The Ultimate Backpacker’s Guide to Amsterdam on a Budget

The Ultimate Backpacker’s Guide to Amsterdam on a Budget

Picture this: you’re gliding through the serene canals on a golden Amsterdam morning, a fresh stroopwafel in hand, and a day filled with treasures to uncover that won’t break the bank. Welcome to the ultimate Amsterdam budget travel guide, where we show you how to soak in the charm and culture of this iconic city without emptying your wallet.

This guide is your key to unlocking the secrets of affordable Amsterdam. From the cozy hostels nestled in the winding cobblestone streets of Jordaan to the lively nightlife of De Pijp, you’re about to embark on an unforgettable journey that proves the best things in life (and travel) don’t have to come with a hefty price tag.

Amsterdam Travel Costs

Amsterdam offers a range of budget options, catering to backpackers, mid-range travelers, and luxury seekers. Here’s a general idea of the cost you can expect in this city:

Suggested Budget per person

  • Low: €50-80 per day
  • Middle: €100-150 per day
  • High: €200+ per day

Detailed Costs

For more information, we’re also providing a daily travel cost breakdown of Amsterdam.


  • Low: Hostels (€20-40 per bed), budget guesthouses (€50-70 per night)
  • Middle: Mid-range hotels (€80-120 per night), B&Bs (€70-100 per night)
  • High: Luxury hotels (€200+ per night), upscale apartments (€300+ per night)


Public Transportation:

  • Metro ticket: €3.20 (single ride), €8.50 (24-hour pass)
  • Daily pass: €8.50 (1 day), €13.50 (2 days), €20 (3 days)
  • 3-Day tourist pass: €69 (including unlimited public transport, canal cruise, and museums)

Entrance Fees:

  • Low (mostly free activities): Walking tours, Exploring Vondelpark Visiting Dam Square
  • Middle: Anne Frank House, Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum, Heineken Experience: €19
  • High: Canal cruise with dinner, Private guided tours of historical sites: €50


  • Low: Broodje kroket (sandwich with meat ragout), Poffertjes (mini pancakes): €5-7
  • Middle: Indonesian rijsttafel, Dutch stamppot (stew with mashed potatoes): €15-20
  • High: Michelin-starred restaurants: €50+


  • Low: Street vendors: €1-2
  • Middle: Cafes: €2-3
  • High: Gourmet shops with special flavors: €5+


  • Low: Takeaway coffee: €2-3
  • Middle: Cafe coffee: €3-4
  • High: Specialty coffee shops, tourist areas: €4-5

Beer & Wine:

  • Low: Local bar or pub: €4-5 per beer, €5-6 per glass of wine
  • Middle: Mid-range restaurant or trendy bar: €6-8 per beer, €7-9 per glass of wine
  • High: Craft beers, specialty bars, vintage wines: €8-10+ per beer, €10+ per glass of wine

Amsterdam: Things to See & Do

If you’re looking for things to do in Amsterdam on a budget, here’s a comprehensive list including the most popular activities as well as some of our favorite free experiences:

Must Do – Amsterdam Visitor Guide

No visit to Amsterdam is complete without these sights and experiences:

  • Canal Cruise: Immerse yourself in the city’s charm with a classic canal cruise, offering stunning views and historical insights.
  • Anne Frank House: Visit the poignant hiding place of Anne Frank and her family, a powerful reminder of World War II history.
  • Van Gogh Museum: Explore the amazing works of Vincent van Gogh, housed in a modern architectural masterpiece.
  • Rijksmuseum: Marvel at Dutch Golden Age art and historical artifacts in this grand museum.
  • Vondelpark: Relax and unwind in this sprawling urban park, perfect for picnicking, cycling, or enjoying outdoor events.
  • Heineken Experience: Discover the brewing secrets and history of this iconic Dutch beer brand at their interactive experience.
  • Bloemenmarkt (Flower Market): Wander through a floating market filled with colorful blooms and unique souvenirs.
  • Red Light District: Explore this historically significant and controversial district, known for its legalized adult entertainment.
  • A’dam Lookout: Take in panoramic city views from the “Swing Over Amsterdam” swing or the observation deck.
  • Jordaan District: Stroll through this charming neighborhood with its beautiful canals, independent shops, and artistic atmosphere.

Free things to do in Amsterdam

  • Explore Vibrant Neighborhoods: Wander through Jordaan, De Pijp, or Oost, each offering unique architecture, local shops, and cafes.
  • Visit Free Churches: Westerkerk and De Oude Kerk offer stunning architecture and peaceful spaces for reflection.
  • Enjoy Parks and Gardens: Relax in Vondelpark, Oosterpark, or Beatrixpark, each offering green spaces and recreational activities.
  • Free Walking Tours: Join a guided walk to learn about the city’s history and hidden gems, often with tips for hidden costs.
  • Open Air Markets: Browse the Albert Cuypmarkt for fresh produce, local crafts, and lively atmosphere (except Sundays).
  • Public Art and Street Performances: Discover free art installations, murals, and street performers throughout the city.
  • First Wednesday of the Month: Many museums offer free admission on the first Wednesday evening of the month.

