I amsterdam ! #EuroTrip
“The world’s big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.” : John Muir
Europe ! This is going to be my first post on any international trip 🙂 The destination was added to the bucket-list in 2017 while returning from the Dubai Trip. The group was fixed and as a first step a Whatsapp group ‘Europe 2018’ was created in May 2017. But until Dec 2017, there wasn’t any progress to the plan. One of the friends had to drop the plan due to some unavoidable circumstances and the group stayed low till Jan 2018. Finally, in Feb 2018 we finalized and booked the tickets for the trip of the year in June.
There were three of us who finally were going to make their dream a reality: Kiran, Khushal and myself. The theme was clear: budget trip with maximum experience and minimum hassle. It was more of kind a party circuit and we were covering four countries in 12 days: Amsterdam (The Netherlands), Prague(Czech Republic), Vienna(Austria) and Budapest(Hungary). Amsterdam was our entry point, followed by Prague, Vienna and Budapest. I will be updating another separate post on how to plan a budget Europe trip. We planned our stay in hostels (Party Hostels) and planned all the inter-country travels through bus(Flixbus). In this blog-post, I’ll be covering Amsterdam only.
Visa: Schengen visa is the 2nd most critical visa after US visa. One shouldn’t take this lightly while applying. The catch is one need to book the flights, hotels and all inter-country transport and fix the itinerary before applying for the visa. So in case you are not getting the visa, then all your non-refundable bookings can make your wallet really light. 26 countries are covered under Schengen visa: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. If you’re travelling to any countries other than this, you will have to apply for visa separately. The country for which the visa is to be applied is based upon your entry point or the country in which you have longest stay in Schengen region. Each country has different rejection rate depending on traffic and stringency. In India, they have too embassies; one at Delhi(For North Regions) and the other at Mumbai(for south region of India). I applied it through VFS global which has its center as most of the major cities in India. The process is really systematic and easy. You need to get a prior appointment at the nearest VFS center and then need to submit respective documents and fees at your designated appointment time. They will also take the fingerprint at the center. If needed, you may have to appear for an interview at the embassy at a later date. Luckily, I didn’t have to as all my documents were perfect. I received the visa-stamped passport by courier at my address in 2 weeks. I will be putting up a details post on the documents part and filling the application.
Transport: By the time you reach Amsterdam airport, the major part of the headache you would already have dealt with. Transport inside Europe is real easy and simple. Depending on your plan, you may opt for Euro-Rail or bus or low-budget air-carriers. The Euro-rail is convenient and comfortable, but it is not that wallet-friendly unless you are a student or under age of 27. Air carriers will come cheap if you have fewer luggages (say within 7kg) which is rarely the case. So we had chosen bus for inter-country travels and booked it in advance through Flixbus.
Inside the city, there are tourist passes available for 24-hr or 48-hr which will give you access to all local transports/trams/buses/metros. For inter-city travels, you will have to get the tickets separately. All public transport inside Amsterdam is run by GVB.
- 1 hr : € 3
- Children’s 24 hour ticket: €3.75
- 24 hours (1 day): €7.50
- 48 hours (2 days): €12.50
- 72 hours (3 days): €17.50
- 96 hours (4 days): €22.50
- 120 hours (5 days): €27.50
- 144 hours (6 days): €31.50
- 168 hours (7 days): €34.50
In addition there are trains operated by NS (Dutch Railways) which connect Amsterdam to Schiphol Airport and the rest of the Netherlands. Regional buses(Connexxion/EBS/Arriva) can take you to some nearby places of interest. Waterland ticket pass is also available which will give unlimited access to ride on water-bodies around Amsterdam. At Airport, ‘I Amsterdam’ card also can be bought which gives unlimited access to public transport and entry to some museums and tourist points. Depending on your travel plan, you may opt for the best option.
We took a metro to Amsterdam Central from Schiphol airport and then a 48-hour pass. That solved most of our transport needs.
Hotels in Amsterdam is pretty expensive and if you are planning to stay around City Center, that may cost you a small fortune. Very limited hostels are available in the city center area. The Bulldog hostel is a good one and is located right at the center of all actions. We had stayed at Bob’s Youth Hostel. Though the amenities were minimal, but it was right at the city center, with a tram stop being right in front of the hostel. A bed per day costs around INR 1500 to INR 2000. In pick season, the price may suit up till INR 3500 per night. Most of the hostel doors in Europe are magnetic. They will provide you a chip-based card, you need to swipe it to get access. No security guards, No locks! But if you lose the card, you may have to sleep outside on the road for that night, unless you get lucky and someone else opens the door.
Food is damn costly and can make a hole in your pocket. Even in hostels, they don’t provide any complimentary breakfast or shared kitchen option. The initial day, we survived on the Indian brought stuffs: cakes, snacks and chocolates. Then McDonald’s came to our rescue. It was the only option available with reasonable price. For a burger meal, the cost was around € 9. Don’t forget to visit the Cafes around the City center and check its menu. You may find some pretty high-level stuffs in their menu card 😀
You may buy a SIM card of GT Mobile or Lyca. The cost is around 25 Euro with one month validity. This will be enough for a 10-14 days trip and will cover most of the areas. For internet, you may use hotel/hostel internet for major usage and SIM card internet for mobility and urgent cases. You will find free-internet access at most of the cafes, stations and important tourist spots. We managed the entire trip with one SIM only which cost us 25 Euro.
