When it comes to travelling, Alix and I are of the penny-counting type of traveller. It’s not that we don’t like spending money, quite the opposite in fact (oops) but we’re really big on making sure we spend our money in the right place. We were keen on seeing all we could in Amsterdam on a budget, as it was our first stop and we still has a long trip ahead of us.
If we’re going for a relaxing holiday, we’ll tend to get a little more spenny with our accommodation, whilst for most of our backpacking in Bali we went for budget hotels and hostels. Utilising hostels is really important to us, like on this trip when we opted for budget Amsterdam accommodation for a few nights instead of splashing out for the entire trip. It also left us with a little bit more in pocket for the more expensive Greek island of Mykonos, and then we splashed out on drinks in a rooftop bar in Vienna as a treat.
HOW TO DO AMSTERDAM ON A BUDGET
SHOP AROUND FOR FLIGHTS
This seems like a pretty obvious one, but a lot of people forget how much flight prices differ between airports. I live in west London, so Heathrow is the closest option with only a 30 minute bus ride to get me there, and I paid £100 for my one-way flight. I checked flights from Stansted (north of London) and you could pay as little as £25 one-way, but it would take me over 2 hours and a £30 train to get there. Pro’s and cons for both but we went for the easy option and just paid a lot more for it. Obviously, if we were going in full-budget more we totally could have booked super cheap tickets and got up earlier.
STAY IN A HOSTEL
Another obvious option, but I’ve met so many people who are terrified of the idea of staying in a hostel. Whether this is a nod to a bad experience with Hostel the film (I can relate) or that hostels are dirty and not well-kept, I’ve heard a lot of reasons why people opt-out of booking hostels.
I personally love staying in hostels: the vibe, people, atmosphere, utilities, everything! I love being able to wash my clothes whilst travelling, meet new people, and be part of a community… which is everything that a hostel is to a traveller. Staying cheap is really important if you’re going to do Amsterdam on a budget. So if you need more persuasion, or are simply looking for an Amsterdam hostel recommendation, check out my ClinkNOORD Amsterdam Hostel Review.
THE TRAM IS YOUR BFF
By far, our biggest saving in Amsterdam was buying a three day tram ticket instead of paying for individual journeys or opting for Ubers / Taxis. As soon as we arrived, we headed to Centraal station to buy our 72 hour passes for all the public transport in Amsterdam. The Amsterdam Travel Ticket for 72 hours of public transport travel only set us €28 each and it was definitely an investment. We used the tram to get everywhere, it’s super fast, reliable, and easy to use. Plus, there are a number of routes and it’s easy to use google maps journey planner to find the right one for your journey.
EAT STREET FOOD
In terms of eating, I would highly recommend getting street food over any sit down fancy meal. Amsterdam is absolutely bursting at the seams with amazing street food from all over the world, and I’m so glad that I went out of my way to sample more of it. You do get a lot for your money (in taste and amount) and it helped us squeeze a little bit more out of our Amsterdam Euros. Here are a few of our faves:
This gem is located in the more touristy part of Amsterdam, so at first we were a little apprehensive. As a rule, Alix and I try to not eat anywhere touristy or anywhere that has pictures on the menu. Umaimon fits into both of those categories, but the reviews were stellar so we took the risk.
Located a 14 minute tram ride from Amsterdam Centraal station, it’s close to the Amsterdam Apple store and the Prinsengracht/Leidseplein tram stops. Just tucked out of the way of the main square area (usually busy with throngs of tourists), is this quaint little eatery with modest decor and a healthy fan following. As we walked in we noticed lots of young adults in there with friends with big bowls or ramen, and we knew we’d made the right choice.
In terms of the food, Alix said it’s the best Ramen that he’s ever had… and that’s really saying something. If you’re ever in ‘dam, definitely check this one out. A bowl of ramen will set you back around €14-€16, which is fair for Amsterdam, but the bowls are huge!
