Cheap Amsterdam guide – All the best cheapskate tips in one place

by Roger

by Roger | May 8th, 2009  

On this site we cover everything we can to help the most visitors possible, but to be honest with you, I’m a bit of a cheapskate myself. When I lived in Amsterdam I always tried to find the bargains, and by keeping costs low I’ve been able to visit the city dozens of times before and after that.

So this section is dedicated to those of you who travel on the lowest of budgets. Some do this out of necessity, since they can’t afford to travel at all otherwise, and other people travel on the cheap because it allows them to do much more with the same amount of money.

Whichever category you fall into, this should be a helpful hub where you can find all the cheapskate tips in one place.

Free things to do in Amsterdam

ferryhetijThis city isn’t as expensive as, say, London or New York, but still the costs can add up very quickly if you aren’t careful. I’ll be honest that the list of free things in Amsterdam isn’t as impressive as it is in some other big cities, but there are some cool things on there, including a few activities you might not have thought of before.

There are several unusual outdoor markets you can check out and if you are really low on cash and you have some time on your hands you can take a free ferry ride across the river to North Amsterdam, and then come right back because there isn’t much to see, although the ride itself is interesting and fun.
>>Free things to do in Amsterdam

Free walking tour of Amsterdam

adamwalkingtour1You are going to love this, since this popular walking tour is actually really excellent regardless of the price, and it just happens to be free. Actually, this tour (and others from this company all over Europe) is paid for by tips only. You’ll get a 3-hour city tour that goes through almost all the most interesting parts of the city center, and at the end you’ll get to pay the guide whatever you think it was worth. I’ve done this tour and I tipped €5 and it felt like a fantastic bargain, but if you are a backpacker on a very tight budget, they’ll be happy if you can tip €1 or €2.

You’ll be impressed for sure, so do the tour with an open mind and enjoy yourself, and pay them whatever you can or you think it’s worth.
>>Free walking tour of Amsterdam

Cheap flights to Amsterdam

northwest-schipholWe don’t own a charter airline and we don’t have a way of getting you free tickets like an airline employee gets, but we do have a great tool to help you find the cheapest possible airfare to Amsterdam. In fact, there is a booking widget on almost every page of this site, and it’s more helpful than you might think.

The cheapest fares are usually available for Wednesday flights, but really the trick is to check multiple booking sites before you buy your ticket. A while back I researched and wrote an article called Which Airfare Site is the Cheapest, and the results even surprised me. Kayak was often the cheapest, but Priceline had even cheaper flights on a few of the test itineraries.

Anyway, the point is, you should check at least 3 sites before you buy a ticket. Our booking widget tool does that for you, so you enter your information just once and with the click of one more button you can check your dates on different sites at the same time. It’s true that Kayak.com and other aggregator sites will check multiple sites themselves, so you should use one of those in your choices, but sometimes other sites they don’t check actually come out cheaper.

Cheapest Amsterdam hostels

flyingpigdowntownThis city is jammed with hostels, and most of them have beds starting around €20 per night, but some of them are really much cheaper than others. A few of the cheapest are on the fringes of the city, but believe me, it’s not worth spending 30 extra minutes each way to save an extra €2 per night.

So I’ve put together a list of all the cheapest Amsterdam hostels in the city center and put them on one page for your convenience. There’s a map at the top so you can move your mouse over each place to see their best prices and choose the neighborhood you prefer. There are also reviews of each of these hostels below that, which tell you the good and bad of each of these places. If hostels aren’t your style, you can also check out the cheap hotels in the Red Light District, with private rooms starting as low as €40.

Trust me, some of them are much better than others, and at around the same price, so the trick is to book the good places as soon as you can once you are sure of your dates. Most of them only require a 10% deposit, so on a €20 bed you are only risking €2 to lock in the best place.
>>Cheapest hostels in Amsterdam

Cheap hotels in Amsterdam

winstonOne really interesting thing about hotels in Amsterdam is that you tend to get what you pay for, relatively speaking. In some cities you could ask the people staying in the rooms on either side of you and find out that one paid more than you did and the other paid way less, but in Amsterdam prices tend to be consistent, at least for the cheaper places.

You can sometimes find 3 and 4-star hotels that have special promotions running, and that can make them as cheap or cheaper than 2-star hotels in the same areas, so if this is your budget range you should look for those kind of deals. But if you are deciding between a private room in one of the hostels mentioned above, or a 1-star hotel, you won’t find many special deals.

You can find single rooms starting around €30 per night in good locations, and double rooms around €40 per night too, but generally the rooms will be small and the furniture will be flimsy. If the place next door to a €40 room is charging €80 per night, then it’s certainly much nicer.

>>Cheapest hotels in Amsterdam

Cheap drinks and happy hours in Amsterdam

belushishappyhourA pint of beer in most bars in Amsterdam will cost between €3.50 and €5, which can make getting hammered pretty expensive. But luckily there are a bunch of really good Amsterdam happy hours that have prices closer to half of that, and they are spread around the clock at odd hours, so it’s possible to find cheap drinks any time of the day.

Many of the best happy hour deals are in bars that are inside hostels, and if you aren’t staying at that hostel you’d probably never know about it or think to come in, but they are open to anyone. They are good places to meet other travelers, and several of them actually draw quite a few locals on a regular basis.

