SOO I felt like writing something about my third visit to my most favourite city I’ve ever been to and mix this up with some stuff I learned from my other trips there. I haven’t been to loads and loads of places but Dam always entices me back with its sparkling charm that I can never get enough off. With that being said, I thought i’d list some things that I wish i’d have known before I went, or that I think could be useful, or that I think is weird or wonderful; and if you are debating going hopefully I can sway your mind and give you a little insight into what you can expect as a tourist. I’ll be slipping in some photos I’ve taken there because who doesn’t like a visual aid to up their excitement (I wanna fucking go again already).
- Flights and Accommodation are cheap, getting around ISN’T: Well. Flights are cheap for me, anyway, coming from the UK. If you’re in Britain, Amsterdam is a short flight away taking just an hour on average. Because of this, you can find flights so damn cheap. The second time I went I was able to scavenge return flights for £45 per person. That’s cheaper than most train tickets lmao – anyway – the point being is that don’t expect everything to be as reasonably priced as those Easyjet flights, or as modest as the accommodation where you split the cost with your mates. Getting round the city can be a big detriment to your wallet, especially with the plummeting of the British pound that is becoming almost of the same worth as the Euro. You must remember, that although our currency has decreased, their bits and bobs are still priced the same, meaning you get less for your buck. Expect Dam city prices to reflect those of London, if not a bit higher. On average I was spending about €100 a day all in; including food, bits of shopping, maybe an activity or two and anything else I reasonably needed or wanted. There are, however, things you can do to minimise your expenditure, which leads me on to my next tips.
- Go in the warmer months: The first time I went to Dam was in May 2015. The second in April 2016. Both were incredibly brighter, prettier and more enjoyable experiences than my last in January 2017. Maybe you are the type to go on winter city breaks, but all I can say to you is that not only are more people out and about, with longer opening hours, more activities (including free outdoor events), but it is cheaper to waste time when it’s sunny out. It was so bitterly cold in January that we found ourselves unable to enjoy the pretty outside spaces Amsterdam has to offer, consequently meaning we had to spend more just to get out of the cold. Travelling in the warmer months from April onwards, I promise, will get you out there seeing shit way more than you would in rain, greyness and misery, sitting in the hotel room and struggling to motivate yourself to get out. Sunny days just have that vibe, don’t they? Everyone’s out, everyone’s smiling, doing shit, being happy. Not to mention boat rides which I will talk about more later. If you’re on a budget and want to make the most of the city’s best free spots like Vondelpark and Dam Square – don’t go in winter. Seriously. It also gives you more hours in the day instead of getting dark at 4pm, which, if you’re a late riser like me can be rather drab.
- Get an AirBnB: This tip comes from the downsides of staying in a city hotel, which I have done all 3 times and becomes particularly handy if you are travelling as part of a group. If you haven’t heard of AirBnB, it’s a website where you can short term let rooms, apartments, even whole houses – oh and in Dam – fucking houseboats. The reason I recommend this is because eating out in Dam can be somewhat of a horrible task. If you are in a hotel with no cooking facilities, and even worse no fridge, kettle or toaster, you’re gonna be scouting the streets for grub pretty much 100% of the time, and to do this affordably is a challenge in itself. Not only does it eat up money, but the time spent looking for food only adds to the frustration. The affordable foods are mostly fast foods, street foods and the like with the restaurants being more expensive of course. If you’re renting part of or a whole apartment, having cooking facilities will become a cherished delight when you’re feeling hangry. The 3 hotels I have experienced thus far have not provided these and if you’re thinking it’s not a big deal like I did, trust me when I say you’ll appreciate it when you got more money and time for other shit.
- Make sure you have 3g, or failing that, HERE MAPS: Getting around Dam isn’t easy at first. Although almost anyone you encounter and ask for directions will speak English, believe me when I say you will need some kind of app to help you get about quickly. I used google maps which was fab – however I understand that 3g abroad for some can be a bit of an issue. If you can’t access 3g whilst out there, download Here Maps. It allows you to use Wi-Fi to download your route, which you can then use once you’ve left and no longer have access to Wi-Fi.
