All About Amsterdam

Rijksmuseum in amsterdam

About…Time

Amsterdam time in the summer is two hours ahead of GMT, one hour in winter. In midsummer, the sky is still light as late as 11:00 PM (23:00 hr) which makes for fabulously long summer evenings.   

Perfect for a canal-side dinners, drinks, canal boat rides, or just people watching from your cafe’ terrace table. This compliments the spirit and tempo of Amsterdam. This is a late city. Most bars, cafés,   coffeeshops, and music clubs stay open till 1, 3, or 5:00 AM. Many shops don’t open until after 10:00 in the morning. Some shops are also closed on Monday mornings and some all day on Monday.




Business Hours    

Banks are open weekdays from 8 or 9 to 4 or 5. Post offices are open weekdays from 8:30 to 5 and often on Saturday from 8:30 till noon. Shopping hours, regulated by the government, are Monday from 1 to 6, Tuesday through Friday from 9 to 6, and Saturday from 9 to 5. Each Dutch city may designate one night a week as a late shopping night, when stores are open until 9. Amsterdam’s night is Thursday. Shops now have permission to open also on Sunday in some cities. This is administered at a local level and varies from city to city. In the center of Amsterdam, you can be fairly sure of finding major department stores, main branches of chain stores, and shops in larger malls are open. However most small shops still close on Sunday. Most branches of supermarkets now stay open until 8 on weekdays. Drugstores are open weekdays from 8 or 9 to 5:30, with a rotating schedule in each city to cover nights and weekends. Most national museums are closed on Monday. 




About… Weather 

Typically the weather ranges from around freezing in the depths of winter, though usually without much snow, to pleasant sunny days from 20 to 25 degrees Celsius in the summer.

Spring and Autumn are pleasant, but can be wet.




 

What to Pack for Amsterdam

The best advice for a trip to the Netherlands in any season is to pack light, be flexible, bring an umbrella and trench coat with a liner in winter time is recommended, and always have a sweater or jacket available.

Amsterdam’s Fashion is “practical”

For daytime wear and casual evenings, turtlenecks and flannel shirts are ideal for winter, alone or under a sweater, and cotton shirts with sleeves are perfect in summer. Blue jeans are popular and are often worn to the office.

Good quality, walking shoes are essential to comfortably navigate our cobblestone and brick streets.

For women, high heels are nothing but trouble on the cobblestone streets of Amsterdam and other old cities in Europe. Sneakers or running shoes will kill your feet. A much better choice is a good pair of walking shoes or low-heeled pumps.




 

About… Language

Dutch is the official language of the Netherlands, although Fries is spoken in Friesland and a local dialect is used in the Limburg province. Just about everyone speaks English in Amsterdam, are proud of this, and reply to your feeble attempt at Dutch in excellent English. Many speak German and French as well. In rural areas you may need your phrase book.  




 

 About the… Money 

The Guilder is now just a memory. The Guilder was replaced completely by  Euro coins and notes as of January 29, 2002. The earliest complete conversion of any country from national currency to the Euro among the European Union community.

Dutch notes were among the most beautiful in the world… we hated to see them go.

There are many places to change money in town. The GWK at Central station is good. Compare rates carefully at the exchange offices in town. Hotels are usually the most expensive way to change money. Banks can be slow and not very helpful to visitors or residents equally.

There’s an  American Express office on the Damrak and a Thomas Cook branch is right on the Dam, across from the war memorial monument. GWK offices are all around in the center tourist areas.

The current exchange rates are in Dutch but you should be able to figure it out. “Verkoopt” = Sell, “Koopt” = Buy Easy to use…Currency Converter Page

Credit cards are not as widely accepted here as in many other country’s, but it’s getting gradually better. Always ask first if you want to pay by credit card. You can use Cirrus and Maestro cards (and most other major cards) for getting cash out of a cash machine (ATM)

All prices in the Netherlands by law include tax and tips: the price you see is the price you pay.

Normal Dutch practice in restaurants is for the customer to round up to the nearest guilder for small amounts, and the nearest 5 for larger amounts. Don’t feel obliged to leave a tip. It is not expected but appreciated for exceptional service. In taxis a 10% tip is usual, although not obligatory.




 

About…Customs & Duties 

There are no limits on goods (such as perfume, cigarettes, or alcohol) brought into the Netherlands from another EU country, provided that they are bought duty-paid (i.e., not in a duty-free shop) and are for personal use.
If you enter from a non-EU country, or have purchased goods duty-free, you may bring in 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 100 small cigars or 250 grams of tobacco; 1 liter of alcohol (more than 22%) or 2 liters (less than 22%), 50 grams of perfume and .25 liter cologne, 500 grams of coffee, 100 grams of tea, and other goods with a total value of up to €75
There are no restrictions regarding the import or export of currency.




About…Passports & Visas 

U.S. Citizens

All U.S. citizens, even infants, need a valid passport to enter the Netherlands for stays of up to 90 days.

