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Travel : Amsterdam General information

Welcome to Amsterdam, Gay Way to Europe

Amsterdam is probably one of the gayest city in Europe, with something to offer everyone. Gay Games Amsterdam 1998, and also the 2016 EuroPride left the city with a new sense of pride and a stronger community that we’re eager to share with visitors from around the world. Amsterdam offers tons of gay bars, discos, shops and cafes, some of the world’s best and weirdest museums, classic architecture, and a lot of coffeeshops, all within walking distance from Central Station. Combine that with the unique spirit of tolerance and freedom of the Netherlands, and that’s why the mayor proudly called Amsterdam "the gay way to Europe".
While Dutch is the official language of the Netherlands, you don’t have to bother trying to learn the difficult language, Holland is one of the only countries in continental Europe where most natives speak English fluently. Homosexuality is legal in the Netherlands. Gays and lesbians even won the right to get legally married. The age of consent for gay sex is 16, but for prostitutes it’s 18 (and probably going to be 21).

Unlike many cities, and to most tourists surprise, Amsterdam is a very compact, and therefor walkable city.

Tourism and Money

Logo VVVCheck out the VVV (Amsterdam Tourist Information) at the floating wooden house in front of Central Station for tourist information, tour information and local activities. The Netherlands and Amsterdam share a tremendously rich history and culture, which is shown off in everything from our beautiful architecture and world-renowned museums and concert halls to our scenic canals and endless fields of colorful flowers. Even if you have planned you trip completely, the VVV can help you plan your time here wisely so you can accomplish all your goals in getting to know our beautiful country.

Being part of the EU, the Netherlands have the Euro as the local currency. Paying for things with your credit card is probably the best way to guarantee you’re getting a good exchange rate, and most stores accept MasterCard, Visa, and American Express (in that order). Often the easiest and most economical way to get cash from home is through one of the city’s many automatic teller machines (geldautomaat), especially if you have a Visa or Master/EuroCard or a debit card on the Cirrus or Plus network. The best place to exchange money is the GWK (at Schiphol Airport, Central Station and on 4 more locations down town). Most banks in Holland are no more then 'service desks' nowadays, and do not offer change anymore. Do not change money on the streets in Amsterdam; although in some parts of the world it's the most economical way of changing, in Holland it definetely is not; it is a major crime under east-european thieves.

PIN warning
Many Dutch love to pay using PIN (a Dutch name for MAESTRO), and there are even places who do not accept cash but accept PIN only (no, this is not a joke). When dining out for ex., you may want to check if they accept cash or card first.

Transportation & Communication

Canal parade: gay pride in the Canals
Amsterdam is a compact city, where you can easily walk from one gay area to the other. Most natives travel by bike. It’s healthy, cheap and the fastest way to get around. If you feel like going native and you think you can manoeuvre safely through the dense bicycle, auto, bus, tram and pedestrian traffic without getting killed, you can rent one. Make sure you lock up your bicycle well, using both the rear wheel lock and a nice thick chain. If you have the time, book a guided bicycle tour to the 'wetlands' around Amsterdam (Broek in Waterland for ex) to get a taste of the country.

When you are offered a bicycle on the street for Eur 25, you can be sure that you are buying stolen property, which is guaranteed to bring you much bad karma (and perhaps the angry owner).

Public transportation is easy to use, with lots of trams, buses, Metro, and trains. The system operates from approximately 6 a.m. (weekdays, 7am on Sat, 8am on Sun) to midnight, although there are night buses for partygoers as well. If you’ll be in town for a while, then buy a pass from the little GVB kiosk across from Central Station. If you’re here for a shorter time, you can buy a daycard at Central Station, tabacconists and many other places, or just pay cash to the driver when you get on (the most expensive way).

Handy to know is that the machines on Central Station to buy train tickets from only accept coins and do not accept bills.

If you need to make calls from public phones, they are merely extinct. Best is to just get a local SIM card for your mobile phone, or use WiFi in your hotel.
If you need a taxi, have your hotel call for one or go to a taxi stand. Most taxis won’t stop for you on the street. When you are travelling by car, you should know that anywhere you park you have to pay. It can be hard to find a parking space. If you forget to pay or park illegally, your car may be in jeopardy of getting towed; this is an expensive event which will cost you a few hundred euro's and you would like to avoid.

Safety and Drugs

Amsterdam is a relatively safe city, but, like in every city in the world, use your common sense. While walking around with a backpack or a camcorder, it’s pretty obvious that you are a tourist and thus a prime target for thieves. The best thing to do is leave your valuables in your hotel’s safe. Around Central Station and especially in the Red Light District, the chances are pretty high that a friendly man will offer you drugs. The best thing to do is ignore them completely, or just say NO. If you want to buy grass, buy it in a coffeeshop. Hard-drugs like cocaine and XTC are not legal. Smartdrugs are not safe (and not legal anymore either).

The Red Light District is Amsterdam’s best known tourist attraction where you’ll find hundreds of prostitutes behind the windows and junkies on the streets who are always desperate for money, so be careful in this area. Taking pictures or videotaping a prostitute is asking for trouble anyhow, for obvious reasons. As much as it might seem like it, the Red Light District is not a zoo. If a beggar approaches you with a sad story, you should know that Holland has one of the best welfare systems in the world, so the beggar is likely not going to spend your money on food or childcare.

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