Foodhallen was probably Alix and I’s fave place in the whole of ‘dam since were both such big foodies. We ended up having dinner there on both of the nights we stayed as the first trip was just that good! It’s easily accessible on the tram system but is a little out of the way of Central Amsterdam. Also, I’d recommend getting there on or before 5pm if possible. One evening we went at 7pm and we waited around 20 mins for a table to become free, and the other we went at 5pm and it was only just starting to get a little busy. These are the stalls we tried:
Dim Sum Thing
On our first evening in Amsterdam, there was no question that we’d be going to get us some Dim Sum. The queue was certainly long, but it only meant that the food was worth waiting for. We went with a platter of mixed Dim Sum (pre-set menu) for around €22, and brought a bottle of drinking water with us. It worked out as a pretty cheap and filling meal, would definitely recommend.
The answer to a long day of adventuring = tacos and plenty of them. We grabbed the chef special Chipotle Braised Beef Tacos and the Crispy Pork Tacos and had zero regrets. However, the portions here are a little small and the tacos are expensive for their size. So if you don’t want the extra expense of a side dish or more tacos, then go for the bigger, more filling burritos.
If in doubt… NACHOS! We loaded up on some large nachos with extra homemade guacamole and my gaaaad it was amazing. The portion is big enough to share with drinks as appertivo, or you could add it to more items for a tapas sharing vibe. A big bowl set us back around €7/8 with the guac added.
BOOK MUSEUMS IN ADVANCE
One thing that we didn’t even consider was how expensive the museums in Amsterdam would be. Yep, they’re definitely on the more pricey side in ‘dam so I would 100% choose a few and choose them carefully. I visited four museums in Amsterdam at varying price ranges and if you’re going on a budget I’d recommend the Moco Museum and the Sex Museum. We also went to Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam’s national museum, but it was a tad bit pricey for what it was in both of our opinions.
I would definitely suggest booking tickets for the Moco Museum and the Rijksmuseum in advance, you not only get a cheaper ticket but you get an automatic queue jump for both museums. Plus, if you’re a student you get a nifty discount at the Moco and other places throughout Amsterdam. The Sex Museum is much more chilled out with an on-the-door price of €5.00 no matter what time you go. We decided it would be more fun to go in the evening after a few drinks at around 7pm and it wasn’t busy at all. Definitely a surreal experience but if you haven’t done it yet, you need to do it once!
Moco Museum – Door €15.00 / Online €14.00 / Student Door €12.50/ Student Online €11.50
Rijksmuseum – Door €20.00 / Online €19.00
Other museums: If you want to see Anne Franks house, then be prepared to book weeks/months in advance. Unfortunately the Sigmund Freud museum was closed for refurb, but I’ll definitely be checking this out on my next visit if it’s back up and running.
VISIT SOMEWHERE DIFFERENT
Upon researching Amsterdam, I found that there are a lot of niche sights to see throughout the city. Example #1 is the Condom Museum (we skipped on it) but it just shows how diverse the options are in the city.
Instead we went for my top pick, which is the Cat Museum aka De KattenKabinet located just a short walk from the floating flower market. It’s a quirky little cat museum (and home to two cats) opened by the owner of an old, historic house and a massive collection of cat-themed art. Although very niche, if you love cats, you’ll love this museum. We even left little notes for our kitty friends who have passed in our lifetimes at the end which was actually far more emotional than either of us thought. It was also so lovely to read notes from people around the world for their lost cat friends. It’s only €6 entry per person, and a fab way to spend a unique hour in the city.
GIVE TO A GOOD CAUSE ON THE CAT BOAT
One way to * spend money * well in Amsterdam is giving to a good cause like at De Poezenboot, the Amsterdam Catboat. The boat acts as a floating cat shelter which homes lots of cats that need a little helping hand in Amsterdam. You can actually adopt cats from the boat, but if you’re just visiting there’s the option to donate and meet the cats on board. Entrance is technically free of charge, but I would highly recommend giving a generous donation as all the money you give goes to the well being of the cats. In busy periods, you’ll only be let on for around 10/15 minutes so do keep this in mind when visiting. The opening hours also change throughout the week so definitely check out De Poezenboot website for more info.
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