In the cheap drinks article I also cover how to go about getting cheap beer or wine from the supermarkets. It’s not quite as obvious as you’d think.
>>Cheap drinks and happy hours in Amsterdam

Cheap food in Amsterdam

adamfritesMore good news comes with the fact that this is a relatively cheap city to eat in, as long as your tastes are modest. You can and should try a giant order of French fries with mayo as a meal replacement. Another place you definitely have to check out is the automat chain called FEBO, which has locations throughout the city and country. You can get a filling and delicious meal for only €3 or €4, and you can get it into the wee hours of the night as well.

I’ll be adding more budget eating articles soon, but in the meantime you can check out the places to eat in Amsterdam to see which parts of town are best for which kinds of restaurants, and things to eat in Amsterdam for the specific types of foods (some cheap and some not) that you should consider eating here on your trip.

Cheap shopping in Amsterdam

waterloopleinThis city is jammed with chain stores and the same trendy shops you’ll see all over Europe, and some of them have good prices or at least special sales. There are quite a few outlets of the Swedish clothing chain called H&M, and if you don’t already know about them you should look into it. They are the cheapest stores in town to get fashionable clothes, as long as you don’t want something that will last for 10 years.

If you are looking for housewares or other odds and ends there is a chain called Hema that is all over the city, and this is the best place to buy most things that aren’t food or clothes.

But really your best cheap shopping options are the two big and famous outdoor markets, especially since each is something of a tourist attraction on its own anyway. The one that is more central and easy to find is the Waterlooplein Flea Market. This market is open every day but Sunday, and it has a combination of used items and clothes, mixed with lots of new stuff and plenty of unusual things as well. Aside from a few categories of things, the selection can be a bit unpredictable, but it’s absolutely worth a visit just to see what’s around.

The more distant one is the Albert Cuypmarkt, which is hard to find until you get there, but fortunately it’s just behind and close to the Heineken Experience. This huge street market goes for 6 blocks and it has the same vendors every day in the same places. There is almost no used merchandise here. You can find cheap fashions and cheap food and cheap bike locks and electronics and just about everything else that the citizens need on a regular basis. This one isn’t as touristy, and unless you have something you might want to buy it might not be worth the effort to reach it, but if you want to buy something as well as see how the local cheapskates do it, you should check it out for sure.
>>more information on the Waterlooplein Market
>> more information on the Albert Cuyp Market

Red Light District on a budget

adamrldclosingLook, the Red Light District is a major tourist attraction, and almost everyone should consider walking through it at least once. You should probably go before 8pm at the latest if you are worried that you might feel uncomfortable, and you’ll be surrounded by plenty of other tourists of almost all ages and both genders. Walking through this area is free, so that’s your best budget tip.

But if you are interested in something a bit more sexy than walking around, you could check out the famous sex shows, although those are really anything but cheap, and you might still be ‘excited’ when you are leaving. You might be interested in knowing that Amsterdam prostitute prices are lower than you probably think, and since it’s legal (and a tourist attraction) you might consider just cutting to the proverbial chase. No one will judge you.

Cheap coffee shops advice

coffeeshopmenuYes, you can buy and smoke weed and hash legally in Amsterdam, and the quality tends to be amazingly high. When comparing the price of weed to the price of, say, beer, the weed is a much better bargain. You can buy €10 worth of really strong bud and be high for almost two full days if you aren’t a Snoop Dogg-level smoker already. That same €10 will buy you 3 pints of beer if you go to a cheap bar, and how long will that last?

Prices for marijuana in Amsterdam coffeeshops tend to be fairly consistent throughout the city center, and you don’t get good discounts if you buy in bulk (and you can only buy 5 grams per day anyway). Prices for cannabis were very low as of around 2005, but in the years since the price has mysteriously almost doubled. Now a gram will cost at least €8 and up to €15 for the best stuff.

You could save a euro or maybe two if you went to one of the coffee shops out in the residential areas away from the center, but believe me, it’s not really worth it unless you are going out there anyway. You’d probably travel an extra 20 minutes and also get lost in order to save €1.

Partly because it’s the most “glamorous” part of the city, the coffeeshops around Rembrandtplein tend to charge a bit more than most of the others. Several of them also require you to buy 2 grams as a minimum, and that policy sucks, so if you are a cheapskate then avoid that area to buy your weed.

You might also consider trying a space cake in Amsterdam, which will get you wasted in a really fun way for around €5, and it will last 5 hours. It’s really great, and a great bargain too.

Cheap smoking accessories

smallpipesIf you smoke joints then you’ll be happy to know that all the coffeeshops provide free rolling papers to their customers, even if you bought your weed elsewhere and you are just buying a coffee from them. The smoking tips/holders (for joints) that Europeans use are also free all over. But if you want to buy a small pipe for your visit, then you should head to the Waterlooplein Flea Market (mentioned above in the shopping section) since they have 3 stands that sell pipes and accessories at prices well below the prices at headshops in the area.

You can actually now find cheap pipes at some of the coffeeshops for around €5, and that’s probably all you want to spend if you are going to throw the thing away two days later. Many other coffeeshops try to sell the same pipe for around €10 or more, so look around for a bit and you’ll find a better price if that’s important to you.


Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: