Spotlight City: Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Amsterdam is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, receiving approximately 8 million international visitors annually. Amsterdam is relatively small compared to other capital cities, with fewer than one million people living in the city proper. The Dutch capital is characterized by its network of canals and some 1,500 bridges, known as a place of cutting-edge innovation in the midst of its 700 years of history as a city. Visitors flock to Amsterdam to experience its uniqueness and variety of districts. But before you head off, there are a few important things to keep in mind.

Flag of Amsterdam. Houses, housesboats and canal in the background.

 

Practice good personal security

It’s easy and tempting to let your guard down in Amsterdam given its reputation as one of the safest cities in the world. Muggings and violence do occur, however, but the serious crime rate is extraordinary low—even with the legalization of prostitution and soft drugs. Nevertheless, tourists should still take the same precautions as they would in any other large city to avoid compromising situations.

Pickpockets are rampant in the city, so keep your belongings secure in crowded areas such as on trams, buses, and metro trains, and in transportation stations, line-ups for attractions, and cannabis coffee shops. Visitors in the Museum District and those on train services between Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and Amsterdam Central Station should be vigilant, since these are two areas particularly well known for pickpockets. Thieves often work in teams and may try to distract you by asking for directions or a cigarette lighter. It is best to disperse valuables in deep pockets and have a hand on the opening of your bag. Also, never appear to be under the influence in public—it is not only poor etiquette in Amsterdam but also makes you a target for petty theft.

It is wise to avoid walking around alone in parks late at night in Amsterdam, particularly in Vondelpark. Stay on main thoroughfares and in well-lit areas, and use a taxi if you are going a long distance. Taxis tend to be expensive in Amsterdam, and sometimes drivers will take tourists on a longer route to make more money. Get a feel for how much the fare should cost, and act confidently as if you know the way (even if you don’t). Do not use automated teller machines at night in quiet areas, as you may be a targeted by criminals. The Red Light District in Amsterdam tends to attract a seedier group of people at night, but there is a strong police presence in the area to keep it safe, especially on the main arteries. If you do venture to the Red Light District, never take photos of the prostitutes.

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Look both ways!

The most danger visitors to Amsterdam face is being hit by a bicycle or tram—which may seem easy to avoid—but the point shouldn’t be taken lightly. Pedestrians in Amsterdam need to be extremely alert when crossing the street, and take note of the street hierarchy. Bike lanes are a never-ending stream of speeding cyclists, and many cyclists often ignore red lights and traffic rules. It is an unwritten rule that pedestrians stop for cyclists even in designated zebra crossings, so always look for cyclists even when pedestrians have the right of way. Trams are all over the city, and they do not brake unless absolutely necessary and will ring loud bells if anything is in their way.

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What to do in an emergency

Visitors to Amsterdam rarely experience any problems in the city; however, it is always important as a traveller to have an emergency plan even in the unlikely event of one occurring. The Europe-wide emergency number for fire, police, or ambulance services is 112. For non-urgent matters, dial 0900-8844 to reach the local police or +31-343-578-84. Always report any type of crime, since Amsterdammers take offenses very seriously. If you are in need of medical care, Amsterdam has tourist doctors who can be reached by calling +31 (0)20 427 5011. The Dutch health care system is one of the best in the world, with easily accessible emergency rooms and walk-in clinics for non-life-threatening conditions.

Dutch cheese market,, workers carrying a pile of cheese on a specially designed trolley hanging from their shoulders.

 

Enjoy your trip!

These safety precautions are only a guide to help you have an easy and uneventful journey when it comes to security. Amsterdam is an easily accessible city with high health and safety standards and a tolerant and progressive mind-set. Have fun, experience new things, embrace the Dutch culture, and look both ways before crossing the street—and your visit will surely be a success!

 

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1 Comment

  1. I absolutely adore Amsterdam. But indeed, your biggest risk will be bicycles and trams. Trams go very fast, and they don’t stop for anybody. I once saw a tram hit a bicyclist (totalling the bike) and it just kept on going. Yikes!

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