Amsterdam on a Budget: Everything You Should Know for Your Visit

When people ask us about cheap destinations in Europe, Amsterdam isn’t the first place that comes to mind. While it’s true that a lot of things, like accommodation and attractions, are on the expensive side in the Dutch capital, it’s still possible to visit Amsterdam on a budget and have a memorable stay.

Yes, Amsterdam is known for its legal prostitution (Red Light District) and its coffee shops (that don’t sell coffee) but there’s so much more here to discover! Even so, the party scene is real and lots of tourists visit for a couple nights of partying.

But don’t let that deter you from visiting! It’s easy to escape the party crowd and wander in peace and quiet. You’ll find some of Amsterdam’s most scenic spots by detouring from the main streets!

Amsterdam has some of the best museums in Europe (doable on a budget!) and its picturesque canal ring is a UNESCO heritage site. So, remember that when you’re wandering along the canals, you’re walking through some essential culture and history of the city. It’s even better during the annual light festival (late Nov-early Jan)!

If it’s your first time to Europe and Amsterdam is on the list, don’t miss our tips for first-timers in Europe!

But how much will it all cost? What does an Amsterdam budget look like?

Let’s take a look!

How Much Will a Trip to Amsterdam Cost?

Canal Housees in Amsterdam

First and foremost, for the budget travelers out there, you’re probably wondering how much it costs to visit Amsterdam? What’s a total figure?

That’s a broad question that ultimately depends on you and your preferences. While we can’t detail a budget guide for every single person who reads this (contact us and we will!), we can give you a general idea of how much it will be.

The cost is dependent on where you stay, how long you’re there, what you eat, what you do and so on. Everyone’s visit to Amsterdam will be a little bit different.

So, if you’re a solo traveler or couple, we think 40-70 euros per day is a safe range for a real budget Amsterdam experience. However, you can easily go over that budget so it will take some planning and decision making on your part.

Obviously, if you’re a family then costs will go up. Several things like museums are free for children but the cost of food will drive up your average.

Traveling with a large group? Sharing accommodation will free up money for other things!

How to Get Around Amsterdam on a Budget

Man riding the budget-friendly tram in Amsterdam

On Foot

Our favorite way of getting around any city is on foot. Not only is it the most budget-friendly way of getting around but it’s also healthier (for you and the environment) and you can see and appreciate so much more!

Getting around Amsterdam on foot is easy and enjoyable. Many major sights are within a 20 minute walk of each other and the central train station.

The exception to that would be Museumplein where the Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum are located (40 minutes walk from Amsterdam Centraal). While 40 minutes may seem daunting, especially if it’s cold and windy, walking along the canals is never dull and one of the highlights of Amsterdam.

In fact, it will probably take longer than 40 minutes because you’ll want to stop and take some pictures along the way.

By Bike

The Netherlands was made for biking and Amsterdam is no exception! There are more bikes in Amsterdam than there are people! With that in mind, biking is a great and budget-friendly way of getting from point A to point B in Amsterdam.

There are many bike shops you can rent from but you should expect to pay between €12 and €15 per day. Most rentals include locks and it’s up to you whether you pay extra for insurance. King Bike offers insurance for all their rentals and prices start at 12€ a day (a great deal in our opinion!)

Keep in mind there are a lot of other bikers on the road so it’s best to brush up on bike safety tips.

Or watch this great video:

Public Transportation

If biking or walking isn’t for you then there’s always public transportation. Amsterdam has an extensive tram, metro and bus system that can get you around the city in a jiffy.

For purchasing tickets you have 2 options.

You can buy one-hour tickets for €3.20 from machines or on trams and buses from the driver, conductor or ticket attendant. There are also 1-7 day passes available.

One-day passes are €8 and seven-day passes are €37. So if you plan on using public transportation a lot while you’re in Amsterdam then be sure to get a pass for your length of stay.

If you use public transportation while in Amsterdam then it’s important that you remember to check-in and out by tapping your card on the check-in machines. If you have a one hour pass and you forget to check-out then it will become invalid if you need to make a transfer or use it before the hour is up.

For more information about the different transportation and passes available in and around Amsterdam then check out their transportation website.

Where to Stay in Amsterdam

Houses along a canal in Amsterdam at dusk

This depends on if you’re a solo traveler, traveling with friends, as a couple or a family. Below we outline the top budget-friendly options and who would benefit most.

