Buy a tram pass for however many days you’re there outside Amsterdam Centraal station and you’re set. In the first day you’ll go the wrong way a couple of times but trams are so frequent it’s easily corrected. Forget taxis and save yourself the time and effort of walking and getting lost.
After a few casual trips past coffee shops and feeling awkward, you’ll eye up menus (feeling just as awkward again), then venture in and likely buy 3 pre-rolled joints for a small fortune. Pick a strain, buy a bag and roll your own. Not only do you get a lot more bang for your buck, rolling becomes an essential skill whilst travelling and you can experiment with different strains.
Go in summer.
The stories of lakes freezing over to skate down, frosty squares with hot beverages and stylish European winter-wear are exaggerated. It’s cold and rainy and exhausting just like back home during winter. Enjoy sunshine, beautiful flowers and vibrant evening activities during the summer.
Be super alert.
Amsterdam isn’t somewhere I’ve had trouble with pickpockets, scam artists or bad people in general, but traffic is going to leave you constantly on-edge. Mopeds come hurtling down the pavement as if it’s the motorway, trams will plough through anything brave enough to be on their road, and cars will turn left into your face even though you’re probably on the 5th floor of a shopping centre. The roads make perfect sense… There’s just a LOT to keep on top of.
Location is irrelevant.
You’ll notice accommodation right in the centre is five times the price of accommodation a mile out. I’d strongly suggest opting for cheaper and more pleasant accommodation further out, the action will be just as accessible (trams).
I don’t need to tell you as you’ll do it anyway, but getting lost whilst following a canal you think looks like the canal you saw earlier leads you to exciting new areas with more stylish architecture, bizarre museums and delicious restaurants.
Locals hate you (maybe).
I don’t know this for a fact, but every local I asked for help hated speaking to me. They were all tall, intelligent and busy. It might be that their crazy language constantly sounds awkward, or that I was asking dumb questions, but I got a constant vibe that Dutch people would rather not be speaking to me. I do have a very hateable face, though.
Meat is impossible.
All the stereotypes about the land of pastries are true. Your only escape from pastries are greasey chips or pizza-dogs (avoid these, no matter how great they look, they are disappointing). The constant signs for Argentinian steakhouses will keep your mind on meat, but when you cave into their expensive offers you won’t be satisfied. Meat in Amsterdam is just not a thing.
Avoid the sex museum.
I went, it was shit, ignore it. Everyone goes for cheap thrills and a photo on a penis seat, but it’s nothing more. If you want to pay a fiver to look at black and white 80s porno taped to a wall; get the fuck off my blog.
Visit the red light district.
I don’t mean fork over a day’s wages to sling one up a tired hooker after an hour of window-shopping. Walk around the area, soak in the atmosphere and make awkward eye contact with a guy trying to slither out unnoticed. It’s a major draw for tourists and an interesting area – make the most out of it while you’re there, it’s truly unique.
Relax in the parks.
Not just parks but tiny man-made lakes, seated squares and any relaxing areas in general. It’s a big city but the country is great at knowing how to take a break. Enjoy silence, breathe freely and gaze at the flowers for a few hours before returning to the craziness. But don’t get high in the parks; it’s illegal and although you probably wont get arrested, a fine is never welcome whilst travelling.
Pee in the streets.
Amsterdam has semi-private urinals alongside the canal called “pissiors” which are something more major cities should adopt! Sure, Amsterdam needs them because people fall in the canal and die rather often whilst urinating… but in general these would be great everywhere to avoid popping into various bars and cafes whenever you need to take a leak. There’s also an annoying price on using pretty much every toilet I came across in Amsterdam, so the Amsterdam pissiors saved me a few quid for sure.
I could go on forever, but discovering the bonkers (yet genius) way this beautiful Dutch city functions is half the fun of being here! I’d advise visiting for more than a weekend though, as many of my friends fail to see Amsterdam’s charm in such a short period of time. Leave questions in the comments and I’ll answer what I can, but every time I visit I feel like I’m learning this city from scratch!