At the moment of writing this I am relaxing by the water at the Vondelpark park located right next to Museumplein, probably one of the most beautiful parks in the country. Loads of people are walking their dogs, biking, sunbathing, smoking pot and two homeless-looking guys near by are listening to Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” – the atmosphere is great.
So let’s start from the beginning. If you are flying to Amsterdam, there are a few different ways of getting into town from the Schiphol airport. There is always a taxi cab at about 40€ and it takes about 30 minutes to get to town. There is also a shuttle bus at 15 € and it takes about 45 minutes to get to the center of Amsterdam, the shuttle comes every 30 minutes.
Now, the fastest way of getting into town is also… the cheapest way – train! The “inter-city” train comes every 10 minutes, takes only 15 minutes from the airport until Amsterdam’s Central station and costs… 3.80 € . I think I made a mistake and bought a wrong ticket (Amsterdam L instead of Amsterdam Centraal) so the ticket actually cost 2.80 € . There were no controllers in the train, however I would strongly suggest to PAY for the ticket and not risk getting a hefty fine from an occasional controller that might pass by.
Best way of buying a ticket is probably buying it at the YELLOW stand that sells tickets. The stands at the luggage carouselles in the airport only accept credit cards, however once you passed the duties, there are more vending machines in the terminal that also accept E coins. Please note, they don’t accept any paper bills; only coins or credit cards. If for whatever reason you decided to pay for the fare with a bill – get ready for a LONG wait at the lines for the cash.
Once in Central Station, Dennis and I decided to walk down the “centrum” streets and to check out the city beore heading to the place where we’d sleep for free (more on that later). Since we flew from Canada, Amsterdam’s 10 am meant 4am for us (Montreal time), so we bought a few cans of beer and drank them on a bench. (We later found out that drinking alcohol on the streets is not permitted in Amsterdam; we’ll know better next time). Even at 10 am there were girls in the red windows and people were smoking weed on the streets and in the coffeeshops… Amsterdam might not be a city that never sleeps but it definitely wakes up early!
After a beer we had a coffee on a terrace not far from Dam square… when we finally sat down, started enjoying our coffee and looking at thousands of people passing by bikes, mopeds and scooters – we started realizing that we’re finally in Europe. Another interesting fact (something that would never happen in North America), you only pay when you’re ready to leave… No one asks you to pay for your beer or a coffee in advance! Tips are included in the final bill, but feel free to add an extra tip when you’re leaving, usually 0.5E-1E would be more than enough. By the time we finished the coffee it was lunch time and we were starting to get hungry… We headed towards our “hotel” and picked up a Doner Kebab sandwich for 3 € . It was very delicious. One suggestion here – try to stay away from Kebab places located smack downtown, the food is overpriced and doesn’t taste that good. Walk 5-10 minutes West of Dam Square and you’ll find much better food 40-50% cheaper than downtown.
One last tip for those who are planning a “budget” trip to Amsterdam. The accommodations here aren’t cheap. About 60€ and up for a 2 star hotel, 20-30€/person for a hostel (where you share the room with 6-8 other people) but there is a cheaper way to travel! www.couchsurfing.org is a non-profit service/website/community where people from all over the world welcome you to their home FREE of charge. However, you have to be friendly and respectful… although it is free to stay at someone’s place, it costs them money (electricity, water, food if they feed you) so if you do use couchsurfing – try to help out a little, buy some food, maybe some beer…
This is exactly how Dennis and I are visiting. Alessio accepted our CS (couchsurfing) request and well – we’re sleeping at his place! His brother Alexandro and Vaio, sheppard-like dog live here as well. Alessio is very welcoming and nice, he makes us coffee in the morning, sometimes he takes us around town to show around and so on!
Well that’s pretty much all for the first day of Am*dam, more to come later!