Amsterdam Tip: Take a more budget-friendly canal cruise.

A budget-savvy group drifts through Amsterdam; photo by Audrey Sykes
A budget-savvy group drifts through Amsterdam; photo by Audrey Sykes

Boat rides in Amsterdam are a must for anyone looking to experience an authentic view from the city’s romantic waterways and cozy canals. If the typical €15-euro option offered by mainstream tourism companies is off-putting, here are some low-budget alternatives offering a more personal, intimate, and customized touch. Happy cruising.

Self-operated boat tours

If you have any experience boating, or think you can putt around in a six-seater vessel, you’ll enjoy the thrill of being a captain as you cruise around canals with a group of friends, courtesy of Canal Motorboats renting. These ecological crafts are made of sturdy aluminum, and the efficient 1500-watt electric motor compliments the peaceful city atmosphere along the waterways. Available year-round for anyone who deems themselves seaworthy commanders, a journey with Canal Motorboats is an adventure and makes for an unforgettable way to experience a favorite leisure activity among the Dutch.

Prices vary from €50 for the first hour, €40 for the second, €30 for the third; €20 for each additional hour. See the company’s web site for more information on reservations. Split among a few Cheapos, these tours can provide a budget-friendly and more intimate boating experience.

Tips-only boat tours

Since 1997 the St. Nicolaas Boat Club of Amsterdam is a non-profit organization committed to preserving the condition of old, historic Amsterdam boats by providing daily rides at no charge. In the past, these open tub-like iron boats were used to carry trade products to and from markets around the city; now they carry budget-savvy visitors. Rides last about 80 minutes, and boats can hold up to 10 passengers at a time.

There is no set route for the journey, so cruisers are encouraged to recommend a particular path, landmark or attraction for each excursion. Bring your own food and drink along, but don’t forget something for the captain!

Although this company cannot legally charge customers for their boat tours, an average time of around €10 per person is not only a decent contribution for the foundation and its skippers, but also remains a good deal for you. See the club’s web site for meeting points and departure times.

The “Venice of the North” tour

Those who call Amsterdam the “Venice of the North” are the ones indulging in the small, family-owned gondola service occasionally spotted silently coasting through the Amsterdam canal belt. Gondolas, run by the organization “Rent a Boat Amsterdam,” are ideal for romantic evenings, and even small and large party picnics.

The friendly owners who host these cruises also offer a relaxed food and drink policy, and invite patrons to even include music during their journey. Gliding under bridges and narrow passageways, Amsterdam’s humble gondola scene is a unique addition to the city’s collection of watercrafts.

Prices are less expensive than what is normally found in Venice and run at €125 per hour with a minimum travel of 1.5 hours. While this price tag may appear steep at first glance, boats carry anywhere from 5 to 12 people (on smaller vessels) on up to 50 passengers. See the web site for more details.

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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Cheapo Comments

2 Responses to “Amsterdam Tip: Take a more budget-friendly canal cruise.”
  • Andrea says:

    I’m heading to Amsterdam next month so this info is really going to come in handy.

  • Hello Audrey,

    Can I suggest to add our company to your listing of budget frienldy canal cruises?

    Rent your own boat with Amsterdamrentaboat.com and enjoy Amsterdam at its best!
    Go for your own rental boat and explore Amsterdam at its prettiest. Take your friends, family or colleagues out for your own private tour: decide where to go yourself or choose one of our carefully selected free canal routes. The best way to relax and enjoy Amsterdam! Our rental boats are electrically driven which means they are silent and free of exhaust fumes. They are charged with renewable energy every night so you can enjoy your time on the water as long as you like. Your safety is assured: the boats are very stable, unsinkable and of course the rental is accompanied by free life vests in different sizes. We are located at the Jozef Israëlskade next to the hotel Okura, between the city center and the Amstel river.

    Thanks a lot & best regards,

    Jan Pieter Groeneveld

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