How long of a layover do you need in Amsterdam without it being scary?

How long of a layover do you need in Amsterdam without it being scary?

If you fly to / through / around Europe long enough, chances are really good that you’ll end up with a tight connection at the Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam at some point. How long of a layover do you really need in Amsterdam anyway?

  • In my experience, intra-European (Schengen to Schengen) connections can be made in as little as 40 minutes.
  • You’re going to need at least an hour and 10 minutes to make a connection to a non-Schengen country (pretty much anywhere outside of Europe).

Despite how complicated the Amsterdam Airport may seem, it’s actually fairly simple and easy to navigate. Don’t worry. You got this!

The reason why short layovers are ok in Amsterdam (most of the time)

There are two very good reasons why short layovers in Amsterdam are relatively easy to manage:

  1. It’s an airport designed and built from the ground up to make connections (to points all over the world) as simple as possible. AMS is one of the most efficient airports I’ve ever been to – which is saying a lot considering that I don’t speak a lick of Dutch.
  2. It’s an extremely simple airport design. There’s only one terminal building, and walking between all concourses is fast and easy. Assuming you won’t have to go through any security checkpoints to reach your connecting gate, it’s possible to walk from one end of the airport to the other in under 20 minutes.

The bottom line is that they have really nailed the passenger experience at the Schiphol Airport. Everything just makes sense, and every connection that I have ever had there has been as smooth as butter.

SANspotter short layover Amsterdam airport
Look. If an idiot like me can get through the Amsterdam Airport in a short amount of time, anybody can! Now if I can only find the toilets…

What is the minimum layover time needed for connecting flights in Amsterdam?

The amount of time that you lead for a layover in Amsterdam will dependent tirely on where you are flying to. Basically, the airport is separated into two separate zones (Schengen and non-Schengen).

If you’re flying to another European destination, you will be confined to one part. If you’re flying to anywhere else, you’ll be confined to another. Don’t worry. It’ll be perfectly obvious where you need to go once you arrive. And if by chance you can’t stop worrying (I totally get it), do be sure to check out my post about having to go through customs for a connecting flight in Europe. It’ll explain everything.

Connecting to Schengen flights

Layovers for one Schengen flight to another Schengen flight in Amsterdam can be as low as 40 minutes. I actually did it in 35 minutes once, but that was a wee-bit tight. 40 minutes is a safer amount of time. FYI, the reason why such short layovers are possible is because you won’t need to go through any additional security checks.

Note: Passengers arriving from the US to Schengen destination will have to go through passport control (but not security). In that case, 50 minutes is a safe amount of time – although it’s entirely possible to do it in less time than that.

Connecting to Non-Schengen flights

Layovers from a non-Schengen flight to another non-Schengen flight in Amsterdam can be as low as 45 minutes. An example of this would be flying from Canada to South Africa with a connection at AMS. This type of layover doesn’t require going through passport control, so in most cases, you’ll be able to go directly from one plane to another.

EasyJet gate Amsterdam airport
Throwback to my EasyJet A320 review (the one where I first proclaimed my love for the Amsterdam Airport).

A brief overview of the terminal layout at the Amsterdam Schiphol Airport

As I’ve already mentioned, the Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam is a refreshingly efficient change of pace from other major hub airports. Yes, it is intimidatingly large. But once you arrive you will see that it makes total sense (and that everything is laid out in the most efficient way possible).

There is one large interconnected building with 6 individual concourses at AMS. There are no inter-terminal trains or transfer buses to worry about. You can walk everywhere you need to go.

AMS terminal map
The lack of symmetry in the AMS terminal map is driving my OCD bonkers (as does the lack of Concourse A), but I’m willing to let it slide considering that all concourses are connected.

It’s worth noting that there are some remote gates at the Amsterdam airport (meaning that you’ll have to get on a bus to reach your aircraft). This won’t affect how you move through the airport however. If your flight is assigned to a remote gate, you’ll still have a physical gate area to wait at inside the airport. Like I said – it’s extremely efficient and easy!