Popular Museums

  • Stedelijk Museum: Modern and contemporary art with a focus on Dutch design and fashion. 
  • Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder (Our Lord in the Attic): Hidden church showcasing religious tolerance in the Dutch Golden Age.
  • Museum Het Rembrandthuis: Explore the former home and studio of the renowned artist Rembrandt.
  • Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky: Immerse yourself in Amsterdam’s opulent side with a visit to this historic 5-star hotel. While staying here might not be budget-friendly, you can still admire its grandeur by popping in for a coffee or exploring its public areas.

Amsterdam Day Trip Ideas

  • Zaanse Schans: Discover traditional Dutch windmills, wooden houses, and clog-making workshops in this charming village.
  • Keukenhof Gardens: Witness the spectacle of blooming tulips and other flowers in the largest flower garden in the world (open spring only).
  • Haarlem: Explore a charming city with a beautiful historic center, museums, and canals, just a short train ride from Amsterdam.

Amsterdam Canal Cruise

Where to Stay in Amsterdam on a Budget

If you’re keen on keeping your wallet as plump as a Dutch poffertje while soaking in the sights of Amsterdam, fear not! Amsterdam offers a range of neighborhoods, each with its own charm and price tag. While the city center, with its iconic canals and bustling squares, is undeniably alluring, it also comes with the highest accommodation costs. Here are some budget-friendly alternatives to consider:

Jordaan: This charming neighborhood, famous for its narrow streets, canal houses, and independent shops, offers a classic Amsterdam experience. While not the cheapest, it’s well-connected and within walking distance of many attractions. Expect a mix of tourists and locals, and be prepared for potentially higher prices for dining and activities.

De Pijp: This awesome district boasts a youthful energy, trendy bars and restaurants, and a multicultural atmosphere. The Albert Cuyp market, overflowing with fresh produce and local goods, is a must-visit. While not as central as some areas, De Pijp offers good public transport connections and a cool nightlife scene.

Oud-West: This up-and-coming neighborhood is known for its peaceful atmosphere, green spaces, and mix of historical and modern architecture. Several parks, including the beautiful Vondelpark, offer respite from the city bustle. While slightly farther from the center, Oud-West is well-connected by trams and provides a quieter, family-friendly environment.

Oost: This trendy and diverse neighborhood offers a mix of historical charm, creative energy, and affordable living. Explore independent shops, street art, and multicultural restaurants. While not as centrally located as other areas, Oost is well-connected by trams and provides a unique experience off the beaten path.

Bonus Tip: Consider staying outside the city center in Zeeburg or De Baarsjes for even lower accommodation costs. These areas offer a more local experience and good public transport connections, allowing you to explore the city at your own pace.

Reminder: Check out our guide to the best hostels in Amsterdam!

Eating and Drinking

There are two things you’ll end up having to pay for regardless of what you want to do. The first is accommodation, and the second is food, luckily, we’re covering both and more in our Amsterdam travel guide:

Water: Rejoice! Tap water in Amsterdam is safe and delicious, so fill your reusable bottle and save those euros for yummy food.

Affordable Eats

  • Formules: Look for restaurants offering “formules,” fixed-price menus with multiple courses, often at lunch for a budget-friendly deal.
  • Indonesian Rijsttafel: Sample this flavorful rice table with various dishes, perfect for sharing and affordable in Indonesian restaurants.
  • Surinamese Snacks: Explore Warungs (Surinamese snack bars) for delicious and budget-friendly savory treats like roti rolls and bitterballen.
  • Pannenkoeken: Indulge in Dutch pancakes, sweet or savory, at affordable pannenkoeken houses.
  • Broodje kroket: This classic Dutch sandwich with a meat ragout filling is a satisfying and budget-friendly snack.
  • Stroopwafels: Enjoy these warm, caramel-filled waffles from street vendors or cafes for a sweet and affordable treat.
  • FEBO: Grab a quick bite at these vending machines offering snacks like fries, kroketten, and frikandel (a Dutch sausage).

Pro Tip: Steer clear of tourist hotspots known for inflated prices. Venture into local neighborhoods for more authentic and budget-friendly options.

Food Markets:

  • Albert Cuypmarkt: This lively market offers fresh produce, local cheeses, and street food alongside other goods.
  • Boerenmarkt (Farmers Market): Find seasonal organic produce and specialty items at these markets held across the city on various days.
  • De Hallen Food Hall: Discover diverse food stalls under one roof, from Indonesian cuisine to fresh oysters.


  • Lidl: Known for its low prices and good quality, Lidl offers essential groceries and budget-friendly options.
  • Aldi: Another discount chain popular for affordable groceries and household items.
  • Dirk: This Dutch supermarket chain offers competitive prices and a wider selection than discount stores.

Bonus Tip: Bakeries often offer discounted “day-old” pastries later in the day, perfect for a sweet and budget-friendly breakfast.

How to get around in Amsterdam

Getting Around 

Here’s your guide to navigating the charming canals and streets of Amsterdam with ease. We’re offering you insider tips on the city’s public transportation network, cost-saving strategies, and alternative travel options to help you journey through the Dutch capital like a seasoned local. Whether you’re hopping on a tram, pedaling through bike-friendly lanes, or enjoying a scenic ferry ride, we’ve got you covered.

Understanding Amsterdam’s Public Transportation

  • Trams: Amsterdam’s iconic trams offer a charming and efficient way to navigate the city. Single tickets (€3.20 for one hour) can be purchased from machines on board or at GVB kiosks, but they’re not the most economical option. Consider:
  • GVB Day Ticket: Unlimited tram, bus, and metro travel for 24 hours (€8.50) – great for exploring different neighborhoods.
  • Amsterdam & Region Travel Ticket: Covers Schiphol Airport transfer, unlimited public transport in Amsterdam and surrounding areas (validity options: 1, 2, 3 days).
  • OV-chipkaart: Rechargeable smart card for fares, offering discounts for multi-day passes and frequent travelers.
  • Buses: Buses are slower than trams but cover more extensive routes, reaching suburbs and areas outside the city center. Prices and ticket options are similar to trams.
  • Metro: Amsterdam’s metro network is smaller than the tram system but offers faster connections between key points. Ticket options mirror trams and buses.

Tips for Saving on Public Transport:

  • Purchase multi-day passes or the Amsterdam & Region Travel Ticket for significant savings compared to single tickets.
  • Consider walking or cycling for short distances. Amsterdam is very walkable, and cycling is a popular and convenient way to get around.
  • Download the “9292” app for real-time public transport information, route planning, and ticket purchases.
  • Utilize free ferry services across the IJ river to explore Amsterdam Noord.

Alternative Transportation:

  • Cycling (everyone’s favorite): Rent a bike (€8-€15 per day) and experience the city like a local. Dedicated bike lanes and flat terrain make cycling enjoyable and convenient.
  • Walking: Explore at your own pace and discover hidden gems. Amsterdam’s compact city center is perfect for walking tours and leisurely strolls.
  • Ferry: Take a free ferry across the IJ river for stunning city views and access to Amsterdam Noord’s cultural offerings.

Cheapest Way to Get To and From the Airport

Getting from Schiphol Airport to the City Center:

  • Train: The fastest and most convenient option, taking 15-20 minutes to Amsterdam Centraal Station (€5 one-way).
  • Bus: Slightly cheaper than the train but slower (30-45 minutes, €4 one-way). Amsterdam Airport Express bus offers direct connections.
  • Taxi: Most expensive option (€40-€60), recommended only for late-night arrivals or large groups with luggage.

Areas in Amsterdam

Best Time to Visit Amsterdam

Let’s unpack the suitcase of possibilities for your Dutch getaway! If it’s your first time in Amsterdam, you need to make sure you’re going during the period that suits you the best.

High Season (June – August):

Pros: Warmest weather, long daylight hours, amazing festivals and events, lively atmosphere.

Cons: Peak tourist crowds, highest accommodation prices, long lines at attractions.

Shoulder Season (April – May, September – October):

Pros: Pleasant temperatures, fewer crowds, lower prices than peak season, still many events and activities.

Cons: Weather can be unpredictable, and some attractions may have shorter hours.

Low Season (November – March):

Pros: Lowest prices, minimal crowds, unique winter activities (like ice skating).

Cons: Coldest weather, shorter daylight hours, some attractions may be closed.

Whenever you decide to visit Amsterdam, you should also be mindful of the specific times when prices increase due to popular holidays or events.

National Holidays & Festivals

  • Holidays: Prices for accommodation and flights tend to be higher during Dutch holidays, such as King’s Day (April 27), Liberation Day (May 5), and Sinterklaas (December 5).
  • Tulips: If you want to see the iconic Dutch tulips in bloom, visit between mid-March and mid-May. This will obviously come with higher price points.
  • Events: Several major events take place in Amsterdam throughout the year, such as the Amsterdam Light Festival (December-January) and the Amsterdam Dance Event (October). These events can attract large crowds and drive up prices.
  • Weekends: Amsterdam is a popular weekend getaway destination, so prices for accommodation and flights may be higher on weekends, especially during the peak season.