Canadians

You need a valid passport to enter the Netherlands for stays of up to 90 days. Children under 16 may be included on a parent’s passport but must have their own to travel alone.

U.K. Citizens

Citizens of the United Kingdom need a valid passport to enter the Netherlands for stays of up to 90 days. Children under 16 may travel on an accompanying parent’s passport.
U.S. and Canadian residents do not require visas to visit the Netherlands for pleasure or business trips not exceeding three months. British citizens do not require visas regardless of the length or purpose of their visit, but will be required to register with local authorities if they take up residence.




 

About… Electricity

            Dutch Electricity was 220 volts, and then moved at a rate of 1 volt per year to the European standard 230 volts. You can buy voltage and plug converters at Aurora Electric Co. when you get in town. They are on the Vijzelstraat at the end of the Flower Market, near the Munt tower at Rokin.

About… Safety

            Amsterdam is for the most part a safe city, and there is nothing to fear from walking in any part of the city. Even in the RedLIGHT district around the Oude Kerk, there are always lots of tourists wandering around. As in any large city you should beware of pick pockets and keep an eye on your belongings. Report all incidents to the Police...even if they didn’t get your wallet or bag.

Don’t photograph the women in the RedLIGHT district, this is not allowed, not very nice, and not wise to try.




EMERGENCIES

National Emergency Alarm Number 112mobile tel. 06 112

  • Police, ambulance, and fire tel. 555-5555
  • Police only tel. 622-2222
  • Center City police stations Elandsgracht 117; Lijnbaansgracht 219; Warmoesstraat 44-46; and near the entrance to IJtunnel




Hospital Emergency Rooms

  • Academisch Medisch Centrum Meibergdreef 9, tel. 020/566-9111
  • Boven ‘t IJ Ziekenhuis Statenjachtstraat 1, tel. 020/634-6346
  • VU Ziekenhuis de Boelelaan 1117, tel. 020/444-4444
  • Onze Lieve Vrouwe Gasthuis (le Oosterparkstraat197, tel. 020/599-9111
  • Slotervaartziekenhuis Louwesweg 6, tel. 020/512-4113


Doctors and Dentists

Medical Needs – Referrals tel. 592-3434 (mobile tel.020 592-3434)= 24-hour service for all medical assistance, including names and opening hours of pharmacists and dentists.




 

About…Smoking

Amsterdam has very few restrictions on smoking cigarettes. Some establishments mostly Large chain Hotels and international restaurants have started feeble attempts at designated non smoking areas. As much of the population smokes here, it is mostly for show, to accommodate non smoking tourists. The bars are traditionally smoky.

On smoking weed…It is not polite to just light up a joint anywhere. Coffeeshops are everywhere to be found with over 300 to choose from.

Smoking in public is not illegal but is best kept to the parks and outside at entertainment venue’s. The exception is always around the corner in Amsterdam so keep you nose sharp and let the hosts lead by example… or simply just ask what the policy is, you won’t be ridiculed just politely informed.




 

About Queens Day April 30th…every year

“Konninginnedag”

The uniquely Dutch holiday when the entire county celebrates the Queen’s birthday. It is not really the present Queen Beatrix’s birthday but her mother Willimina’s birthday.

queen's day in amsterdam image

The party is everywhere. The streets, (delightfully closed to traffic.) On the canals and rivers, tens of thousands of boats of all types imaginable coverage for this party.

The river attracts tall ships and ocean going yachts from all over the sailing world. Orange crape is strewn all about, is worn by patriots and visitors alike Hats adorn are available in an unusual collection of ridiculous design’s. Some are regional in origin and a mystery to us to this day . As Amsterdam is the cultural heart and real capitol of Holland (although most will deny this) Dutch Nationals from all parts of Holland come to Amsterdam but once a year and Queen’s Day is the day.

Traditionally it is the practice to suspend all rules of selling goods and partying and except for New Years Eve in Amsterdam the noisiest party in Europe.

Vondel park is reserved for the kids. The park is packed with a plethora of games, magic tricks , juggling acts and musicians …To list a few examples.

Amsterdam stretches to over-capacity, welcoming up to a half million, possibly more, additional people to the population. Music loudness rules are suspended and advantage is taken…The place is carpeted with flat Heineken cans, in some places ankle deep. Truly an amazing party to experience. The parties run for several days before the 30th and after. Special events are happening all over town for a week or more.

About… Politics and The Dutch Government

Netherlands belongs to the Benelux. The 3 country free trade union of Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg, the model of the European Union. Amsterdam is the capitol of Netherlands but the Seat of Government and the Parliament is in The Hague.

Amsterdam is and always has been a liberal left wing city. The municipal government is made up of 16 districts with 45 council members elected every 4 years. The mayor is appointed by the Queen or King and he Reigns for 6 years but this is due to change to an elective process this century.

The dominant political parties are The Labor Party (PvdA), The Conservative Liberal Party, and The Environmental Socialists (Green Left). Less popular but still representative are The Progressive Liberals (D66), The Christian Democrats, The Radical Socialists (SP) and the Mokum Mobied (car lovers ) Party.