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Travel : Amsterdam : General information

Welcome to Amsterdam, Gay Way to Europe



Amsterdam is probably the gayest city in Europe, with something to offer everyone. Gay Games Amsterdam 1998 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 almost 100 gay bars, discos, shops and cafes, some of the world’s best and weirdest museums, classic architecture, and 350 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 this year. The age of consent for gay sex is 16, but for prostitutes it’s 18.

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

Although in 2009 and 2010 many gay bars closed down (the Reguliersdwarsstraat, where most gay venues were run by one owner, most places closed their doors, in the Warmoesstraat the owner of two well known leather bars passed away, and Cockring was closed down by a police raid), now most places have reopened their doors, and new gay venues have opened up, offering a bigger diversity then before, and making Amsterdam once more a gay destination with something to offer for everyone.


Tourism and Money

   
A little history: city promo 1998

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Logo VVVCheck out the VVV (Amsterdam Tourist Information) on Platform 2 of Central Station or at the floating wooden house in front of Central Station for tourist information, hotel bookings, 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. 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 Euro is 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 and cash traveller’s checks is the GWK (open 24 hours a day in Central Station) or at any bank, but it’s more expensive. 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.



Transportation & Communication

Canal parade: gay pride in the Canals

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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 punch card (‘strippenkaart’, still economical) at Central Station, tabacconists and many other places, or just pay cash to the driver when you get on (the most expensive way). Don’t bother trying to figure out the complicated zone system, just tell the driver or the conductor at the back of the tram where you’re going and they’ll tell you how much to pay or punch on your card.

If you need to make calls from public phones, buy a phone card, most don’t take coins. Many phones also take major credit cards, which is especially convenient. 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

   
Rememberance day at the Homomonument

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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 legally accepted though, and provide a safe alternative. 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.





Gayamsterdam Getting started

Get to know where you are going:

Tourist guide Home
City Orientation: Overview of Gay Areas
Where to Go: Amsterdam's Gay Venues
Coming gay events & parties
Where to Stay
Read more... what our editors wrote
Make contact & get in touch with the locals
   
Relevant Links
Logo NBT Official Dutch Tourist board
Munipalicity of Amsterdam City of Amsterdam: I Amsterdam, coming festivals, exhibitions & events
Munipalicity of Amsterdam City of Amsterdam, transportation and getting around

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