Amsterdam: Simple tips for finding cheap hotels

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Zandbergen Amsterdam
Hotels outside of center city, like the Zandbergen in Museumplein are the most likely to offer well-rounded accommodations at affordable rates.

In Amsterdam, finding a comfortable hotel with all the trappings at a budget-friendly price can be tricky. The cozy capital of Holland is dripping with high tourist rates, but that doesn’t mean you necessarily need to shell out for a room.

Here are some simple ways that you can find your dream accommodation on the Cheapo:

Look beyond the center

Amsterdam is densely populated because the city itself is small, so don’t jump on the first affordable hotel located in the “center”.

The reason: Hotels in any UNESCO district – like Amsterdam’s center – are under strict renovation limits. The 21st-century “bigger is better” mentality doesn’t mesh with 17th-century space.

What can you do? Neighborhoods like Jordaan, De Pijp and Plantage offer settings more peaceful than the Dam and Red Light District. Prices can be cheaper and rooms are likely to be a tad larger in size. Plus there’s a higher chance the hotel has been renovated with a modern touch.

The Museumplein area keeps you close to the cultural hotspots like Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum, while the more adventurous should try man-made islands like houseboats at Westerdok Eiland, Prinseneiland and modern Zeeburg for ideal waterfront living. Night owls should drift towards Leidseplain and Rembrandtplein: Amsterdam’s two entertainment hubs with hotels usually cheaper than the center.

Hotel Internationaal stairs

The steep stairs in Amsterdam, such as these at the Hotel Internationaal, might have you feeling a little dizzy

Prepare for (chutes and) ladders

One thing about Dutch architecture that’s unavoidable are steep stairs. The main gripe among Amsterdam visitors is the unexpected, unpleasant exercise of climbing four flights many times a day to get to their guest rooms.

The reason: Notice the hooks that hang above most Dutch buildings. The hook and rope pulley system was (and still is) an Amsterdammer’s moving method. A housing tax based on a building’s width was imposed during the 17th century, hence the steep stairs. Today, buildings can only make minimal renovations. As a result, the ladders (that locals call “stairs”) remain painfully intact.

What can you do? Be ready for unreasonable staircases, knowing that all of Amsterdam’s city dwellers live this way. Travelers with disabilities or heavy luggage should consider rooms on ground levels, or hunt around for hotels with elevators (which are few when on a low budget). Assistance is on standby at most places of course, and some even offer grip bars on the walls when handrails aren’t enough.

Nadia Hotel garden

Who needs A/C when you can chill outside in cool garden, like this one at the Nadia Hotel?

Losing air (conditioning)

Every hotel in Northern Europe will have heating, but air conditioning is usually unavailable at budget hotels, and even fans can be hard to come by.  To keep rates low, you’ll need to stop thinking of A/C as essential.

The reason: North and Central Europe have problems with cold spells, not heat waves. When heat waves do arrive in areas like Spain, Italy and Greece, fans and nature’s ocean breeze is the remedy. Rationalizing the cost of air conditioning for a one-week summer just doesn’t happen.

What can you do? Amsterdam is humid, and the very few days that temps pass 75 F can be a sweaty experience indoor and outdoor. The best thing to do is pack something light to sleep in, and get out of your hotel early. Head to the beaches, shady parks and comfortable canal side cafes. It’s what the locals do.

St. Christopher's dorm room

Hostels, such as the wonerful St-Christopher’s at the Winston, can be a great budget option for groups.

Hotels or hostels: Tit for tat

Hostels have a reputation for being the deep-budget accommodation option in Europe, but in Amsterdam, this isn’t always necessarily the case.

The reason: During Amsterdam’s high tourist season – summer – Amsterdam’s hostels hike prices as much as budget hotels. In a city with as much to attract youth and budget travelers as Amsterdam, hostels can face quite high demand.

What can you do? So how does a cheapo know to go for a hostel or hotel? If camping isn’t an option, consider your situation. Hostels and hotels can both be very cheap, but they each are better fit to different travelers with different needs.

Here are some things to think about when choosing between a hotel and hostel:

Food options: If breakfast included in the price, what’s on the menu? If the meal charge is still a good deal compared to what you’d spend otherwise, sneak a little extra for a lunch sandwich or snack.

Group size: Traveling with a group? Hostels are good at fitting many people into one room. For hotels, make sure it’s not a double turned into a triple (or a triple turned into a quad). Things can get cramped and the room will get stuffy.

Introvert or extrovert: Hostels in Amsterdam are great for social travelers flying solo, with perks like pool halls, hostel bars (and smoking rooms), hangout areas and internet lounges. Amsterdam hotels carry a more cozy and private experience, and are best for independent travelers with their own agenda.

Hotel suggestions

Now comes the fun part… the hotel hunt! To read unbiased reviews written by our editors, head to our Amsterdam hotel guide. Have a suggestion or a favorite hotel in Amsterdam to share with our readers? Tell us about it in the comments section below!

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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