How to see Amsterdam on a backpacker’s budget
Amsterdam is one of the most popular cities in Europe for young travelers. The hedonistic atmosphere, unique layout, architecture, and accessible location make it an enjoyable city to visit at any time of the year. But with the city’s size and popularity come tourist traps and high prices. We’ll show you how to avoid these costs and see Amsterdam on a budget, without missing out.
Amsterdam on a budget
1. Time your visit
As with most cities in Europe, there’s a peak season in Amsterdam that sees more tourists and higher prices. Fall and winter are the best times to visit the city if you’re looking for a bargain – accommodation rates are cheaper and good deals abound. There are also enough indoor attractions to explore if the weather turns bad.
Pro tip: Amsterdam’s biggest parties happen on Queen’s Day and Liberation Day, and a few days in between. If you’re on a budget and not after the ultimate Dutch party, it’s best to avoid these dates to save some cash.
2. Skip the taxis
Amsterdam is best explored on foot or bicycle. There’s nothing better than a quiet walk or cycle along the fascinating canals. The city isn’t car-friendly so there’s seldom any need to opt for an expensive taxi. If you need to cover greater distances, public transport is fast and efficient.
Pro tip: If you’re in town for more than a few days, consider purchasing an unlimited ticket for the trams. A 24 or 48-hour ticket may cost more upfront, but it allows you to make unlimited stops within that time period.
3. Stock up at local markets
Amsterdam has a wide selection of markets that are fun to explore and often offer better deals than the stores. Whether you’re looking for clothes, food or gifts, be sure to browse the popular markets before you head to the formal stores in busier tourist districts.
Pro tip: The Nieuwmarkt and Noorderkerk weekend markets have some of the best local and organic food on offer in the city.
4. Avoid the snack stands
Informal traders and snack stands are common in Amsterdam, particularly in the tourist areas. While these may be convenient, they’re also significantly more expensive. If you’re looking to stock up on basic supplies, head to a local grocery store.
Pro tip: The Albert Heijn is the largest supermarket chain in the Netherlands. There are a few Albert Heijn shops conveniently located at the main train station.
5. Stay outside the center
If you’re on a tight budget, consider looking for accommodation that is just outside the center of Amsterdam. While it’s great to be in the heart of the action, hostels, hotels, and even Airbnb accommodation is significantly more expensive. There are several options on the outskirts of the city that offer unbeatable prices and are a short cycle away from the main attractions.
6. Drink local
Amsterdam is one of the beer capitals of the world, so naturally it’s cheaper to drink a local beer than it is an exotic cocktail. Wine is also a good option in the city. While the Netherlands may not be a famous wine producer, you can often pick up a quality glass of French wine at competitive prices.
Pro tip: Visit one of the traditional Dutch pubs (also known as “brown cafés”) in the Jordaan neighborhood for cheap drinks. You’ll spot them by their cosy wooden interiors and local customers.
7. Rent a bike
If you’re planning on getting around the city on pedal power (and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t) then rent a bike for multiple days. Hourly rentals can be expensive, so negotiate a better rate for longer rental period. Look around online for the cheapest rentals or ask your hostel reception – they may have a few bikes lying around in the back.
Pro tip: Make sure the rental company gives you get a good lock and shows you how to avoid becoming a victim of bike theft. Also don’t underestimate how difficult it can be to find your bicycle at the end of a long night. Take a photograph of it with your phone to record the location before you head off.
8. Get an I amsterdam City Card
If you plan to visit the city’s top museums attractions, then consider purchasing an I amsterdam City Card. Individual entry costs can add up quickly, but the card covers your entrance to most of the top attractions, including the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum. You’ll also get unlimited use of the bus, tram, and metro services.
Pro tip: Consider your itinerary carefully before going ahead with the I amsterdam city card. At €55 for a 24 hour card, plan your day and make sure you get your money’s worth.
9. Get your tickets at the last minute
There are regular concerts and events in Amsterdam that are worth attending, but ticket prices can be painfully expensive. If you want to get add more culture to your trip but don’t need the best seats in the house, the Last Minute Ticket Shop is a great option. They offer deep discounts on tickets to the ballet, opera, theater, and concerts.
Amsterdam may be quaint and appealing, but it still manages to charge big city prices. With a bit of planning and careful spending, it’s easy to see Amsterdam on a budget and still have an enjoyable stay. And with great rail connections to several other European cities, a Eurail Pass can also help ease the financial burden.