25+ HELPFUL Travel Tips for Visiting Amsterdam (First-Time Visitors Guide)

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25+ Amsterdam Travel Tips to Know Before You Go – Especially for First-Timers

Look at you all on top of your game to make sure you learn all the travel tips for visiting Amsterdam! Just by being here, you will be 100 times more prepared than most travelers on their first trip to Amsterdam! So without further ado, in this Amsterdam travel guide, you will learn all my top travel tips for visiting Amsterdam, including practical information, common questions, and more!

Travel Tips for Visiting Amsterdam - Canals

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Basic Travel Tips for Visiting Amsterdam

Let’s start these Amsterdam travel tips with some of the most basic information you need to know to start your trip off right!

Geography

Amsterdam is the Capital City of the Netherlands. The Netherlands is located in Northwest Europe, with Germany on its right border and Belgium on its southern border.

Amsterdam is located on the west coast of the Netherlands and is a part of the North Holland Providence.

Map of the Netherlands in Europe
Map image Courtesy of Google Maps

Language in Amsterdam

The official language of the Netherlands is Dutch. However, most Dutch people speak English. While having Google Translate will be helpful in translating menus, you should have no problem getting around speaking English.

Currency

As a part of the European Union, Amsterdam uses the Euro as their currency. Visa and Mastercard credit cards are widely accepted. Not many establishments accept American Express or Discover. Cash is rarely needed in Amsterdam, but it doesn’t hurt to have some spare coins.

Power Outlets

Amsterdam uses the 2 prong types C & F and has a standard voltage of 230V with a standard frequency of 50Hz. I use this universal travel converter, which has worked in every country I have visited.

Tipping in Amsterdam

This is among the most common questions people ask Google when visiting Amsterdam. Tipping is unnecessary in Amsterdam, as it is not a part of the culture. There might even be a service charge in the bill. However, for excellent service at a restaurant, you can tip 5-10% if you feel inclined.

Most locals do not tip. If they do, they round up and leave some change. Waitstaff in the Netherlands does not work on tips. Additionally, there is no need to tip at the hotel or taxis.

Windmills in Zaanse Schans outside of Amsterdam
Zaanse Schans

Booking in Advance – One of the Most Important Travel Tips for Visiting Amsterdam

One of the most important travel tips for visiting Amsterdam – especially first-timers, is to book in advance. If you don’t, there is a good chance you may not be able to visit some of your planned Amsterdam attractions.

For example, the Anne Frank House must be booked EXACTLY 6 weeks before your trip because this is how they release tickets.

The Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum, and specialized tours are other things you will need to book in advance. If you decide to use a city pass, which I will discuss below, you will have specific instructions on booking – it’s easy.

Read More: Ultimate 3 Days in Amsterdam Itinerary

Rijksmuseum with tulips from the outside
Outside of the Rijksmuseum with tulips

Amsterdam Passes

Like most major cities, Amsterdam has specialized tourist passes. These passes are designed to help save money if you plan on visiting a lot of attractions. The two main tourist passes to consider for Amsterdam are the GoCity Pass and the Amsterdam City Card.

Both include a ton of museums and attractions. What sets them apart, in my option, is that the GoCity Pass offers additional excursions (day trips), whereas the Amsterdam City Card does not.

However, the Amsterdam City Card offers free transportation on the inner cities buses, Metro, and Tram, which is not available on the GoCity Pass.

It will be different for everyone, but after evaluating the costs for the attractions we wanted to visit, the All-Inclusive 3 Day Pass with GoCity was the best option for us, since we wanted to utilize the day trip options. We also spent so little on the metro (15 Euros in 4 days).

 Keukenhof Gardens with colorful flowers
Day trip to Keukenhof Gardens with GoCity Pass

Plan on Walking A LOT in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is a very walkable city, therefore, make sure to pack those comfortable walking shoes. You know, the ones you’ve worn several times and know they don’t give you blisters!

If you’re in the market to test new shoes, I’ve personally walked miles in these Converse sneakers, which are slightly different from the regular Converse. For me, they are comfy, yet cute. I have a narrow foot. I pair them with my favorite cushiony Darn Tough socks. My Other go-tos are these Chelsea Boots, and my Birkenstock Sandals, which I have been fine walking over 7 miles daily in.

Atlas Maior Bridge in Amsterdam
Atlas Maior Bridge in Jordaan

Using Public Transportation in Amsterdam

Now that we’ve discussed walking in Amsterdam, the next way you will likely be getting around is by public transportation. It is not worth renting/hiring a car when visiting Amsterdam.

