AMSTERDAM CHEAT SHEET
- Visa: No for US / Canadian / Australian Citizens for a tourist stays less than 90 days + no necessary vaccinations
- Best Time to Travel: Spring April - June. In my experience, streets are less crowded, prices for hostels and hotels are much cheaper than summertime, and you get warm-hot weather during the day though nighttime can be freezing.
- Currency: Euros
- Cost of Typical Meal - 8 euros + for a cheap, local breakfast or lunch.
- CC friendly: Yes
- Transportation Friendly. Trains are incredibly efficient, easy to understand and affordable, approx 4euros one way. You can also rent a bike as they have many bike lanes for approx 8 Euros per day.
- Airports: Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS). Easily accessible to Centraal Station by train.
- Language: Dutch, but everyone speaks perfect English
ONGOING RUMOR: The Dutch are beautiful and really, really tall.
MY EXPERIENCE: Yes and yes.
Known for the free basing culture of sex, drugs and red lights, travelers come from all over the world to revel in life's guilty pleasures, here. Whether it be for some of the world's finest herbs or some unattached sex, what people don't realize is that Amsterdam is in reality, a friendly, quaint town worth exploring. It's got an old world charm highlighted by Venice like canals. There's more bikes than people, and you'll probably hear a traveler or two complaining about how they got hit by a biker. The city itself is an adorable and beautiful place where you'll be able to explore by foot, pedal or boat!
KING'S DAY IN THE RED LIGHT DISTRICT
King's Day is an annual celebration of the King's Birthday. It's about as patriotic as it gets, and the entire city shuts down for a massive street party. It's the only day of the year that there are no restrictions to sell anything, so vendors sell everything from little figurines to the kitchen sink. You'll find legions of orange everywhere, neon orange feather boas, tshirts, silly sunglasses, top hats, sneakers etc... When I got out of the train station on King's Day, I was immediately greeted with a pair of orange sunglasses and a flower necklace. Food vendors and carnival rides filter into the streets and confetti, music and beers are everywhere. The canals were filled to the brim with crowds of people on boats. Have you ever seen a boat traffic jam before?
Fun fact: As part of a recent green measure from the mayor, drinks purchases at bars come in plastic cups. When they're returned, you get 1 Euro back to purchase a new drink! Sadly, on King's Day bathrooms were also charging 1 Euro to use the bathroom, so that kind of equaled out.
RED LIGHT DISTRICT
MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE
You can take the train from the airport to Central Station and take a 10-15 minute walk to the Red Light District. Take a visit through Niewmarkt Square and Dam Square to go shopping. For food try a typical Dutch dinner of Pancakes...on a boat! Check out Pannenkoekenboot for a pancake cruise. The Red light District and have some meatballs on Warmoestraat street. here are also plenty of cheese shops, so make sure to do that as well.
But if you really want to eat with a local, why not try Eatwith? It's a website where you can join a local dinner party held in someone's home. Guests are vetted out and you pay for a delicious dinner with others. Truly a local experience, and they have branches in over 150 cities. It's like going to a friend's house for dinner.
Know that you can get reimbursed your VAT taxes on purchases at the airport, simply ask the clerk for a VAT return sheet and they'll give you a form to hand in to a blue and white booth at the airport.
WHERE TO STAY:
HEART OF AMSTERDAM HOSTEL: I loved it because every room was movie themed. It was clean, though not much of a social hostel. Bulldog Hostel is the well known spot and they have their own weed shop and bar as well, so that's another option if you are looking for hostels to stay in the Red Light District. Also, be wary of booking hostels because my friend ended up booking a Christian female only hostel by accident.