Hostels

This would be perfect for solo travelers, couples, or a group of friends. You can find many hostels in the city center with affordable dorm beds for under €20. Many of these hostels offer either breakfast or self-catering facilities, which is great if you want to bring costs down even more by cooking a few meals.

Airbnbs

While there are a few private and shared rooms on Airbnb available for solo travelers and couples, the price and locations of them don’t make a lot of sense compared to hostels.

But what if I’m traveling as a group or family?

Then definitely give Airbnb a go! If you’re around 4 or 5 people try to keep the nightly rate below $200 and as central as you can find. Airbnb can be very pricey in Amsterdam so splitting the cost amongst friends is the way to go.

Still, if you’re traveling as a group of friends, Airbnb may be more expensive than everyone getting a dorm bed in a hostel. But with Airbnb you have a private space and in many cases a kitchen and a private bathroom. You just have to weigh the pros and cons of Airbnb.

Hotels

This surprised us. Hotels can actually be cheaper in Amsterdam than Airbnb and we’ve found they’re more centrally located. Double bonus!

Hotels would be perfect for a small group of friends or a family traveling to Amsterdam on a budget. Don’t let the nightly price scare you. If you divide the nightly cost by the number of people going then you can easily find hotels that are between $20 and $50 USD per person per night.

Should I Get a City Pass?

Sunsetting over an Amsterdam canal and bridge

If you’re staying in Amsterdam for 2-5 days and want to hit the main sights then a city pass is a good option for budget travelers.

There are two different passes to look into for your stay: the Amsterdam City Pass and the I Amsterdam Card.

The Amsterdam City Pass costs €50.50 per adult and gives you entry to the Rijksmuseum or the Van Gogh Museum, not both. You’ll get a 1-hour canal cruise as well as transport to and from the airport. Many other discounts are part of the package. Not a bad deal! There’s no time constraint so explore at your leisure.

The I Amsterdam Card has several different packages based on the amount of time you prefer. For instance, they offer passes from 24 hours all the way up to 120 hours (5 days). Transportation is included in the pass.

Pro Tip: We recommend not buying the 24 hour pass, even if you’re in the city for one day. The cost for 24 hours is €65 and you only have so much time for your visit. More than one museum in a day can ruin your energy fast.

Whether you choose a city card or not, there’s no right or wrong choice here. If you’re spending your time doing the major attractions, it’s probably a good idea. If you’re visiting a museum or two and otherwise just eating your heart’s desire (woohoo!) then a city pass likely isn’t for you.

Now, let’s look at some cool things to do in Amsterdam on a budget.

Free Walking Tours

The Royal Palace in Dam Square in Amsterdam

Whether you’re on a budget or there’s no ceiling to your expenditures, a free walking tour is in order. No visit to a European city is complete without it!

Meet a local guide, see the main sights and get some great tips on where to eat and what to see. These tours last around two hours and cover general history and fun facts but other tours are exclusively for food or alternative scenes (Red Light District and coffee shops).

There are two walking tour companies we highly recommend in Amsterdam: Sandemans and Free Walking Tours Amsterdam.

The guides earn money from your tips so if you appreciate their time and effort (it’s a lot of fun!) be sure and give them a good tip. 10 euros is a typical payment. Keep in mind that there’s a new city tax on tours (€1.50) so be sure to factor that into your tip.

Food to Try in Amsterdam

Dutch food is synonymous with delicious food. Cheese, chocolate, fatty, fried, Amsterdam is full of budget-friendly eats. Amsterdam is also packed with international cuisine, reminding us of cities back in the States. However, since you’re on a budget, sticking to traditional and street food will be easier on the wallet.

Fries

Budget-friendly fries covered in sauce from Amsterdam's Mannekin Pis

You may be thinking that you can get fries back home. But you’d be wrong! These fries are better! Fries in Amsterdam are fried twice, served piping hot in a cone or box, and covered in a sauce of your choice.  We ordered fries at least once every day because they’re just that good.

You can find places selling fries all over Amsterdam but our favorite is Mannekin Pis, which is a short walk from Amsterdam Central. They have 20+ flavors of sauce and have been voted the best fries in Amsterdam. Don’t let the long line scare you, it moves quickly!

