Amsterdam is a tourist-trap. This is a city famed for its legal marijuana, plentiful hookers and bar crawls. The tourist centre is loud, it’s dirty, it’s crowded and it’s seriously tacky.
Luckily, this side of Amsterdam is only a tiny sliver of what this fascinating city has to offer to European backpackers. For the worthy explorer, somebody willing to step away from the normal backpacker trail in search of adventure, Amsterdam has plenty to offer. Backpacking through Europe wouldn’t be complete without a stop in Amsterdam and something that everybody should try at some point.
I went to Amsterdam for four full days with my brother, Alex, an experienced backpacker and all round cool dude. We decided early on that we were going to treat this as an expedition… We were going to uncover the best that Amsterdam has to offer and then share it with you guys.
We had a fantastic trip. We didn’t spend too much. We didn’t even get round to going to The Red Light District. We avoided groups of pissed Aussie backpackers and instead headed to some of the best local coffeeshops where we mingled with super friendly Dutch folks chilling out after work.
Anyways worthy adventurer, read on to uncover the mysteries of the ultimate guide to backpacking Amsterdam.
Note: For more inspiration, make sure to check out our guide on where to stay in Amsterdam!
Table of Contents
Travel Costs in Amsterdam
Accommodation: There is plenty of backpacker accommodation in Amsterdam but I strongly recommend getting out of the tourist traps. I stayed in The Flying Pig Uptown which was cheap, right next door to a kick ass park and a great place to meet people. There are free walking tours and breakfast is included in the price. I highly recommend this hostel, something which doesn’t happen that often! If you’re short on cash, I recommend Couchsurfing. You can also jump on Airbnb – Use this Airbnb coupon code for $35 off your first stay. For a full breakdown of the thirty best places to stay in Amsterdsam, check out my ultimate guide to Amsterdam’s best hostels.
|Location||Accommodation||Why Stay Here?!|
|Best Party Hostel||Flying Pig Beach Hostel||This party hostel is located outside of Amsterdam on the Beach of Noordwijk. There's a shuttle service between here & town. The ocean views here are amazing!|
|Best Located Hostel||Stayokay Amsterdam Vondelpark||This is your best bet if you want to be close to everything! The Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum and the nightlife of Leidseplein are only a hop skip & a jump away.|
|Best Unique Hostel||Train Lodge Amsterdam||Want to stay in luxury cars from the night train Zurich - Rome? This place has a definite Harry Potter vibe, located next to Amsterdam Sloterdijk Station.|
|Best Couples Hostel||Amsterdam Hotelboat||If you want to wake up by the ocean on a boat, this place is perfect for you. It's a little expensive, but it's all about the unique experience!|
Food: Food is pretty pricey in Amsterdam. I purposefully stayed in a hostel with a kitchen so I could cook my own food and when I did eat out I mostly stuck to pizza. Barney’s Breakfast Lounge serves up a decent hangover breakfast.
Transport: You can hire bikes or stick to the trams and buses (which you can often sneak onto for free). I mostly walked everywhere… heck, it’s a beautiful city! Backpacking in Amsterdam doesn’t HAVE to be expensive… get walking. If you are planning on visiting Amsterdam as part of a bigger trip, be sure to check out train passes for travel around Europe, it’s a good way to save some cash. If you’re planning a day-trip from Amsterdam, train travel is a great way to do it. Uber is hand’s down the best way to get around cities if you don’t want to walk, the price is locked in on the app so you can’t get ripped off and it will always work out cheaper than travelling by taxi. Click here and your first three rides are discounted (plus my next ride will be too – cheers!).
If you are looking to head to multiple destinations in Europe, check out this guide to get a solid idea of how to budget for a multi-country trip. Don’t blow it all on that first stop.
There are lots of international ATMs but many of these, charge pretty insane withdrawal fees so it’s advisable to avoid small ATM transactions and get out a bunch of cash at once – just make sure you hide it well. If you need to transfer money internationally, use Transferwise, it’s the fastest and cheapest way to move money around when travelling.
You should always have some emergency cash hidden on you and I’ve written an entire post on the best places to hide your money. If you want to carry a fair bit of cash safely on your body, your best bet is to get hold of a backpacker belt with a hidden security pocket.
Top Things To See & Do in Amsterdam
Anne Franks House: Well worth a visit to learn the famous story of a Jewish family in hiding during WWII. Try to get there super early to avoid the crowds. It’s well worth reading Anne Frank’s Diary before you go.
Body Worlds: A fascinating art exhibition made up of donated bodies which have been partially flayed to reveal the complex inner workings of bone and muscle. Nowhere near as gruesome as it sounds but I still wouldn’t recommend going in stoned.
The Electric Ladyland Museum: One of the coolest ‘off the beaten track’ places I have ever found; this small museum is dedicated to teaching folks about the wonders of fluorescent art; super psychedelic vibes.
