I have only been to Europe once but this is by far the best Central Station I found. Everything is in English; everyone is friendly and willing to help if you are lost. I loved Amsterdam and had a lot of fun there. If I could do the trip over again I would have stayed for one more day and actually relaxed the whole day. There is so much to see and you want to see it all. I felt like I was constantly going from place to place. Setting aside a day to fully relax would have made my stay there that much better. Safety wise 90% of the people in Amsterdam seemed to be tourists meaning you are all here for same reason.
Amsterdam was one of my favorite places when I went to Europe but the absolute most important piece of advice I can give someone planning to visit is as follows,
Amsterdam only allows you to withdraw cash if you have a special chip on your credit card. You can follow this link here for more information but you will physically not be allowed to withdraw cash or use your card if you do not upgrade your credit/debit card.
- The Central Station and the Tourist Center have free and open WiFi
One of the most important things when traveling abroad is finding WiFi. The Central Station and the tourist center across the street have open WiFi. When you walk into the train station you will see a mass of people sitting all on their phone. That is because it is a guaranteed free WiFi spot. So don’t feel weird if you have to go here for only this reason. Many other people are doing it as well. Also most restaurants if you ask will give you the WiFi password.
- Go to the tourist center as soon as you arrive
The tourist center was the biggest help for me when I arrived to Amsterdam. There you can buy your tickets for museums, bus passes and maps. The nice thing about buying your tickets here for museums is you don’t have to wait in line at the actual ticket booth which can save you almost 45 minutes during busy times.
I bought a 48 hour bus pass when I was there. This bus ran through most of the tourist areas, and since I had to go to the Central Station every day to go to the youth hostel, it was a nice way to get around the city. The pass was €12.50, and I honestly used it a lot when I would get lost. You can look around see where they travel because they are electric so they have power lines in the sky.
- Van Gogh Museum
I have had friends that went to this museum and have said that it wasn’t busy but whenever I went it was almost a 2 hour wait in line. This was AFTER you bought your ticket which was another 45 minute wait in line. I would recommend no matter when you go to buy a ticket online for a specific time. It costs the exact same as a general admissions ticket and you will be able to skip the line. I didn’t do this because when you buy your ticket at the tourist office you can’t but I really wish I would have. It completely threw a wrench in my plan when I saw how long the wait to get into the museum.
Overall though the museum is completely worth it. I however am extremely into Van Gogh and I love all of his paintings but the museum is interesting because it goes through his life in chronological order. I actually decided to go to Amsterdam because of this museum and it didn’t disappoint.
- There are several free things to do in Amsterdam.
One of my favorite things to do in Amsterdam was to sit by the canal (free) or grab a beer at a café (€5) and people watch. Both of these are relatively cheap and fun. Amsterdam is the Los Vegas of Europe so there is plenty of good people watching to happen
A free museum is Arcam, the architecture museum near the NEMO and about a 15 minute walk from the central station. It is a straight shot there and not hard to find. It is a small museum but if you are just walking around and are looking for something to do this is a good option.
Walking through the red light district just because…… Honestly can’t find a reason not to. It is an experience. I thought that the red light district was just in Amsterdam but when I went to Germany and talked with my German friends they said there are towns there that have red light districts. However Amsterdam is one of the only places that it is okay for women to walk through them. From what the Germans said if you are a female and you walk through other red light districts you will be yelled at and someone will tell you to leave. So be careful if you are in a different city and female. I would honestly ask a server at a restaurant to see what the culture is before you just march on down there.
The parks in Amsterdam are beautiful and filled with people just hanging out and enjoying themselves. Go to a market, get some sandwiches and sit down in the park and observe. It is a different crowd of people that you will be able to people watch. I found walking through the park to be rather peaceful and is definitely a must do while there.
- If you’re traveling anywhere else the cheapest time to travel is early in the morning
Traveling by train is extremely easy, cheap and fast. Buses are another great option but if you’re only going to be in Europe for a short period of time sometimes the money saved isn’t worth it. NSInternational is a great website to use to get cheap tickets. However you have to go to the deals section and find your ticket that way. If you just type in the general front page box what ticket you are looking for you won’t get the best deal. The person I was traveling with made this mistake and paid €20 more for the same ticket. You can also download the app and add your tickets to the app and view them offline. I liked this method because the train workers will come at just the moment you have gotten comfortable and they get very annoyed if they have to wait for you to find your ticket. It is almost a given that you know exactly where your phone is at all times. I didn’t have a single problem with them method of using a ticket and I will only use it this way from now on.
If you are flying RyanAir is a good website to get cheap tickets. I heard from my German friends that they have known people to get tickets in the teens if you buy early. The only problem is you have to worry about paying for your luggage and worrying about the rules of what you can and can’t bring on the airplane. On the train you can bring a few beers and catch a buzz before you even reach you destination. Which was easily one of my favorite parts about public transportation.
Traveling early in the morning is also the cheapest time to travel….. Usually. There are some cases where traveling late at night is cheaper. It just depends when traveling works for you and if you want to miss out on sleep to get a cheap ticket.
- If you don’t like smoke don’t go to Amsterdam
Smoking marijuana isn’t as legal as everyone thinks but people do smoke a lot of cigarettes EVERYWHERE. Yes you can smoke weed but you’re not supposed to do it right in the open where you could offend someone. If you are sitting outside a café it isn’t unusual for people to be smoking but you’re really supposed to go off by yourself to smoke. It is more of just a courtesy rule, however it is interesting because this same rule doesn’t apply to people who smoke cigarettes. Just think of it this way, if you wouldn’t want someone to be smoking a cigarette where you are at then don’t smoke marijuana. Sounds kind of simple but some people go to Amsterdam and think just because it is legal you can light a joint anywhere. Europeans do smoke more openly than in America meaning that they do not have the same rules about when it is appropriate to smoke. I was in a train on the way back from Berlin and someone started to smoke on the train and the conductor did nothing about it.
Where to stay
Amsterdam is one of the most expensive places to stay. When I went, a hostel was over $100 a night and that wasn’t even in a good location. I know someone who traveled there and got a full bed in downtown Amsterdam and paid €350 a night. The cheapest option is to stay in a hotel near the airport and split the cost with a friend. My hotel was $94 a night but split between two people it made it half the cost of staying in Amsterdam. The only downside is you have to pay to take the train every time you want to go back to the Central Station. The ticket was €5.80 one way but if you’re staying in the city all day this isn’t that big of a deal. Also this way your get your own room and don’t have to worry about people coming in stoned as hell and waking you up. I found it worth it to stay outside of Amsterdam, but it just depends if you want that extra commute into the city.
Where to eat
Everywhere else I went I found cheap things to eat that were extremely tasty, but I did not find anything like that here. I did however find this restaurant called Aneka Rasa Restaurant. IT WAS AMAZING. I am still having dreams about the food to this day. You have to go with at least one other person and it is a flat price of €20. It sounds like a lot but you get 8 different small samples of Indonesian food, white rice and brown rice. It was such a good meal after eating light and cheap for two days straight. Also a bonus they do have free WiFi if you ask for the password. It is also a 15 minute walk from Central Station.