DO NOT STAND OR WALK IN THE BIKE LANE / DO WALK ON THE SIDEWALK
You can figure out what is the bike lane–and what is not the bike lane by looking for a bike icon. In many places, the bike lane has a red color–and you will see bicyclists on it. The sidewalk is typically the bit next to it that is white. If you’re jaywalking, it’s likely that you’ll be passing the bike lane.
To be fair, bikes are supposed to stop when you are in a crossing bit, but it’s good to be careful. The worst thing that you can do is to stand in the bike lane taking pictures without looking behind you and/or backing up. Bicyclists don’t want to hit you–and it’s dangerous!
Expect to be dinged a lot by passing bikes if you enter the bike path and be sure to keep children close to you. Bikes in other parts of the Netherlands tend to be less aggressive, however many of my friends visiting Amsterdam for the first time are often surprised by this!
YOU MUST CARRY IDENTIFICATION ON YOU
This is actually a law. If you’re non-EU, be sure to carry your passport on you as you can get fined for not carrying identification. Similarly, if you’re EU, you still need your identification. Generally, you won’t need to pull out your identification for much, however, you might need to show if you intend to enter a coffeeshop (discussed below!). Most bars do not ID patrons unless they look younger than 18, which is the drinking age in the Netherlands for spirits.
CUSTOMER SERVICE IS DIFFERENT IN THE NETHERLANDS
This is particularly true when it comes to restaurants and cafes. Waiters at cafes often leave people alone for long periods of time without really checking on them at cheaper/mid-range cafes. (You might have a very different experience at a nicer restaurant.) It’s a common complaint of friends that they were frustrated with the customer service. Generally, if you want something at a cafe, you’ll need to flag down the waiter or go up to the front (if they’re not coming). The customer is not always right here…
STEP INTO A BROWN BAR
One of the best places to experience Dutch culture is within a brown bar. These old Dutch cafes are filled with gorgeous brown wood, gorgeous lamps, and an atmosphere. Some are a bit more international, but they’re a favorite of Dutchies of all ages. It’s a great place to stop off for a delicious fresh mint tea (a classic Dutch drink) or a beer. These cafes aren’t about rushing your way through, but rather enjoying. You can click for my favorite brown bars in Amsterdam!
BE SURE TO ENTER A HOFJE (HIDDEN COURTYARD)
All around the city of Amsterdam, you’ll find historic hidden courtyards. There has been a legacy of wealthy Dutch aristocrats to donate money to those in need by building housing for them. Some of these hidden courtyards are incredibly beautiful and a great respite from the crowds of Amsterdam Centre.
The Begijnhof is the largest and most famous one in Amsterdam. Others are much harder to find, but I’ve already found them for you. Click for my guide to Secret Amsterdam!
PET ALL THE CATS!
If you’re not a cat person, tough luck as cats are everywhere. Most of the cats here that you will see on the streets (or in shops) belong to locals who let their cats roam during the day. Don’t worry too much if you see a roaming cat as it belongs to someone. Some are more friendly than others, so approach cats with caution.
DON’T FORGET HOW DANGEROUS THE CANALS ARE
If you are drunk, please be careful and don’t pee in the canal. For men, there are free urinals all over the city streets that you can use… People actually die this way. (People actually swim in the canals, but it’s pretty rare to see!) We’d definitely recommend going out on a canal cruise to enjoy the canals from a different perspective!
DON’T PLAN ON USING YOUR DEBIT/CREDIT CARD
If you see PIN graag (like at the popular grocery store Albert Heijn), it usually means that they may only accept cash or a Dutch debit card. If you don’t have cash, you will need to go to an ATM, which should accept other cards.
The situation IS improving and more places are allowing credit cards (mainly Visa/Mastercard/Maestro), however many smaller shops don’t accept non-Dutch cards. You’ll find shops in the airport, Amsterdam Centraal station, and those close to touristic places (including museums/restaurants in the Centre) will accept credit cards. Some shops have even gone as far as “card only” to minimize the cash on hand, but always carry a little cash on you.
Look for ABN AMRO or ING cash machines. These are two of the major Dutch banks. They don’t typically charge a fee for using the ATM, so you can take out cash fairly easily if you look for one.
Amsterdam is such a lovely city with super friendly people. You’re most likely to meet locals at smaller neighborhood cafes/eetcafes/bars/coffee shops once you leave Centre.
People are happy to give advice or help you. For the record, almost everyone speaks English fluently, however it’s always polite to say Dankjewel [Thank you in Dutch].)