Cheese

On average, a Dutch person will eat 14.3 kg (31.5 lbs) of cheese per year so you can bet there’s a lot of cheese to be enjoyed in Amsterdam. Up and down the streets of Amsterdam you’ll find many cheese shops. Many of these shops offer tastings, which if your budget allows you can indulge in.

For a budget-friendly cheese experience visit Amsterdam Cheese Deli. They offer many samples for you to try before you buy, and let’s be real, you’re probably going to buy some. If cheese didn’t satisfy you then they also make tasty sandwiches for around €5.

Bitterballen

Also known as dutch meatballs, they’re similar to croquettes but instead of mashed potatoes, the filling is made of meat and a stew thickened with a roux. These savory snacks are filling and delicious.

You can find bitterballen at the dutch fast food chain, FEBO. Better yet, you can avoid all human interaction and snag some bitteraballen from their handy dandy vending machines.

Pannenkoeken (Dutch Pancakes)

Thin, big, delicious, and shouldn’t cost more than 10€, these pancakes can be served as a sweet or savory treat!

Many restaurants specialize in pancakes but The Happy Pig has been named as one of the best in Amsterdam.

Poffertjes

Poffertjes are a delicious budget-friendly snack in Amsterdam

Small and fluffy pancakes topped with sweet treats. We ordered ours with Nutella, white chocolate and bananas but there were so many other toppings to choose from!

You can find many food stalls in markets that sell Poffertjes. We found ours in Albert Cuypstraat, which is a short walk from Museumplein.

Stamppot

Most of the foods we mentioned are technically snacks or light meals but if you’re looking for something hearty, very filling and delicious then look no further than stamppot: a sausage placed on top of mashed potatoes. But these aren’t ordinary potatoes! They’re usually mashed with various veggies like kale, spinach, carrots and onions.

The best and most budget-friendly place to get stamppot is at a HEMA store. Many HEMA stores in the Netherlands have restaurants with delicious and affordable dutch food.

Stroopwafel

You. Must. Try. This.

Stroopwafel is a thin cookie with caramel sandwiched between two wafer layers. It goes best with a hot cup of coffee. Place the stroopwafel on top of your mug for a minute or two so that the steam will heat up the caramel and turn it into a chewy treat!

You can find stroopwafel all over town. There are stores and food stalls in markets dedicated to selling stroopwafel in its original form or fancy stroopwafels with various toppings like chocolate, nuts, or marshmallows. In our opinion? You can find great stroopwafels in any grocery store for a great price!

Vending Machines

As we mentioned when talking about bitterballen, Amsterdam has vending machines for fried and fast food. A favorite amongst locals and tourists is FEBO but there’s a new kid on the block called Health Food Wall, which serves (you guessed it) healthy food.

Amsterdam Museums

Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is teeming with museums. Art, cheese, art, more art, Anne Frank, there’s seemingly no end to museums here.

We’ll mention some of the better-known museums but there are so many more than what we’ve listed. For a complete list, visit Amsterdam.info for a full list of museums.

Anne Frank House

Whether you’re on a budget or not, the Anne Frank House is a must. Experiencing dark history while traveling doesn’t make the top of everyone’s to-do list but to miss Anne Frank’s story would be a missed opportunity.

The audio guide is included in the price, a meager €10.50.

Tickets are only available online.

However, if you wait until the day of your visit, the museum sells 20% of their daily tickets starting at 9 am. We purchased our tickets the day of and booked our visit just after 12:15.

While the visit was crowded, it was one of our favorite museums of our last 13 months abroad in Europe. Witness the hidden annex where she and her family (others too) hid during the Nazi occupation.

A must-visit museum in Amsterdam!

Van Gogh Museum

Again, budget trip to Amsterdam or not, the Van Gogh Museum beckons any visitor who loves colors. The art that this man created forms a masterpiece collection. This is the largest collection of Van Gogh’s art in the world and the audio guide (an extra €5) completes your visit. Hear notes from his writings (and those who knew him) as you observe his paintings and his life.

This isn’t the most budget-friendly museum (unless you have a city pass) as tickets are €19 per adult. But those 0-18 years of age can visit for free!

Please book online! It is not required but it might as well be. The queue is very long and the staff were turning people away if they did not have a ticket. It was sold out during our visit in December.

