So you are thinking about going to Amsterdam? But you are a tad concerned whether it is too crazy for you? Or how to get there? Or how not to get run over by a mad Dutchy on a bike?
Then don’t worry here is a first timers guide to Amsterdam. This is not a city guide, if you want to know all the must-see sights, then check out this post here.
This post is to help you get there, the must-knows, the bike laws and warnings and much more helpful information to hopefully help you have a great holiday in Hollands main capital.
Amsterdam is located in North-Holland. The main airport (Schiphol) is located 17 kilometers from Central Amsterdam. Assuming you are flying in, getting to the city center is pretty straight forward.
Location right underneath the airport to the train station which will take you to Amsterdam Central. The ticket machines can be found dotted around the station hall.
Train departure information can be found on the large screen above the ticket desk and on smaller triple screens around the station hall and platforms. You can also check www.ns.nl. If you have just arrived into the county and your phone is not working then you can use Schiphol’s free wifi.
The train runs up to 10 times per hour between 0600 and 0100 to Amsterdam Central. There are also night trains running once an hour on the hour between 0200 and 0500.
A single ticket is €5.50 including €1 surcharge for a disposable ticket. It will take about 15-20 minutes to get too central city.
The Dutch use a tap on and off the system with OV-chip cards. If you are staying in the country go for a while
then getting a card will save you some money. These card costs €7.50 to purchase and will last 4-5 years. It’s possible to load travel credit onto the card which can be used on trains and all other public transportation in the Netherlands. Be aware that the cards always require a minimum of €20 credit for using the train.
If you are on a short visit to Amsterdam it’s probably best to stick with disposable single tickets or buy one of the multi-day tickets.
GETTING AROUND THE CITY
Once you are visiting the city there are several ways you can get around. I personally, when I do a city trip, like to walk to as many places as possible. This way you can see a lot more of the city, you can stop and take pictures when you please. (Which is perfect for a blogger)
Amsterdam city is (pretty easily) walkable. If you are staying close to the city center, a lot of the major attractions are reasonably close together.
If walking is not for you, then alternatively you can rent a bike. I will be going into more details later on in this post about biking in Amsterdam. But you can rent a bike from ($ 9,50. More details can be found on the I Amsterdam site.
PLACES TO SEE AND AVOID
In my Amsterdam city guide, I have written out which amazing places to go and see. So for an all compromising guide make sure to check that out.
Underneath are the top 5 places to go and see (In my humble opinion)
- RIJKSMUSEUM | The museum is a Dutch national museum dedicated to arts and history in Amsterdam. Home to works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Frans Hals, and more!
- ANNE FRANK HOUSE | The history that you will briefly become part is an experience that should not be missed. See the house where Anne lived during the second world war.
- CRUISE THE CANALS | Alongside the main canals are 1550 monumental buildings. The 17th-century canal ring area, including the Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht, Herengracht, and Jordaan, were listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010, contributing to Amsterdam’sfame as the “Venice of the North”. A canal cruise is the best and easiest way to soak up a lot of information in one go.
- DE JORDAAN | The Jordaan is possibly the most famous neighbourhood in the Netherlands. This charming neighborhood is Amsterdam’s Greenwich Village, with its narrow alleys, leafy canals lined with 17th-century houses, quirky specialty shops, cafes and designer boutiques.
- KINDERDIJK | UNESCO World Heritage site is a unique icon of Dutch water management and control. All the phases of the history of our struggle against water are still visible here. The unique collection of 19 mills in an authentic Dutch landscape is an eye-catcher.
Coffee shops in Amsterdam are a tad different then most people are used to. In a coffee shop, you don’t by coffee, but dugs in Holland.
Now drugs are not legal, as perceived by a lot of people, but it is “gedoogd” (lit. “tolerance policy” or “policy of tolerance”). So they openly tolerate all recreational use. I am not here to explain the law to you, so If you are interested, here you can find some more information.
Places to avoid (again in my opinion) is the red light district. Yes, it is part of Amsterdam, but a lot of those women are still there against their will. So that is not showing you should endorse/support by going.
museums devoted to sex or drugs, unless sex and drugs are really your thing in which case … welcome to Amsterdam, have a great time.
There are no particular areas where there is a lot of crime. amsterdam is a very safe city. Just be wary of pickpocketers when in crowded situations and when you are traveling with your luggage make sure to keep it on you at all times. For the rest, you should be ok.
THE BIKE MADNESS
Speaking of getting around. The number one way is by bike. The Dutch love their bicycles and will use for pretty much anything, hail or sunshine.
As you can imagine, Amsterdam is a busy city. Hence, there will be a lot, and I mean A LOT of bicycles. International tourists are in general not accustomed to it, so here are some handy tips on how to deal with it. (Either when you are on a bike or just walking around trying to survice the madness)
- DO NOT WALK ON THE BICYCLE LANE | There are specially designed lanes for bicycles all throughout the country. They are meant for bicyclist and scooters only. Pedestrians are not to walk on that lane. You will get run over. Seriously, you will.
Only walk on the footpath and even then you might get run over, but its a whole lot safer. Also, the bicyclist will not appreciate it if you do walk on it, so you might get some nasty words slung at your head.
- TRAMS | Have the right of way. Always. Pay special attention to tram tracks; they are just as wide as a bike tire and they are perfect for getting your wheel stuck. Always cross them at an angle and you’ll be flying over them in no time.
