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15 Amazing Amsterdam Travel Tips for First Timers

15 Amazing Amsterdam Travel Tips for First Timers

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Are you planning a trip to Amsterdam for the first time and don’t know what to expect? Keep scrolling to check out my top Amsterdam travel tips!
This list of Amsterdam travel tips was written by family travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.

Are you planning a trip to Amsterdam, maybe even for the first time?

The capital city of the Netherlands is known for its postcard-perfect canals, cobblestone bike lanes, tall wonky houses, and artistic heritage.

It’s a popular city break and for good reason. Amsterdam’s museums are world-class, the gardens are beautiful (especially during tulip season!), and there are endless things to do.

But there are some Amsterdam travel tips and things to know before visiting Amsterdam to help you plan the best trip possible. We were just there with our kids and we learned a LOT.

You’ll be able to avoid common travel mistakes that many make on their first time in Amsterdam so you have the best, most unforgettable vacation.

Discover everything about visiting all the major attractions and navigating this Dutch capital in this detailed Amsterdam travel guide!

Don’t have time to read a bunch of Amsterdam blog posts and reviews? Here are some of our top picks for visiting Amsterdam with kids.

Popular Amsterdam Tours/Activities

Kid-Friendly Amsterdam Hotels

Want to Rent a Bike in Amsterdam?
One of the best places to rent a bike in Amsterdam is MacBike Bike Rental because they usually have the cheapest rates and fantastic customer service. Check rates here.

Amazing Amsterdam Travel Tips for First Timers

Planning Your Amsterdam Visit

When traveling to Amsterdam, you know you’re going to visit lots of museums. The Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, and the Anne Frank House are must-sees and should be high on your list.

There are also quirky museums like Body Worlds and KattenKabinet, which is a museum dedicated to artworks of cats. 

Image of a family of four on a canal cruise in Amsterdam
We loved taking a peaceful canal tour in Amsterdam. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Taking a canal tour is also a must!

Strolling around the Nine Streets in the Canal district is one of the best things to do in Amsterdam. Amsterdam has beautiful cheese and flower markets like the Albert Cuyp Markt and Bloemenmarkt. De Hallen is a cool food hall.

Don’t miss Vondelpark in the summer. And if you’re traveling as a couple, you might want to check out the Heineken Experience and Brouwerij ’t IJ which was Amsterdam’s first small brewery.

How Long Do You Need in Amsterdam?

If you’re wondering how many days you should spend in Amsterdam, plan at least 2 full days but 2-3 days in Amsterdam is ideal. 

Image of a mom and son wearing oversized Dutch wooden shoes at Zaanse Schans in Amsterdam
I highly recommend visiting Zaanse Schans as an easy Amsterdam day trip! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Three days will give you enough time to check out all the top museums, relax in the parks, and wander through markets at a leisurely pace.

One of the best Amsterdam vacation tips is to take a day trip which you can do if you book 4 days in Amsterdam.

Head to the Tulip Fields, Delft, Gouda, Haarlem, or The Hague for a change of scenery. This is totally doable, especially if you are spending a week in Amsterdam.

Book a Family Photo Shoot

Whenever we travel, we almost always book a family photo shoot with Flytographer. They are super easy, affordable, AND guarantee that I’ll be in some photos. You can get $25 off if you book through this link or use the code HAWAIITRAVEL.

Public Transportation in Amsterdam

Amsterdam’s public transport is fantastic. 

Their network consists of buses, trams, metros, trains, and ferries. One of the best tips for traveling in Amsterdam is to make use of their reliable public transport as much as possible.

Image of a dad and two boys on a tram in Amsterdam
The trams in Amsterdam were really spacious and clean. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

If you have the I Amsterdam City Card, public transport across the GVB network is included.

And if you don’t have the card, you can buy day adult passes for €9 and €4.50 for children over four years old.

Taxis and Ubers in Amsterdam

If you prefer taking public transport, one of the key things to know about Amsterdam is that their taxis are amongst the most expensive in Europe.

Many people prefer to use Uber which is often cheaper depending on the availability of cars and time of day.

But if you’d rather take a taxi, you can’t hail them from the street. Ask your accommodation for a reputable company you can call when you need one. Alternatively, there are taxi ranks around the city e.g. at Amsterdam Centraal Train Station.

One thing to understand is that Amsterdam is trying to become a car-free city in the near future and part of that is making it difficult to drive around the city. So, it’s often faster to walk or take public transit instead of hiring a taxi.

