Are you looking for the best Amsterdam travel tips? We lived in Amsterdam for several years so we got to know the Amsterdam Do’s and Don’ts really well. These Amsterdam tips work whether you are visiting Amsterdam for the first time or are a seasoned visitor looking for some insider knowledge.
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ULTIMATE Amsterdam Travel Tips
To make out Amsterdam Travel tips easier to navigate especially for those visiting Amsterdam for the first time we have compiled them into Amsterdam dos and Don’ts.
Do not walk in the bike lane
If you come away from this guide remembering one thing let it be this one. Do not ever walk in the bike lane.
Amsterdam is famed for its cycling and is absolutely a must do experience in Amsterdam. However it is really important to respect the bike lanes.
Bike lanes are exclusively for bikes and stepping into them is really really dangerous and is something we saw tourists doing all the time. And a couple of time it did result in collisions. Do NOT be that tourist.
This means not walking in the bike lanes to get round people and certainly not stepping into them to take pictures etc.
The bike lanes in Amsterdam are clearly delineated usually with a bike symbol painted in white on a red background. There are crossings for pedestrians but I can’t say that bikes always stop.
Bike lanes are usually follow the same director as the main traffic though sometimes bike lanes will be next to each other on one side of the road.
Don’t leave home without identification
One of the things that surprised me when we moved to Amsterdam was that the law states that you must have identification with you at all times.
This applies to everyone who is 14 years and older. You can either carry your passport, driving license or any other government issued identification that comes with a photograph.
We lived in Amsterdam for several years and actually never got asked for id but I would always have it with me. I think you are most likely to be asked for ID in bars or coffeeshops if you look around 18 years of age or younger but I still wouldn’t leave your hotel without yourID.
Don’t travel without cash
This is a lesson we learnt the hard way when we did our first supermarket shop in Amsterdam. That is because in many places including the large supermarkets such as Albert Heijn, only take either cash or Dutch issued cards.
Therefore when we tried to pay with our foreign debit we had to leave our groceries and run to the cash machine. Don’t get caught out like we did and be sure to have a mixture of cards and cash with you when you are traveling in the Netherlands so you don’t get caught out.
You will find the more touristy places for instance the places where you can buy the best Amsterdam souvenirs, will in fact accept foreign credit cards but there are many places that won’t so be sure to have both with you at all times.
Don’t feel obliged to tip
One reason you may have cash on you when traveling in other places is to ensure you have money for tipping. However you do not have to tip in Amsterdam commonly. Tipping in Amsterdam is absolutely not compulsory or expected as Dutch service staff will be paid a living wage.
If you get great service, by all means feel free to tip but you should not feel obliged. For more information on tipping in Amsterdam check out this in depth guide.
Don’t be drunk or other in public
Although many people associate Amsterdam with stag weekends, drinking and coffeeshops but the truth is you will not see the Dutch drunk or worse in public spaces.
Amsterdam has a huge issue with over tourism and tourists doing unseemly things. Please do not be one of these tourists and respect the city and its citizens.
Don’t do wild swimming
Amsterdam is famous for its canals and if you are visiting Amsterdam in July or other summer months you may find that locals jump into the canals and do some wild swimming.
If you are a tourist however we do not advise this. Canals are full of hazards and they are dangerous places.
Don’t Bring a car
Amsterdam is not a place where you will want a car. Many areas of the city are completely pedestrianised or for bikes only.
Therefore we recommend leaving the car at home otherwise you will find yourself spending a ton of money on parking (be sure you have the Amsterdam parking app) and also being quite stressed. Driving in Amsterdam is not easy due to the number of pedestrianised roads and one way systems.
For this reason we recommend either renting a bike, walking or using the public trams and Metro as the best ways of getting around Amsterdam.
Take Photos in DeWallen
Amsterdam is famous for its’ red light district in the DeWallen area of the city. I personally don’t like this area but many people enjoy strolling through this area when on a visit to Amsterdam – although I do not recommend visiting DeWallen if you are traveling to Amsterdam with toddlers or kids.
There aren’t many rules in DeWallen but the main rule is that you do not take photographs in this area. The women who work in DeWallen are vulnerable and therefore it is inappropriate to take photographs of them in the windows.
So now you know the Amsterdam Don’ts what about the Amsterdam dos.
Travel outside of peak season
One of the downsides about visiting Amsterdam is that it is an expensive place to visit. If you are visiting Amsterdam on a budget be sure to check out the best free things to do in Amsterdam.
However one way to reduce your Amsterdam costs is to travel outside of the peak season when the costs of hotels and attractions tends to soar. Peak season in Amsterdam tends to start around April in Amsterdam as Keukenhof opens and the tulip season begins, and runs until early Fall.
Rent a bike
As we said above, we recommend leaving the car at home in Amsterdam. So if you don’t have a car what is the best way to get around the city?
Well we think no trip to Amsterdam is complete without renting a bike and having a cycle around the city. Just be sure that you are a competent and confident cyclists as Dutch cyclists in Amsterdam take no prisoners.