If you have a tap credit card, that is all you will need to use public transport. You can walk right up to the entrance and tap your card or mobile wallet to pay for transportation.

In Amsterdam, you must also tap out upon leaving. This is how they calculate the cost. This is especially important on the trams and buses since it is easy to walk on and off, whereas the metro will not let you leave without tapping out.

Transportation is very easy to use in Amsterdam. Google Maps works great and will tell you the platforms and departure and arrival times.

All public transport inside the city (Buses, Trams, Metro) is a part of the GVB. The tap-and-go with your credit card will work on all of these.

Trains used outside the city, like the train from the airport to the city center, are a part of the NS, which is the Netherlands train system. Separate tickets will have to be purchased when traveling outside the city.

Tickets can be purchased at the train station or use the NS app to buy a ticket. These trains usually come up as Inter-City or Sprinter trains.

Metro & Tram Travel Tip: The doors have little buttons to make them open. They will not open up automatically.

Tram line in Amsterdam
Tram line in Amsterdam

Watch Out for the Bike Lane

If there is one essential travel tip to know for visiting Amsterdam, it is to stay out of the bike lane! The bike culture in Amsterdam is STRONG. That is why they have dedicated bike lanes around the entire city and the country, for that matter.

The bike lane is a reddish color, and if you’re walking in the bike lane, don’t be surprised if someone runs you right over. I personally witnessed this happen!

Notice a lot of little bell noises? Get out of the way fast, because the Dutch don’t mess around.

If you decide you want to join in on the bike culture, also make sure not to bike on the walkway. Another big NO, NO! Also, stay to the right side of the lane so the locals can pass you to the left side. Again, you hear a bell; watch out!

Bike in front of Canal in Amsterdam

Lock Up Your Bikes

Amsterdam is known to be a pretty safe city, however, bikes getting stolen is a common theme. Our boat guide even mentioned that Amsterdam works on the “borrow” each other’s bike system. A nice way of saying everyone steals each other’s bikes.

Therefore, it is very important to lock your bike if you decide to rent one!

Amsterdam Fun Fact: Nearly 15,000 bikes are fished out of the canals annually.

Don’t Forget to See Amsterdam by Boat

With 165 canals and over 1,700 bridges, seeing Amsterdam by boat is a must! Many go as far as to say Amsterdam is the Venice of the North. But for real, you really shouldn’t miss a canal cruise. Most tours last about 1 hour and provide a lot of information about the city.

In fact, I would suggest doing a boat tour as one of the first things you do in Amsterdam. This way, you can learn more about the city before jumping into attractions. Boat tours are usually included in the Amsterdam Passes, or you can find canal tours here.

Travel Tips for visiting Amsterdam include taking a canal tour - tulips with tour boats and colorful Dutch homes

Carry Your Passport

I am not one to walk around carrying my passport. In fact, I always lock it up in the room and have a picture of it if I ever run into an issue. However, Amsterdam requires all non-EU citizens to carry their passports. If, for some reason, you get asked for it and don’t have it, you can be heavily fined.

Popular Food in Amsterdam

When visiting Amsterdam, trying some of the local foods and drinks is a great way to be immersive with the culture. Therefore, here are some of the things you should try when visiting.

  • Dutch Pancakes: Unlike American pancakes, the pancakes in the Netherlands are flat, like a crepe but not folded. These pancakes can be topped with savory or sweet additions.
  • Poffertjes: Mini fluffy Pancakes usually served with powdered sugar and butter.
  • Stroopwafels: 2 thin waffles shaped like a cookie with caramel in between.
  • Fluffy Fries the Dutch way with mayo sauces.
  • New Dutch herring – Raw herring, which is a Dutch delicacy.
  • Dutch Apple Pie
  • Gouda Cheese, which is from the Netherlands.
  • The Netherlands brews a lot of different beers.
Stroopwafel in Amsterdam is a must with 3 days
Stroopwafel
Pancake Bakery in Amsterdam
Dutch Pancake with ice cream, whip cream, and stroopwafels

Know the Difference Between Coffee Shops

If you didn’t already know, Amsterdam has a lot of leniency regarding soft drugs. You will find stores everywhere selling space cakes, shrooms cookies, weed lollipops, and more.

There are also “Coffeeshops,” where you can enjoy smoking and doing these soft drugs. So, if you see Coffeeshops as one word, these are the smoke shops.

