Amsterdam: 10 easy ways to save time when visiting
By Audrey Sykes in Amsterdam—
Even during the off season Amsterdam is a busy place. Lines for museums are common, stuffy buses are all too familiar, and traveling in and out of the city can take some time.
Here are 10 ways to keep you from playing the waiting game and make the most out of your trip to Amsterdam:
1. Pay in cash
Forget paying with a credit card in grocery stores, they only accept cash or Dutch debit cards. And many authentic Amsterdam cafes (and coffeeshops) only take cash. Save time by always having cash on hand, and use your credit cards for the shops and ATM machines.
2. Buy day tickets on public transportation
Yes, you can buy your ticket on the trams and buses, but save time (and annoying people behind you) and buy a day ticket if you’re taking public transport. This way you can simply “punch” your ticket when going on and off the tram or bus like everyone else. (Look for the round pads on the side of the doors that say “OV”.)
3. Go to Anne Frank House, late
During high tourist season the Anne Frank House Museum is open until 9 p.m. (10 p.m. on Saturdays); and during the off season until 7 p.m. (9 p.m. on Saturday). In fact, during July and August the museum doesn’t close until 10 p.m. daily. So save time and avoid that long line by coming later, about an hour before close.
4. Make dinner reservations
Since Amsterdam’s old city center is well preserved, it also means cafes and restaurants have a small capacity for patrons. Save time searching for an open table by simply reserving a place at a café. Call ahead (or stop by) during the afternoon and you should be fine.
5. Bike around
Waiting around for trams and buses gets old fast – Amsterdam public transport isn’t as frequent as other European capitals, especially on weekends. Save time (and money) by renting a bike during your stay. It’s fun, healthy, and once you learn the rules of the bike paths, it’s a breeze!
6. Party outside the center
On weekends the city center is packed with people, mostly foreigners and Dutch people coming to the Dam for a big weekend. Save time and stay away from the bars and clubs at the big party squares – you’ll spend ages waiting for a drink or club entry. Instead, hit the surrounding hoods like De Pijp, Jordaan, Oost or Westerpark. These areas are more fun, authentic and comfortably filled with locals.
7. Book train tickets in advance and use kiosks
It might sound obvious, but I wholeheartedly encourage travelers to book train tickets in advance online. Whether you have a print-out on hand or you have to use a kiosk computer at the station – both methods are so much faster than waiting in line to buy tickets at the station. (Of course, checking in for flights in advance and using self-service check in at the airport will also save you loads of time.)
8. Get Dutch-y
Although everyone in Amsterdam speaks English and things are rather international, don’t spend time searching for your favorite chain coffee store or smoothie shop. Suppress your cravings for tacos and hot dogs – you won’t find the real deal here, and you’ll waste valuable time. Instead, get Dutch. Head for the fries stands, falafel shops and fresh orange juice. Want to taste something exotic? Try Indonesian or Surinamese cuisine – the Mexican and Chinese food of The Netherlands. (Here’s a list of our favorite late-night snacks.)
9. Don’t bother getting to the airport too early
Be early for your flight, but don’t overdo it: It takes about 20 minutes to get from Amsterdam Centraal Station to Schipol Airport. If you’re flying on a low-cost carrier to another EU destination, gate assignments don’t even appear on the departure screens until 40 minutes before takeoff. If you just have a carry on, don’t overdo your prep time for short flights. Two hours is just too long for an EasyJet flight; 60 to 90 minutes is fine.
10. Don’t wait empty handed
Face it: There will be times when you’ll just have to wait around. When you find yourself stuck in a long line, waiting for transport, or twiddling thumbs on the train, pass the time with something good. Whether it’s a book or a light-weight tablet for videos, having an extra something to keep entertained while waiting is still the best way to remedy the waiting itch.
Also in our guide: We can also save you time hunting down the best budget hotels in the city. Our editors have visited, inspected and reviewed affordable hotels, all centrally located in Amsterdam, clean and affordable. Read more in our Amsterdam hotel guide.