With narrow buildings, coffee shops, elaborate canal systems, unique museums, and the Red Light District, it’s no wonder that Amsterdam, the “Venice of the north” is high (pun intended) on people’s bucket list. However, a visit to Amsterdam can be quite expensive if you don’t plan accordingly. With the help of this travel guide, you will have all the tips and tricks you need to make backpacking Amsterdam on a budget easier and cheaper.
What You’ll Find in This Amsterdam Travel Guide
- How Much to Budget for Amsterdam
- How Long to Visit Amsterdam
- Cheap Places to Stay in Amsterdam
- Cheap Places to Eat in Amsterdam
- Top Things to Do in Amsterdam
- What to Skip in Amsterdam
- Best Coffeeshops in Amsterdam
- Popular Events & Festivals in Amsterdam
- How to Get Around in Amsterdam
- General Travel Tips for Amsterdam
- Day Trips from Amsterdam
How Much to Budget for Amsterdam
If you are backpacking Amsterdam on a budget and follow our suggestions in this travel guide your daily spending shouldn’t be more than €50.00 – 80.00 a day. During our three day visit in mid September we spend about €100.00 a day for the both of us, so it is definitely possible to do Amsterdam on the lower end of that spectrum.
How Long to Visit Amsterdam
We think that 3 full days is more than enough time to see the highlights of Amsterdam. If however you want to do some day trips to nearby places, such as the tulip fields or the windmills, add another day or two.
Cheap Places to Stay in Amsterdam
Accommodation in Amsterdam can get ridiculously expensive during high season (May – September), especially on weekends and holidays, so don’t expect to find a cheap bed once you are there. Booking a bed in advance is highly recommended.
1. Hostels & Hotels
During high season, a bed in a dorm is anywhere between €30.00 – 60.00 and a private double room at a budget hotel costs around €80.00 – 150.00+. If you travel outside the high season you might be able to find a bed for €15.00 – 25.00 and a private double room for €50.00 – 100.00+.
ClinkNOORD has just recently opened its doors in one of the city’s most creative and culturally vibrant areas, Amsterdam Noord. The hostel has a wide variety of different dorms and private rooms, and has everything a backpacker needs, from a self catering kitchen to plenty of social areas. ClinkNOORD also hosts different events, such as cartoon drawing classes, cocktail training with the bartender, solo traveler meet-ups, and live concerts. Another bonus is it’s location, as it is only a 5 minute free ferry ride away from Amsterdam’s Central Station. Click here to read reviews and check availability.
Want more hostel recommendations? Check out our article about the best hostels to stay in Amsterdam for under $50!
The Dutch love to camp so it comes to no surprise that there are quite a few camping spots in the Amsterdam area. If you are carrying a tent with you and want to save some money, check out Camping Zeeburg or Camping Vliegenbos where prices start at €10.00 per night. Both campsite are only a short tram/bus ride away from the city center.
Airbnb is pretty popular in Amsterdam and depending on how far in advance you book, you can expect to pay around €40.00 – 70.00 for a private room for two people. For recommendations take a look at our list of the best Airbnbs in Amsterdam.
Another cheap option is Couchsurfing but finding a couch to crash on can be quite difficult in Amsterdam, especially during high season. Hosts in the city center get an average of about 15 requests a day. Try sending couch requests to some of the hosts outside of Amsterdam to increase the likelihood of an acceptance.
There is also a Couchsurfing group called “Last Minute Couch Requests” where you might be able to find a last minute place to crash.
Cheap Places to Eat in Amsterdam
Though the Netherlands isn’t known for it’s exquisite cuisine, it definitely excels on having some cheap spots to eat. From thick fries to raw herrings, we made sure to add places where you can taste some of Amsterdam’s most popular snacks.
Frietsteeg | Heisteeg 3, 1012 WC Amsterdam
You seriously can’t come to Amsterdam without eating some fries. The Dutch love their fries which means you will find fries stands all over Amsterdam. Our favorite stand is Frietsteeg. They sell fries with a range of delicious sauces for around €2.50.
Vishuisje Herengracht | Herengracht 560, 1017 Amsterdam
Herring is another thing you will find all over Amsterdam. One stand that sells excellent herring is Vishuisje Herengracht and for around €3 you get a small plate of herring with pickles and onions. The taste is definitely not for everyone but everybody should try it at least once.
De Hapjeshoek | Metrostation Waterloopln 6, 1011 MS Amsterdam
De Hapjeshoek sells tasty ethnic food for a good price. Our favorite is the chicken curry sandwich for €3.
FEBO de Lekkerste | Multiple Locations
FEBO shops sell fast food (burgers, hot dogs, krokets and more) out of vending machines for a cheap price. Their shops can be found all over Amsterdam.
