Amsterdam, famed for its liberal attitudes, artists, stunning Dutch architecture, tulips and canals. This city is one of the most popular in Europe and a trip here can quickly add up if you don’t watch your spending. It is however very easy to visit Amsterdam on a budget through a variety of different means.
“I love travelling, I honestly believe it’s one of the only things in life that makes you richer. Experiencing new cultures, meeting new people and making memories with your loved ones.”
My weekend break with three friends to Amsterdam was the final one of my seven trips abroad this year and it only cost me £290 (excluding souvenirs). As many of you are aware I am very keen to travel and make the most of every moment without being too frivolous with my earnings, so I can save for adult things like car insurance and a house (one day). Hence why the ‘On a shoestring series was born’ to help students and budget conscious travellers, so if you’d love to visit Amsterdam on a budget and ensure you don’t break the bank take a look at the top tips from my recent trip;
Pleasantly surprised by British Airways
You could opt to book flights with low cost airlines or the Eurostar and then book an AirBnB separately this will often work out cheap as you can see from my Oslo: On a Shoestring post. However, for this trip myself and the girls booked a British Airways package holiday which was £160 for flights and two nights hotel accommodation. But what times of the year do you need to avoid if you are looking to visit Amsterdam on a budget?
- Avoid the middle two weeks of September. During this time IBC a large-scale broadcasting conference is on and prices can be x3 times more expensive.
- Research to see if there are any major festivals/ conferences throughout the year e.g tulip season is notoriously expensive.
- Don’t visit during the school holidays especially April, July-August and around Christmas.
- Opt for early morning or late evening flights.
We flew from Heathrow Terminal 5 at 7.30pm arriving into Amsterdam at 9.40pm. The flight was a super quick 45 minutes and the aeroplane was incredibly comfy, all in all I was incredibly impressed with British Airways customer service on this trip. The cabin crew were friendly and very reassuring on our return flight as well when we all got a bit freaked out by some very bad turbulence. Our package included a stay at the Crown Plaza Schiphol hotel which was 20 minutes away from the airport via a free shuttle bus service (bonus) and 30 minutes away from the city centre.
“Our rooms were stylish and included exceptionally comfortable beds and black out curtains – ideal for a peaceful night’s rest after all that sightseeing.”
I would completely recommend British Airways holidays, they have a reputation for being an expensive company, but this really isn’t the case as my £160 package proves. If you watch their sales held in September and January and choose to travel at off peak times you can easily visit Amsterdam on a budget.
Explore for less
“If you only take one thing away from this blog let it be investing in the tourist travel cards. Transport in Amsterdam is surprisingly expensive, and you can easily wrack up a hefty hole in your wallet if you don’t invest in one of these cards.”
You can pick them up from major stations including Amsterdam central and certain hotels there are two options; one the Amsterdam travel card and the Amsterdam region pass. Both come with a public transport map and sightseeing tips to inspire you. Take a look at this to see where you can buy yours from.
- A day begins at 00:00 and ends the next day at 04:00.
- You must check in and out with your card every time you enter and exit. Your ticket is activated from the first check in.
- Tickets are valid on all metro, tram and bus lines operated by GVB, Connexxion and EBS, including night buses.
The Amsterdam travel pass
If you plan on staying within the city then this is the travel pass for you, with unlimited travel across the city for 1, 2 or 3 days.
- 1 day €16
- 2-day €21
- 3-day €26
The Amsterdam & region travel pass
We decided to go for this travel pass purely for the fact that on Sunday we wanted to head out of the city to the markets and the beach further away from the main city area. This ticket type is great if you want to enjoy day trips outside of the city. Tickets are available for one, two or three consecutive days ideal for day trips, weekend breaks and three-day visits and a great way to travel around Amsterdam on a budget.
- 1 day – €18.50
- 2 days – €26.00
- 3 days – €33.50
Eating out on a budget
“Before you leave the UK take a couple of the clear resealable plastic bags with you or bring along some sandwich bags from home.”
One of my favourite tips for saving money and travelling on a budget is to not pay for lunch at cafes or restaurants and instead prepare pack lunches. You can achieve this via a few means; either by purchasing food at the supermarket and preparing at your rented apartment, paying for a breakfast at the hotel and then packing some bread and croissants for later (hence why the plastic resealable bags are helpful). If you don’t want to prepare packed lunches and fancy some traditional dutch street food, you can save money by snacking throughout the day and buying little bits like chips (often €4) and waffles (maximum of €7 each).
For the times when you would like to eat away from your hotel either for breakfast or dinner, it’s best to avoid the main touristy areas. In some of these places we found separate ‘tourist menus’ where food was twice the price of the normal menu! Especially expensive areas to avoid; Jordaan, Museuem Plein and the Red-Light District. If you decide to buy a Iamsterdam city pass you can enjoy discounts at certain restaurants as well but for less expensive food why not wander around the Foodhallen?
Sightsee on a budget
If you plan on visiting a lot of museums and art galleries during your stay the I amsterdam city pass is great value for money, take a look here to learn more. Or you can make the most of multi ticket options offered by many companies; tours & tickets do a discounted entry for the Heineken Experience and many of the canal cruises which is worth taking a look at. We managed to stumble across a cruise discount voucher at one of the tourist information centres for a canal cruise for €13 as opposed to €19 – every little helps! And we bought tickets for the Heineken Experience for €18 instead of €22.
Amsterdam is the city of CHEESE – it’s literally everywhere but it’s worth noting that buying cheese here is VERY expensive. Instead of buying it why not go round the various cheese shops and enjoy all the free samples instead.
Take home souvenirs for less
Buy souvenirs in supermarkets instead of tourist shops or the airport. This is one thing I learnt during my trip to Amsterdam that I hadn’t discovered before. Many supermarkets out there sell souvenirs; cheese gift packages, waffles, chocolates, postcards, shot glasses for half the price of the airport and tourist souvenir shops. So, it’s well worth stocking up on gifts from a supermarket to save yourself some cash.
Never pay in your home currency
Be sure to use a debit or credit card with low international fees, take out cash and always pay in Euros as opposed to your home currency. At chip and pins you will have the option but make sure you pick Euros because otherwise when you get home you will be hit by a conversion fee.
So now you know how to visit Amsterdam on a budget how could you spend 72 hours there? Be sure to check out my upcoming blog post and follow me on Instagram for more travel inspiration.