Amsterdam on a budget: 6 travel hacks to save on your trip
Amsterdam is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world, let alone in Western Europe. There are so many amazing things that draw visitors. Wonderful museums, beautiful canals, eclectic restaurants, and some less wholesome activities all make Amsterdam a go-to travel destination for younger tourists. But Amsterdam isn’t the cheapest city on the planet, but fortunately, there are ways for visiting students and twenty-somethings to save money while visiting.
Planning your trip ahead of time is crucial if you want to save money on things like lodging and travel. One of the best ways to cut costs is by visiting during the off-season when flights and lodging are cheaper. There are also plenty of free walking tours, public parks, and less expensive museums you can tour to get the full experience. You can also find affordable luggage storage in Amsterdam to make your trip all the more convenient. One of Amsterdam’s best attributes is that you can enjoy a trip while not breaking the bank.
Here are some travel tips for visiting Amsterdam on a budget:
Cheap places to stay in Amsterdam
Perhaps the best way to save money on a trip to Amsterdam is by finding the most affordable lodging. While this can be difficult in any city, Amsterdam seems almost designed to accommodate budget travelers. There are hostels and budget hotels in several neighborhoods, and not just on the outskirts of the city.
While you might not be able to afford the ones around Dam Square or the Red Light District, there are options in trendy areas like De Pijp and Jordaan. If you’re younger and are interested in nightlife, these are great places to stay, and because Amsterdam is so accessible, you won’t be far from all the best landmarks and attractions. If you do find yourself a little further out from all the action, looking into renting a bike or using the fantastic public transport network is a great way to get around quickly and conveniently.
For a room or bed at a hostel, you can expect to pay anywhere from $20 to $34 per night. A budget hotel for two, without a bathroom, will cost anywhere between $65 and $80 per night. A hotel room with a bathroom will generally cost between $100 and $150 per night. During the summer, prices will be higher. Traveling with friends is the best way to incur these costs collectively, not to mention being much more fun.
Here are a few of the most popular hotels and hostels for budget travelers:
Located in a quiet residential neighborhood near the Vondelpark, this trendy hotel costs around $90 for a twin bedroom. It’s surprisingly stylish, given the price, but the hotel proprietors know they’re catering to hip travelers. WiFi and breakfast are included, and most rooms are equipped with an in-room TV, not that you should be watching any while you’re visiting Amsterdam.
Flying Pig Hostel
Just a few minutes on foot from Amsterdam Central Train Station, this inexpensive hotel is perfect for students and travelers who are really on a budget. A stay in a shared dorm room will cost as little as $20 per night. This one is ideal for groups of backpackers because the value quickly shoots up for a shared bedroom that will include a fridge. This is huge if you are looking to prepare a few of your own meals.
De Pijp is one of the coolest neighborhoods in Amsterdam, and this trendy hostel is the perfect place for camping out while you explore all the best art galleries and nightlife in the area. It’s a little more expensive, at about $130 for a double bedroom, or $80 for a single, all with a shared bathroom, but the location and vibe are great for the money.
Hotel La Boheme
If you’re looking to party it up while you visit Europe AND save money, you’ll want to stay at this budget hostel near the Rijksmuseum. A double bedroom will cost around $100 with a shared bathroom. It may not be the Ritz Carlton, but it is inches away from the best nightlife in Amsterdam.
Cheap Things to do in Amsterdam
Finding cheap and free things to do is the best way to save money while having fun. Gorgeous public parks and culture are one of the best reasons for visiting Europe, and Amsterdam has some of the best options in the world that are all free to enjoy.
Explore the Canal Ring (for free)
The main advantage of visiting Amsterdam is that the city, itself, is delightful. With such an interesting cityscape and beautiful buildings, just walking around is fun. This is most definitely the case in Amsterdam’s Canal Ring in the city center. When the canals were first made 400 years ago, it was an architectural wonder and is now known as the crowning achievement of the Dutch Golden Age.
The gabled canal houses and buildings are as quaint and charming as they get. The arching bridges connecting the city are beautiful to behold as well. The canal system in Amsterdam is known as an “open-air museum.” It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and entirely free to explore. The inner rings also host the informal “Red Light District,” which is an infamous but curious part of Amsterdam’s culture and economy. If you’re interested in saving money, you certainly don't want to partake in some of the less wholesome services on offer in this part of the city.
Visit the Rijksmuseum
While more of an ornate public garden than a proper museum, the Rijksmuseum is one of Amsterdam’s best-kept secrets. This Renaissance-style garden features gorgeous hedges, rose bushes, statues, and perfectly manicured green spaces. Entry to the grounds is completely free. Look into their calendar to find special events such as garden-sculpture exhibitions.
Look into a (mostly) free walking tour
Most “free walking tours” certainly come with the expectation that the tour guide will be compensated via tips for their knowledge and efforts. Still, going on an informative and entertaining stroll through historic parts of Amsterdam is a great way to save money. Look into various tour listings before your trip, you won’t always need to buy tickets or book ahead, but you’ll want to know when and where to meet your tour guide.
