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Amsterdam Guide (by a Local)

Looking for an Amsterdam guide made by a local? Here you’ll find everything from where to eat to what to do.

This isn’t your average Amsterdam guide. I’ve been living in this city now for six years, but being from New York City originally, I’ve also experienced this city as a tourist. I can tell you both what tourists need to know plus local Amsterdam tips.

There’s so much to love about Amsterdam especially if you like:

  • the Parisenne-esque cafe lifestyle,
  • watching boats on the canal sail by,
  • biking without the worries of getting hit by cars or people walking in your path,
  • techno music and partying without belligerent buttholes,
  • frolicking through tulip fields (requires a day trip),
  • getting high (ok I had to say it– it’s what it’s known for), and
  • dreamily walking around seeing homes covered in vines and canals lined up with lights at night.

The only thing I don’t love about Amsterdam is the food, but if you know where to go aka all the places I’ve tried out and enjoyed, you’ll have a good run of great tasting food.

Anyways, without further ado, here’s my Amsterdam guide with basically everything you know to have an awesome trip here.

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Must-Know Information

Currency

The currency for the Netherlands is the Euro (€).

Visa

Since the Netherlands is part of the Schengen Agreement, U.S. Citizens can visit the country up to 90 days for any tourist or business purposes without a visa.

If you are not a European or U.S. Citizen, make sure to check with your local government with what visa you may need to apply for to enter the Netherlands.

Language

People in the Netherlands speak Dutch. However, in larger cities like Amsterdam, many people speak English so language should not be an issue.

Electricity Socket

The Netherlands uses the socket Type C and F. The standard voltage is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz.

This universal travel adapter will work converting US appliances to EU sockets and has space for two USB cords.

However, it will not work with appliances that heat up such as a hair straightener or clothes steamer. Head to this post to learn about using hair appliances abroad.

Safety

The Netherlands is a very safe country. It is the #16 safest country in the world.

Nonetheless, be wise about pick-pocketers, especially in crowded, touristy areas.


Best Time to Go

A lot of the Netherlands is quite rainy and cloudy so the best time of year to go is May to August for drier seasons. Of course, April and September are great months to go too.

For tulips, you’ll want to go at the last week of April. Depending on how warm or cold it is, sometimes tulips bloom earlier or later, but based on experience, I would say come the last week of April to be safe.

Of course, the months mentioned above tend to be more popular times to visit. As a result, accommodations may be more expensive.

If you want to save money and come at less crowded times and don’t mind the cold and rainy weather, then November to February is a good time to come for you.

Holidays to Be Aware Of

Netherlands specific holidays may make your trip here more expensive or crowded. While creating your Amsterdam guide/itinerary, here are some holidays and dates you may want to be aware of:

  • April
    • Good Friday to Easter weekend
    • King’s Day on the 27th – a unique celebration worth experiencing
  • August
    • Gay Pride Parade, usually on the first weekend of August, which also coincides with Dekmantel Music Festival. Both are a great time to come if you like to party.

New Year’s Eve is a special night in the Netherlands. All residents are allowed to light off fireworks as they please, which is quite the spectacle to see.

If you come here on New Year’s, head to the Skinny Bridge to watch the most amount of fireworks.


Budget

Although you can travel through any country specific to your budget, based on my experience, Amsterdam is not relatively a very cheap city to visit. Here are estimated prices for accommodation, meals and transportation.

Accommodation

A picture of the bed and decor in The Tire Station hotel, located in Oud-West.
The Tire Station in Oud-West

Here are prices per night based on Amsterdam, which are relatively expensive compared to other European cities.

  • Hostels: €30-100
  • Budget Hotels: €100-175
  • Mid-range Hotels: €175-350
  • Luxury Hotels €350+
  • Airbnb Private Rooms: €50-200
  • Airbnb Entire Place: €150-500

Important Note on Airbnb: You are not allowed to have more than four people in an Airbnb in Amsterdam so this may not be an option for large groups. I am not sure if this rule also applies outside of Amsterdam.

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Meals

Dutch pancakes from Pancakes! Amsterdam - Netherlands Travel Guide
Dutch pancake from Pancakes! Amsterdam

Dining out is relatively expensive in Amsterdam, but keep in mind that both tax is included in the price. Also, tipping is either non-existent or quite minimal.

Here are prices of meals for one:

  • Markets and Snack Foods: less than €6
  • Lunch and Fast Casual Places: less than €20
  • Restaurants: €20-45
  • Fine Dining: more than €70

If you are on a budget, eating at markets or foods like fries and shopping at grocery stores and cooking in your Airbnb may be the best budget-savvy option.