As well we recommend not taking a group bike tour that many of the tour companies recommend. The reason is that these are really a pest to the local residents. Often times the people in these group tours are poor cyclists and cause a nuisance to residents. Also the groups tend to bunch together. When you have a large group of cyclists together like that they become hard to cycle around and cause a hazard in the room.
Other rules for those who want to cycle in Amsterdam include:
- keeping right so that others can pass easily
- cycling on the correct side of the street – bikes and cars operate on the same side of the road
- remember to use hand signals
- don’t be alarmed by pregnant ladies cycling, children cycling or babies on the back of bikes. This is all commonplace and perfectly acceptable in the Netherlands.
Do wear comfortable shoes
Any Amsterdam itinerary will involve a lot of walking or cycling therefore it is really important that you have comfortable shoes with your.
For Amsterdam this generally means sneakers and boots. We recommend adding any heels or stilettos to your what not to wear in Amsterdam list. These aren’t safe to cycle in but also aren’t good to wear on the cobble stone streets.
However we do recommend adding thick heeled boots as this are safer for cycling than flats or thin heeled shoes.
Do dress appropriately
Amsterdam is definitely a city that has 4 seasons in one day. Therefore we recommend dressing appropriately and bringing layers with you wherever time of year you visit Amsterdam.
For more information on Amsterdam packing lists check out our monthly what to wear guides:
Amsterdam, as with the rest of Europe, can be a pretty rainy city. To make sure you enjoy your trip whatever the weather we recommend packing some waterproofs.
Our favorite type of waterproofs for Amsterdam are looser types as these are more comfortable for cycling in but if you forget them don’t worry the Dutch chain store HEMA will have some in stock whenever you are visiting.
If it does rain on your trip to Amsterdam be sure to check out our post on the best things to do on a rainy day in Amsterdam.
Buy tickets in advance
As I mentioned above, Amsterdam is a city that does suffer from over-tourism. For instance the famous I-AMsterdam sign that used to be in front of the Rijksmuseum had to be removed because it was too popular and caused a nuisance.
As such you will find that many of the tourist places such as Keukenhof, the Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank House and the Rijksmuseum for instance will have large queues outside them. Some of these places also operate on limited numbers so if you don’t have a ticket in advance you aren’t guaranteed entry.
To save yourself time and to make sure you get into the places you want on your vacation to Amsterdam be sure to buy your tickets in advance.
We recommend buying your tickets via Viator as they have a good spread of tickets across the city.
Book Accommodation in Advance
As well as booking tickets to attractions in advance we recommend booking your accommodation in advance also. Places in the city centre tend to book up early especially in peak season. To be sure that you get a good rate and a good location be sure to book early.
We recommend booking your Amsterdam accommodation with booking.com as they have some of the most extensive property lists in the city as their headquarters are in the city.
Check out Amsterdam accommodation options here.
Prep your phone with the best Amsterdam apps
Amsterdam is quite a digital city. AS such you will find there is an app for everything in Amsterdam. Be sure to have your prepped with all of the essential Amsterdam apps before you travel as this will make your time in the city much easier.
Apps we consider essential for Amsterdam travel include:
- GVB – the Amsterdam public transit app
- Buienalam or Buienradar – these apps show you when, for how long and how heavy the rain in Amsterdam is expected to be. This is essential for those who are cycling or walking around the city.
- Deliveroo – for ordering takeout food
- Pontveer- for ferry travel in the city
- Schipol App – useful for international visitors using the airport.
- Uber – while we don’t recommend having a car in the city, Uber does operate and is useful especially for Amsterdam at night.
For more information on the best Amsterdam apps check out this post.
Try the local food
Now I will be the first to admit that Amsterdam isn’t the culinary capital of the world but I recommend trying the local food whenever you travel.
For more information on the best Dutch foods to try in Amsterdam check out this post.
But also be sure to try out some of the Surinamese food and Indonesian food that Amsterdam has on offer.
Know the difference between coffeeshops and cafes
Although there aren’t too many linguistic differences you need to be aware of when traveling in Amsterdam the big one is the difference between coffeeshops and cafes.
Cafes are traditional venues that serve coffee, tea, cake and other lunch and light bite options.
Coffeeshops on the other hand are not places such as Starbucks. Instead they are places that are licensed to sell marijuana. Don’t confuse the two.
Bring a Universal Adapter
If you are visiting Amsterdam from the UK, USA or Canada or a number of other countries you will want to bring a universal travel adaptor with you.
C and F plugs are used in the Netherlands so if your appliances are different to these then you will need a travel adaptor.
Be Aware of your surroundings
While Amsterdam is a very safe city and is often seen on the top places to live list however that does not mean it is immune to pickpockets.
Therefore be sure to be aware of your surroundings in Amsterdam and use items such as crossbody bags with plenty of zips to deter pickpockets especially when you are around tourist sites.
Do take a day trip
Although Amsterdam is a fantastic city, the Netherlands is more than just Amsterdam. For this reason we recommend adding more places than just Amsterdam to your Dutch itinerary. This could either be splitting your stay between a couple of Dutch cities or doing some day trips from Amsterdam.
One of your favorite day trips from Amsterdam is Keukenhof Gardens.