Nov132018

Traveling Expensive European Capitals Inexpensively – Amsterdam

In my third article in a series about traveling expensive European capitals inexpensively, I skip most expensive # 3 Dublin to focus on #4 most expensive Amsterdam.

Amsterdam is the city where I have the longest longitudinal study of prices. I visited Amsterdam regularly before the euro became the national currency. Over the past 20 years I have spent more time visiting Amsterdam than any other city in the world. The place never disappoints me. Canal walks, parks, museums and familiar places we enjoy seeing again and again have kept us returning to Amsterdam, despite it being a relatively expensive European city for a tourist.

How to Budget Europe’s Most Expensive Capital Cities

A recent article in Matador ranks the European capital cities from most expensive to cheapest for a tourist. Every European capital ranked from most expensive to cheapestby Matthew Meltzer ranks 49 capital cities in Europe by average price in four travel expenses: Hotel, meal, beer, taxi.

My initial article showed how I spent two days and nights touring Monaco for about $170 in a city where hotel prices can regularly be over $400 per night.

Loyalty Traveler – Traveling expensive European capitals inexpensively – Monaco

The second article shows how I managed Iceland last month for $125 all-in for a 25 hour stay in a place where most hotels regularly price over $200 per night and $40 for a meal with two beers is fairly common.

Loyalty Traveler – Traveling Expensive European Capitals Inexpensively – Reykjavik, Iceland

W Amsterdam view of Westerkerk

Amsterdam # 3 Most Expensive Capital in Europe

Meltzer data from Matador.com

Reykjavik, Iceland

Hotel: $316.57
Meal: $35.10
Beer: $5.27
Taxi: $2.98 per km

I think the four categories for travel expenses shown in Matt Meltzer’s article: hotel, meal, beer and taxi closely mirror the expense categories that concern me most when I plan my budget for travel expenses in Europe.

I expand his category of ‘taxi’ to ‘transportation’. In my travels, transportation usually means public transportation for travel to and from airports and city/regional transportation by bus, train, metro. Generally I get around most cities in Europe simply by walking. That is why my focus is generally getting a city hotel in a central location I want to explore.

  1. Hotel
  2. Meal
  3. Beer
  4. Transportation

Most Expensive European Capitals

  1. Monaco
  2. Reykjavik, Iceland
  3. Dublin, Ireland
  4. Amsterdam, Netherlands
  5. London, UK
  6. Paris, France
  7. Copenhagen, Denmark

My Amsterdam experience February 2018

I have spent about two weeks in Amsterdam with my wife since summer 2017. In general, I plan on $75, excluding hotel, for daily expenses for the two of us in terms of transportation, museums, dining and entertainment. That is a frugal budget for Amsterdam and easily exceeded when good times blind my travel budget watchful eye. That seems to be a regular occurrence in Amsterdam.

As in most places, I can get by in Amsterdam for $25 per day when traveling alone since I trade drinking beer and eating meals in a pub for drinking and dining on a bench beside a canal. I also get much more exposure to museums as a solo traveler in Amsterdam.

Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

If you really want to experience museums beyond Rijksmuseum € 17 (from 1 January 2019: € 19),and Van Gogh Museum € 18 (from 1 January 2019: € 19), then the Museumkaart for 59.50 EUR can be a great investment. You can buy it when you enter your first museum. Museumkaart offers free admission into more than 20 Amsterdam museums and nearly 400 museums around the country.

Rijksmuseum Amsterdam with winter ice skating rink in Museumplein

Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam

Hotel 

The biggest change in my Amsterdam travels over the years is less a desire to be in the canal district for a hotel due to far more affordable hotels in outlying residential areas of Amsterdam. For example, Andaz Amsterdam, Hyatt Regency Amsterdam, Renaissance and Marriott Amsterdam, Kimpton DeWitt Amsterdam and InterContinental Amstel Amsterdam, Radisson Blu Amsterdam and more chain hotels are lovely city center locations. However, they come at a steep price in paid rates or reward rates.

Hyatt Regency Amsterdam

Hyatt Regency Amsterdam at category 4 for 15,000 points is one of the best city center deals, and I don’t think it will remain a category 4 beyond 2019.

Best Western Rewards was my go to hotel chain for Amsterdam for a couple of years with low reward rates for hotels in West Amsterdam. Those hotels rebranded.

Radisson Rewards is a program I found useful in Amsterdam for high value points stays, but program changes eliminated most of those credit card and elite member discount deals. Park Plaza Vondelpark is a hotel where I have stayed several times in off-season at rates under $100 per night to earn tens of thousands of points during bonus points promotions. Radisson Rewards has not had any highly lucrative promotions since selling out to Chinese investors.

Wyndham Rewards has been my primary loyalty program for Amsterdam for the past two years with its GoFast 3,000 points + fixed copay rate that allowed me to book $200+ per night Panoramic View Executive Room at Ramada Apollo Amsterdam for about $70-$75 per night in cash copay.

Ramada Apollo Amsterdam

That deal is much more expensive now after Wyndham Rewards changed GoFast copay amounts from a fixed rate to 65% of the Best Available Rate in March 2018. This room type is still available as a GoFree reward night for 15,000 points.

