Amsterdam City Guide

28 January 2019

Things NOT to do when visiting Amsterdam

How to stay friends with the locals, be safe and enjoy the best Amsterdam has to offer

By Herbert M. Green

Planning a visit to Amsterdam? Let Coffeeshop Guru be the first to welcome you. You’re gonna have so much fun! A beautiful city with great people, awesome parties, and of course some of the best weed in Europe. Nonetheless, every city has its own quirks and differences. To make sure your holiday goes off without a hitch, and you don’t run into any of the less pleasant sides of Amsterdam, we compiled a list of things to keep an eye on and stay clear of. If you follow our advice and don’t do any of the things on this list, you’re gonna have the best experience Amsterdam has to offer.  

In general

Don’t be a fool. Kinda goes without saying, right? Well yeah, but every tourist season we are amazed by the fact that some people leave their common sense at home. So, don’t make a fool of yourself and avoid doing the following:

Urinate on the streets or in the canals: Amsterdam is (in)famous for its public urinals for men, affectionately named; ‘piskrul’. If you are about to burst and there is no café in sight, look for one of those, instead of the next building you see. If the police catch you, you’re looking at a €140 fine.

Public urinal or 'Piskrul'
Party on the streets? Think of the neighbors.

Scream or sing loudly after a night of partying: Think about the locals that have to wake up early and go to work. 

Consume alcohol in public areas or on the street. If you’re having a beer on a terrace or right in front of a local pub, it’s okay; they have a license for that. But if you’re caught drinking out of a can of beer or a bottle of wine on the streets or a public square, there’s a good chance a police officer will take it away from you and replace your drink with a € 90 fine. 

Don’t smoke your joints right in front of a coffeeshop or in “Smoke-free zones.” If the coffeeshop doesn’t have a terrace license, smoke that lovely doobie inside. That way, the coffeeshop owner won’t get into trouble. Besides that, Amsterdam has some areas where it’s forbidden to consume cannabis. These areas are clearly marked by signs, so keep a look out for those. 

This sign means 'Cannabis free zone'. In Dutch this is called "Blowverbod"

On the streets

Amsterdam is a relatively small city, but it’s a crowded one. Like many popular tourist destinations, the city is rife with pickpockets and those who want to take advantage of gullible tourists, so try to avoid the following:

Don’t buy or accept anything being offered to you on the streets: It’s usually a scam of some kind. Everything you need can be purchased in shops, so why risk getting ripped off?

Don’t buy drugs on the street! 99% of the time it’s fake or in the worst case deadly! We recently had street dealers sell white heroin as cocaine to tourists, with deadly consequences. Please be careful! 

The city warns for heroin sold as cocaine (Photo: Hans Engbers)

Don’t buy bicycles on the street: If somebody offers you a bike for a ridiculously low price, you can be 100% sure it’s stolen. Purchasing stolen goods is considered a felony in the Netherlands. So don’t do it.

Be aware of pickpockets and their tactics: Amsterdam has one of the highest numbers of pickpockets in Europe. They love tourists who are just standing around, in line at a museum or staring at their phones. Don’t let them distract you or slow you down for no apparent reason. 

Getting around

Getting around in Amsterdam can be quite daunting if you’re not used to chaotic traffic. Here are some tips to make sure you safely get where you want to go without being a traffic hazard.

Don’t ride a bicycle when you’re stoned or have been drinking. We know most travel guides recommend it as a great way to see the city and yes, it’s fun. But trust us, navigating Amsterdam’s traffic is chaotic and frustrating at the best of times. The locals have their own set of rules when getting around on their bikes. They hardly stop for other traffic or traffic lights, and they’re always in a hurry. Oh, and there are cars everywhere. 

traffic in the city is chaotic at best.
Don't walk here!

Don’t walk in the bicycle lane. In Amsterdam bicycle lanes are well designated by either a red coat of paint or a white bicycle symbol. Using them as a pedestrian walkway is very dangerous and a big no-no! The locals ride their bikes like maniacs, and they might not have enough time to spot you before it’s too late! 

Taxis are expensive: Amsterdam’s taxis are considered some of the most expensive in Europe. Besides that, unlicensed taxi drivers at Schiphol Airport aren’t always the most trustworthy, especially late at night. You are better off using public transport like trams or buses. They are abundant and easy-to-use and there is an easy to use app on Android or iOS. What’s more, the city is very compact, so walking is always a great option. If you really need to take a cab, pick a company that uses electric cars like Taxi Electric. Their fares are usually a lot more reasonable.

The Red Light District

Oh come on, don’t deny it, we know you’re planning on going to the Red Light District (RLD). Rightly so. No visit to Amsterdam would be complete without a leisurely stroll past the windows with barely clothed ladies on display. But to make sure your ‘stroll’ goes off without a hitch, take heed of these tips:

Red Light District by night

Don’t buy the drugs. See above. In the RLD you will be offered drugs more often than elsewhere in Amsterdam. If whatever they’re offering you isn’t totally fake, it’s at least crap quality. Just don’t bother.

Do not take pictures or film the sex workers: They don’t like it. Just like you wouldn’t want anyone to take photos of you without asking. Treat them as human beings, not like a piece of meat. They are just trying to make a living. Also, keep in mind that even though prostitution is legal in the Netherlands, some of them are put to work against their will by human traffickers.

…And finally, the Coffeeshops

We wouldn’t be called Coffeeshop Guru if we didn’t give you some tips on Coffeeshop etiquette. So here goes:

Don’t even bother if you’re under 18 years old. You will not be allowed in the coffeeshop.

Don’t re-sell to minors. Don’t go into a coffeeshop to buy weed for somebody else, especially if they’re underage. This can cause big problems for the coffeeshop.

Make sure you are carrying a valid ID. Coffeeshop employees are required by law to ask for your ID. It has nothing to do with how old you look or anything else, so don’t feel offended and just show them your ID. It’s the law and their job.

Heavy drinking and smoking weed is never a good combination. Try to avoid it as much as possible.

Don’t smoke too much at once. Even if you’re an avid smoker, keep in mind that Dutch weed might be stronger than you’re used to. Ask the budtender for advice; they are there to help. If you’re new to cannabis, start off with a lighter strain and slowly work your way up from there.

Don’t take your luggage inside with you. We know it’s tempting to walk into the first shop you can find, but do yourself and everybody else a favor and stow your luggage at your hotel or in a train station locker first. This way you don’t run the risk of your stuff getting stolen when you’re high as a kite, and other customers can walk around the shop without tripping over backpacks or carry-ons. If you are looking for a place to store your luggage temporarily, in an easily accessible and secure place, check out They have multiple drop off and pick up points throughout Amsterdam for very affordable prices. 

Now that you know what not to do when visiting our lovely city, we at Coffeeshop Guru genuinely hope you enjoy your stay in Amsterdam and that these tips will help you to stay safe and stay smart. Do stick around on this site to read about all the cool stuff you can do in Amsterdam!

Post author
Herbert M. Green
Herbert lives and breaths cannabis. And when he’s not breathing it, he’s writing about it. If he’s not doing that, he’s reading about its history or politics. If not reading about cannabis, he’s talking about it, in the hopes he can change the world’s view on cannabis.
See more from Herbert M. Green

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