Dutch Language Blog

6 things you need to know about Schiphol airport Posted by on Aug 23, 2015 in Uncategorized

It was travel time again for me – and I left from Schiphol, the largest luchthaven (airport) of the Netherlands. With almost 55 million passengers only last year, it is the fourth busiest luchthavens of Europe – quite impressive for a small country like the Netherlands! Here are 6 things you should definitely know the next time you fly through this airport – either for a transfer flight, or for your stay in the Netherlands.

1. Its big, big size
The luchthaven boasts six air strips, and alltogether is built on over 2,787 hectares – that is more than 6800 acres! Schiphol itself employs over 64,000 people, and employs through all its activities more than 200,000 people all over the Netherlands.

Travelers on their way to their flight!

Travelers on their way to their flight!

2. Its airport code

Schiphol’s airport code is AMS, which comes from Amsterdam, as Schiphol is Amsterdam’s luchthaven, and the city’s only commercial and international luchthaven. Comparable to La Guardia being a luchthaven for New York City. However, because it is the only commercial airport of Amsterdam, Schiphol is referred to as Luchthaven Amsterdam as well.

Yummy Dutch food you can try and buy!

Yummy Dutch food you can try and buy!

3. The origin of its name
So why is this luchthaven called Schiphol, if it is all about airplanes? Schiphol literally means “Ship Hole”. There is, as with most place names in the Netherlands, some history involved.

The name “Scipholl” already appeared in 1447. It can mean different things. The area around Schiphol is referred to in most cases. One theory is that ships could go here in emergencies, as a safe haven: that this area is a “ship hall” which then later would have mutated to Schiphol. Another area is quite the opposite: ships would sink here at a high rate, and it is therefore a Schiphol, where hol refers to an old Dutch word for graf (grave) – so Schiphol then means “ship grave”. Related to this is a third theory that says the area was a scheeps-hel, a “ship hell”, where many naval disasters happened.

Yet another theory has nothing to do with ships. Scip is an old Gothic word for wood. Schiphol would be a place to get (in Dutch: halen) wood. So Scip-haal or “wood-get”. Though I think the ship theories are more likely – they are more adventurous!

Grabbing a bite on the way - good, but to an airport price, of course!

Grabbing a bite on the way – good, but to an airport price, of course!

4. NO chewing gum for sale ANYWHERE in the airport

This one shocked me when I found out – nowhere at Schiphol you can buy chewing gum. It was quite a bummer for me, because I use chewing gum for start and landing, to keep the pressure steady. I once had huge issues with the normal swallowing and yawning, so better safe than sorry. Available at the airport for this purpose are so-called chewmints (see picture), which do the job. Though I prefer gum.

I asked why no gum was on sale, and the salesperson told me that there was chewing gum all over the airport, and banning chewing gum was the solution. I don’t know what the airport looked like before, but now it looked very clean. Maybe it worked?

Apparently, for smokers, nicotine chewing gum is available. And that sells extremely well.

But anyways, best bring your own gum!!!

Chewmints - the replacement for gum if you need it for start and landing.

Chewmints – the replacement for gum if you need it for start and landing.

5. It is not all flying…

Because of the size of the airport, it can take quite long to get to your gate. Though there are the conveyors, that can get you there quicker.

Previously, Schiphol  had security checks at each gate, which made the whole process even slower. They introduced one central security check now, which is a modern, fast system. I like that very much!

When you arrive at the airport, it can take quite a while to get from the strip to the terminal – up to 30 minutes! This is because of space issues (when do those not exist in the Netherlands…) and again, because of the aiport’s sheer size. So when you land on Schiphol, you are not quite there yet!

Starbucks is everywhere - also at Schiphol.

Starbucks is everywhere – also at Schiphol.

6. Awesomely connected

From Schiphol, you can get anywhere in the Netherlands very easily. Underneath the arrival hall is the train station that connects to the very well connected Dutch train net. Also, outside the airport, you can find buses for destinations close by (the major cities in the Netherlands are all very close by – within an hour you can reach Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht and Amsterdam). Taxis are ready to bring you to other destinations, and you can of course rent a bike! Schiphol can be reached easily by bike, and there is even a bike route around the airport, so you can really fathom its size.

Dutch goodies from here and there - Delftsblauw is available too.

Dutch goodies from here and there – Delftsblauw is available too.

Have you ever flown from Schiphol? How do you like the airport?

How are the airports in your country?

Goede vlucht toegewenst!!!


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About the Author: Sten

Hi! I am Sten, both Dutch and German. For many years, I've written for the German and the Dutch blogs with a passion for everything related to language and culture. It's fascinating to reflect on my own culture, and in the process allow our readers to learn more about it! Besides blogging, I am a German-Dutch-English translator, animator and filmmaker.


  1. Charlie:

    Schiphol had a horrible chewing-gum problem and spent a lot of time cleaning up the mess left by gum users. You would see the cleaning machines in operation in the plaza and in the areas outside ( ie leading to the World Trade Centre etc ). It was disgusting.

    I haven’t experienced issues in the last couple of years, but I don’t have a gum habit, so no idea if not sold.

    You don’t need to rent a bike, there are free bikes available outside ..Just walk past the Sheraton to see them. You need to “book” using your phone and an SMS/text/QR scan

  2. Anja Wing-Tettero:

    I grew up in Wassenaar and as a child we would go to the airport to “watch planes” – and have some “chocomel” – my first job was with KLM and I’ve watched Schiphol grow over the years. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes especially flying international since it’s quite a walk from the gate to the arrival hall.

  3. Bill (Papa Van Twee):

    While I am an American, and thus prone to park as close as possible to the entrance of the store, I still love Schiphol simply because of the long walk. I have either just gotten off an 8 hour flight, or about ready to get on one, So I don’t mind the walk.

    Here in the US, we have a lot of sprawling airports. Chicago O’Hare is one of the biggest, so big that terminal 5 (International) can only be reached by train from the others. I’ve spent the most time flying out of this airport, mostly just in Terminal 5. Not a ton of walking, because of the trains.

    Atlanta is just 4 smaller terminals with underground walkway/rail between them. I walked instead of took the train, and actually kept up, so unless you can’t walk, why take the train?

    Dallas Ft. Worth (DFW) has a rail system on it’s roof.

    I hate Philly with a passion.

    Indianapolis just got a new airport, and it is nice and simple, good looking. Two terminals that join into one big central meeting room with food/stores. And you can look at airplanes coming into the middle of both terminals through a huge glass wall.

  4. Daniel Dost:

    I visit the Netherlands frequently and have to land at the Schiphol. So these information is good to have for me.

    Thank you for these article.

  5. Frank:

    Do not try the toilets.
    Insufficient capacity, waiting lines, and dirty. Mongolia is better than this

    • Sten:

      @Frank Oh? I have different experiences at Schiphol. A shame you had such bad experience!

    • Janet:

      @Frank They have beautiful new toilets at schiphol. Very high spec. More like a 4 star hotel.
      In 18 yrs I have never seen a “bad toilet” in Schiphol.