Simple Dutch Phrases

You likely know that ‘thank you’ is merci in French and gracias in Spanish. But you probably don’t know many Dutch words, if any.

One of the best Amsterdam local tips is to learn some simple Dutch phrases. Because so few people speak Dutch as a second language, hospitality staff will be surprised and maybe even touched if you make the effort:

  • Yes – Ja
  • No – Nee
  • Thank you – Bedankt
  • Sorry – Sorry
  • Excuse me – Pardon

Those last two should be super easy for you!

Best Souvenirs to Buy in Amsterdam

Looking for cool, local things to buy in Amsterdam? 

Sealed packs of stroopwafel cookies and vacuum-packed cheese are great foodie items to take home with you. If you collect magnets then bikes, tulips, and clogs are instantly recognizable icons of Amsterdam.

You could even ship tulip bulbs back to your home country by simply filling out a customs form at a post office in the Netherlands.

Image of a Miffy crocheted stuffy
We’re officially obsessed with all things Miffy! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

And if you are visiting Amsterdam with kids, you might want to get a Miffy stuffed animal or item. It’s an adorable character that is famous world-wide but was created in the Netherlands!

Carry Identification At All Times

All the best Amsterdam travel tips are the ones that could potentially save you from breaking the law without realizing it.

All non-EU citizens have to carry their passports at all times in the Netherlands. Even if you are from the EU, you still need to carry some form of official identification.

Be an Early Bird to Avoid Crowds

Amsterdam can get super busy during the summer, but you’ll always miss the worst of the crowds if you start your day early.

Head to museums as soon as they open. You’ll have a much more stress-free and enjoyable trip if you do this. 

Difference Between Coffee Shops and Cafes

In other cities, coffee shops and cafes are the same thing. But in Amsterdam, they have two very different meanings.

Cafes are places where you can buy coffee, pastries, and similar treats. 

Image of two boys pretending to drink out of an oversized coffee cup in Amsterdam
It’s important to know the difference between a cafe and a coffee shop! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Coffee shops, in Amsterdam, are where locals and tourists alike can buy cannabis for consumption on the property or privately elsewhere.

Just something to be aware of when you type ‘coffee’ into Google Maps whilst in Amsterdam!

Book Tickets in Advance (especially Anne Frank House!)

To avoid the crazy long lines outside of museums like the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum, book tickets with timed slots in advance. 

But if you’re visiting Amsterdam in the off-season or plan to head to the museums before opening then you should get in quickly without a pre-booked ticket.

This is not the case with the Anne Frank Museum. Tickets for this museum sell out weeks, if not months, in advance and they don’t sell anymore on the day. 

If you’ve missed out, you can often still buy them through third-party websites for a premium. THIS ONE is a good option.

Rent a Bike and Learn How to Lock it

Do as the Romans (or the Amsterdammers) do and rent a bike to get around the city during your trip. Around 63% of locals cycle on a daily basis and it’s a huge part of their culture.

Image of a rainbow bicycle public art in front of a Pride booth in Amsterdam
You’ll even see bicycle public art all over Amsterdam, like this rainbow one! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

There are some Amsterdam tips you need to know before your foot hits the pedal. Cyclists in Amsterdam are ruthless and they will cut you off or ring their bells if you’re too slow. 

Bike helmets might not look cool but they’re cheap to rent and essential for safety. 

You should also ask for two bike locks from your bike rental. The first should go around the back wheel and frame and the second should go around the front wheel when attaching your bike to the rack.

Also, take a photo of your bike in the rack and the surrounding area so you don’t forget where you left it.

Money in Amsterdam

One of the essential things to know before going to Amsterdam is what currency you need to bring and how much cash you need to carry.

The Netherlands uses the euro currency. It’s good practice to have some cash as well as a great travel credit card with low overseas fees. Some cafes and vendors won’t take a credit card for small purposes, tips, and if you needed to split bills in restaurants.

Euro money: closeup of banknotes and coins
It’s always helpful to get some Euros in cash.

Is Amsterdam expensive? There is no sugar-coating it – Amsterdam is an expensive place to both live in and visit.

Museums, restaurants, accommodation, and almost everything except public transport has a premium price tag. One of the best Amsterdam tourist tips you could get is to budget a generous amount when planning a trip to Amsterdam.

