Amsterdam tips from Ex-expat
Amsterdam is definitely one of those cities that everyone has to visit at least once. Everyone has to experience the energy of this city, the feeling of freedom, the food, the people, the smells... I first came here as a tourist myself...loved it, stayed here, lived and worked here for 2 years. This is not your typical guide for places to visit and things to do, those you can easily find on google. But I thought it would be useful to put together a knowledge of someone who used to live here, who went through all the tourist traps and found a way around them.
Amsterdam is an amazing city and I am very excited that you are coming here! You are going to have an amazing time! But there are few things to watch out for if you want to save your money, time and nerves. That is why me and Oksana, who used to live here as well, decided to share our tips and hacks so you can have the time of your life in Amsterdam!
Tram. I have never seen this system anywhere else in Europe so for you, this also can be new. When going in the tram in the city you have to check in and out before leaving, using their prepaid OV chipcard. It is so easy to forget to check out, especially if you are in a hurry or excited and I wasted so much money before I finally got used to it. There is a reminder in the tram not to forget... but who listens to reminders? If you don't check out before you leave, you will pay a maximum fare which is something like 5€ and knowing that you will most probably forget to check out at least once during your visit, it is probably cheaper to buy a day pass instead of a prepaid card that you don't really have to check out and it costs 7€.
Cheese and Souvenirs. You definitely want to take cheese away with you as it is just deliciouuuus! There are so many specialty shops where you can buy it in, but there are all over-priced, because of the nicer packaging and because they have to cover the costs of all the free cheese that they give away. In usual supermarkets like Albert Heijn, you can buy cheese and stroopwafels almost 3 times cheaper than in specialty shops...unless you are looking for something very unique like truffle cheese (a must try), for that you have to go to the specialty shop. Even if you are not willing to buy any cheese, don't miss a chance to have a free cheese feast! Just go in any cheese shop and fill up your belly!
From albert heijn
from specialty shop henri willig
Tulips. The flower market is a great place to walk around and it is definitely going to be on your tourist map, but it is not a great place to buy any tulips from. I have tried this one for myself and brought my grandma some tulip bulbs from my first trip to Amsterdam and none of them ever bloomed. Tulip bulbs can only be planted during the autumn, and chances of successfully growing from bulbs bought out of season are low to impossible. The best is buying flowers from farmers or people who look like farmers.
Flower fields. Keukenhof is a beautiful park where you can see over zillion tulip kinds created by different countries, scientists, many colors shapes etc. In spring (you can only see those in March to May) it is always crowded and expensive (20€ entrance fee). BUT! here you will never be able to create one of those million like Instagram shot in endless fields. For this you don't have to pay, just get on the bus towards Lisse and get off when you start seeing fields. Some farmers are used to tourists, but some can get very angry, so watch out, behave and respect their territory, don't pick flowers unless allowed, don't jump over them.
Money. Dutch people love their Mastercard. Not sure how such a big European capital can still have such a problem, but Visa and other cards sometimes are not accepted or are charged extra. Taking cash out almost everytime incurs extra costs, so I recommend you to take some euros before coming here.
Red Light District. First of all watch out and hold on to your belongings. At night when you get a little loose, pickpockets come out and you can easily get robbed in the crowd without even noticing (nothing crazy, like in any big city). Don't ever take photos of working girls around, they get really really angry and there is security everywhere who is watching you and if you misbehave your phone can be taken away to delete pictures or even broken.
Taxis in Amsterdam is over-priced, and drivers take long, unnecessary detours. I don't recommend taking taxis here at all, unless you need to, as everything can be reached by tram or by foot and walks around Amsterdam are very enjoyable. Also, it is always cheaper and easier to get to from the airport to the city with the train.
Discounts. https://nieuw.spoordeelwinkel.nl/attracties this website is a lifesaver and gives amazing deals for train rides+ museum entrances etc. for an insane bargain price!
Drugs. I know that people want to try everything when they come to Amsterdam, but remember that only soft drugs are legal and you are risking your health and getting in trouble if you agree to try whatever else. Amsterdam needs to be remembered and you don't want to risk ruining your holiday because of some reckless decisions. At night around Red Light District junkies will offer you drugs, but it is not a good idea to reply to their whispered “hash? coke?” questions. Even with soft drugs, you have to be careful, know your dosage and if you don't know it, don't take too much and allow time for reaction. Don't go riding any bikes when you are high, look around and walk on a pedestrian lane when you are outside, sometimes those bikes come out of nowhere and sometimes it can be too late with that slow reaction...
Food. Amsterdam has got amazing food and there are so many specialties that you have to try like: herring, krokets, poffertjes, bitterballen, cheese, stroopwafels, apple pies, Vlaamse frieten, oliebollen...mMMMm... BUT! Around all coffeeshops in Central Amsterdam, you will find so many scammy junk food places that look amazing on the display but in reality taste terrible and old...all because people who get high get really hungry and this is how owners of those places attract customers by displaying their greasy, oily food. Don't fall for this scam, hold your breath and walk away. Do your research and enjoy delicious food somewhere else.