As the owner of a Tour Operator in Amsterdam, specialized in the Indian market, we receive quite some questions about what to think about when travelling to Amsterdam. Below I have added some of the subjects which are important to know about Amsterdam and the Netherlands.
1. The Climate:
For most Indian travellers coming over, Amsterdam is considered cold. Most West-European countries have a similar climate, but below I a chart which gives an impression on the Dutch weather. Keep in mind this is just an estimate, and the Dutch weather forecast can change rapidly.
My advice is: Always look up the weather on the day. You can consider to pack an extra jacket, but you can also choose to buy an umbrella at one of the many souvenir shops in the center of Amsterdam. A smaller one that will fit in your pocket or handbag will cost you approx € 5-10,-.
2. What to do (And what not to)
The first thing I tell all my Indian incentive groups when they get out of the coach is: ‘Watch out for the bikes!’. Bicycles are the main form of transportation in Amsterdam and we’re proud to mention we have more bikes than people in Amsterdam. The bicycle culture in Amsterdam is easy but very clear: The red lanes are for the bikes. Bikes will ring their bells until the moment they run into you. And they will!
Second, if you do decide yourself to rent a bike, be careful of the tram rails. They are embedded in the streets, and therefor are easy to get your front wheel into. Front wheel into tram rails equals immediate fall. So always look at the road you’re driving.
Third, (this is 3 advices in one) when visiting the most infamous area in Amsterdam, the red Light district, don’t keep your wallet, phone, camera or iPad out in the open. There are pickpockets active and they will go so quickly you won’t be able to catch up. Also, if walking past the prostitutes, don’t take pictures! They will harass you or worse! Last advice, never purchase anything offered to you on the street. It’s not what they say it is.
3. Tickets and attractions:
In the center at around every corner you will find a ticket vendor for all tourist things. Most of the times the shops will sell you an open ticket for any give attraction in Amsterdam. In the shops it’s not allowed to sell the tickets for ridiculous amounts in terms of the original retail price. Mostly you will get a fair deal. Buying tickets online is definitely possible, although look-out for vendors selling free add-ons for a price, or overpricing tickets under ‘Skip-the-line’. Most prepaid tickets are skip the line already, and if in doubt, get in touch with the attractions itself. One reliable shop you will find all over the center is Tours and Tickets.
All attractions can be visited while buying tickets on the day, but expect some waiting time. There is one exception: Anne Frank Huis. Only on their own website they will sell valid tickets, which will mostly sell out 2 months in advance. Don’t fall for ‘the Anne Frank experience’, or such, as they will not grant you access there. The prepurchased tickets are to book for daily visits until 3.30 Pm. Afterwards you have to queue up. Depending on time and weather, queues can be up to 1,5-2 hours. Which is not too bad compared with for example the Eiffel Tower in Paris!
4. Do as the locals
What’s very important to know is that the Dutch cuisine isn’t the greatest, but as we have a lot of influences from the rest of Europe, a lot of different food is available in Amsterdam. The water out of all taps is the same quality as bottled water (This is regulated by the government and tested daily), most locals will have a prefilled bottle of water with them (You can refill your water bottle in any restroom). When the weather is good, everyone goes out to picknick in the parks, or on any nice site. My favourite spot is the roof of the Nemo museum, which is accessible for free and offers one of the best views over the city. Buy a French baguette, some salads (“Salade” in Dutch cuisine is a sort of sandwich spread), cheese, a bottle of wine or some beers, and chill out and watch the view. One thing is very, VERY important, also to the locals: Clean up afterwards. Everywhere in Amsterdam you can find garbage bins, which are emptied multiple times a week. Damrep takes groups from Amsterdam to Brussels and further to Paris. I always hear Amsterdam is one of the cleanest cities they have visited. Even in comparison to the other 2 capitals in Europe.
5. Chill out, but don’t hold people up
When arriving in Amsterdam, you will find life moves at a slower pace than most of the big cities in India. Commitment to work is very different to Indian standard. In the Netherlands, on average an employee will work from 9am till 5 Pm, and that literally means he will arrive at the office at 8.50 AM, will drink coffee first and will pick-up the first phone call at 9.00AM sharp! At 5.01, he will already have his jacket on and his PC will be switched off. When he will hear a phone ring, he will smile at it and tell himself: “They will call back tomorrow. I’m going home.” Dutch people value the Work-life balance, and it’s even government regulated. This also means we will take life at a slower pace. There is however one thing most Dutchies don’t like, and that’s coming late. There are examples of restaurants refuse a table to someone showing up 15 minutes later without calling. This will happen often in tourism in Amsterdam. As the owner of Damrep, I understand the difference in culture and will therefor adapt a travel schedule to fit both cultures. Flexibility is our middle name!
Wouter de Vries is the owner of Damrep, a tour operator in Amsterdam dedicated to bring Indian travellers to the Netherlands. Wouter is a travel enthusiast, both in the Netherlands and abroad. Most trips he does are with his wife and 2 young children. Wouter hopes his travel genes will be inherited by his kids.