Amsterdam is a crazy city

Things NOT to do when visiting Amsterdam

Tips for tourists in Amsterdam

By Herbert M. Green


Sure, I’d be the last to deny Amsterdam is a party city, and pretty liberal when it comes to recreational drugs or comfortable with sex. That doesn’t mean however, that everything does. Here are some tips on what not to do and what to avoid when you’re visiting this awesome city;

Thing you shouldn’t do in general when visiting Amsterdam:  

Don’t be a jackass! Kinda goes without saying, right? Well yeah, but every tourist season I am amazed by the fact that some people leave their common sense on the plane. So, don’t make a fool of yourself and avoid doing the following;

Use you head
Just don’t
    • Urinate on the streets or in the canals. Seriously! Just don’t. It’s like saluting the locals with a helmeted middle finger and if the cops catch you it’ll be a lukewarm fine of €140,-.
    • Scream or sing loudly after a night of partying. That’s the best way to make the locals hate your guts.


  • Drink in public areas or on the street. If you’re drinking on a terrace or right in front of a local pub, it’s fine, they have a license for that. But if you’re caught drinking out of a can of beer or a bottle of wine on the streets or a public square, there’s a good chance a police officer will take it away from you and replace your drink with a € 90,- fine. Cheers.
  • Don’t smoke your joints right in front of a coffeeshop or in “Smoke-free zones”. If the coffeeshop doesn’t have a terrace license, smoke that lovely doobie inside only. Besides that, Amsterdam has some areas where it’s forbidden to consume cannabis. These areas are well marked by signs, so keep a look out for those.
No joints or booze here
Signs saying “No Cannabis or Alcohol in this area”

On the streets:

Amsterdam is a relatively small city but it’s a crowded one. Like many popular tourist destinations, the city is rife with pickpockets and those who want to take advantage of gullible tourists, so try to avoid the following;

Heroin Sold As Cocaine
Warning sign for tourist in Amsterdam central
  • Don’t buy or accept anything being offered to you on the streets. It’s usually a scam of some kind. Everything you need can be bought in shops, so why risk getting ripped off?
  • Don’t buy drugs on the street! 99% of the time it’s fake or in the worst case deadly!
  • Don’t buy bicycles on the street! There is a whole ‘junkie economy’ revolving around stolen bikes in Amsterdam. If somebody offers you a bike for a ridiculously low price you can be 100% sure it’s stolen. Purchasing stolen goods is considered a felony in the Netherlands! Take the tram or leg it.   
  • Be doubly aware of pickpockets and their tactics. Amsterdam has one of the highest number of pickpockets in Europe. They love tourists who are just standing around, in line at a museum or staring at their phones. Don’t let them distract you or slow you down for no apparent reason.


Getting around:

Getting around in Amsterdam can be quite daunting if you’re not used to chaotic traffic. Here are some tips to make sure you safely get where you want to be and without it costing you an arm and a leg ;

    • Don’t rent a bicycle! Just don’t. We know most travel guides recommend it as a great way to see the city but trust us, navigating Amsterdam’s traffic is chaotic and frustrating at the best of times. The locals have their own set of rules when it comes to getting around on their bikes. They hardly stop for other traffic or stoplights and they’re always in a hurry. There is nothing more frustrating for a local than having to navigate around a group of yellow or red ‘rent-a-bikes’ who have no idea where they’re going and are clogging up the flow of traffic.

      Red bicycle lane in Amsterdam
      Bicycle lanes in Amsterdam are colored RED!
    • Don’t walk on the bicycle lane. In Amsterdam, bicycle lanes are well designated by either a red coat of paint or a white bicycle symbol. Using them as a pedestrian walkway is very dangerous and a big no no! The locals ride their bikes like maniacs and there might not be enough time for them to spot you before it’s too late!



  • Don’t walk around like a zombie! I know I live in a beautiful city and I want you to enjoy the sights. Just, don’t cross the street without looking where you’re going or with a camera-phone in front of your face. Don’t stop in the middle of a crowded street to look at your map. Just use common sense and keep your head on a swivel.
  • Don’t take a taxi. Amsterdam’s taxis are considered some of the most expensive in Europe. These cab drivers aren’t always the most trustworthy, especially late at night or at Schiphol Airport. You are better off using public transport like trams or busses. They are abundant and easy to use. (there is an easy to use app on android or iOS) Besides that, the city is compact, so walking is always a great option. If you really need to take a cab, pick a company that utilizes electric cars like Abel or Taxi Electric. Their drivers are way friendlier and their fares a lot more reasonable.


The Red Light District:  

Oh come on, don’t deny it, I know you’re planning on going to the Red Light District (RLD). Rightly so! No visit to Amsterdam would be complete without a leisurely stroll past the windows with barely clothed ladies on display. But to make sure your ‘stroll’ goes off without a hitch, take heed of these tips;

  • Don’t buy the drugs. We have already covered this in a previous section of this article but in the RLD you will be offered drugs more often than at most other places in Amsterdam. If whatever they’re offering you isn’t totally fake, it’s at least crap quality. Just don’t bother.     
  • Do not take pictures or film the sex workers. You wouldn’t like it either when someone takes pictures of you without asking! If you do, there’s a good chance you’ll end up taking a swim in the canal or even worse, a punch in the face.
    no pictures at Red Light District
    Don’t take pictures at the Red Light District


  • Don’t go into the Sex Museums. They are mostly shops masquerading as museums. You’re better off going to a sex shop outside the RLD, where they don’t ask for an admittance fee.   
  • These ladies are not products. They are human beings! They are just trying to make a living and deserve the same basic respect as you. (Even though prostitution is legal in the Netherlands, keep in mind that some of the ladies you see are put to work against their will by human traffickers)  
  • Looking is fine. Just don’t gawk or stare! If you’re not going in for a visit, you’re wasting their time and you should move on.


……….And finally, the Coffeeshops:

I wouldn’t be a good cannabis correspondent if I didn’t give you some tips on Coffeeshop etiquette, right? So here goes;

  • Don’t even bother if you’re under 18 years old. You will not be allowed in the coffeeshop and Budtenders aren’t stupid. They can smell your under-age-punk-ass and fake ID’s from a mile away, so don’t even go there. 
  • Make sure you are caring a valid ID. Coffeeshop employees are required by law to ask for your ID. It has nothing to do with how old you look or anything else, so don’t feel offended and just show them your ID. It’s the law and they are just doing their job.
  • Heavy drinking and smoking weed is never a good combination.You don’t want to be that one dumb ass, passed out on the sidewalk while everybody laughs at you, do you? I like to get wasted as much as the next guy, but check yourself before you wreck yourself!

    Don't drink and smoke cannabis
    You don’t want to be this guy, do you?
  • Go slow when yo are new to cannabis. If you are new to smoking cannabis, keep in mind that Dutch weed is stronger than the average weed in other parts of the world. Ask the Budtender for a lighter strain to begin with and slowly work your way up from there.
  • Don’t take your luggage inside with you. I know it’s tempting to walk into the first shop you find when you’re fresh off the boat, but do yourself and everybody else a favor and stow your luggage at your hotel or train station locker first. This way you don’t run the risk of your stuff getting jacked when you’re high as a kite and other customers can walk around the shop without tripping over backpacks or carry-ons.



This concludes my list of what not to do when visiting our beautiful and lovely city. I truly hope you enjoy your stay in Amsterdam and that these tips will help you to stay safe and stay smart. It’d be a shame to ruin your holiday by making rookie tourist mistakes.

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