5. Don’t be scared to use the trams: Trams are something I’d never encountered before Amsterdam, and this weird bus train looking thing that runs through the street can be annoying to get used to avoiding, especially amongst the millions of bikes. But when you take the plunge they will be your ally and suddenly when you become a part of the madness it doesn’t feel so intimidating. Every tram driver i’ve encountered has spoken English, and the best thing about tram tickets is there is no singles, no returns, none of that trying to pronounce where you’re going crap. Just purchase a 24Hr pass from the driver, tap it on the reader (much like an oyster card) and boom you’re off – unlimited tram travel. The trams have little screens showing the upcoming stops which is particularly helpful. Don’t forget to tap out!
6. Get a bus from the airport instead of a taxi: The first two times, we wasted money on airport taxi drivers who quite frankly scam newcomers. Instead of €40 odd euros on a taxi, a bus will likely get you where you need to be for a much more modest average of €5. If you don’t know what bus you need, ask someone outside, they all know.
7. Go on a boat ride: This is something that at first glance I hugely underestimated. But it really, really is worth it, especially on a sunny day. Just outside Amsterdam Centraal Station you will find tons of them competing for your business (from spring onward), and you can get an hour long boat tour through the beautiful canals for €10. The tour will show you all the best bits that can be seen from the canals and give you a moment to relax and take it all in, whilst effortlessly teaching you some cultural history. There is something so serene about being in the canal and gently moving through it, rather than being a part of the bustling streets catching chunks of it as you meander through. On a warm, sunny day its an absolute must. Sitting there just absorbing the sun and floating along was possibly my best experience in Dam so far.
8. Research and plan things to do before you leave the hotel: This sounds really straight forward and so don’t take it as an insult – but its something the first two times I generally just never thought to do and on my third visit, planning things to do meant I spent less time wondering about just hoping to bump into things I might find interesting, and more time seeing what Amsterdam really has to offer – and trust me there is a lot! There are many places to go, from museums to cafe’s, to coffee shops, markets and beyond. I have always been more of a passive traveller and enjoy taking the time to relax on my holidays, but don’t underestimate the power of a little google at the hotel before stepping out. There is so much to uncover and things you probably didn’t know existed there.
9. Don’t let names put you off: The dutch language is a mystery in itself and something I can’t help but laugh at when I fail in my attempts to speak it. It can be daunting travelling around when you have no clue how to even say where it is you want to get – and some might cringe at the crude aspects of Dam city; but even if you’re not someone who is drawn there to indulge in the window-delivered women in all their red glory, don’t be scared to explore the cultural info that surrounds it. When my pal suggested we go to the museum of prostitution, the very name of it sat a bit uneasy with me as someone who hangs their head when walking past the girls in a bid not to stare in wonder. But I took the plunge and honestly it was fabulously interesting to learn about the whole thing. So get out there – and embrace all the weird, wonderful names of the Netherlands!
10. Drink fucking Chocomel: My tenth and final tip is to try Chocomel. It’s banging. Delicious. Utterly addictive. You’ll find it in almost any cafe and coffee shop, either hot or cold, and in the supermarkets too. It’s like sex in your mouth and seriously should win an award for best milkshake on the planet. Enjoying a Chocomel whilst people-watching from outdoor seating in Ledseplein put whackin’ on the kettle on to make a cuppa and watching Hollyoaks to shame.
Anyway, I hope you have found some useful tips from this and feel even more fired up to go, if so don’t forget to share dat shit! Spread the love! It truly is a magical city that I think should be on everyone’s bucket list. As much of a shit photographer/videographer I am, this time around I tried to capture my surroundings as I wondered through and compiled it into a little video reel, so if you’re curious to see what Amsterdam looks like, click here.