Amsterdam is laid out in concentric semi-circles of canals (grachten) radiating from a central point near the central train station. The IJ (pron eye), originally a bay, now a canal which runs out the the north sea, forms a northern barrier; its banks are covered mostly with office buildings and light industry.
Amsterdam's center is fairly small and almost abnormally flat; you easily can get to most tourist destinations on foot from the train station within a half an hour. A pleasant way to cover a lot of ground is to rent a bicycle. The city is very, very bike-friendly, and separate bike lanes line most major streets. Visitors still must be very careful, and if on bike, especially of other bicyclists. Bike rental shops abound near the train station and the Leidseplein, and cost about €15-20 per day. Make sure to get a good lock, and to use it; Amsterdam's high population of bike-lovers is preyed upon by a high population of bike-thieves. Note also that if buying a bike, prices that seem too good to be true may be stolen bikes.
MacBike Bicycle Rental
Perhaps the most ubiquitous bicycle rental agency in Amsterdam, their bicycles are painted red with a MacBike sign on the front, everyone will know you're visiting. The bicycles are reliable, and in very good condition. Multiple locations around the city centre for assistance or repairs. Online bicycle reservations at their website. http://www.macbike.nl
Amsterdam's public transport system, operated by the GVB (Gemeentevervoerbedrijf (http://www.gvb.nl/engels/default.htm)), consists of sixteen tram lines, four metro lines, with a short underground stretch in the centre of the city and dozens of bus routes. Tram and bus stops in the centre all have detailed maps which make it very simple to navigate. The standard ticket for use on all these modes of transport is the strippenkaart, which must be purchased prior to boarding a vehicle. They are available from machines in the metro and railway stations, from the GVB office opposite Centraal stations and from supermarkets, newsagents and tobacconists. This ticket consists of a number of strips, which must be stamped in a validator prior to entering the metro, or by the driver or conductor when boarding a tram or bus. Travel through a single zone costs two strips; two zones cost three strips and so forth. Typically tourists will only be travelling through the central zone, unless they plan on visiting outer areas. Alernatively, you can get a 24, 48 or 72 hour all zones bus/rail/tram pass for a reasonable price (€10 for 48 hr), and less hassle. Don't forget to stamp it before your first journey. Strippenkaarten are also valid for use on NS trains, but only within Amsterdam. They are not valid for trips to Schiphol airport. Trams can be boarded either via the front or rear doors, and passengers alight through the centre doors. Most trams these days have conductors at the rear, although there are still two or three lines without them. Enter buses only via the front door. There is a free ferry service across the IJ river, to Amsterdam North, running every six minutes. It leaves from opposite the northern entrance to Centraal Station. The best way to get there is to walk through Central Station and out the back entrance. You will see the ferries just across the road.
Using a car in central Amsterdam is something of a pain. Many of the streets are narrow, the traffic signs are baroque and obscure, and bicyclists and pedestrians walk in the middle of the road. You can try parking at one of the secured parkinggarage's, for example the one under the Museumplein or near the Central Station and then walk around the city center or use a tram. Car parking is very expensive in Amsterdam and it's often hard to find a place to park. You can choose to pay by the hour or for the whole day.