“Coffee Shop” as two words is the normal coffee shops you’re used to!

Window of Space Cakes in Amsterdam

Don’t Buy Drugs

I mean, this should go without saying, but you should not buy drugs from people on the street. Since they have legal places to purchase soft drugs, they are strict about deals done with random people on the street.

The Red Light District, in particular, has a lot of people who are trying to sell drugs. They walk by and kind of whisper in your ear, “Drugs.” Just ignore these people, and if you are going to try something, do it legally.

Best Time to Visit Amsterdam

On a lighter note, another travel tip to know for visiting Amsterdam is the best time to visit.

April and May are extremely popular months to visit Amsterdam for tulip season. There are festivals and rows upon rows of tulips just outside Amsterdam. The end of May is also King’s Day, which is a huge party and celebration in the canals.

The Summer months are the most popular time to visit Amsterdam. This is when prices will be at an all-time high, so booking in advance is important. During the summer, you will have great weather and long summer days.

But, if you’re someone who want’s to avoid crowds, the Spring and Fall will be better times to visit.

September and October can also be nice times to visit Amsterdam since there will be fewer crowds and fall weather. The prices will also be better during these months.

Finally, if you’re looking for somewhere to ring in the New Year, heading to this party city can be really fun despite the cold weather.

Related: Ultimate Netherlands Travel Guide

Tulip Fields in Lisse

Popular Day Trips from Amsterdam

Day trips are very popular to do when visiting Amsterdam. The country itself is not terribly large, making it easy to access most cities and towns by train. Some of the most popular day trips you can add to your Amsterdam itinerary include:

  • Delft
  • Zaanse Schanse
  • Haarlem
  • Rotterdam
  • The Hague
  • Utrecht
  • Keukenhof (Lisse)
  • Giethoorn
  • Leiden
Travel tips for visiting Amsterdam - take a day trip - Zaanse Schaans Windmills
Zaanse Schaans Windmills

Weather in Amsterdam

As we learned pretty quickly from our trip to Amsterdam, you can experience all the seasons in one day, making packing for Amsterdam a little difficult.

You should always expect rain and be happy if you don’t get any during your trip. The Dutchies embrace the weather, so you should too!

During the Winter, Spring, and Fall, trench coats are very popular. I was one of the only people in a true raincoat, but I didn’t care at the time, lol.

If it is raining, usually, your hotel can give you an umbrella. From our experience, it doesn’t rain all day.

Overall, pack layers – even in the summer. Having a light jacket or a sweater is never a bad idea.

Raining in Amsterdam - travel tips for visiting Amsterdam to prepare for all weather - Canals

Apps to Have for Your First Time Visiting Amsterdam

In a digital world, these apps should help you when visiting Amsterdam for the first time.

  •  9292 – A popular app for planning public transportation travel in Amsterdam (GVB).
  • NS App – For trains outside of Amsterdam.
  • Google Maps for Navigation. If you don’t get an International Data plan or E-sim, download the offline maps to your phone, so you still have access on airplane mode. Google Maps was my go-to for all navigation personally.
  • Buienradar– Weather app that locals find to be more accurate.
  • Your Airlines App – which should make checking in to your flight easier.
  • Google Translate – If you don’t have cell service, download the language before leaving.
  • Not an app, but if you don’t have an International phone plan, I would recommend getting an E-sim. You need a smartphone that has an e-sim to do this. I have an iPhone 13. I use Holafly for my E-sims.

Drinking the Water in Amsterdam

Did you know the Netherlands has some of the cleanest water in the World? It is right up there with Scandinavian Countries. So, feel confident bringing your reusable water bottle and filling it up because the water is safe to drink in Amsterdam.

Our hotel even had a water station to fill up your bottles.

Colorful bike by Amsterdam Canal - travel tips for visiting Amsterdam

Getting to Amsterdam From the Airport

The Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS) is about 30-40 minutes outside the city center and there are several ways you can get to the city center.

The two easiest ways to get to Amsterdam from the Airport are by taking a taxi or taking the train. A taxi will be around 70 Euros and up, whereas the train will be closer to 10 Euros.

After leaving baggage claim, you will see signs for taxis, buses, and trains. All you have to do is follow the signs. If you decide to take the train, as we did, you will get your ticket for Amsterdam Centraal train station. From Amsterdam Centraal Station, you may need to take the tram or metro. You can also get an Uber from here, which should be less.

