Jet lag was real for me this trip. We took an overnight flight. I thought that’d be great, I’d sleep, then I’d adjust right away. Not so. When you feel you need to sleep, and you are stuck on a plane, you clearly do not sleep. I highly recommend taking a Dramamine like Kyle did, even if you don’t have motion sickness, at least you will sleep.
So after an overnight flight, where no one but Kyle slept, we arrived in Amsterdam with our friends Lindsey and Ross. Traveling from the airport to Amsterdam could not be easier or cheaper. As you leave the airport, there are clear signs to the train station, where you can quickly buy a train ticket at the yellow kiosks. If you are going to use the train frequently, buying a card that you refill is cheaper, but we purchased the single riders. The kiosks did not accept any of our credit cards but did take coins (euros) and our debit cards.
Getting a single rider could not be simpler as the main screen features a button that says, “I want to go to Amsterdam.” Regretfully, after purchasing our single riders, I also purchased a water bottle. And promptly left my credit card in the chip card reader, which I did not realize until we arrived at our hotel. I got it back, after riding the train quite a few more times, but it’s not recommended to start your trip with such an incident. Either way, the quick train that leaves for the airport/Amsterdam Central at least every 10 minutes was a breeze and less than five euros per ride.
Every time we travel, we try our best to stay in an Airbnb. In Amsterdam, we booked one six months out that had to cancel on us due to a change in the condo policies. Then, we booked another that flooded the week before we arrived. This has NEVER happened to us, and we will always continue to use Airbnb. But after all of that, we ended up at the WestCord City Center Hotel. When we do get hotel rooms, I often book on hotels.com, and I have had good luck with them. I really enjoy booking hotels via the map feature. Where we stay is often location based, and hotels.com has a great map feature for selecting accommodations this way. Our hotel was not a bad hotel, but the location, while central, was not in the area we liked best. It was on a busier main street in the Centrum as opposed to a quite canal. Our friends stayed at Sebastian’s. In fact, two of our friends have now stayed there. While we didn’t stay at Sebastian’s, we drank in their bar and utilized their helpful staff. I cannot help but highly recommend them. Their location along a peaceful canal could not be better.
On first time through Amsterdam, we spent most of our time mainly in the Centrum and west of there around and near the Jordaan. On the second time around, our hotel, Hotel Luxer, was located more east. This was very near the Red Light District. This area is safe and really not what you may think, but definitely attracts a lot more people. This area felt more busy and bit more built up for tourists. Instead of quiet canals, lined with small cafes and shops, there were a lot more large bars, bright signs, etc. While maybe 10 years ago this would have been the side for me, I much preferred the area we spent the bulk of our time wandering during our first visit. Although, I would recommend Hotel Luxer over our first hotel for room and service.
We wandered around Amsterdam 100% on foot, except when we rode the canals. For the amount of time we had there, that was perfect. I loved how easy the city was to navigate and how quickly, and enjoyably, we could walk anywhere. If we stayed longer, and wanted to move a little out of the center of the city, we could have used the tram, train, or bike. Cars and taxis never seemed like something we would need!
There is an “I am Amsterdam” card that you can get, it includes tram access, a canal ride, and entrance to some of the museums/attractions. It also includes entrance to the zoo, which we did not make it to, but my animal loving friend highly recommends. We did not go with this option, but for longer stays it would be helpful. You purchase the card for an amount of time and there are many options. I will note, that one reason we didn’t go with the card in addition to the amount of time we were visiting, was the canal tour. We really wanted to put our money into a unique canal experience. Check out my blog on that soon!
Before closing this entry down, I cannot discuss transportation in Amsterdam without talking about bikes. This city has a MAYOR just for the bikes. They rule the road, and it’s awesome and scary, all at one time! After seeing the way that people expertly navigate the area, quickly, efficiently, and helmet-less, we decided to avoid biking this time around, but enjoyed watching them fly by. Everywhere you go, you must be aware, look both ways, and listen for the warning dings of the bells. It is amazing to see a city that respects, honors and encourages biking above all other forms of transportation. Even if you don’t hop on a bike while in Amsterdam, you will be part of the experience.