Amsterdam: 5 tourist scams to avoid

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Amsterdam Red Light District
Stay safe and save money by avoiding these tourist scamsin Amsterdam. Photo: paulvirostek

By Audrey Sykes in Amsterdam—

Avoiding tourist scams is part of traveling, and Amsterdam, like any major city, has its fair share of rip offs. There are situations that feel like a scam because they’re simply disappointing (“tourist traps”), and then there are the ones that are downright scandalous (“scams”). We’re focusing on the latter here, those situations that leave you with fewer euros, shaking your head in disbelief.

Regardless of whether this is your first or tenth time in Amsterdam, here are some “irregular” activities to avoid when you’re visiting Amsterdam:

1. Beggars

If you’re new to Europe, especially if you haven’t headed south, you may be surprised to see people on the sides of sidewalks and streets aggressively asking for money. Some are genuinely in need, while others are dressed for the part. An older woman with a large shawl covering her hair and upper body could very well be hiding a normal outfit underneath.

It sounds heartless, but you should be very careful about giving away money. Your generosity could backfire, and you could find yourself ensnared in another scam… or losing your wallet.

2. Tulip stands

Tulips are a symbol of Dutch culture, but the season itself is short. In fact, tulip bulbs can only be planted during the autumn, and chances of successfully growing from bulbs bought out of season are low to impossible.

But that doesn’t stop vendors from selling bulbs year ’round, and the flower market is open every season. Don’t buy flower bulbs on a whim, do your research first and find out which purchases are worth buying, and which will even survive. (Read more about buying tulips here.)

3. Prostitutes

The world’s oldest profession is a legal one in the Netherlands, and the women are rightfully well-experienced with negotiations. If you are going to partake in this business, know exactly what will happen before entering a “red light” room. Will there be physical activity? Where, what, and for how long will determine the price.

Pay careful attention to the details and to what is agreed upon – even the slightest interaction can cost an extra €5 or €10. This isn’t technically a “scam,” but rather a very shrewd business deal. Treat it as such before having any fun.

4. Taxis

Taxis in Amsterdam have a reputation for being over-priced and drivers are known to take long, unnecessary detours. Before hopping in, see that the base price isn’t above €8. Tell the driver where you want to go, and ask him his route. If it doesn’t sound right, go for another cab.

By April 2012, the starting price will be €2.50, the price per kilometer will be €1.83 and the price per minute will be 30 cents. (Read more about taxis and other forms of transportation in Amsterdam.)

5. Junkies

The Red Light District at night has its fair share of sketchy men selling hard drugs and stolen bikes. Despite what they claim to have, you really shouldn’t trust anything they say. To avoid getting in trouble with the law, ignore these sellers. Taking their word will bring nothing but trouble — and their goods are usually fake anyway.

Amsterdam is safe

In the end, Amsterdam is a safe place for tourists, and the buying and selling of goods is well regulated, from the coffeeshops to the boat rides. Use your instincts – if your gut feeling says something is too expensive or too good to be true, back away and find something that feels right.

Have you been scammed in Amsterdam?

Have you encountered any scams while visiting Amsterdam? Tell us about it in our comments section.

Also in our guide: Looking for hotels in Amsterdam that won’t scam you into paying too much? Our editors have pounded down the pavement in Amsterdam looking for affordable hotels, from no-star to three-star, that are central, clean and cheap. Read our recommendations in our guide to Amsterdam.

About the author

About the author: Audrey Sykes hopped across the pond from the US eight years ago for a Masters degree in global journalism. Since then, she’s lived all over Europe, reporting and editing for music sites, snowboard mags, and travel media. She’s also the Amsterdam author for Party Earth, a guide to nightlife across Europe.

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One thought on “Amsterdam: 5 tourist scams to avoid”

  1. Jumped in a taxi last night as we had asked him
    Where we could find a place to eat late at night he said he would take us 1 minute down the road, my boyfriend was eager to get out the rain and everything inside was telling me no but I had to go, he covered up his meter and wouldn’t stop calling me a sexy princess which made me feel really uncomfortable, then after driving crazy to some extremely far and remote place in Amsterdam I told him we would get out here and he charged us €15 for a €5 drive. We got out and had to walk all the way back using our phone maps!


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