Lazer Tag: Stoned lazer-tag anyone? Seriously though… Lazer-tag is awesome. There are over a dozen lazer-tag centers in Amsterdam.
Explore the Canals: One of the best things to do in Amsterdam is to simply wander the canals and pop into quaint little coffee shops, cafes and art shops. Some folks opt to sleep on the canals in a houseboat.
VondelPark: A stone’s throw from The Flying Pig Uptown and a fantastic place to chill out with a picnic or simply go for a wander. This park is absolutely massive and although it looks a little dodgy is totally safe at night. There is a massive bridge across one part of the park and under the bridge is a very edgy yet very cool bar set back in a series of old cellars.
Planning on more adventures after Amsterdam? Utrecht is an incredible place that should definitely be on your Netherlands hit list after Amsterdam!
For even more planning inspiration, check out this post on awesome free things to do in Amsterdam.
Experiment: In Amsterdam, marijuana is legal and you can buy smokables and hash brownies easily. Truffles, a type of shrooms, are also legal. Both of these can be highly enjoyable but need to be treated with respect. I have covered my own experiences with both of these below.
Marijuana in Amsterdam
The first thing you should know about marijuana in Amsterdam is that it is strong….
Whether you are a first-time smoker or a die-hard stoner, you need to go easy in Amsterdam. The weed is so potent that it really will knock you on your ass if you let it. Many coffeeshops will not let you smoke tobacco, this means that you can only smoke blunts (pure weed with no tobacco) which you can either roll yourself or buy from the coffeeshop.
In most bars, you cannot smoke marijuana. In general, you should only try to smoke marijuana in places which actually sell it. There are very few places where you can smoke marijuana and drink alcohol at the same time.
You can smoke on the street but I urge discretion, in general, it’s best to only smoke in coffeeshops, parks or when you are in a pretty deserted area. There seems to be confusion as to whether it is actually legal to smoke marijuana on the street; I did hear about some backpackers being fined by the police for smoking in the town centre.
Most folks buy their weed from a coffeeshop where they will then sit and chill out with a smoke. Coffeeshops are a great idea but 90% of the ones in Amsterdam feel like techno-clubs… not exactly the most chilled atmosphere. Myself and my brother toured over 20 coffeeshops and narrowed it down to our top six coffeeshops in Amsterdam…
Recommended Coffee Shops in Amsterdam
Paradox: My favourite coffeeshop in Amsterdam. Chilled vibes, board games, good marijuana at fair prices, two minutes from the Electric Ladyland Museum. You can use the volcano here for free; ask one of the friendly staff to show you how.
Dampkring: There are two Dampkrings in Amsterdam, the one on Handboogstraat is hands down the best. It is beautifully furnished with gorgeous lighting that creates a chilled, enlightened, vibe – seriously, just go check it out. The crowd here is almost exclusively local. Space cake and hash brownies are available here.
Abraxys: An institution and well worth a visit, Abraxys has super trippy vibes with awesome semi-precious stone artwork in the walls. Chilled electromusic and Bass Trance rules supreme here. I recommend the ‘White Widow’ joints.
Super Skunk: Very ‘clubby’ inside but with a nice outside space that looks out across the canals. A wide range of weed inside including the famous ‘Bubblegum’.
The Dolphin: Run by the extremely friendly Marijuan, The Dolphin is just a ten minute walk from The Flying Pig Uptown and has some super trippy vibes inside. The Dolphin is relatively expensive but is a good place to meet people and the vibes really are nuts – it’s well worth popping in for an hour even if it isn’t really your scene. Space cake is available here.
Internet Bar: An edgy underground bar that serves both alcohol and marijuana. This is the closest cheap coffeeshop to the The Flying Pig. It is very close to the massive Bulldog Bar.
For even more coffeeshop inspiration, check out this post from Drifter Planet.
Tripping in Amsterdam
My brother and I went to a ‘Smart-shop’ (there’s a few around) and purchased 10g of Atlantis Truffles, nicknamed ‘Philosophers Stones’. We listened to the store’s owner, did some research online as to what to expect and then split the 10g in our hostel, we wanted to be near a bathroom in case it went wrong!
We then began to play a game of chess in the mostly deserted hostel bar. About thirty minutes passed and I noticed the patterns upon the brightly coloured walls becoming more pronounced. Tendrils of electrified light snaked their way through the air, drawing my attention across the room. I looked around for about five minutes or so, aware that my trip was beginning.
Alex and I decided we should head outside and so we made the short five minute walk from the hostel to VondelPark. We took with us a small rucksack with a blanket, bottle of water, ibuprofen, chocolate, a pre-rolled mixed joint, portable speakers and our phones. We made for a spot we had staked out earlier, under a large tree, with a stunning view across a meandering river. The park was busy but in general, everybody was sat about 20 meters away from each other.
