

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, restaurants, bars, cafes, museums, attractions and all other public spaces, including parks and playgrounds. This does not extend to children aged 12 and under.
While restaurants, bars, cafes and even Amsterdam's famous coffeeshops are all open they are obliged to ensure customers keep 1.5 metre distance, most will only take reservations (especially for meals), and many are asking if you have symptoms before you sit down to eat or drink. On my recent Black Heritage Tour of Amsterdam, we also saw some visitors going in to a coffeeshop having their body temperature taken on entry.

UPDATE: In mid-July Amsterdam authorities announced they were introducing a ban on the sale of alcohol from shops in the Red Light District from Thursday at 16:00 until Sunday at midnight. You can still purchase alcoholic drinks in bars and restaurants but will not be able to buy beer, wine, spirits or other alcoholic drinks from supermarkets or other shops during this time. To date this ban is in place until 1st September 2020.

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 (Summer 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.

You can find a full list of the Netherlands' updated social distancing requirements (as of July 2020) here.

Do I Need to Wear a Mask in Amsterdam?

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

As of 5th August 2020 people in Amsterdam are obliged to wear masks when out walking on certain busy streets or inside a shop in a busy area in Amsterdam. These areas include the Red Light District, Kalverstraat, Nieuwendijk and on Albert Cuypstraat (home to Albert Cuypmarkt). It's possible other streets and areas will be included in this list.

In other parts of Amsterdam, and in restaurants, cafes, bars and in museums, wearing a mask is not required. One easy way to think about it is if you cannot maintain 1.5 metre distance, you should be wearing a mask.

Masks are already required to be worn on public transport (including trams, trains, buses and in cerain 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 Museums, Tours & Attractions Summer 2020

As mentioned above, you will need to book tickets for museums and attractions in Amsterdam this summer. 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.

I never normally consider summer the best time to visit Amsterdam because it can be so busy, but I think this year, it's going to be a bit different.

Public Transport in Amsterdam (in Summer 2020)

As of July 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 if you have Covid-19, have symptoms, or have been in close contact with someone who has Covid-19 or has symptoms.
  • 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 are obligatory in certain busy areas of Amsterdam. As of 5th August 2020, it is obligatory to wear a mask on certain busy streets in Amsterdam, and inside shops in these areas. As stated above you will also need one if you plan on using public transport. Again this applies to anybody aged 13 and over.
  • Wear a mask anyway! While masks are not required in restaurants, cafes, museums and in other less busy parts of Amsterdam, 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.
  • 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.

  • Book ALL your attractions, museums, tours and restaurants in advance. This is essential to ensure you see what you want to and eat where you want to.
  • 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 in the summer.  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 of course, summer is the best time to be outside so do look at the outdoor things to do in Amsterdam in summer here.
  • 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. Just because Amsterdam has a number of social distancing rules in place, it doesn't sadly mean everyone is adhering to them, but I would like to think that visitors will be sticking to them. 
  • 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 putting down some roots with her Australian partner and having a baby boy in July 2015. 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 son around Amsterdam.
Find Frankie on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+.

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