What to do to save money in Amsterdam

Two weeks ago, I was a zombie that just got out of bed to get my 7:30 am bus from Antwerp to Amsterdam. When we finally arrived, after almost losing the bus and a 4-hour ride, I was still a zombie that was struggling to change the ticket’s machine to English, but I soon woke up to the reality:

Amsterdam is really expensive

And hey! I’m used to expensive cities – I’ve been living in Paris for a year and half – but this was another level of expensive: you can see it for yourself if you go to a supermarket and check the beer prices (my ultimate reference point).

The worst thing is that the little things, a few cents here and there start to add up and I only noticed right in the middle of my trip, so in the end I kept double checking in my mind every time I had to pay something : “is this okay or I’m getting ripped off?”

In this case, the wonderful saying “do your research before traveling” didn’t help. I did my research, but I didn’t find anything about the cheeky little tricks Amsterdam uses to take my money. So here you have 8 insider’s tips that will help you to stay on a budget while in this expensive city.

 1. Have coins:

In the metro stations, you’ll only find machines to buy tickets and if you don’t have coins, they’ll charge you 0,50€ for every transaction you make with your card. The tickets are already expensive enough to add up a fee.

2. Drink less water

I know all about of the benefits of drinking water – myself, I can’t leave my house without a bottle of water and I drink around 3L every day – but in Amsterdam this habit may be expensive. You won’t find public bathrooms and even if you use the old classy trick of going to a McDonald’s, they’ll still charge you o,50€.

3. Buy a transport pass

The public transportation is ridiculously expensive in Amsterdam. I though Paris was expensive and then I got hit in the face with a 2,9€ one-hour ticket. So the best option is to buy passes according to the amount of time you’ll stay in the city. Check this site – it’s extremely helpful and explains all the options.

I got to say that a good thing about the passes is that they run per hours, and not per day. For example, for a 24h ticket, if you validate your ticket for the first time at 11 am, it will last until 11 am on the next day. Not like in Rotterdam, where they have “day tickets”, that are only valid during the day you use it the first time.

Sidenote: I normally stay near the city center so I hardly use the public transport, but Amsterdam can confuse you with all the canals and I also decided to stay far away from the center. Continue reading and I’ll explain my reasons.

4. Do your research about coffee shops

Amsterdam is very famous for its coffee shops and I think is part of the experience to try them. Nonetheless, there are two that are very well-known: The Green House and The Bull Dog. The first one has hosted many celebrities (you can see the pictures on their walls) and the second one was actually the first coffee shop in town, though right now you’ll see them all over the Red Light District.

I’m not a specialist about weed or coffee shops, but I did a Free Walking Tour about them and we finished at the Cannabis College and they recommended going to fewer expensive places that offer good material. I personally went twice to the Green Place and was very pleased.

My point is, go to the Cannabis College – they teach you a lot of stuff for free! they’ll even have a microscope where they check the quality of your weed – learn how to read the coffee shop’s menu and then decide which coffee shop to visit.

5. Avoid booking your accommodation near to the Red Light District

I stayed within 20 minutes by tram from the Red Light District in one of the most basic hostels I’ve ever been, but it was okay I guess, only 10€ the night. I checked other hostels and thought I admit they looked amazing, it was too expensive for my budget.

Also, when I strolled around the Red Light District at midnight, I felt lucky I wasn’t alone. It was dodgy, dark, with a lot of men either high or drunk. I wasn’t at my best either, but I sober up really quickly and became alert of my surroundings. Yes, it was that kind of weird environment.

I was with two other guys and still got weird looks and some people talking to me. I didn’t like it at all and I really love to experience the nightlife wherever I go, so going back to my hostel late at night it’s already a habit. Something I wouldn’t be able to do if I stayed in that area.

 6. Make “Wok to Walk” your best friend

If you have the munchies are hungry, please, oh please be careful where you eat. There is a lot of restaurants spread all around the city but they are immensely overpriced. Instead, try Wok to Walk. A friend made the recommendation and he was right: the food is delicious and the prices are good.

7. Don’t stay too long

Amsterdam is a tiny city and lovely to walk, but you’ll soon run out of things to do. I stayed 3 full days and it was a little too much. But…

8. Don’t go for the weekend

I know this is hard! But you should honestly try going during the week. When checking for accommodation, I saw that during the weekend hostel’s prices triplicate. Let me say it again: hostel’s prices triplicate. That’s the main reason I decided to go on a Monday and I don’t regret it: the city center was filled with people – not easy to walk the tiny streets at 3 pm -, coffee shops were full, restaurants too. It looked like a weekend so I don’t want to imagine how it actually is during a Saturday night.

Voilà! I hope you find these tips helpful and if you have any others to add, please use the comment section and share it with us. Cheers!

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