It is very easy to take the train, and there are attendants around the station if you need help. You need a physical ticket or use the app for this one.

Where to Stay in Amsterdam

If this is your first time visiting Amsterdam, staying in the city center of Amsterdam is your best bet. If you’re planning your trip for Spring, Summer, or around festivals, make sure to book well in advance.

Some hotels to consider when staying in Amsterdam including:

I always use Booking. com since they have a flexible cancellation policy.

Additionally, you can check vacation rentals or even consider staying on a houseboat, if you want a unique Amsterdam experience. Just make sure it is centralized in these neighborhoods; Canal Belt (Amsterdam City Center), Jordaan, the Museum Quarter, and De Pijp (Latin Quarter).

I suggest staying within 10-15 minutes of walking distance to major attractions.

Lobby of the Eden Hotel
Lobby of the Eden Hotel

No Pictures in the Red Light District

Another one of the most important travel tips for visiting Amsterdam is to know you can’t take pictures in the Red Light District. During our visit, we did see some people doing it, but it is against the law, and you will be fined if caught, especially if the women from the windows are in the photos.

Popular Experiences in Amsterdam

Other helpful travel tips to know when visiting Amsterdam include some of the popular experiences and attractions in Amsterdam. These include:

  • Rembrandt House Museum
  • Canal Tours
  • Exploring 9 Streets
  • Visiting Dam Square
  • Anne Frank House Tour
  • Van Gogh Museum
  • Rijksmuseum
  • Albert Cuyp Markt
  • Seeing the Red Light District
  • Vondelpark
  • Royal Palace Amsterdam
  • Our Lord in the Attic Museum (Former Hidden Catholic Church)
  • Heineken Experience (I didn’t care for this)
  • A’DAM Lookout (I believe it is over-rated – go to a rooftop bar instead).
Van Gogh Museum Sunflowers
Inside the Van Gogh Museum

Watch Out for Public Urinals

The first time I saw a full-blown open urinal stand was in Amsterdam. Then I saw them in Belgium, but it took me back for a second. I think it is genius; this way, men aren’t peeing on every corner, but don’t walk too close to them if you don’t want a peep show.

They are a light grey structure and can be found scattered around the city.

Urinal in Amsterdam

Tulip Season in Amsterdam

When you think of Amsterdam, or the Netherlands for that matter, I bet tulips come to mind! So, it only makes sense it is a part of these travel tips for visiting Amsterdam. And even though tulips are not native to the Netherlands, it is an important crop to the Dutch.

During mid-April – May, the tulip fields begin to bloom. During this time, people from all over the world come to visit these farms.

From Amsterdam, the most popular tulip fields to visit are in Lisse, by Keukenhof Gardens.

Do not walk in the fields unless you have the farmer’s permission. This is strictly forbidden, as it can ruin the farmer’s crops.

If you want to take pictures in tulip fields, you can visit the Tulip Experience or The Tulip Barn in the area. They both allow you to explore in their fields and set up props for photos.

Amsterdam tulips guide coming soon!

Inside rows of Tulips at the Tulip Barn
Inside rows of Tulips at the Tulip Barn

Visa For Visiting Amsterdam ETIAS

Most passport holders can enter the Netherlands without having to do any paperwork as long as they stay no longer than 90 days in Europe.

However, starting in 2024, most visitors, including US Citizens, will need to apply for ETIAS when visiting 30 different European Countries, including the Netherlands.

So, if you’re planning your visit in 2024, you will need to fill out an application for the ETIAS. This must be done before your trip and costs 7 euros. You will not be able to enter without approval.

Travel Tips for Visiting Amsterdam Wrap-up

This concludes some of the most important travel tips for visiting Amsterdam. I hope you have the most incredible time exploring Amsterdam!

Additional Europe Travel Guides:

If you have additional questions about these Amsterdam travel tips or think I missed something, let me know in the comments below.

Did you find these Travel tips for Visiting Amsterdam helpful? I’d appreciate it if you could share it below!

Travel tips for visiting Amsterdam - first timer

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Samantha Oppenheimer

Samantha Oppenheimer (Sam Opp) quit her corporate marketing job in 2018 to travel the world and become a travel writer, blogger and content creator. She loves experiencing authentic travel experiences, photography, and nature. Sam shares helpful travel itineraries, travel tips, budget tips, and travel advice from her personal experiences. You can also find Sam's words featured in large publications including Mirror, Thrillist, and Well + Good.

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