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Amsterdam: 7 Things Travelers Need To Know Before Visiting

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Amsterdam is so much more than the parties, lax laws, and coffee shops it is famous for. This charming city is also a cultural hub full of museums, creative establishments, and an admirable gezellig way of life. Often referred to as a big village, Amsterdam is accessible and approachable yet has no shortage of world-class attractions that are appealing to every type of traveler.  

Bikes rest on a railing alongside a canal in Amsterdam, colorful buildings and moody skies are in the background

But before setting off to Amsterdam, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. In this post, we'll cover everything you need to know about traveling to Amsterdam, including:

  • What are the costs for travelers?
  • Things to know about culture and etiquette
  • What are the top attractions?
  • How safe is it?
  • Local food and drinks
  • How good is the WiFi?
  • How long can you stay?

Ready? Here are the top 7 things you need to know before visiting Amsterdam:

Did you know… Pronounced heh-SELL-ick, gezellig is a term used to describe the Dutch culture and way of life. Although there is no direct translation, its meaning encompasses all the best aspects of life in the Netherlands – cozy, relaxing, enjoyable, time spent with loved ones, and atmospheric. It is similar to the popular Danish concept of hygge, but decidedly Dutch.  

1) Amsterdam Affordability

Rating: 2 out of 5.

The currency in Amsterdam is the Euro or EUR. Currently, the exchange rate is 1 USD = 0.94 EUR, or 1 EUR = 1.06 USD

Here are the average costs for travelers in USD:

Night skyline historical center of Amsterdam, Benelux region, Europe

Accommodation

While Amsterdam has something going on all year, most visitors come during summer when the weather is great, and there are loads of public events. However, this is also when hotel prices are at their peak.

  • Average hotel price: 3-star hotels in winter average $135/night, and in summer jump up to $360/night. 4-star hotels typically cost $50-$100 more.
  • Luxury 5-star hotels: One night in a luxury 5-star hotel will cost between $440 in the low season and over $1,000 during the high season.
  • If you're on a budget: There are plenty of good hostels to choose from in Amsterdam. While there are cheaper options, a bed in well-rated mixed dorm costs between $15- $25, while private ensuite rooms can be found for less than $100/night.

Food

Visitors to Amsterdam will find everything under the sun when it comes to dining. How much you spend is up to you.

  • A 3-course meal at a mid-range restaurant for two costs around $70.
  • For a cheap meal at an inexpensive restaurant, expect to pay around $15.
  • A bottle of beer costs between $5 – $6, while a coffee is about $3.50.

Transportation

Amsterdam is an easy city to get around – it is walkable and there is a great public transit system. But, why not do like the locals do and cycle your way through the city?

  • Biking is by far the best way to get around Amsterdam, and tourists will find bike rental shops throughout the city. Prices range from $12 for a half-day rental to $18 for a full day depending on the company.
  • The city’s public transportation system (GVB) includes metros, buses, trams, ferries, and trains. Tickets can be purchased through the GVB app and start at $3.60 for an hour-long ticket, or $19 for a 1-day pass.
  • Taxi rates in Amsterdam are one of the most expensive in all of Europe. They start at $3.60 and cost an additional $4/mile, meaning a trip in the city center is typically no less than $16. Uber does operate in Amsterdam and is usually a cheaper option.

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a man and a woman look at a map while leaning on a red bike in Amsterdam

2) Culture And Etiquette In Amsterdam

The Dutch are typically open-minded and welcoming people. However, as with any city, there are certain things to take note of.

Check this list before your trip! Here are some of the major Dos and Don’ts in Amsterdam.

  • DON’T be late: The Dutch are punctual. If you are meeting a guide or joining a tour make sure to show up on time.  
  • DO ride a bike: Amsterdam is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world with throngs of locals choosing to bike each day. It is one of the best ways to get around in the city. However, if you aren’t comfortable biking consider joining a bike tour that takes on a slower pace while taking in the sights. Be sure to follow all rules of the road while cycling.
  • DON’T walk in the bike lanes: The cycle lanes are clearly marked, but visitors should be careful not to accidentally walk in them.
  • DO book in advance: Amsterdam gets very busy during the summer months so visitors should book hotels, restaurants, and attractions well in advance.
Tourists sit along a canal in Amsterdam with red lights glowing along the buildings as evening approaches

3) Top Attractions in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is full of incredible attractions. Here are a few of the top tourist activities:

  • Van Gogh Museum: Check out the world’s largest collection of artwork by Vincent Van Gogh.
  • Cruise the Canals: Canal cruises are a popular tourist activity and a great way to see the city from a different perspective. There are plenty of tours to choose from depending on what you like – some are geared towards drinking or smoking cannabis while others cater to families or couples.
  • Anne Frank House: Anne Frank’s house has been preserved as a museum where visitors can learn about the life of the young writer and see the Secret Annex where she hid during WWII.
an overhead photo of massive crowds of tourists along the canals in Amsterdam. Boats can bee seen in the canals

4) How Safe Is It For Tourists?

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Amsterdam is a safe city for most tourists to visit. However, there are still some things that travelers should keep in mind to stay safe and healthy:

  • Beware of pickpockets: Pickpocketing is one of the most common crimes in Amsterdam. Visitors should take precautions to protect their belongings, especially in tourist areas and on public transportation.   
  • Don’t buy drugs on the street: Many visitors to Amsterdam want to partake in the city’s well-known and legal drug scene. However, cannabis and other drugs should only be purchased at registered shops, and should only be consumed in licensed areas. Buying drugs on the street is illegal and can be dangerous.
  • Avoid the Red Light District at night: This is especially true for women tourists and those traveling alone.
  • Watch out for tourist scams: if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.
  • DO get travel insurance: Travel insurance can help in health emergencies as well as with covering the costs of any travel mishaps during your Amsterdam trip. For 5 great options, read more here.
tourists visit a large square in Amsterdam underneath a sky full of clouds and birds

5) Local Eats And Drinks

One of the best parts of travel is checking out the local cuisine. Don't let yourself leave Amsterdam without trying at least one of the following:

Food

  • Stroopwafel  – a thin waffle wafer filled with a sweet caramel-like syrup
  • Bitterballen – deep-fried meatballs best served with mustard and a beer
  • Hollandse Nieuwe –  preserved raw herring served with onions and pickles
  • Dutch cheeses – some popular varieties to try are Gouda and Edam

Drink

  • Advocaat – a traditional cocktail made from brandy, sugar, and eggs
  • Beer – While Heineken is one of the most popular beers, it is worth trying other pils, witbiers, and seasonal brews made locally
  • Jenever – a local liquor flavored with juniper, similar to gin, but with its own character and history
customers sit at an outdoor eatery along one of Amsterdam's canals

6) How's the WiFi?

Using Ookla, an internet speed testing service, the average internet speeds in Amsterdam for January 2023 were 106.12mbps download and 16.47mbps upload.

Woman looking out at canal in amsterdam

7) How Long Can I Stay?

Americans traveling to Amsterdam do not need a visa for stays under 90 days. They should, however, have at least 3 months of validity available on their passport.

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Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.