I have been living in Amsterdam for the last few years and since then I have determined a foolproof list of Amsterdam travel tips that every visitor of the city should know. Many people plan a trip to Amsterdam without knowing the most important Amsterdam tips that you need to know about the city. This can ultimately lead to problems during the stay.
There is no way to guarantee a smooth trip to Amsterdam, but with these Amsterdam tips for travelers, you can come as prepared as you could ever be! Be sure to follow these tips during your visit to Amsterdam and prepare yourself for a wonderful visit to the magical city of Amsterdam.
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In This Post
Best time to visit Amsterdam
Amsterdam is a great city to visit all year long. Each season comes with its own unique pros and cons and choosing the best time to visit Amsterdam really depends on what you value as a tourist.
- Spring – Spring in Amsterdam lasts for the months of March to May. This is a wonderful time to visit Amsterdam because during the spring the weather starts to get warmer and there are some really exciting events taking place. The spring is usually less busy than the summer and in April the legendary tulips are in full bloom.
- Summer – The summer months of June – August welcome warmer temperatures blooming flowers in great conditions for biking. However, this is the time when Amsterdam is the most full of tourists.
- Fall – Fall in Amsterdam is cozy and romantic. From September to November, the weather gets a little bit cooler and there are fewer tourists in the streets.
- Winter – Winter in Amsterdam is quite rainy and chilly. From December to February it rains almost every day but this creates a very cozy environment. The temperatures are around 0 to 5 degrees which means there are very few tourists in the city.
Amsterdam Packing Essentials
Here are some things you must pack when planning a trip to Amsterdam.
Amsterdam is an extremely rainy city and the weather is very unpredictable. This is why having an umbrella with you at all times is a must.
Amsterdam is the type of city you will be doing a lot of walking in and if your shoes aren’t comfortable you will have a very unpleasant time walking around.
The tap water in Amsterdam is drinkable and restaurants only give out tiny glasses of tap water (if that) and having your own water bottle can be a life saver.
The plugs in Amsterdam are the same as other European countries with the two-cylinder prongs. Be sure to get some adapters before you arrive to avoid panicking that you can’t charge your electronics.
Where to stay in Amsterdam
Amsterdam is a relatively small city but it does have some very diverse neighborhoods within it. Each of these neighborhoods has its own distinct offerings and special attributes and choosing the right one for you is imperative. I have created a complete guide on where to stay in Amsterdam that will give you the down-low on each neighborhood and who they are best for. Click here to read the guide “The best place to stay in Amsterdam”. And use these Amsterdam tips to base where you stay in the city.
Amsterdam Travel Tips – Amsterdam Tips
Book Accommodation in Advance
Amsterdam is a very popular city to visit. People from all around the world flock to Amsterdam to view all the beauty, absorb the culture, and experience the magic. As a result, Accommodation in Amsterdam fills up very quickly, and booking far in advance is essential for finding a place you want and getting a good price.
Recently, The city of Amsterdam has also cracked down on Airbnb where by law hosts can only promote their accommodation for one month during the whole year. This was done to help control the number of tourists entering the country but as a result, has significantly decreased the amount of accommodation left for visitors.
Visit during the weekdays
As mentioned, Amsterdam is a very popular tourist destination, and its popularity increases on the weekends. If you want to visit the stunning city with fewer tourists walking around then I highly suggest visiting on the weekdays instead of the weekend. In addition to fewer people, prices for accommodation are also lower during the weekdays. This may seem like an obvious Amsterdam tip, but one many ignore.
Train from the Airport to the City Center
How to get from the airport to the city center!
Many people make the mistake of ordering an Uber or taking a taxi from the airport to the city center when this is not the best way. From the airport, there are trains that run to various places all over Amsterdam all day.
Most people arrive at the airport and immediately want to head to the city center and think the quickest way is to grab a taxi. When in fact, taking a train right from the airport straight to the city center will only take about 15 minutes. This is not only the quickest way to get from the airport to the city center but also the cheapest.