We spent the next few hours listening to chilled tunes, watching the clouds, chatting and going for the occasional walk. The trip itself was not particularly difficult although both of us would have preferred it if there had been fewer people in the park. Alex experienced strong visual effects, mine were not so pronounced. Both of us could think lucidly most of the time although the trip did come in waves and there were periods where we simply sat in silence taking it in. Walking normally was somewhat tricky.
In total, the trip lasted around five hours. There was a short but noticeable comedown when both of us felt emotionally drained for about twenty minutes. Both of us had some interesting thought processes throughout the day with Alex in particular gaining some new perspectives on the universe.
Know Your Weed – By Alex Hatton
Much like the selection of drinks available at bars, the coffee shops have menus from which you can select the strain of weed you wish to smoke. There’s a shit ton of different types with all kinds of funky names such as AK47, Cookie Kush and Turbo Boost. That last one’s not actually a strain of weed as far as I know but it would be if I got to name a new strain!
Although some strains are obviously stronger than others (a thing you can find out by checking the menu or asking the knowledgeable staff) don’t bother getting too bogged down in trying to detect the subtle differences between two different joints you smoked as chances are you’ll be spannered from the bright lights, trippy interiors of the coffee shops and (hopefully) awesome people that you meet, you won’t know exactly what’s causing the way you feel…
All you really need to be aware of are the two main types of cannabis – Sativa and Indica. All strains of weed belong to one of these two groups or are a hybrid of the two. Sativa is the weed that gets you uplifted, euphoric and occasionally tripped out. Indica gives you more of a stoned, relaxing feeling best enjoyed in the evening. Knowing about these two main types of weed is useful and should help you with selecting the appropriate ganja fo’ yo’ flanga (My poor and lazy attempt at weed lingo).
…But hey since this is an INTERNET article here’s an obligatory favourite strain: “Shiva” – An indica dominant hybrid, this bad boy is moderate strength and offers a nice clear headed high without sending one to sleep. Also, Shiva is the Indian God of Destruction so that’s a pretty cool name right there.
Another thing to bare in mind, even for experienced smokers, is when you go to Amsterdam, do be prepared for how mind numbingly strong the stuff is…. “Medium” over there is usually what “Strong” would be in most other countries where it’s illegal. Due to many coffee shops forbidding the smoking of tobacco, you’ll have to hook back blunts if you wanna smoke at them.
Personally, I prefer pre rolled joints mixed with tobacco – they are less harsh than weed blunts and the staff usually roll them pretty well. But hey even when they don’t its still better than anything I could do because despite years of marijuana fandom I still suck at rolling joints and so does Will… Just don’t tell anyone.
AND THERE YOU HAVE IT! Another (and also the first and last ever) issue from the blazy backpacker… P.S. If you do go to Amsterdam please don’t be a dick and blast deafeningly loud house and jungle music in the park…it’s one of the few chilled places to go and no one else who has retreated there likes you or your music. Check out Blazed Backpacker 101 for tips on how to stay safe while getting fucked!
Positive vibes for the win!
All information provided above is our opinion and should be taken with a pinch of salt. Neither of us is an expert on drugs nor do either of us, or The Broke Backpacker as a website, condone their use. If you do plan on trying marijuana whilst in Amsterdam, have a read of this to ensure you are armed with the information you need to stay safe. Please be aware that the marijuana in Amsterdam will probably be the strongest you have ever tried; avoid the blunts and don’t fall into a ‘stoned smoking circle’. Do not purchase drugs, legal or otherwise, from a stranger in the street. Positive vibes and good times to you all – have an absolute blast exploring one kick ass city!
Check out Backpacker Safety 101 for tips and tricks to stay safe whilst backpacking.
Pick yourself up a backpacker security belt to keep your cash safe on the road.
Check out this post for plenty of ideas on ingenious ways to hide your money when travelling.
I strongly recommend travelling with a headlamp whilst in Amsterdam (or anywhere really – every backpacker should have a good headtorch!) – check out my post for a breakdown of the best value headlamps to take backpacking.
Even if you are only going on a short trip, you should always travel with insurance. Have fun on your Amsterdam backpacking adventure but please do get insurance – take it from someone who has racked up tens of thousands of bucks on an insurance claim before, you need it.
As a wise man once said, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you shouldn’t be travelling – so be sure to get your backpacker insurance sorted before you head off on a backpacking adventure! Travelling without insurance would be fucking stupid. I highly recommend World Nomads.
Find out why I recommend World Nomads, check out my World Nomads Insurance review.
Disclaimer: Drugs are illegal and can get you in sticky situations. I don’t condone drug use of any sort. If you intend to consume, please be safe. This article is not intended to persuade, but rather to inform.
Please also note that this account is entirely fictional and definitely did not happen…
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