- FOLLOW THE TRAFFIC RULES | Although the local bicyclists may run red lights, ignore traffic rules, make phone calls, send text messages, ride on the sidewalks, and daringly weave in and out of traffic, it doesn’t mean it’s okay. Obey traffic rules; police do monitor and ticket occasionally.
- GIVE A SIGN | Always signal before turning by putting your hand out
- AVOID RUSH HOUR | Between 08:00 and 09:00 or 17:00 and 18:00, there are thousands of bikes on the road, often resulting in big queues at junctions. If you don’t need to be somewhere, wait until the rush calms down. Especially if you are new to biking, this can be a death trap… A bit exaggerated, but it won’t be a fun experience, so its better if you just don’t do it.
Ahhh the Dutchies, yes, we certainly are a different bunch compared to the rest of the world, but I also think we can be highly misunderstood. For instance, I recently had a group of Aussie friends who traveled the Netherlands from top to toe and left at the end of their travels absolutely loving the Dutch. Although they did say it took some time to get used to our ways, they soon realized that so much of it is just a different way of communication and what the rest of the world might.
The Dutch are not known for their fine dining. There is not a dish that we are famous for like the Italians are for Pizza and Pasta and the Spanish for their Paella.
We do have however some delicious snacks that you really should try when you are going to Amsterdam for the first time:
STROOPWAFELS | A stroopwafel is a waffle made from two thin layers of baked dough with a caramel syrup filling in the middle (YUM).
POFFERTJES | Poffertjes are very small Dutch puffy pancakes about 5 cm (2 inches) wide that are mostly flat, but are puffed up a little bit. They are made from white wheat flour, butter, milk, eggs, yeast and salt and then typically covered in soft sugar and butter… (my Aussie friends who have tried these say “they are the best”!)
KROKETTEN |The common English translation of Kroket is croquette. A typical Dutch croquette is made of meat ragout (or salpicon) covered in breadcrumbs, and deep fried until golden and crispy.
PUDDING BROODJE | Is a sweet roll filled with a vanilla cream pudding and dusted with powdered sugar.
PEPERNOTEN | When you are in Amsterdam in the winter months, make sure to try Pepernoten. They are a kind of a tiny spiced cookie, traditionally associated with the Sinterklaas holiday. They are perfect for the holidays because of the ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom!
Also, make sure that when you are peckish to grab something ‘Out of the wall’ The Dutch love their vending machines that are filled with French fries and Kroketten. For just a 1-2 euro you can grab something straight out of the wall. Seriously the best after a night out or after a long day of walking in the city.
LANGUAGE | Dutch, though English is spoken pretty much city-wide
TIME ZONE | GMT/UTC +1
ELECTRICITY | Type C two-prong plug. Electrical power in the Netherlands and in most of Western Europe runs on a cycle of 50hz, and a voltage of 230 Volt, alternating current.
CURRENCY | Euro (€).
TIPPING | Like in most of Europe, tipping isn’t generally expected. However, it’s polite to leave extra change or round up.
WEATHER | Keep an eye on the weather report, as Mother Nature can be finicky in the Netherlands. Even in summer, there is a possibility that you might need a jacket.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Whether you are planning to visit in summer or winter, the country has its charms all year-round.
In summer cities like Amsterdam will be pretty busy, but you get to enjoy canal rides in the sun and wander the city in nicer weather. The gardens and tulips will be in bloom so you will get to see some of the tulip fields when visiting.
In winter (when lucky) you get to see the canals iced up and you get to skate them with the locals. Also, late November, into December is a popular time again because of the festive season with Christmas Markets and festivals going on all over the country.
MOVIES TO SPARK YOUR INTEREST
Be sure to check out one of the below movies to spark your interest in the Netherlands:
- GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING Girl | Obviously about the famous painting by Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer – explores the story of how the famous artwork came to be. Stars Scarlett Johansson (amazing!) Colin Firth (YAAAAS) and Cillian Murphy (Dreamy)
- THE HITMAN”S BODYGUARD | this hilarious action film stars Ryan Reynolds and Samual L Jackson… I mean what more could you want? Also has an epic chase scene set in Amsterdam – whoop!
- THE FAULT IN OUR STARS | BE AWARE! this movie is sad and will make you cry…… however in this film they do visit The Anne Frank Museum, so if you wanted to get a look in, then be sure to check this movie out.
- DUNKIRK (2017) | Partly shot using a few of the picturesque Dutch lakes, this is an incredible story and one I would advise everyone see at least once in their lives.
- BLACK BOOK | Definite must see Dutch film! Set during the 2nd world war and based on a true story, this movie was rated the best Dutch film ever to be made… Starring Carice Van Houten (GOT Red woman ahh).
- OCEANS 12 | Last but not least! this hilarious, comedy, heist film was largely set in and around Amsterdam, showing famous hotels, bridges, streets and our little old train station hehe.
WORDS YOU SHOULD KNOW
Most Dutch people are bilingual and speak English very well (Some smaller towns in the countryside maybe not as good, but you should be able to have a basic conversation). It is however considered very polite to know a few words in the local language, no matter where you are in the world. So here are a few simple words that you can be useful for you.
- Hello/hi | Hallo/hoi
- Thank you | Dank je wel
- Bye | Dag/Doei
- Sorry | Sorry (same, but good to know)
- Good morning | Goede morgen
- Cheers | Proost
- Bon appétit | Eet smakelijk
PLANNING TO GO TO EUROPE SOON? THEN CHECK OUT SOME MORE TRAVEL GUIDES HERE:
- The Netherlands
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