Get a GVB or Public transport card
If you are planning to take public transportation to get around Amsterdam a GVB card or public transportation card is a must. A GVB card – or OV -Chipcaart – is a reusable transportation card that appears almost like a personal ID card. To get an OV card you must go to a counter within specific metro stops and ask to buy one from the counter. Click here for more information on this option. Once you get the card you have to add money onto it in order to ride transportation.
However, you can also opt for one of the cities public transportation cards listed below. These also need to be picked up at a counter in a station. With this, you are able to access all of the city’s trams buses and metros with just one reusable card.
You can also get the IAmsterdam card – which I mention in tip number 6.
Make sure you check-in and check out from public transportation
Amsterdam has a very unique public transportation system that requires everyone to tap their card when they enter the tram, bus, or metro, and when they exit. Both Checking in and checking out are essential because the price of your trip is determined by how far you’ve traveled and by checking out you stop the card from charging you for more distance. You also get a fine if you forget to check out that will get automatically put on your card.
Get an IAmsterdam Card
If you are planning on going to a lot of different museums and attractions within Amsterdam then getting an Iamsterdam card is something I highly recommend. The Iamsterdam card gives you access to over 60 different museums and attractions within the city all for one set price. There are so many advantages to the Iamsterdam card; some being that you can access iconic dutch places like cheese museums and the diamond museum, plus you get free public transport and a free canal cruise. You get these perks plus many more!
This is one of the most valuable Amsterdam travel tips that can save you a lot of money in the long run!
Rent a bike & Follow the Rules
Amsterdam is a city with more bikes than people and renting a bike while you’re visiting is almost like a right of passage. Biking is the cheapest and most efficient way to get around the city but also one of the most fun. I always encourage people to rent a bike when they visit Amsterdam to try to immerse themselves in the city’s prominent biking culture and experience the ways of the Dutch.
However, renting a bike and biking around Amsterdam is no easy feat. There are quite a few rules and the residents of Amsterdam are not very patient when it comes to tourists getting in the way and not following these rules. If you are feeling nervous and anxious about renting a bike I suggest you don’t do it. It can be quite dangerous and I never want someone to get hurt in order to just immerse yourself in a culture. There are plenty of other ways to feel like an Amsterdam resident and biking is not the only way.
A great Amsterdam tip for travelers is to try biking in a park first. A great option for this is Vondelpark which has huge paths and lots of space to get comfortable before you try out the roads.
Tipping in Amsterdam
Unlike North America, tipping is not required in Amsterdam. Workers at restaurants and cafés get a very reasonable wage and therefore giving a tip is not a requirement. However, If you are very pleased with the service you can always give a small tip of around 10%. Just beware that the service is a little bit different in Amsterdam as the waiters are a lot more relaxed and they won’t be waiting on your hand and foot like North American service. So as a rule of thumb give an Amsterdam tip of around 10% or round up to the nearest amount.
Drugs aren’t legal
Before we get into the topic of the highly sought after coffee shops in Amsterdam it is important to know a few things about drug sales in the Netherlands. To clear up a common misconception, soft drugs, like cannabis and hallucinogenic mushrooms, are tolerated but not legal. When these soft drugs are used for personal use and in small moderation is the only time they are tolerated. However, hard drugs are completely forbidden by law in all circumstances.
Watch out for cyclists
While biking AND walking around you need to make sure you are always looking out for cyclists. On every street and around every corner there is most likely a bike path with a cyclist coming down it at top speeds. You have to make sure you’re always aware with your eyes and ears wide open to look out for yourself. Most locals are constantly on the lookout for tourists to wander onto the bike path and are ready to ring their bell or stop at a moment’s notice. However, some of the cyclists are tourists like yourself, and new bikers don’t have the quick reflexes to move and not hit you.
Cafes & Coffeeshops are Different
There is a very common mistake in Amsterdam of thinking cafés and coffeeshops are the same thing. While in Amsterdam a coffee shop is a place where marijuana is sold in stores and can be bought and smoked in restaurant type places. Amsterdam Coffeeshops have menus of different types of marijuana you can buy which is sold in a controlled environment. Whereas cafés or coffee shops (there is a very important space between coffee and shop) are places where you can get coffee, tea, and sweets.
