Topics include Dining Scene, The Netherlands: For Foreign Visitors & more!
There are many things to do in the Netherlands. One obvious choice for travelers is to take in Amsterdam for a day or two. Here are answers to some of the common questions, concerns, and general nervousness regarding what to expect. Further below are suggestions for specific locations and places to visit, and things to do.
1. When you arrive at Centraal Station and exit the train, be ready to hustle up some stairs. Chances are you will be in heavy, pedestrian rush hour. Most flights arrive early in the morning, so do the locals. Grab your belongings (all of them, check yourself), go with the flow and make it outside. If you have any questions, you'll find an information center nearby. Do not ask them about your hotel reservations.. they do not know.
2. If you need a cab, there is a taxi rank right outside. You have to be a bit savvy with cabs in Amsterdam. Some will refuse to take you short distances and some will charge you too much. First, any price that is offered instead of the meter is worse than the meter. Always go on the meter. It is best to know where you are going yourself if possible.
If you see a TCA cab, take that one. The driver will speak good English and not cheat you.
Trams are easy and go most everywhere as well, but you have to carry your bag from your stop to the hotel. 24 hour tickets are available on the tram (€7 as of Sept 11). More day tickets (cheaper) are available at GVB Tickets and Info in front of Central Station, inside the white building that also hosts a restaurant and the Tourist Office (named '' VVV '') . The GVB ticket office can provide you with a FREE pamphlet about public transportation, which holds a very handy basic map inside, with points of interest pinpointed. The €2,60 one hour ticket, bought on the tram, is very expensive.
3. When you finally get checked in, scrub the plane-funk off your body, and get collected, you're ready to explore. Now... some of you travellers just want to get right to the action. Most front desk employees have maps available. Do not be shy.. just ask. MOST DUTCH SPEAK INCREDIBLE ENGLISH. More people in Amsterdam speak English than in Los Angeles, no joke! They will be more than happy to accomodate you in most cases.
4. Now you are clean, mapped, and ready to go. If you want to have a great experience, it's simple. Getting friendly with the people who serve you (hotel staff, waiter/waitresses, store clerks) can go a long way. They may even suggest cool hangouts, tourist-traps, good eats and other useful tidbits.
The best information can be found in the Boom Magazine (free at your hotel/hostel) and Time Out Amsterdam (paid at newsstand). The tourist department runs the nice iAMsterdam.nl web site.
5. An excellent way to get your bearings is to board a canal cruise, it is a great introduction to the city and will provide you a unique vantage point to enjoy the unique architecture, and is a good introduction to the city's neighbourhoods. See a list of forum discussions on the merit of one type of cruise over another (day cruise? evening cruise? candlelight cruise? inexpensive ones? etc) in this page : http://www.tripadvisor.ca/ShowForum-g... to the top right, under ''Top Questions About Amsterdam : How to see Amsterdam from the water'.
6. There is an obvious and huge difference between going in the summer and the off-season. During the off-season hotels are generally much cheaper. Same goes for flights. Also, getting a seat at a cafe, coffeeshop or restaurant will provide no challenge. Most attractions are still open, perhaps with shorter hours. During the summer months Amsterdam is much busier. There are people from all over the world there and finding other Americans is as easy as pointing. As soon as the weather turns just a little bit warm cafes and coffeeshops set up their outdoor seating. Some places take the windows completely out to let the warm, clean air in.
7. Partying: you hear this question alot. "So.. hear the pot is way stronger over there. Is it?" Answer: Maybe, it depends on where you get your pot at home to compare it to. But be careful if you are a lightweight. In most coffeeshops they have literature that tells you what to do if you have taken one toke too many, and coffeeshop staff will help you if that should happen.
8. The Dutch are generally great people. They will be helpful, courteous and friendly. Do yourself a favor and return the love. Sure, there are many people who have a fundamental dislike for Americans. However, showing class and warmth will make your trip so much more enjoyable and you may single-handedly be responsible for changing someone's mind about Americans. Your political opinions, views on world events and personal dislikes (George Bush was never popular here) may earn you a tiny, cold shoulder from locals... Save them for another time.
9. If you are going in April or May be sure to go to the Keukenhof in Lisse. A short bus ride past ribbons of tulips in fields under a bright Dutch sun is something to savor away from the city. Keukenhof is one of, if not the, biggest flowering bulb garden in the world and is a treat for all your senses. If you want to see tulips from the train go to Rotterdam or Den Haag via Haarlem. or even better, take the short and extremely colorful train ride between Haarlem and Leiden. If you go via Schiphol Airport you don't see the best tulip fields. You can see the schedule and prices of train journeys here: http://www.ns.nl/en/travellers/home
10. Most importantly: HAVE FUN! Watch your belongings (most hotels have a lockbox), be courteous and remind yourself: " This is their place. You are the guest." Proost!