Rijksmuseum: Rather than Rijksmuseum, this place is more famous for the ‘I AM Sterdam’ sign which is a trademark spot of Amsterdam. Your Amsterdam visit is incomplete without a candid photo taken here. This place is at the center of attractions of the city and lot of tourist points are a stone’s throw away from it. Vondelpark, Van Gogh Museum and Canal ride boarding point to name a few.
The national museum is dedicated to arts and history of the city and is the largest art museum in the country. Around 8000 objects are currently on display ranging from 1200 to 2000. The entry tickets costs around € 19 for adults and free for below 18 teen agers. Discounted tickets are also available for students. When visiting the museum, take some time out and feel the art.
It is a short tour of the old Heineken brewery that ends with fresh beer tasting. Better to pre-book the tickets to avoid the queue. It starts with a brief video on the start of the journey followed by the making process with lots of visuals and a brief session on the content and mixture of the beer. You may get to taste the beer at its each stage. Lots of souvenir photos and videos options are there. The photos and videos will be mailed to your email id. The journey ends with two glasses of fresh beer. There is option to print a bottle of beer with your own name also, but of course with an additional charge. Entry ticket costs around € 18.
This is one of the best places in the Netherland to get a glimpse of the country side view. The place is nearly 17 km away from city center and can be reached by train. Zaandijk Zaanse Schans railway station is the nearest and the ticket costs around €4.20. Once you get off at the station, the windmill area is nearly at a 1 km walkable distance. En-route, you will get the view of the first wind-mill and once you reach till the bridge, it will feel like heaven. If you want to buy anything, there is a store just before the bridge. Don’t forget to get some chilled beer and some snacks. Believe me, you’ll thank later. Zaanse Schans is more of a commercialized wind-mill area and is well-marked for the tourists. Just by the side of the Zaan river, there are a row of wind-mills giving a spectacular picturesque view. The village is so-peaceful and serene. There is a cheese factory here, don’t forget to put your hands on these fresh and juicy cheese. There are lot of windmills in this area, you may climb to the top of one and enjoy the scenic view.
We walked till the last stretch of the road and at the end settled down at a nice spot. A windmill was right in-front of us, we were sitting on the lush green grass, our legs dipped in the water of river Zaan with ducks playing by our side, the cool breeze from the other end of the river rubbing our face with the coldness and cruises passing-by our side once in a while. The set up was heavenly. Then the party started. Chilled beer, spicy snacks, juicy cheese and the herbs from the cafes of Amsterdam ! Oh ! The feeling is inexplicable. The spinning of the windmill in front got slower and slower and the wind got cooler. The rest is history…
That return journey from Zaanse Schans to Amsterdam Central, I will never forget in my life or it will be more apt to say, will never be able to remember. Thanks Hande and Khushal for being there with me, that day.
Canal Cruise Ride:
Amsterdam Canal Cruise ride is one of the most glamorous ride here and is a must-do-activity. There are different options: starting from hopon-hopoff to guided tour varying from 1 hr to 4 hr. The ticket price varies depending on your boarding point, duration and time of the day; sun-set time being at a higher side. Night ride option is also available. The entire Amsterdam is connected through the canal and it used to be a fort and all the houses by the side of the canal used to be the ware-houses where the people used to store. On the canal ride, the guide will brief on the history and the unique architecture of the houses. Why the houses are little tilted? Why the shape of the houses are like that? Why there are pulley’s at the top of the houses etc etc.? The canal route is very beautiful and the ride is very smoothing. A good ride will cost around € 15 – € 25.
Red Light Area:
Amsterdam tour is incomplete without a night-tour to the famous red-light area. It is at a walkable distance from the city center and gets lively around 11 PM till 3 AM in the morning. Lot of adult-show options are there: ticket price ranging from € 10 – € 50. Lot of small cabin sized rooms are there with red-blue light flashing and glass-made transparent wall. Everyone trying to lure and get your attention. The red light stands for girls and the blue for the trans genders. For a 15-20 mins of action, they normally charge € 50. The atmosphere of the area is quite different and not everyone could stand. There are lot of eateries on the route to Dam Square and they do remain open till 3 AM.
It is one of the important spot in Amsterdam. Lot of eateries, fast-food joints are there. Madame Tussauds Wax museum is also located by the side of it.
Though nothing much is there to see here, but this is an excellent place to kill some time and chill. The park is surrounded by lush greenery and full of people jogging or walking or cycling around the place. There is a small lake in the park. You can just sit by the side of it and chill with a can of beer. Yes, everything is allowed here. When we visited the place just as to kill sometime, we were amazed by the huge no. of local residents who were just chilling there with some drinks and with their friends that too on a weekday. Some even were working at the park with their laptop. And there were people from each age groups: from kids to youth and senior citizens.
- Van Gogh Museum
- Stedelijk Museum
- Anne Frank House
- Royal Palace of Amsterdam
- Madame Tussauds Was Museum
Though, we had a short stay of two days here at Amsterdam, but it was worth it. Our next destination was Prague, Czech Republic. Stay tuned !
My Expenditure: [Amsterdam – 3 days / 2 Nights]
- Stay: € 80
- Transport: € 30
- Food & Beverages: € 44
- Tickets: € 51 ( Rijksmuseum + Heineken exp. + Canal Ride – 17.5 + 18 + 15 )
- Total: € 206
I will be putting up separate posts on how to apply Schengen visa and how to plan a budget euro-trip within 80k (all inclusive). Follow the blog to receive immediate update on the same.