Don’t take photos of Red Light Windows
Visitors of Amsterdam love to go to the very famous Red Light district of the city to see and experience this very unique area. Although it is very cool and unlike anything you’ve probably ever seen before it is not OK to take photos of any of the women in the windows in the Red Light District. This is not only incredibly disrespectful but it could put you in danger as women have been known to exit their windows and take people’s phones and throw them in the canals. This is an Amsterdam tip everyone should have ingrained in their head.
Respect the locals
Amsterdam is a very popular city for bachelorette parties, bachelor parties, and all-around party celebrations. This means that a lot of people are going out drinking and staying out late when they visit Amsterdam. This is fine until it becomes early in the morning and people are yelling on the streets. This is just one example of a way that you can disrespect the locals who are living in the houses along the canals. But there are many other ways that you should work towards not being disrespectful such as not littering, avoid taking photos directly too close to someone’s home, etc. This is one of the more obvious Amsterdam travel tips but respect from locals is important and you want to show how respectful your home country is when in a different country.
Venture outside the canal ring
A lot of tourists get very excited when visiting Amsterdam and end up spending all of their time within the main city center core of Amsterdam. The core of Amsterdam is beautiful and there is a ton to see but there is so much more to the city of Amsterdam beyond the main canal ring. I urge you to venture a little more outside of the city center where you’ll find it just as beautiful but with far fewer people and a little more of an authentic side to the city.
Tap Water Is Safe to Drink
Tapwater is completely safe to drink in Amsterdam. Restaurants are quite skimpy on giving out free water so you have to be sure to ask for tap water if you want to drink water for free. Since the tap water is safe you should bring a reusable water bottle and fill it up with the tap water before your day out to save some money.
Have cash on you at all times
Having cash on you at all times is something I really suggest because you never really know what types of cards or payment stores and restaurants will accept in Amsterdam. Some places only accept Dutch debit cards while others only accept Visa cards and others only accept cash. Therefore, be sure you have cash in your all time because this is one of the safest forms of payment to carry and can always save you in a time of need.
Visit other cities in the Netherlands
Although the Netherlands is a small country there is so much more to see in it than just Amsterdam. If you have a little bit of time to spare taking a train to a nearby city to view a different side of the stunning country is something I urge everyone to do. If you are looking for some great inspiration read this post for the best day trips from Amsterdam.
Bring an Umbrella
Amsterdam is a very rainy city that can turn from sunny to rainy shockingly quickly. If you are visiting in the winter season it is extra rainy so bringing an umbrella is essential and you should also consider bringing a raincoat and water-resistant shoes. This is one of the most important Amsterdam travel tips that will save you a lot of cold days and searching in the city for rain gear. Discover the best things to do in Amsterdam on a rainy day!
Tulips only bloom in April and May
Unfortunately, Amsterdam isn’t blessed with lush tulip fields for the whole entire year. In fact, the only time where and Amsterdam has tulip fields is from late March to early May. Therefore if you were traveling to Amsterdam to see the tulip fields then you should be coming during these months. But if the tulip fields are not at the top of your list and you just want to see some type of flowers in Amsterdam there are still plenty of ways to do so.
Keep ID on you at all times
It’s actually illegal in Amsterdam to not carry ID on you at all times. At any time the police can pull you over and ask to see your ID and if you don’t have it you can get a fine. Of course, no one wants this so I suggest you carry a piece of ID on you at all times. Perhaps not your passport but a driver’s license or a health card that is a valid government-issued ID piece.
These Amsterdam travel tips are just some basic guidelines that you should know before your visit to Amsterdam and during your visit to Amsterdam. Follow these Amsterdam tips and your visit to the stunning city will be nothing short of perfect.
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Sandra // BlueMarble Vagabonds says
Oh, we should be in Amsterdam right now – to visit friends and see Tulips of course 🙂 Hopefully next year it will be possible!