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    Dining in Amsterdam Tips

    Amsterdam doesn’t have a big tipping culture and you don’t need to tip for a cup of coffee, street food, or drink at a bar. However, tipping in Amsterdam is becoming more customary at restaurants.

    Tipping around 10% of your bill in Amsterdam is appreciated, but it’s not expected.

    One of the best traveling in Amsterdam tips anyone could give you for dining in the city is to book any restaurants that you really want to visit. It’s a small place and the local favorites fill up fast.

    Image of a stroopwafel hanging in front of a window in Amsterdam
    We highly recommend waiting in line at Van Wonderen Stroopwafels in Amsterdam. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

    Some popular Dutch sweet treats include stroopwafels (two soft cookies with a caramel filling), pancakes, and apple pie. Raw herring is a delicacy in Amsterdam if you’re brave enough to try it.

    They might be called French fries in the US, but the Dutch lay a strong claim to the invention of this delicious crispy potato snack.

    Buy them in a cone from a street food vendor with mayonnaise instead of ketchup if you want to eat them as the Dutch do.

    Get a Travel Adapter

    The Netherlands uses the type F electrical plug with two rounded prongs. Most of their outlets also fit type C and L plugs too. All three are very standard in many European countries.

    Electric sockets in the Netherlands have 230 volts whereas the US only has 110 volts. Buy a travel adapter with a built-in voltage converter to protect your electrical gear.

    Safety and Awareness in Amsterdam

    With the sheer amount of tourists and adult activity that takes place in the city, is Amsterdam safe to visit? 

    Absolutely! According to The Economist, Amsterdam is the 6th safest major city in the world and the 1st in Europe. Violent and dangerous crimes are almost unheard of in Amsterdam.

    Image of The handhaving police department having a look in the streets of Amsterdam, Netherlands
    While Amsterdam is safer than other European cities, it’s still a good idea to be aware.

    However, petty crimes like pickpocketing still occur around the major tourist sites. Keep your phones and money out of sight and keep a tight hold of your bags when on public transport and walking through crowds.

    Many of the canals don’t have fences or barriers, so keep a tight hold of your children when walking close to the water.

    Amsterdam has a super famous Red Light District. Depending on where your canal tour departs or docks, it might be unavoidable.

    One great example of what not to do in Amsterdam is to take photos of the workers in this part of town; it’s illegal.

    Amsterdam Travel Tips FAQs

    Where are the best places to stay in Amsterdam?

    Amsterdam has lots of small neighborhoods within Centrum, the center of the city, with different personalities. Jordaan is a great place to stay when visiting Amsterdam for the first time because it’s on the canals and close to all the top landmarks and eateries.

    Oud-West is great for families because it’s slightly quieter and next to Vondelpark. If you’re traveling with friends or as a couple and want to be close to Amsterdam’s nightlife, then stay in De Wallen.

    When is the best time to visit Amsterdam?

    For the weather, the best time to visit Amsterdam is during the early summer months of June and July. Temperatures are around 70°F/22°C or warmer during these months.

    One of the best pieces of Amsterdam travel advice anyone could give you is to not visit in August. It’s actually Amsterdam’s wettest month of the year!

    Tulip season in the Netherlands is from the end of March to the middle of May. If you wanted to take a day trip from Amsterdam to see the tulip fields, that’s the best time to go.

    If you love festivals and carnivals and want Amsterdam holiday tips, King’s Day is a huge celebration in the Netherlands on April 27th every year. It’s a huge national holiday and there’s always lots of music and dancing, plus everyone wears orange.

    What are some popular day trips from Amsterdam?

    While I recommend that you visit Amsterdam for 2-3 days, it can be fun to include an Amsterdam day trip to Zaanse Schans, Keukenhof Gardens, Giethoorn, Rotterdam, The Hague, or Delft.

    Is public transit in Amsterdam easy to use?

    Yes, public transit in Amsterdam is easy to use. The city has a well-developed network of trams, buses, and metro lines that cover most of the city.

    Tickets are relatively inexpensive and can be purchased at most train stations, tram stops, and bus stops. You can also buy a day pass or a multi-day pass if you plan on using public transit extensively.

    Do people in Amsterdam speak English?

    Yes, most people in Amsterdam speak English. In fact, the Netherlands is ranked first in the world for English proficiency. This means that you will be able to communicate with most people in Amsterdam in English, even if you do not speak Dutch.