HEMA | Multiple Locations
HEMA is a department store famous for its very cheap buffet and €1.00 breakfast. Yes, you have read right, they offer breakfast for €1.00!!! Do I need to say more? Note: Not all of their locations serve breakfast but the HEMA at Kalverstraat 212, 1012 WP Amsterdam does for sure.
Maoz Vegetarian | Muntplein 1, 1017 Amsterdam
Maoz is a Middle Eastern vegetarian chain that serves cheap falafels on pita bread with a wide selection of free toppings.
From the 70s to the 90s many abandoned buildings in Amsterdam were occupied by squatters who sometimes set up informal restaurants. Some of those squat restaurants still exist today and offer delicious food for a very good price. However, most squat restaurants are not open everyday and require reservations, so plan ahead.
Here is a list of some squat restaurants in Amsterdam:
Moya | Location: Frederik Hendrikstraat 111, 1052 Amsterdam | Hours: Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 8pm | Price: around €8 (Free on Thursdays) | Email: [email protected]
Einde van de wereld | Location: Javakade 61 aan boord van de Quo Vadis, 1019 SZ Amsterdam | Hours: Wednesday and Friday after 6pm | Price: less than €8 | Tel: +31 20 419 0222
Buurtboerderij Ons Genoegen | Location: Spaarndammerdijk 319, 1014 AA Amsterdam | Hours: Everyday from 10am – 10pm | Price: less than €8 | Tel: +31 20 337 6820
Miltvuur Keuken Zuid | Location: Eerste Schinkelstraat 14-16, 1075 TX Amsterdam | Hours: Thursday – Saturday from 7pm – 1am | Price: around €5 | Tel: +31 20 679 0712
De Peper | Location: Overtoom 301, 1054 HW Amsterdam | Hours: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday from 8pm – 1am | Price: € 7 – 10 (pay as you wish) | Tel: +31 20 412 2954
Zaal 100 | Location: De Wittenstraat 100, 1052 BA Amsterdam | Hours: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 18pm | Price: around €8 | Tel: +31 20 688 0127
Traditional Dutch Dishes
Dutch Pancake, Stroopwafels, Dutch Cheese, Croquette, Bitterballen, Stamppot, Raw Herring.
Top Things to Do in Amsterdam
To be honest, one of the best (and cheapest) things to do in Amsterdam is to just walk around and soak in the atmosphere. And maybe visit the Red Light District, take a free walking tour or chill at Vondelpark.
If however you want to do more than just hang out, check out the Rijksmuseum, Anne Frank’s House or Van Gogh Museum.
Either way, below you can find a little bit more information on the top things to do in Amsterdam.
The Rijksmuseum features Dutch art and history from the Middle Ages to the present day. It is one of Amsterdam’s most visited museum.
2.) Anne Frank’s House
Anne Frank’s House is the house where Anne Frank, a young Jewish girl, hid and wrote her famous diary during World War II.
3.) Red Light District
From live sex shows and brothels to museums and sex shops, the red light district has it all. Take a stroll through this unique neighborhood after nightfall and go window shopping, Amsterdam style.
4.) Free Walking Tour
The Vondelpark is Amsterdam’s largest park and a nice escape from all the hustle and bustle of the city. Join the locals and have a cheap picnic outside.
6.) Albert Cuyp
Albert Cuyp is the largest and most famous street market in Amsterdam. It is worth a visit but watch out for pickpockets as it can get very crowded.
7.) Van Gogh Museum
The Van Gogh Museum is a museum dedicated to the work of Van Gogh. Here you can learn more about his life through different exhibitions featuring over 200 paintings, drawings and letters.
8.) Heineken Experience
Visit a old Heineken brewery and take an interactive tour through the brewing process all the way to the tasting room.
What to Skip in Amsterdam
1.) Canal Cruise
The Canal Cruise is by far one of the most boring things we have done in a long time. Seriously, don’t waste your time and money. Rent your own boat instead!
Best Coffeeshops in Amsterdam
Chance are that if you are in Amsterdam that you will want to smoke some legal weed but how do you know which one of the over 150 coffeeshops is worth visiting? Well, we’ve got you covered.
Coffeeshop Solo | Korte Koningsstraat 2, 1011 GA Amsterdam
If you are looking for a chill place with high quality weed at a good price look no further than Coffeeshop Solo. The shop is located just outside of the tourist area which means you will see more locals here than tourists, but that’s exactly what it makes it so appealing ;D. Our recommendation: Cheese.
Green House | Multiple Locations
Green House is one of the most famous cannabis companies in the world. They have won many international awards for their highly potent marijuana, so if you are in Amsterdam you definitely can’t miss visiting one of their coffeeshops. Our recommendation: Super Lemon Haze or Cheese.
