What are some things to know before visiting Amsterdam?

Answers from Our Experts (1)

Cecily Layzell

The bicycle is king in Amsterdam. Cycle paths are ubiquitous and generally well-marked but that doesn’t mean that cyclists always use them as they were intended. The Dutch drive on the right, but it is advisable to look both ways before crossing a road as cyclists frequently flaunt the rules, riding the wrong way up streets or running red lights. If in doubt, always give way to a two-wheeler. That said, Amsterdam is a pedestrian-friendly city and the compact center makes it a joy to explore on foot.

The currency in The Netherlands is the euro. The majority of shops, restaurants and hotels accept cash, credit and debit card payments (although some foreign debit cards may not work—check with your bank before traveling). A small number of establishments do not take cash—they say for safety reasons—but this should be clearly indicated on their website or at the payment point. VISA and Mastercard are undoubtedly the credit cards of choice, which can be limiting for American Express cardholders.

Tipping taxi drivers, waiters, bellhops and so on is customary. Ten percent on top of a restaurant bill is standard but rounding up in coffee houses and bars is also common. If a glass of beer costs €2.30, for example, it is usual to leave €2.50.

The level of English in Amsterdam is generally high. There is thus no need to learn any Dutch before you arrive, unless you are particularly keen to try wrapping your tongue around the sometimes alien letter combinations and guttural “g.”

However, some visitors are surprised by the direct way in which the Dutch express themselves. The Dutch would argue that they are simply getting to the point, but other nationalities, notably the British, are often taken aback by the lack of what they regard as linguistic niceties. In few cases is this directness meant as rudeness, though, so don’t take offence. You may even want to give it a try yourself—it can be very liberating!

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