Amsterdam in Spring

Amsterdam in Winter

Backpacker Essentials & Safety Tips

From the coffee shop capers (hint: it’s not just about espresso…) to the speedy etiquette of bike lane ballet, we’ve got the lowdown on keeping your wits – and wallet – about you. In the land of tulips and Gouda, a little know-how goes a long way.

Credit Cards in Amsterdam

While Amsterdam is known for embracing cashless payments and contactless transactions, credit cards are still not the most widely used method of payment. Make sure you always carry cash with you!

  • Major cards are your best bet: Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted, followed by American Express and Maestro. Diners Club and Discover cards might be less readily accepted, so it’s wise to check beforehand or have a backup option.
  • Small shops and cafes might prefer cash: In smaller stores, local cafes, and street vendors, cash is still the preferred method. It’s always a good idea to carry some euros for these situations.
  • Be aware of potential fees: Check with your bank about any foreign transaction fees associated with using your credit card abroad.

Amsterdam Safety Tips

  • Beware of “coffee shop” confusion: Amsterdam’s “coffee shops” primarily sell cannabis, not coffee. If seeking caffeine, head to a cafe designated as such.
  • Stay vigilant on bike paths: Be extra cautious when walking or crossing bike lanes, as cyclists have the right of way and travel quickly. Use designated crossings and look both ways before stepping into their path.

Common Scams in Amsterdam

  • “Friendship bracelets” scam: Individuals may approach you offering free or cheap bracelets, then aggressively demand an inflated price after putting them on your wrist. Politely decline and move on.
  • Fake petitions: Be wary of individuals asking for signatures on seemingly harmless petitions, which might be a ploy to distract you while an accomplice steals your belongings.

Things Not to Do

  • Public intoxication: While Amsterdam has a liberal attitude, excessive public intoxication can draw unwanted attention and potential legal trouble. Enjoy responsibly.
  • Taking photos without permission: In the Red Light District, always ask for permission before photographing individuals working there. Respect their privacy and avoid causing offense.
  • Smoking weed outside designated areas: Cannabis consumption is only legal in licensed coffee shops, not on the streets or in public spaces. Fines can be steep for violating this rule.
  • Swimming in canals: The canals may look inviting, but swimming in them is prohibited and dangerous due to strong currents and hidden hazards. Stick to designated swimming areas.

Resources and Planning

Navigate the city’s canals, culture, and cuisine with passes that offer unlimited travel and access to top attractions. From the art aficionado to the savvy explorer, our tips and tricks will help you make the most of your visit without spending a fortune:

Budget-Friendly Passes

  • Amsterdam & Region Travel Ticket: Unlimited travel on public transport in Amsterdam and surrounding areas for 1, 2, or 3 days. Perfect for exploring neighborhoods beyond the city center.
  • I amsterdam City Card: Combines public transport access with free entry to many museums and attractions, plus discounts on others. Ideal for sightseeing-heavy itineraries.
  • Museumkaart: Grants free entry to over 400 museums across the Netherlands, including many in Amsterdam. Great for museum enthusiasts looking to delve deeper into Dutch culture.
  • GVB Day Ticket: Unlimited tram, bus, and metro travel within Amsterdam for 24 hours. Budget-friendly option for exploring the city within a day.

Amsterdam Money Saving Tips 

  • Free Walking Tours: Join a free walking tour to learn about the city’s history and hidden gems, often with tips on saving money.
  • Picnics in Parks: Stock up on groceries at budget supermarkets like Lidl or Aldi and enjoy a scenic picnic in Vondelpark or another green space.
  • Happy Hour Deals: Many bars and restaurants offer discounted drinks and snacks during happy hour, typically between 4-6 PM.
  • Explore Neighborhoods beyond the Center: Venture into Jordaan, De Pijp, or Oost for more affordable restaurants and unique local experiences.
  • Cook Your Own Meals: Utilize shared kitchen facilities in hostels or rent an apartment with a kitchen to save on eating out costs.
  • Utilize Free Ferries: Take the free ferry across the IJ river to explore Amsterdam Noord’s cultural offerings.
  • Rent a Bike: Explore the city like a local and get some exercise. Consider shared bike rentals for cheaper options.
  • Bring Your Own Reusable Water Bottle: Amsterdam’s tap water is safe and delicious, so avoid buying bottled water.


With the strategic use of passes, an openness to alternative transportation, and a willingness to embrace the local way of life, you’ll find that Amsterdam can be as kind to your spirit as it is to your savings. We hope you found our travel guide to Amsterdam useful!

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