Planning your trip to Amsterdam

Here’s some useful information for planning your trip to Amsterdam.

Currency

The currency of the Netherlands is the Euro (symbolised as EUR or €). Other currencies are usually not accepted, so be sure to change dollars, etc. at one of the currency exchange offices located throughout the city. The GWK exchange offices are reliable and offer a fair deal.

Many shops and restaurants in Amsterdam accept credit cards, but not all. For example, one of the largest supermarket chains in the Netherlands, Albert Heijn, does not take credit cards. Make sure you ask before you order or have a enough cash to pay the bill. Most shops and restaurants do not accept € 200 or € 500 notes.

Opening hours

Shops are open from Monday to Saturday, 9:00 to 18:00 or 19.00  (Saturday until 17:00 and Thursday evenings until 21:00). Sundays 12:00 to 17:00. Most of the supermarkets stay open until 20:00 or 22:00. Most businesses operate Monday to Friday, 8:30 to 17:00.

Banks are open weekdays only, between 9:00 and 16:00.

Post offices are open weekdays only, between 9:00 and 17:00. The main post office on Singel 250, in the basement is open weekdays between 7:30 and 18:30 and Saturdays from 07:30 to 17:00.

Internet

Most hotels offer wireless internet to their guests. And more and more cafes  now have wireless internet. Some places offer this service free of charge,  in other places you have to pay.

Tipping

Service is always included, but it is customary to tip in restaurants, bars and when paying for taxis. As a general rule tipping between 5 and 10% is acceptable.  While tips will be appreciated, serving staff receive a fair wage, and do not depend on tips like they do in the US.

Telephone

The international access code to call abroad from the Netherlands is 00, plus the code of the country you wish to call. If you are calling Amsterdam from abroad, dial 0031 (for the Netherlands) and 20 (for Amsterdam). Even in the age of mobile phones, there are a few pay phones left. Most of them are card-operated.  You can buy phone cards at post offices, news agents and several tourist offices.

Tax-free shopping

Non-EU residents are eligible to get back the Value Added Tax (VAT) on purchases in the European Union. In the Netherlands the VAT (called BTW) is 21% and the minimum spent is € 50. To get a refund, visit Customs before leaving the EU to get a stamp. You can either send the stamped receipt back to the store for a full BTW refund or make use of the following services:

  1. Shop only at retailers affiliated with Global Blue, ask for a tax-free cheque and then reclaim the sales tax at their desk at the airport. Visit www.global-blue.com for more information.
  2. Shop wherever you like, save your purchase receipt and then reclaim the BTW online or at the VAT Free service desk at Schiphol Airport, departure hall 2. Visit www.vatfree.com for more information.

Health and Safety

Compared to other large cities, Amsterdam is a relatively safe. Violent crimes do not occur very often, and overall, residents and visitors enjoy a safe experience without incident. Do be cautious of petty crimes however, such as theft.

Medical assistance

For Doctor visits to your hotel room, telephone consultation and consultations on location, ask the reception of your accommodations for help or call the tourist doctor ( see the number below). Fees are determined by the national GP association and are covered by most travel and medical insurances. For medical emergencies, call 112.

Pickpockets

Pickpockets are typically active in crowded places, during the summer season and on the train travelling between Amsterdam Central Station and Schiphol Airport.  They’re active in trams or at street performances. Mind your belongings carefully, and leave your valuables in a safety deposit box or safe at the hotel.

Drugs

It is permitted to smoke cannabis or hashish in a coffeeshop in Amsterdam (however, smoking regular tobacco is not allowed). Other bars and establishments do not allow this. The smell of a joint is not appreciated by many people. The smell of a joing while you’re on your way to work in the morning is a big irritaion to many locals.
Coffeeshops are permitted to sell a customer a maximum of five grams and the possession of this, although technically against the law, is tolerated by the authorities. You must be 18 years of age to enter a coffeeshop.
All hard drugs and the sale of soft drugs on the street are strictly illegal and punishable by law.

Police

If you are a victim of crime go to one of the police stations. They will take a statement, cancel your credit cards in case of theft and provide you with useful telephone numbers and addresses (like consulates, etc). Please try to avoid problems by not carrying valuable items with you on the streets. Leave them in the safe or deposit box at your hotel instead.

Useful phone numbers

Emergency (police, ambulance, fire): 112
Police (theft and other  non emergency queries): 0900-8844
Tourist doctor: (0031)-(0)-20-4275011