The Van Gogh Museum
Any visit to Amsterdam should involve some appreciation of its most famous artist. The Van Gogh museum is popular for a reason. It features the largest collection of the legendary Dutch painter’s work in the world. There are informative audio tours in multiple languages telling the fascinating story of this complicated artistic figure. Admission is €19, which you can book ahead of time to make your visit to the museum easier.
The Anne Frank House Museum
With admission starting at only €10.50, this museum is not particularly expensive, but it’s truly one of the most vital parts of the Amsterdam travel experience. It’s the home of the Jewish-Dutch Frank family, where daughter and author Anne hid during the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam during World War II.
While the cost is not the issue, the museum’s understandable popularity means there will be a lengthy line any day of the week. Planning an early morning visit will help, and it’s worth the wait.
With over a hundred acres of gorgeous green space, Vobdekpark is the largest park in Amsterdam. It’s a popular place for locals and travelers to set up picnics on the expansive and remarkably well-kept fields and lawns. There are also playgrounds for the little ones as well as trails for cyclists and runners. In classic Amsterdam fashion, there are even canals.
Cheap places to eat in Amsterdam
One of the best features of Amsterdam is its budget-friendly restaurant scene. Sure, you can find splashy fine-dining establishments in every neighborhood of the Dutch capital. But Amsterdam’s culinary strengths lie in its stellar street food scene. Like Berlin, the most common meal for an average Amsterdammer is the dependable döner kebab. This Amsterdam street food has become the go-to thanks to the prominent North African and Middle Eastern immigrant populations. You’ll find a kebab stand everywhere you look, and they are all extremely inexpensive meals you can eat on the go.
There are also plenty of delis and markets where you can grab ingredients to prepare your own food. It may not be the most exciting option, but sustaining yourself at little to no cost while saving money for an indulgent meal isn’t the worst thing in the world! Even better, there are so many green spaces where you can put together a picnic.
Cheap bars in Amsterdam
In terms of European cities, Amsterdam is nowhere near the most expensive to drink. London, Paris, Milan, and Copenhagen are all widely regarded as the most expensive cities to grab a pint or cocktail. If you’re trying to save money, it absolutely makes sense to drink Dutch beers. While there are plenty of renowned bars in Amsterdam serving delicious but pricey Belgian ales, plenty of pubs in the city center and Red Light District serve a pint of Amstel or Heineken for €4.50 or less.
There are also pubs serving the Dutch liquor Jenever which won’t cost too much money. It’s a bitter spirit similar to gin, and any celebratory Amsterdam experience will involve a taste. Proeflokaal Arendsnest, Kriterion, Flying Pig Downtown Bar, Cafe Belgique, Hannekes Boom, and De Pilsener Club are all good examples of both good and cheap places near the city center to grab a drink.
That brings us to the matter of cannabis, which is legal in Amsterdam. If you’d like to partake, you’ll have to find special coffee shops near the Red Light District that serve pre-rolled joints and baked edibles. This can get expensive, so plan with travel buddies and try to split the cost.
Bonus budget tips for Amsterdam
Whether it's booking train fares on the cheap or making free phone calls, we can all use a few tips and tricks for navigating a city. Here are a few recommendations for visiting Amsterdam:
Travel around Amsterdam by bike or free public transportation
The most fun way to save money on your trip to Amsterdam is by eschewing cabs and ride-share cars in favor of getting around by bicycle. Amsterdam happens to be one of the most bike-friendly cities on the planet. The streets along the canals are designed to accommodate bicycles, so it’s an incredibly safe way to get around. There are bike rental shops all over Amsterdam, and finding one in the city center will be incredibly easy. Hotels can also provide these as well, sometimes for free. It can cost less than $5 a day to rent a bike in some cases, and many of these rentals come with a lock, so you can safely use it all day.
Depending on how far you’re traveling, look into the free public transportation provided by the city. There are buses that will take you almost everywhere.
Avoid peak times and book in the off-season
Whether it’s finding favorable flight deals or booking accommodation, traveling to Western Europe (or anywhere popular) is always more expensive during peak season. This means late spring, all of summer, and early fall. This is partly due to school being out, meaning families will travel. But Amsterdam, specifically, sees a massive surge in students backpacking through Europe. The largest city in the Netherlands is one of the top destinations for these travelers.
Other factors you have to consider for “peak travel season” are seasonal holidays and events. That doesn’t just mean Easter or Christmas, but ones specific to those locations. For Amsterdam, it’s tulip season. Every April, millions upon millions of tulips take bloom in fields across Holland. It’s a breathtakingly gorgeous sight. But it’s one that draws thousands of visitors every spring. While this would be an ideal time to go to Amsterdam, it also means higher prices for flights and hotels.
Because of this, late fall, winter, and early spring are the best times to visit Amsterdam. While the weather will be far from ideal, it’s hardly as cold in the Netherlands as it is in places like New York or Chicago.
Amsterdam is known as one of Europe’s coolest major cities for a reason. The nightlife, the magnificent canals, the lush public parks (and other completely free things to do in Amsterdam), and the healthy lifestyle are all major draws for younger travelers who want to have incredible travel experiences while saving money. While it’s not always possible to find cheap flights, and budget lodging can be unreliable, there are so many ways to experience this city on a tight budget.