Safety in general


Is Amsterdam safe? The short answer: yes, for solo women too, but use common sense.

Amsterdam is one of the top 25 safest cities in the world, with a much lower crime rate than many other popular European capitals, and violent assaults are rare. In large parts of the city, there are always at least a few people out and about, no matter whether it's Friday afternoon or Tuesday 4am in the morning. From stewardesses coming home from a late flight, to night shift workers, to students after a late party.

Use common sense though to prevent the following dangers:


- Pickpockets in the street / sneaky theft in cafes

Crowded and popular areas such as stations, busy streets (Damrak, Dam, Red Light District), markets, festival grounds and trams are popular hunting grounds for pickpockets. Sneaky theft happens a lot in Amsterdam. Keep valuables well hidden under your clothes and keep some small money handy for immediate use.

Wallets, phones or entire bags also get stolen when left out of sight, for example on the floor or behind you in a cafe.

- Bag / phone snatchers on scooters

More and more reports come in about young people on scooters (mopeds) snatching valuables from people walking in the street or standing on the pavement (for example waiting to enter Heineken Experience). They snatch bags that dangle from just one shoulder, or even snatch expensive headphones from heads, or phones from hands.
So carry your bag in a way that it can't be snatched and be aware of your surroundings when using your smartphone.

- Getting hit by bikes

Don't get hit by a bike. Always look before crossing. Visitors who are not used to having lots of bikes in their home town traffic, often have almost-accidents or even serious clashes with oncoming bikes. Bikes are one of the main means of transportation for Amsterdammers, and they ride fast. There are designated bike lanes (often pink or marked with bike symbols), and failing those, bikes will ride on the main road.

So in those picturesque areas by the canals, stick to the pavements and don't walk on the roads. And always LOOK before crossing any road or bike lane, often you won't hear the bikes coming. If you hear a bell it's not the icecream van. It's because you're in the way.

It's an unwritten 'rule' that in case of zebra paths across bike lanes, pedestrians wait for bikes, because for a pedestrian it is much easier to gain speed again after stopping (just start walking again), whereas for a cyclist it takes a lot of effort to gain speed again after stopping for a pedestrian. Only in case of red / green lights, bikes really should stop but even there, always watch out for the rude cyclists who will cross a red light anyway... It's not so much a matter of agreeing with the situation being right or wrong, just a warning how to be safe. 

- Falling while biking yourself: mind the tram tracks!

Renting a bike and getting around like the locals can be fun. But many a tourist has fallen hard with bloody wounds as a consequence, because they got their wheel stuck in a tram track. Cross tracks at enough of an angle, especially when it is or has been raining. Example of what can go wrong (though this was not filmed in the Netherlands): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aE3W4k...
And wait for red lights, bike on the right, and follow the traffic rules. More safe cycling tips here: http://iamsterdam.com/en/visiting/pla...  

- Getting hit by a tram

Trams go fast and may need a few meters/yards to come to a full stop. Look before crossing! Over 10 people a year die from tram accidents.

- Drowning in the canals

It may sound silly but about 15 people drown in Amsterdam's water every year. Most of them are drunk guys taking a pee into the canal, toppling in and not being able to climb out before they get too cold to control their muscles. The city has plenty of safe urinals in the touristy areas. Apart from the dangers, peeing in a canal can make you end up with a €130 fine.

- Drugs and alcohol

Cannabis (weed, hash) being widely available may give the impression that it is completely safe. However, the Dutch are raised to use common sense and think for themselves; in school and at home they are taught the dangers of drugs - then left to decide for themselves. For those not raised with this education, read this: http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications... or: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_i... 

Scam artists know how to recognize tourists and they offer drugs in the streets, for example cocaine, speed or XTC. Those drugs are highly illegal in Amsterdam. Tests with fake tourists also showed that most of the so-called drugs were fake: (very expensive) talcon powder, ground aspirine, but some even contained glass particles. Also read this recent cocaine alert by the city council. 

Incidents with people jumping out of windows or off buildings, thinking they can fly, are not uncommon. These often involve magic mushrooms. 

Even if you stick to the drugs that are tolerated and sold in coffeeshops, use common sense. If you're a newbie, tell the budtender and use it with a friend you trust. The effect can take a while to kick in, especially in case of spacecake. Don't overdo it, and don't mix. For most people, beer and weed are not a nice combination and can cause you to feel very sick. 

That other drug... Getting drunk from alcohol is what a lot of Amsterdammers do when they go out. But as a tourist who isn't that familiar with the surroundings, it makes you vulnerable to tricks, scams or theft.

- Shifty guys in the tourist areas

Apart from seedy people offering you drugs, there could be scam artists offering you interesting deals, mostly in the touristy areas. Use your intuition and stay out in the open with other people around, while minding your valuables. Don't be afraid to say "no thank you".

 

Safety for (solo) women

Amsterdam is very safe for women, even after dark. But there are reports of spiked drinks, so never leave it unattended. As anywhere in the world, don't let a guy you don't trust lure you into a secluded area. Getting money from an ATM in a dark, quiet place isn't a good idea either.

Safety for gays / transgenders

Amsterdam has a name for being an open-minded, tolerant and gayfriendly city. Hate crimes do occur though (bashing). Use common sense and decide what risk you are willing to take when approaching groups of brawling youths or men. The Amsterdam police have a special unit for hate crimes, reports will be taken very seriously. Call 112 if you become a victim or see something happening.

More info

For more information look here: http://iamsterdam.com/en/visiting/pla...  

Disclaimer for this page

No place in the entire world is 100% safe. The above list of risks is not extensive. Luck and bad luck are also factors. But most accidents happen in the comfort of people's homes. So: happy travels!