Walking time between all terminals at AMS

Assuming that you don’t have to pass through any additional security checks or passport control, it’s possible to walk from one end of AMS to the other in about 15 minutes at a brisk pace. At a more leisurely “no f***s given” pace, it’ll probably take 25.

Here are my personal time estimates for walking between all terminals at the Amsterdam Airport at a normal pace:

Concourse B to:

  • Concourse C: 4 minutes
  • Concourse D: 8 minutes
  • Concourse E: 12 minutes
  • Concourse F: 16 minutes
  • Concourse G: 20 minutes

Concourse C to:

  • Concourse B: 4 minutes
  • Concourse D: 4 minutes
  • Concourse E: 8 minutes
  • Concourse F: 12 minutes
  • Concourse G: 16 minutes

Concourse D to:

  • Concourse B: 8 minutes
  • Concourse C: 4 minutes
  • Concourse E: 4 minutes
  • Concourse F: 8 minutes
  • Concourse G: 12 minutes

Concourse E to:

  • Concourse B: 12 minutes
  • Concourse C: 8 minutes
  • Concourse D: 4 minutes
  • Concourse F: 4 minutes
  • Concourse G: 8 minutes

Concourse F to:

  • Concourse B: 16 minutes
  • Concourse C: 12 minutes
  • Concourse D:8 minutes
  • Concourse E: 4 minutes
  • Concourse G: 4 minutes

Concourse G to:

  • Concourse B: 20 minutes
  • Concourse C: 16 minutes
  • Concourse D:12 minutes
  • Concourse E: 8 minutes
  • Concourse F: 4 minutes

It’s worth noting that there are very few instances where you’ll ever be able to walk unrestricted from one end of the airport to the other. As I mentioned earlier, the Amsterdam Airport is broken up into separate zones (Schengen vs non-Schengen). It’s not possible to walk from one to the other without going through passport control at some point.

Amsterdam airport moving walkways
If walking sounds like too much work, take advantage of the moving walkways. I won’t judge you for it.

How long of a layover do you need in Amsterdam for a no-stress connection?

Based on my experience making connections in Amsterdam, a layover of 2 hours would the perfect amount of time. The most significant thing about that statement is that it’s 2 hours is for any type of connection (Schengen or non-Schengen).

This is such an efficient airport to make transfers at, so it doesn’t really matter what type of transfer it is. It’s always going to be fast! I can’t think of any other airport in the world I can say that about.

KLM 787-800 at AMS airport
The fact that I had enough time to stop and take this pic in the midst of a 35-minute layover at AMS tells you everything that you need to know about how quick and easy connections can be made at this airport. I even had time to use the bathroom (but I’ll spare you the details of that little pit stop).

It’s also worth noting that long layovers (over 2 hours) are very enjoyable at AMS. Not only are there many great restaurants and shops to occupy your time, the KLM Crown Lounge is a fantastic place to get some rest between flights.

Tips for making really short layovers at the Amsterdam Airport

I know the feeling of being worried about a short layover in Amsterdam. I once had a KLM flight from Warsaw to Madrid that left me with a 35 minute connection at AMS after a delay getting out of Warsaw (you can watch the video here). All the panicking I did was pointless. I made my connecting flight to Madrid with plenty of time to spare.

More importantly, I learned a lot from that experience! There are several things you can do to help ease the stress of a short layover at AMS:

  • First of all, relax! as I’ve mentioned several times already, the Schiphol Airport is one of the most efficient in all the world (if not the most efficient). It’s a facility built from the ground up to move people through it as quickly and as frictionless as possible.
  • Make every effort possible to get your boarding pass for your connecting flight before you arrive. Having to stop at the transfer desk to pick up your boarding pass is going to add lots of time.
  • Choosing a seat near the front of the aircraft on your inbound flight can save you a lot of time (as you’ll be one of the first off the aircraft when you arrive in Amsterdam). If you’ve got a tight connection, it’s probably worth paying extra for a seat near the front.
  • Don’t worry about getting something to eat in the airport between flights. Decent (somewhat substantial) snacks are still a thing on most European airlines, so you can eat on the plane.

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