  • The Ten Kate Market or Albert Cuyp Market are great outdoor markets to shop at. The food there is extremely cheap.
  • Albert Heijn is the most popular grocery store and has great food items such as pre-made salads, fresh pasta, marinated meats, already cut up vegetables without an exorbitant convenience premium, and more that’ll make cooking

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Transportation

Trams and busses are the most popular way to travel within a city and generally cost about €2-3. Trains between cities cost about €12-20.


Getting Around

A man rides his bicycle on the bike path in Amsterdam, outside the cafe, Cafe De Pijp. A tram is passing behind him.

Getting around Amsterdam is really easy, especially with Google Maps, which you can use offline without wifi or data. The transportation is synced pretty seamlessly with Google Maps, which you can use for bus, tram, metro and even bike directions!

To experience local life, I highly recommend renting a bike. The infrastructure for biking is well-developed and extremely useful for getting around.

It might seem hectic but biking within Amsterdam is very easy to do because EVERYONE watches out for bikers first (unlike in other countries where pedestrians come first).


Local Customs & Tips

Local customs don’t differ too greatly from America or other Western countries, but there are a few Amsterdam travel tips that stick out.

  • Bikers generally have the right of way so make sure to watch out for them. Do not walk in the bike path, which are red, and on streets where there are no designated bike lanes, walk to the right side so bikers can pass you by.
  • The Dutch are generally quieter and respectful people. When at restaurants, keep conversations to a reasonable level. No need to speak so loudly!
  • At restaurants, if you want tap water, you have to specifically ask for tap water. Otherwise, they will serve you bottled still or sparkling water.
  • If the bill feels like it’s taking awhile to come, feel free to go up to the counter or hostess’ stand, and pay your bill. Dutch servers will let you sit as long as you want instead of shooing you out!
  • Be patient at restaurants and in stores. If a host or cashier is busy, just say hello so they know you’re there, but otherwise you’ll need to wait for them to be free with whatever they’re doing at the moment.
  • It’s a pretty rainy country, but if you download the Buienradar app (iPhone, Android), you can see the rainfall prediction within an hour or two. It’s very accurate and can help you decide if you should stay inside a half hour longer to let the rain pass by before going out.

These are the most important local customs and tips you should be aware of, but head to these Amsterdam travel tips to get a full list of them.

As always, a simple ‘Dankjewel’ pronounced Dank-yoo-well, which is Dutch for ‘Thank you’, can go along way.


What to Pack

For Your Electronics: Since the Netherlands’ standard voltage is 230 volts, and they use a Plug Type C and F, you’ll want to bring a universal travel adapter that also has two USB ports for your phones.

If you prefer plain adapters, then I recommend these smaller ones as they’ll fit into any socket the best. I previously bought ones with a square base, and they continuously have fallen out of the European sockets.

Important Note: Your heated appliances like a clothing steamer or hair straightener will only work abroad if it’s dual-voltage. Here is a post fully dedicated to using hair straighteners abroad.

For the Weather: As mentioned above, the Netherlands is quite the rainy country. It also gets quite windy. As a result, having a windproof umbrella on you at all times is your best bet. Here’s the exact travel windproof umbrella that I own and use in Amsterdam.

You may also want to pack a stylish, reusable raincoat, which many locals wear. Locals do not wear those cheap, one-time use plastic raincoats because it rains so often. They’re purely not functional.

For Clothing: Dutch men and women dress simple but classy. They often wear dark jeans with solid or patterned sweaters and t-shirts and a pair of sneakers or boots.

They do not dress up so often and women barely wear heels, even at clubs. It’s a pretty casual dress code.

Although they don’t dress up too often, they definitely do not wear sweatpants, yoga pants, or clothing with holes in public. The only time you’d wear these items outside your home is if you are going to and from your gym and yoga classes.

You might like: How to Keep Your Clothes Wrinkle Free While Traveling

For Traveling: Roads, apartments, planes and cars tend to be smaller in the Netherlands than in the USA. As a result, I recommend traveling with a carry-on size luggage such as this eBags Fortis one that I’ve used in the Netherlands, Spain and France. Its wheels roll so smoothly, which makes walking through airports and train stations a breeze.

Miscellaneous: The Netherlands charges for plastic bags so it’s a good idea to bring a foldable, reusable one. Besides them being handy for shopping, they’re really convenient to have when traveling in general. Read my post on why a reusable, foldable bag is a must when traveling, or get some on Amazon here.

