How to be the smartest tourist in Amsterdam
Amsterdam is the city of yes. An adult Disneyland. Europe's playground. It’s easy to go nuts here, and in fact, we generally recommend it. But naturally, you don’t want to end up looking like a total fool when you do. So, we’ll help you out: here are the scams to skip, cool places not in your guide book, and general stuff you need to know to be better at being a tourist in Amsterdam...
1. Order your taxi online
... Before you land at Schiphol, and save about €20 on your trip into the city. (Or just take the super-convenient train.)
2.Don’t buy public transportation tickets from people on the street
There’s a very high chance they just picked them up off the ground and they won’t work when you go to check in. If someone really doesn’t need their ticket anymore, they’ll probably give it to you for free. Even then, it's 50/50.
3.Nice weather? Take the ferry!
Head behind Centraal Station to Noord for the best outdoor bars, like Pllek and Café de Ceuvel. Bonus: free ferry ride! (Feeling adventurous? Bring a bike to explore the mishmash of incorporated villages and hipster-fied industrial areas.)
4.Shady men will offer you drugs on the street: Just. Say. No.
If it’s pot you want, that’s what the special shops are for. If they offer you something more white and powdery... it’s most likely a bag of crushed-up aspirin (or laundry powder, or worse).
5. Going to Anne Frank’s place? The Van Gogh? The Heineken Experience? Skip the line.
Unless you enjoy waiting in two-hour lines, buy your tickets online or from a tourist office first. Sometimes you’ll even get a discount.
6. Forget the I amsterdam City Card
These money suckers start at €47 for 24 hours, as much as a one-year Museum Card. Yeah, the I amsterdam Card also includes a boat cruise and trams, BUT you probably won’t end up using public transportation much anyway. Plus, unlike the Museum Card, the Rijksmuseum (the city’s most important) isn’t totally included in the price. And, you’ll still have to wait in line for tickets everywhere you go like a sap. (See #2.)
7. And, about those boat cruises...
You probably already suspected you’re too cool for the tourist boats you’ll see everywhere. You’re right, you actually are. Luckily, the American comedy theater Boom Chicago can give you the full local experience, in a boat for 10 people, with BYO eats, drinks, and (ahem) smokes. Call them to reserve.
8. Head to the slightly less popular parks
When the sun comes out, Amsterdam’s parks are covered in people -- especially Vondelpark and Westerpark. If you’re more into nature than playing sardines in a can, head instead to Oosterpark or the (worth the hike) Amsterdamse Bos (“Forest”).
9. Don’t buy tulip bulbs to take home with you
First of all, they’ll probably be snatched up by customs (since they're plants). Plus, you can only plant them in the Fall. If you really want your own Dutch garden, almost all the tulip places will ship directly to your house, so that the bulbs arrive just in time to go in the ground.
10.Visiting the Red Light District? Know the color-code.
You should know that there are three types of lights: red (hello ladies!), black (same, but with insta-tan), and blue. Blue is for boy... whatever appearances might be. Not that you need this intel, but tell your “friend” to skip the windows on the Bloedstraat and Barndesteeg if that’s not what they’re after.
11.Gouda cheese and stroopwafel cookies are DELICIOUS
The tourist shops don’t lie. But they do overcharge you. You can buy this stuff in any grocery store or fresh from one of the street markets.
12.The one exception to the above is the superior Reypenaer cheese...
... which you can get from their shop in the city center. Better yet, check out one of their daily cheese and wine tastings, which are way more chill/cheap than they sound.
13. Don't eat in Leidseplein
The chances of finding one of the restaurants in Leidseplein that’s not a tourist-oriented rip-off are slim. Do yourself a favor and go to nearby neighborhood De Pijp to eat with the locals. (This is also where you’ll find the city’s most popular street market, the Albert Cuypstraat.)
14. Head down to the shooting range
Despite the general disapproval of gun policy, there is one shooting range in the Jordaan, with surprisingly more lax rules than you’d see in the US. After firing out your angst one clip at a time, grab a beer at the Club Kaliber bar. (After, we said.)
15. If you have a car, use the Park + Ride
If you were crazy enough to bring a car to this bike city, don’t top it off by paying hotel or garage parking places. The Park + Ride is just €7 for 24 hours, or €1 on weekends.