Amsterdam on a Budget: A Backpacker's Guide
January 1, 1970
by Morgan Jones
Stroopwafels, bicycles, canals, coffee shops, Febo, the Red Light District… Amsterdam has all you could ask for and more! But in a place where money is so easily spent so quickly, how do you see all Amsterdam has to offer without breaking the bank? Especially if you’re a young backpacker with limited time and funds? Find out how we managed to see all the sights and more on a tight budget and in a short time-frame.
Arrival – Accommodation and Transport
So you’ve arrived at Schipol airport…now what? In order to get to Amsterdam, you’ll need to get a train into the city. This may sound a little annoying but it does drop you right into what is basically the heart of the city, for only EUR6.00 one way. The train ride is about 20 minutes which gives you enough time to grab a map and figure out where exactly you’ve booked your budget hotel/hostel!
Yes, Amsterdam does have an amazing network of trams and trains throughout the city, but in reality, you can just walk everywhere! If you do catch the train into the city, it will drop you to Amsterdam Central. From there – right in the heart of the city – you can basically walk anywhere!
Our hostel was about a 50-minute walk from the train station, but it was definitely worthwhile seeing the many amazing buildings, beautiful canals and also being able to figure out the simple bearings of the city. Walking through Amsterdam is definitely something I would recommend, it saves you loads of money and gives you a chance to take-in the encapsulating atmosphere of the city.
Free: I Amsterdam Sign
Apart from wandering through the cobble-stoned streets or exploring the many bridges and networks of canals, what can you actually do for free in Amsterdam? One of the most obvious things to see is the well-known ‘I Amsterdam’ sign! While this perfect photo opportunity might sound slightly cliché, it is a must-see.
The ‘I Amsterdam’ is really an iconic attraction in Amsterdam, whether its a bright, sunny, cloud-free day or a rainy, grey day lots of visitors are to be expected. At first, it may seem absolutely impossible to get a photo with this iconic slogan but patience and persistence are key. We tried – and failed – many times to capture that perfect photo, but after about an hour we managed to capture the images we were searching for.
One perk of the masses of people at this sign is watching them trying all different poses for photos in front of the sign. People watching at this site is extremely entertaining, many individuals will fight for their favorite letter whether they stand next to it, sit on or inside it…
Van Gogh Museum
Now I know what you’re thinking, this museum isn’t free however it is something that absolutely must be seen. It is filled with many awe-inspiring pieces of art which thoroughly capture Van Gogh’s life whilst also explaining how his life impacted on these pieces of art. The museum is huge and takes a while to get through but it is truly impressive!
We explored the museum with an audio-guide which made it far more interesting and gave us lots of information about Van Gogh’s life and how he created his works and what inspired his many works. It’s stunning to see how much his art developed and changed over time, and how he was reflecting what was happening in his life through the many pieces of art. Unfortunately, you can’t take photos in the museum (for obvious reasons), but that makes it an even more worthwhile visit!
Note: The museum costs around EUR20 with an audio guide included.
Cycling, Parks, And Food
To those of you who are not big fans of walking, cycling is the next best thing. Amsterdam’s streets all have a dedicated cycling path for cyclists, and most of the people living there make way for cyclists and are friendly towards them. There are also lots of places to store your bicycle. You are able to hire bicycles in many places around the city, from about EUR10 per day.
Parks are the perfect place to spend some quality time to yourself or with friends, and to relax. Amsterdam is covered in parks, so no matter where you are staying there will always be a park nearby! Why not grab a great book and relax in the sun, or have a picnic with some friends? Parks are the best place to relax after a long day of exploring.
Food is something you will definitely need during your stay in Amsterdam – and luckily its everywhere! Whether all you fancy is something bought from a supermarket or a cheap wholesome meal, this city has it all! There are also shops that are completely dedicated to cheese, with free tastings too – nothing says the Netherlands like cheese. But perhaps the most interesting food shop is the fast-food chain FEBO. It’s not your average fast food chain – it’s kind of like a vending machine shop where you insert coins for food… it’s something you must experience.
The Red Light District
What would Amsterdam be without it’s famous Red Light District? From coffee shops, to peep shows, to ‘women in the windows’ – it is a completely different experience in itself!
While I can’t really give you much advice on budgeting here – everything is quite expensive – here are some tips on how to not spend too much money. Try to limit yourself to only a couple of visits here. In a country where certain things are openly legal, there is a massive temptation to spend a lot of time here, but you will thank yourself in the long run for sticking to your budget.
There are a couple of interesting museums here as well – The Museum of Prostitution, The Museum of Sex, and The Hash, Marijuana, and Hemp Museum. Visiting at least one of these is worthwhile. We visited the Museum of Prostitution, and it gave a great insight into the struggles, triumphs, and fun side of prostitution.
So there you have it, everything someone on a budget should need to know about traveling to Amsterdam. Hopefully, our experiences of backpacking have given you a greater insight into this beautiful city of art, museums, and entertainment. Let us know if we missed something!