    What are the most popular Amsterdam attractions?

    Some of the major attractions in Amsterdam include the Van Gogh museum, the red light district, a canal cruise, Anne Frank’s house, Vondelpark, Coffeeshops, and the Heineken Experience.

    What local food should I try in Amsterdam?

    Amsterdam has a diverse culinary scene, with influences from all over the world. However, there are also a number of traditional Dutch dishes that you should try while you’re in the city.

    These Dutch food items include Poffertjes, Bitterballen, Stroopwafels, Frites, and Rijsttafel (which is actually Indonesian food).

    What are some tips to save money in Amsterdam?

    Visiting Amsterdam can be a wonderful experience, but like any major city, it can also be a bit pricey.

    A few ways to save money include getting an I Amsterdam City Card, eating local food, renting bikes, taking advantage of free activities, booking accommodation in advance, traveling in the off-season, and using public transportation.

    Where can I find skip the line tickets in Amsterdam?

    Skip the line tickets for various attractions in Amsterdam can typically be purchased online through the attractions’ official websites or through trusted travel platforms like GetYourGuide, Viator, or the official I Amsterdam website.

    Are canal cruises worth it?

    Yes, canal cruises are one of the best ways to see Amsterdam. They provide unique views of the city’s historic canal rings, centuries-old houses, and famous landmarks. They also offer insightful commentary about the city’s history and architecture.

    Should we rent bikes in Amsterdam?

    Absolutely! Amsterdam is known as the bicycle capital of the world. It’s a bike-friendly city with dedicated cycling paths and bike parking spots.

    Renting a bike allows you to explore the city like a local and can be a fun and efficient way to get around.

    What’s the best coffee shop in Amsterdam?

    Amsterdam is famous for its coffee shops, and the “best” one can depend on your personal preferences. However, some popular ones include The Bulldog, Green House, and Barney’s Coffeeshop.

    Please note that in Amsterdam, a “coffee shop” is a place where cannabis is sold and consumed, while a “cafe” is what you’d traditionally consider a coffee shop.

    Is there a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Amsterdam?

    Yes, the Amsterdam Canal District was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2010. It’s recognized for its unique urban planning development and impressive architecture.

    What are the top tourist attractions in Amsterdam?

    Some of the top tourist attractions in Amsterdam include the Anne Frank House, the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, the Amsterdam Canals, the Heineken Experience, and the Jordaan neighborhood.

    Does Amsterdam have free public transportation?

    Amsterdam does not offer free public transportation. You can purchase an I Amsterdam City Card for unlimited public transit during the validity of your card, in addition to other benefits.

    What’s the best way to explore Amsterdam?

    The best way to explore Amsterdam depends on your personal preferences. Many enjoy biking due to the city’s excellent cycling infrastructure. Walking is also a great way to explore as Amsterdam’s city center is quite compact.

    For a unique perspective, consider a canal cruise. Lastly, the city’s public transportation system is efficient and wide-ranging, including trams, buses, and metro lines.

    What to pack for a trip to Amsterdam?

    Speaking of what to wear in Amsterdam, you should pack comfortable shoes. Most of Amsterdam’s canal streets are cobblestone and most activities are within walking distance. 

    If you’re able-bodied and traveling with older kids, you’ll be doing lots of walking in Amsterdam!

    One of the travel tips to Amsterdam you should know is to pack a raincoat. It can, and does, rain in every season here.

    Apart from those Amsterdam tips for packing, the temperatures are generally mild. You likely have all the right gear and clothes already hanging in your wardrobe.

    Tips for Amsterdam Wrap Up

    Regardless of whether you’re embarking on a solo journey, setting out as a pair, or venturing with your family, these invaluable travel tips will assist you on your inaugural visit to Amsterdam.

    They’ll ease your navigation through the beautiful city, from the bustling city center to the busy platforms of Amsterdam Centraal Station.

    Say goodbye to worries about lengthy queues, language barriers, and transportation hassles.

    With these tips in your travel arsenal, your visiting Amsterdam experience is set to be more enjoyable and far less stressful, letting you appreciate this captivating city to its fullest.

    Looking for more tips for visiting Amsterdam? Check out how to spend 3 days in Amsterdam with kids, the best Amsterdam day trips, things to do in Amsterdam with kids, is Giethoorn worth visiting, awesome things to do in Zaanse Schans, and where to stay in Amsterdam with kids!

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