Rijksmuseum

A visit to the Rijksmuseum (well worth it!) will cost €19 per adult. 0-18 year olds visit for free! Booking online is highly recommended! Lines for museums in Amsterdam can be crazy and having a ticket ahead of time ensures entry!

Rembrandt House

Visit the house where Rembrant lived for almost 20 years and view some of his sketches as well as artwork by the very artists who inspired him.

Tickets are €14 for adults and children 6-17 are €5.

Moco Museum

The Moco Museum features modern artists like Banksy and Warhol and is a newer attraction in Amsterdam. It’s next to the Van Gogh Museum so if you haven’t had your fill of art just yet, maybe knock out two birds with one stone?

You’ll save money if you buy tickets online: €14/adult. Children 0-9 are free!

Budget Day Trip

Train travel isn’t the cheapest in the Netherlands, much like the rest of western Europe; however, there’s one excursion that’s imperative  for your budget trip, especially if you’re staying in Amsterdam for more than a few days!

Zaanse Schans

A visit to Zaanse Schans windmills on a budget from Amsterdam

Fancy a step back in time with some iconic Holland windmills? Of course you do!

Zaanse Schans, located in the beautiful city of Zaandam, is just a 20 minute train ride away from Centraal Station in Amsterdam. However, if you’d rather ride a bike in the most bike-friendly country in the world, you’ll find Zaanse Schans to be approximately an hour away on two wheels.

That may seem like a long travel time but if the weather is favorable, it will be one of the most memorable trips of your Netherlands itinerary. Regardless of your transportation choice, Zaanse Schans is a fun-filled day trip from Amsterdam.

Your visit to the area is actually free but entrance into some of the windmills (they’re still working!) will require a fee. Some of the windmills allow free entry but entice you to buy some of their products.

Besides wandering along the Zaan River and admiring these windmills, be sure to stop in the Catharina Hoeve Cheese Farm. You’ll find cheese, cheese, and more cheese. That’s our kind of party!

From lavender to truffle to jalapeno, it’s a cheese lover’s dream. Yes, it is more touristy and cheese will have a price tag on it but this is something special to take with you.

If you’re not sure which cheese is your favorite, there are samples galore awaiting your approval. There’s no shame in trying them all!

Completely Free Things to Do in Amsterdam

Holiday lights coming on along the canals of Amsterdam

Canals (UNESCO Heritage Site)

As we mentioned earlier, the canals of Amsterdam (the canal ring) are a UNESCO heritage site. Wander along the waterways and admire the architecture of centuries past. Amsterdam’s Golden Age is all around you!

Albert Cuypmarkt

Just walking through this Dutch market is a delight. Get lost for hours in the most popular market in Amsterdam. Walking through is free but feel free to splurge on Dutch goodies as well as some international cuisine! Find this famous market in the De Pijp neighborhood. Open every day except Sunday!

Free Ferry to NDSM Wharf

Located directly behind Centraal Station, take the free ferry to NDSM Wharf. Full of festivals, parties and exhibitions, the NDSM Wharf provides a more local experience of Amsterdam and one that’s sure to impress. If you need more convincing then check out what I Amsterdam has to say!

Cannabis College

Interested in Amsterdam’s legal (but not legal) marijuana culture? Cannabis College will happily enlighten you on the subject! Located near Centraal Station and the Red Light District, visitors will meet some happy folks who are eager to educate everyone on the green goodies! They are a non-profit, located along part of the historic canals designated by UNESCO.

EYE Film Museum (free entry but exhibitions are €11/adult – free for ages 0-18)

Depending on what exhibition is showing, entry could potentially be free. However, even if the exhibition requires an entry fee, visitors will find some cheap entertainment within. The museum is not far from where the free ferry departs!

Summary of Visiting Amsterdam on a Budget

Amsterdam doesn’t have to be expensive! From its famous museums to its low-key neighborhoods and less-traveled, historic canals, you’ll find some great travel memories around every corner.

Our advice? Eat all you can and see all you can while keeping your wallet happy. In essence, budget travel is about enjoying the small things that truly make a trip worth taking in the first place. We hope you have a fantastic trip to Amsterdam and leave with stories to tell.

Happy travels!

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Where Food Takes Us

We’re Darah and Garrett. Our life has been an adventure ever since we eloped in a pink Cadillac in Las Vegas. Now we’re running around the world, working online, and eating everything we can.

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