420 Cafe | Oudebrugsteeg 27, 1012 JN Amsterdam
420 Cafe is a true, local Amsterdam cafe with a relaxing atmosphere and super friendly staff. Our recommendation: Space Cake.
Grey Area | Oude Leliestraat 2, 1015 AW Amsterdam
This little gem is highly regarded as having very knowledgeable staff and potent product. Unfortunately, they don’t have that many tables so unless you are lucky it might be best to just buy some cannabis and chill elsewhere (ex. Vondelpark). Our recommendation: Pineapple Haze.
Insider Tip: Avoid all of the Bulldog & Grasshopper Coffeeshops as those are tourist traps with lousy weed at high prices.
For a more in depth guide on doing drugs in the Netherlands check out this guide from our friends over at Lost with Purpose.
Popular Festivals & Events in Amsterdam
1.) Museum Night – Museumnacht
More than 50 museums in Amsterdam open up from 7pm to 2am with special exhibition for the annual Museum Night in November.
2.) Chinese New Year
In February, Amsterdam celebrates the new lunar year in Chinatown with firecrackers and parades.
3.) Tulip Festival
The people of Amsterdam love tulips and in April the celebrate them by bringing them back onto the streets of Amsterdam. Check out this post for more info on the Tulip Festival.
4.) Amsterdam Roots Festival
The Roots Festival is a free open air festival with music and films from non western countries.
5.) Vondelpark Open Air Theatre
Another free open air festival with concerts and performances from established and upcoming Dutch artists.
How to Get Around in Amsterdam
Amsterdam, like many other Scandinavian cities (ex. Copenhagen), is ruled by bikes and bike lanes are sometimes as big as car lanes. So if you want to experience Amsterdam the right way chance are you’ll want to rent a bike and cruise along the canals.
A bike is also a great way to see some of the countryside around Amsterdam. Just go north or south, or follow the Amstel River and within 30 minutes you are outside of the city.
There are bike rentals all over town and most of them charge between €8.00 – 20.00 per day. The two cheapest places we have found are Rent a Bike Amsterdam and Green Budget Bikes. Both of them have a wide selection of high quality bikes to choose from.
Walking is of course the cheapest way to get around and since the city center of Amsterdam is very flat it can easily be walked. Just be careful not to walk on any bike lanes, as bikes, and sometimes even mopeds, will run you over if you don’t watch out.
3.) Public Transportation
Amsterdam is very well connected by trams, metro and buses. In order for you to use any of them you will have to buy a disposable OV-chipkaart either beforehand or on board.
For short term visitors there are 1/24/48/72/96/120/144/168 hour tickets available for purchase at the tourist office, at many hostels & hotels and at the Central Station. The card allows you to travel on any public transportation within Amsterdam (except busses operated by Connexxion and Arriva) for as long as the ticket is valid.
When you using any mode of public transportation be sure to check in and out by placing your card in front of the card reader located at the entrance.
For more information and prices check out en.gvb.nl.
General Travel Tips for Amsterdam
1.) Cash Only
Many places and business in Amsterdam accept cash or Maestro debit card only, so plan accordingly.
2.) Drink Tap Water
Like most places in Europe, the water can be drunk straight from the tap in Amsterdam, so avoid buying bottled water even if they are cheap.
3.) Avoid Weekends
During the Weekends, many European come from nearby cities to spend time in Amsterdam, which means prices will be twice as much as during the weekday.
Day Trips from Amsterdam
Amsterdam is very well connected to the rest of the Netherlands and many beautiful places can be reached in under an hour. So if you have more than a few days in Amsterdam, jump on a train or bus and check out some sights outside of Amsterdam.
Here are some of our favorite day trips from Amsterdam.
- Kinderdijk: Countryside with traditional dutch windmills.
- Lisse: Known for its colorful tulip fields.
- Alkmaar: Famous for its cheese market.
- Haarlem: Less touristy and smaller version of Amsterdam.
- Rotterdam: Rival of Amsterdam with more modern architecture.
- Zandvoort Van Zee: Best beach near Amsterdam.
Get Insured Before Backpacking Amsterdam
No matter how long or short your trip, don’t forget to purchase travel insurance. You never know what will happen and trust us, you don’t wanna get stuck with thousands of dollars in medical bills. As a wise man once said, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel. So don’t leave home without it. We recommend World Nomads.
Even if you don’t get travel insurance with World Nomads, please make sure to get travel insurance from somewhere.
Other Travel Guides
If you are more of a book person and would rather carry a physical guide with you while backpacking Amsterdam, we recommend Lonely Planet Amsterdam. Remember though, don’t follow it step by step, use it as a guide instead.
Make sure to also take a look at our detailed Amsterdam itinerary for inspiration on how to plan your trip.
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