Amsterdam Travel Tips
Keep in Mind...
- Red Light District photo opps are a no-no Bouncers and police have been known to confiscate cameras -- and even toss them into the canal.
- Amsterdam has great pancakes Not only are they great, they're varied -- savory or sweet, cheese or meat-stuffed, jam or fruit-topped, and on and on and on.
- Amsterdam is kid friendly Despite its penchant for adult entertainment, the 'Dam has numerous kid-centric attractions like the science center NEMO, the Zandvoort beach and the Anne Frank House.
Don't believe everything you hear about Amsterdam. Yes, this Netherlands city takes a lax look at women beckoning business in the Red Light District and "coffeeshops" selling an unorthodox type of herb to a toking clientele, but these descriptions only scratch the surface. At some point, during an excellent Indonesian meal, a twilight canal-side rambling or a shopping excursion through the boutiques of Nine Streets, you'll realize -- as many travelers have before you -- that there's much more to Amsterdam than you might've thought.
And although the city's loose laws on vice seem to attract a college-age, male-dominant crowd, Amsterdam is also ideal as a romantic getaway for two or an educational excursion with the kids. With attractions that range from biking or meandering a maze of canals to remembering the Holocaust through the eyes of Anne Frank; from exploring the swirling Expressionism of Van Gogh to lazing in the expansive Vondelpark, Amsterdam suits a variety of traveler tastes.
How To Save Money in Amsterdam
- Purchase an "I Amsterdam" card This little piece of plastic allows you free use of all GVB public transportation, free entrance to more than 40 museums and a free canal cruise, among other perks. The catch? You buy your card for 24, 36 or 72 hours and can only access the deals within those time periods.
- Do the heel-toe step Walking rather than taking taxis or public transportation will cut down on costs. And this small city is immensely walkable; just leave a wide berth between you and the serious cyclers on the bike lanes.
- Visit in winter Invest in a cozy coat, and come to Amsterdam in the winter, where the slashed hotel rates will keep you feeling warm and fuzzy. An added bonus: crowds are at their all time low, as are lines outside of the top attractions.
Amsterdam Culture & Customs
Amsterdammers officially speak Dutch, but most residents also speak English -- and it's insulting to think otherwise. If you're versed, try to speak a little Dutch: Hallo for "Hello" and Dank u for "Thank You." But don't patronize Amsterdammers by asking, "Do you speak English?"
"Going Dutch" is more a way of life than an expression. The Dutch are notorious for their frugality yet they also have a large appetite for consumerism, so enjoy shopping. Even though the euro is worth more than the dollar, Amsterdam might be one Western European destination you won't break the bank visiting.
Marijuana use in Amsterdam is permitted though not legal. In other words, unless you're buying or carrying a large amount of pot (more than 1 ounce/30 grams), you're probably fine. However, Let's Go Amsterdam notes that "hard drugs -- including heroin, ecstasy, or cocaine -- are very much illegal and not tolerated, and possession is treated as a serious crime." Also note that as of 2008, hallucinogenic mushroom sales have been banned.
Raw herring. Pancakes. Indonesian. Like many other international cities, Amsterdam has a multiplicity of ethnic establishments sure to whet appetites. But the city does have a few specialties like pancakes, smothered or stuffed with every topping imaginable, from bacon to blueberries. (Recent travelers rave about The Pancake Bakery). Raw herring is a Netherlands specialty and is consumed whole. And Indonesian rijsttafel (or rice tables) -- rice topped with spiced meats, vegetables and fish -- are hugely popular.
Indonesian establishments are scattered throughout the city. Cheap ethnic eats are mainly gathered in the De Pijp neighborhood. For an upscale dining experience, try the Negen Straatjes (Nine Streets) or the Reguilersdwarsstrat areas. Travelers also praise the food finds on Elandsgracht Street in the Canal Ring. Beware tourist traps in the party-hearty areas of Rembrandtplein, Leidseplein and the Red Light District.