How to Be a Tourist in Amsterdam on a Budget
Travelling in general is an expensive hobby, and with the current Euro crisis, many trips in Europe can end up more expensive than going across the world!
Amsterdam is notorious for being an expensive location to visit, as many restaurants and shops are overpriced specifically because of the tourist market.
This hub will share some tips and tricks for a cheap stay in Amsterdam, and hopefully prevent you from being caught up in the tourist traps while you are there.
Quality Flights to Amsterdam at Budget Prices
It may seem like the easy option to fly with a budget airline, but it is possible to get cheap airline tickets if you book well in advance.
When I went to Amsterdam, my flights were with the national airline KLM- nothing budget about this airline! In saying that, my flights ended up cheaper than what I would have paid if I had went with my original choice, Easyjet. While at first, they seemed like the cheapest option, I delved deeper to find that I would have no baggage allowance, and by the time I had paid taxes and baggage fees, I would be more expensive than flying with KLM.
The added comforts of the KLM flights included complimentary drinks and snacks during the flight, as well as working air con, drop down TV screens and all things you generally wouldn't find on a budget airline!
Make sure to book at least 2 months in advance to benefit from the early bird prices.
Cheap Accommodation in Amsterdam
There are plenty of cheap hotels and hostels to choose from, but I personally wanted something cheap that also had cooking facilities.
There was the option of houseboats, but with inner ear problems, I didn't want to risk getting ill for the entire length of my holiday! So, after a few recommendations from friends, I discovered the Bema Hotel which also offers apartments at around the same price as the decent hotels.
The location of the apartment was ideal, as it was close enough to the centre to be able to walk if you wanted, but also far enough away to escape all of the inner city noise and revellers.
The facilities were great, as there was a mini kitchen, a bathroom with shower and a studio bedroom. There was also the added bonus that there were discounted rates if you stayed for 3 or more nights!
The centre of Amsterdam (in "the canal rings") is a stoner's idea of heaven. Vending machines at the side of the street sell everything from kebabs to giant cookies, and there are also plenty of take aways and other restaurants. The place is heaving with food, however most of it is an inflated prices for the convenience and the location.
If you want to avoid paying tourist prices, then it is probably best to visit the supermarket and buy your food there. There are Lidl stores- a Godsend for me, as they meant there was no language barrier as I recognised most of the products from the stores at home!
The most widespread supermarket is the Albert Heijn- if you search this in google maps, you will be sure to find one near your accommodation.
I was able to get plenty of food at Lidl to last the full 4 days I was there for about 50 Euro- that was including drinks, and dessert, too! You can easily spend that on one meal for 2 people in a restaurant, so this is definitely a must- do for travellers on a budget. If you have a kitchen in your accommodation, you can be more experimental with meals, but there are plenty of quick and easy options even just using a kettle and also plenty of options for sandwiches. Speak to your hotel to see if they have any microwave or kitchen facilities for guests, or even if there is a mini fridge available to store some sandwich ingredients.
Alcohol is really pricey in Amsterdam too, so if you are drinking while there, I would recommend buying drinks at the supermarket where possible.
Travelling Around Amsterdam
I didn't realise at first, but Amsterdam is actually huge. While I had initially planned to walk everywhere, it became apparent quite quickly that I couldn't- not only was it too far, but it was terrifying to cut across lanes of bikes, then trams, then traffic, then the same on the other side!
It is also not a very good place for drivers, as parking fees mount up super fast, and the driving style is, to say the least, energetic! So, trams are your friend!
You can buy your GVB Ticket (tram card) from any of the tourist information points, as well as some newsagents. This will last you for the duration of your visit- just be sure to buy the right one! And, in most cases, will be cheaper than using Taxis.
You could also cycle, as Amsterdam is very cyclist- friendly! And, surprisingly, Cyclists have more power on the road than cars- if a car hits a cyclist, no matter what the circumstance- it is still the car's fault! There are many companies that offer a bike hire service, ask your accommodation provider to recommend one, but I suggest taking out insurance, as bikes are often lifted as they aren't locked up.
If all else fails, and you do decide to use a Taxi, be sure to use an official one from a Taxi rank, and not a random loitering driver.
I went to Amsterdam as a tourist. To see the sights. Nothing else..
In saying that, sightseeing can be pretty expensive in Amsterdam, especially without forward planning!
If you are planning on seeing a few of the sights, I would recommend getting a Holland Pass. It gives free entry into many of Amsterdam's top attractions, and is definitely worth the money when used correctly. I actually saved half of the money that I would have paid in going to these attractions individually, just by buying the Holland Pass and planning in advance what I would be doing. I found it easier to group the attractions in terms of location, and visiting 3 or so on the same day.
There are lots of attractions to choose from where you get free entry using little tokens, and for the attractions that are not covered, you get a discount by showing the card. Benefits all round! It is also valid for a number of months, so if you don't get around to doing everything on the first trip, you can either use it again, or pass it onto someone.
There is also the I Amsterdam card, which is similar, but I felt it was a bit of false economy, as it is a specifically timed card, that starts from the first swipe on a tram. If I had chosen to get this, the first 12+ hours of my card would have been wasted as I arrived in the evening, after all of the attractions had closed, so be aware of the options when choosing your card.
While in Amsterdam, be sure to check out the Anne Frank House, Madame Tussauds, The Dungeon, The Torture Museum, The Red Light District. Pus, if you can, try to find the new location of the Amsterdam Tattoo Museum, which has recently been closed, but have pop up shops opening in various places.
If you want to see everything in a quick trip, then a Canal Cruise is just for you! No traffic to contend with, just all the sights! Lots of photo opportunities here, too, so I definitely recommend one! They are fairly reasonably priced, and you can also use one of your tokens to get a cruise for free!
There are also plenty of bars, clubs and coffee shops to keep you entertained in the twilight hours, if you're into that sort of thing...
In general, just be safe! Explore and discover places for yourself- there are many parks and other attractions that are either free or extremely low in price. Keep an eye on the various travel review websites to find out about upcoming events and try to coincide your visit with these- although popular events will cause an increase in accommodation fees.
If there is anything you feel I have missed out, or if you have any questions you think I may be able to help with, leave a comment!
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© 2013 Lynsey Harte