[Welcome to Amsterdam]

An Outsider's Guide to Amsterdam


This page is the result of my interest in do-it-yourself travel via the Internet, and fond remembrances of Amsterdam from several visits from the early 1970's through very recent times. Because I like to practice what I preach, and have researched and posted a Travel Guide within my Internet Fun Pages, the logical thing to do was to sample the fruits of my own labor. So I did, beginning with locating an online travel consolidator and ending with reserving a Hotel room near the airport. Once in Amsterdam, plan B took effect: referring to the Internet Guide to Amsterdam, which I brought along with me, and consulting immediately with the VVV for real-time travel and room vacancy information. In the past 2 or 3 years it has become relatively easy to comparison price for hotel rooms while still at home, via the Internet, and the competition seems to have brought about such things as "summer sales".

It is possible to get special prices using US-based reservation numbers, or online. For example, the Golden Tulip announces sale prices on the Internet which cannot be matched by the VVV reservations system. On the other hand, for last-minute travellers during high-season, the VVV cannot be beat for finding something on the spot, when not a room can be found anywhere by working the phones or the Internet. The VVV system will likely make you happiest if you know the general location and price range you are looking for, and any special amenities you require. Browsing through ads online is very good preparation for do-it-yourself hotel booking in Amsterdam. You can now also book rooms in advance fairly easily, online, through Booking.com, Hotels.com, or Amsterdam Hotel Service. In addition, there are several informative online travel guides, including Conde Nast Travel, Michelin and Fodor's. The hard-copy guides now often include hotel web sites as well.

Preparing to Visit Holland: Know Before You Go

First off, you may wish to check the weather forecast. Summers are typically not hot, but they can be, and air conditioning is a rarity in even 4-star hotels. It may also be very rainy and cold, but there can be dry, sunny spells as well. On recent visits, I saw both extremes within the space of a week. Bring a small umbrella, or windbreaker, to be sure. Winters can be beautiful...but cold. Spring and Autumn are rainy season.

Credit Cards, Internet, and Pay Phones

Don't bother bringing your Discover Card with you; the Dutch have not Discovered it yet! I found the rates to be advantageous using both American Express and Mastercard/Visa, both of which were accepted at just about every hotel, restaurant and shop I encountered. A credit card was also very helpful in making telephone calls from the train stations or on the street, from pay phones. It cost me $1.26 to call locally, to hotels. It is cheaper, however, to purchase a PTT phone card upon arrival to Schipol Airport, at a post office, or Centraal Station. A special card is needed to access the public Internet phones which allow viewing and printing of web pages. All the buttons and instructions are in Dutch. (Remember: this is Holland!) For visiting Internet junkies, a better bet is spending the 4 or 5 guilders - er, I mean 2 or 3 Euros, or dollars -- for a half hour of internet use in one of the many CyberCafes. Many airport and business hotels also offer access to the Internet and/or email. The original cybercafes are now disappearing but some small "coffee shops" still have a few decently maintained computers for the benefit of the patrons wishing to spend some leisure time online.

Arriving at Schipol Airport

Getting around Amsterdam is simple. Schipol Airport (pronounced "SKIP-ohl") is not only an International Airport but a railway station as well. It is quick and easy to locate a (free) cart to put your luggage on, and wheel away to the railway ticket windows to catch an inexpensive ride into the heart of Old Amsterdam, Centraal Station.

Updated: In the past I'd described the need to pick up a "strippenkaart", or "strip card", with which one could easily travel by tram or bus within and out of Amsterdam, at a reduced rate, and with the option of making stops along the way for an hour or two, depending on the distance of the trip. (The basic strip had 15 little sections which are used 2 at a time within Amsterdam or more sections to take you roundtrip to cheese country or windmill land, north of the city, an outing I would strongly recommend.) However, purchasing the card was not always easy for the traveler: the Dutch people speak English, but the strippenkaart machines did not. Moreover, as a local resident told me, referring to the yellow strippenkaart vending machines, "they're only for pros". Observation confirmed that to be so, as even local commuters seemed to grapple with the machines. The good news, as I've heard once again from a helpful and friendly Dutch citizen (yes, they are abundant!), is that the system has now been modernized, as might be expected from our planet's first 'digital city'. Busses & trams now use a card with embedded chip: "We now use the OV Chipkaart which is a plastic card with a chip that can be refilled with money credits", wrote the Familie Bruijnes - thank you very much! .

While I have traveled often to Amsterdam, it has been a few years since last visit. (Is Centraal Station now 100% re-built?) So while this provides a still fair sense of what a visit is like, as was suggested to me, please do refer to the locally written and updated Internet Guide to Amsterdam at the link below, for the most current details on things such as the ticketing system, prices, etc.

You can get to town by cab, bus or train. It is a simple matter to catch a "stop train" into Amsterdam Centraal Station, inexpensive and as described above, now relying (similar to New Amsterdam!) on a payment card. Of course, as far as cash currency, everything is in Euros now, as explained by clicking here. If you bought a strippenkaart with your train ticket, you can walk outside the Centraal Station and catch a tram or bus to just about anywhere in Amsterdam. Of course, taxis also queue up politely and quietly, waiting patiently for their fares and saving the quality of the air. The reader is referred to the Internet Guide to Amsterdam for all you need to know about the layout of the city and the various aspects of culture, communication, and daily life. The guide you are reading is based on some personal observations by a traveller whose knowledge of Amsterdam was derived almost entirely from Online research, along with distant memories and a keen interest in adventure, people, and photography.

The Amsterdam Experience


Amsterdam is situated on the sea and is host to both fantastic seafood and the cuisine of all the former Dutch spice colonies and the immigrants who bring Indonesian, Turkish, Thai, and Chinese cooking to Old Amsterdam. As a resident of New Amsterdam, I appreciate the diversity. Check out the rijsttafel for sure, and the apple/bacon pancoeken for a fantastic brunch, or the ubiquitous (but risky) kroket one finds on the Damrak, the sate and the Pizza or the McDonald's where one is just as likely to find the hungry tourist. Choice in food is not a problem in Amsterdam! There are some exceptionally good restaurants located in a restaurant row of sorts known as "the Spui", and perhaps the best experience I can share with the English-speaking tourist is this: "Spui" is pronounced with the vowel sound of "how now Frau", like "shpau", like wow. A nice area within olde Amsterdam: Great shopping, great restaurants, and a gigantic Virgin Records store.

Amsterdam in 3 Easy Steps

  • 1. Arrange for Airfare and at least your arrival Hotel using the information found in the Archives Travel Section.

  • 2. Read and print out the Internet Guide to Amsterdam. The diagram of Hotel Locations by Postcode is also very useful for last-minute booking into particular sections of the City.

  • 3. Re-read and/or print these pages and bring them along, as well as printouts or notes on any of the hotels, internet cafes, or restaurants which particularly interest you. Once in Amsterdam pick up a VVV street map and a brochure on excursions out of town, and you'll need nothing else!   HAVE FUN!!  

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