You might like: Ultimate European Packing List


Amsterdam Guide on Best Things to Do in Amsterdam

What I love about Amsterdam is that you can come here to relax, explore day and night or party hard. Yes, the clubs and music festivals here are so unlike American ones so keep an eye out on that tip below.

Here are my favorite Amsterdam activities that I do myself!

  • Walk around Jordaan, the UNESCO World Heritage neighborhood
    • I recommend doing this in both the daytime and the nighttime. Tourists don’t go at nighttime so it’s quite empty and so enchanting with all the canals lit up.
  • Visit world famous museums like the Anne Frank Museum, Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum (helpful tips for the Van Gogh Museum here)
  • Go to a concert, club or music festival Amsterdam Dance Event
    • Even if you don’t like clubbing back home, you might like it here. The vibe is very down-to-earth, vibrant and fun. I’ve had many friends who don’t like clubbing at home love it here.
  • Smoke weed
  • Pack a picnic with beers and wine to the park
  • Visit a brewery like Oedipus in the Noord.
    • If you go there, also stop by Cafe de Ceuvel. These are more hipster, off the path type places to visit.
  • Take Instagram photos in Amsterdam
  • Rent a boat to sail around the canals; you don’t need a license!
  • Visit an outdoor market where locals traditionally shop so you can try some Dutch snacks
  • Buy flowers for your Airbnb or hotel
    • I know it seems kind of silly to buy flowers when you’re only here for a few days but tulips and flowers are sooo cheap, I recommend my friends and family buying a bouquet to return back to because WHY NOT.
  • Rent a bike to get around like the locals

Get in-depth details on the best things to do in Amsterdam in this blog post.

Take a Day Trip to Tulip Fields

If you want to see gorgeous tulip fields and gardens, head to Keukenhof, the largest tulip garden in the world, just 45 minutes outside of Amsterdam.

The tulip season is quite short, and tulips generally only bloom for a couple of weeks between the 2nd week of April to 1st week of May so to be safe, come at the last week of April.

If you’d rather find tulip fields and not go to the Keukenhof garden, then read about finding tulip fields in the Netherlands and being respectful in them. We can accidentally carry disease with us and wipe out a whole tulip field, which is the farmer’s livelihood!

Take a Half Day Trip to See Traditional Windmills

The windmills of Zaanse Schans; featuring three sheep grazing, while tourists take pictures in front of the iconic windmills.

Right outside Amsterdam is also Zaanse Schans. This is where you can see traditional windmills still turning as they saw wood or mill oil, flour, spices and pigments.

Whether you go inside the mill and climb to the deck for a panoramic view or see the colorful mills from afar, you’ll have a beautiful, unique view of the Netherlands.


What to Eat in Amsterdam

Dutch Pancakes with powdered sugar and butter, placed neatly on a white plate.

Overall, Amsterdam isn’t a city best known for its culinary scene. For great international food, eat at:

Common Dutch foods you must try are bitterballen, stroopwafel, apple pie, pancakes, poffertjes, and more. You can get a detailed background of what each food is and where exactly to find them in Amsterdam in this post.

Find out some of the best restaurants in Amsterdam here.


Places to Stay

A picture of an Amsterdam canal, boats lining the edges and a bridge in the distance.

My favorite neighborhoods in Amsterdam are:

  • Jordaan where the UNESCO World Heritage canals are,
  • Oud-West, more of a local neighborhood just a quick 10 minutes outside of Jordaan,
  • and de Pijp, also a local neighborhood that many people in their 20s-40s go out for bars and trendy cafes.

Wherever you stay within the A10 ring, a highway that surrounds Amsterdam proper, will be a great neighborhood because Amsterdam is a relatively small city. As a result, getting to where you want to go won’t take long regardless of where you stay.

Amsterdam is relatively expensive when it comes to accommodation so I’d recommend booking today on Booking.com, the hotel booking site I use, so that the prices don’t go up soon.

If you want to save money, then Airbnb private rooms are a great option, or if you’re looking to be more social, then booking at a hostel such as Flying Pig Downtown is a great idea.

Booking Resources

Booking.com
AirBnb graphic that says "Get up to $40 off your first visit."

Latest Blog Posts About Amsterdam

In case you didn’t get all the information about traveling to Amsterdam in this guide, here are my latest posts to help you travel in this city.


Thanks for making it all the way down to the end of this Amsterdam Guide. I’d love to connect. Come say hi to me my Instagram @sarchetrit, especially if you found any part of this post to be helpful.

Till then, thanks for stopping by, and have a great day!

xo,
Sarah


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