Currently I think the best deal for Amsterdam is Holiday Express City Hall at 20,000 points per night. This means a $100 room night when you buy IHG Rewards Club points during a 100% bonus points promotions, like the current offer through November 30, 2018.

Amsterdam Transportation

Transportation in Amsterdam is a manageable expense if you buy tickets smartly.

Amsterdam trams and buses use an automatic check-in and check-out system by scanning a ticket card when you board and exit the bus, tram and Metro. The deal to save significantly on Amsterdam transportation expense is buy a multiple-day pass to cover all the days you will be in Amsterdam.

Individual tickets for a tram ride in Amsterdam are expensive at €3.00 per single 60-minute ticket.

GVB 1-7 Day Amsterdam Bus, Metro, Tram Tickets

7.50 EUR = 1 day (24 hours)

12.50 EUR = 2 day (48 hours)

17.50 EUR = 3 days (72 hours)

22.50 EUR = 4 days (96 hours)

27.50 EUR = 5 days (120 hours)

31.50 EUR = 6 days (144 hours)

34.50 EUR = 7 days (168 hours)

Where can you travel? Amsterdam, Diemen, Duivendrecht, Amstelveen, Schiphol, Weesp.

When can you travel? 24 hours (all day and all night).

You will save money with a multiple day pass if you are in Amsterdam and ride a tram or take Metro two or more times per day.

Many of the newer hotels in Amsterdam are in south or west Amsterdam near Metro lines that will whisk you into city center in less than ten minutes.

AmsterdamTips.com Getting to Amsterdam from Schiphol Airport is a thorough guide on transportation options covering several different ways to travel between airport and city by train, metro and bus. Depending on the location of your hotel you might benefit by traveling to Amsterdam Zuid (South).

Schiphol Bus 397 for 5 EUR one-way is a good option when your hotel is somewhere around Museumplein or Leideseplein. This is an option I used about as frequently as taking the train on hotel stays in past few years. No need to travel from Schiphol to Centraal Station then backtrack in the direction of airport by tram across the city from Centraal Station to the hotel.

Dining and Beer

Most of my dining for hot meals in Amsterdam are shawarma (Turkish doner kebabs) or Asian fast-food places where €6 to €10 buys a filling meal. An entree runs about €15 to €20 in most restaurants. As in many cities, Amsterdam is a place where you can save by making your lunch meal the main dining of the day when prices are 50%-70% of dinner menu prices.

Wok to Walk on Leidsestraat is a regular stop for affordable food in Amsterdam.

To keep expenses down in Amsterdam, we generally shop at supermarkets buying salad, smoked salmon, bread and cheese, veggies, hummus and fruit for most of our food needs. I plan on €30 per day to feed two of us at the grocery store.

Beer is about €3 per 250ml glass, €4 per 330ml glass or €6 to €7 for a pint of beer in a pub/restaurant.

A little alteration with beer in Netherlands is the typical pour is a straight keg pour into the glass until the foam tops the rim, then the server scrapes the foam off the top and serves the beer. The amount of beer you get is what is left after the foam dissipates. Don’t expect to see a pint of beer poured down the drain by the server to give you a full pint of beer.

Beer in stores is relatively inexpensive compared to USA prices. Heineken 330ml bottles can generally be purchased for about €0.60 cents and stores generally have beer on sale for as low as €9-€12 per case, if you pay the case deposit. All stores have automatic recycling machines inside to return your bottles and case for deposit return.

Albert Heijn is one of the main market chains in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam is expensive for hotels in the city center. Staying at a hotel near a Metro stop in West or South Amsterdam can cut your hotel rate by more than half. The advantage of residential areas outside city center are plenty of grocery stores and lower restaurant prices. The disadvantage is the time spent traveling to the city center.

Staying in the historic canal district of Amsterdam is a blast, but after so many trips to Amsterdam, the best way to save money or points is to stay at a hotel a couple miles outside the canal district. Just be sure you pick a place with easy access to a Metro or tram line.

West Amsterdam #13 tram to Centraal Station in 20 minutes.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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  1. I’d add that for Public Transport, they also have an Amsterdam Travel Card at the airport station which allows travel on non-GVB trains and busses to/from the airport in addition to GVB trams and ferries. It does cost a little bit more than the GVB pass. They also have a regional pass for a few euros more which allows for travels to further destinations such as Haarlem and Keukenhof. The downside is they only offer passes for up to 3 days. I’d personally recommend one of these cards for the first few days, especially if arriving by air as GVB passes do not cover the train trip to/from the airport, and trains can sometimes be more convenient to those outer-area hotels.

  2. I looked at the Amsterdam Travel Card. One of the terms of the card seemed confusing to me and looked like you might end up with less than 72 hours on a 3-day pass.

    For example, say you activate it at 16:00 on Wednesday. The terms look like it expires at 4:00am on Saturday, which would be 12 hours short of a 72 hour pass.

    The Amsterdam Card basically adds the price of a round trip train ticket to the price of a GVB pass. I think it is better to pay for train separately.

    This is all based on the assumption that a tourist is staying in Amsterdam. There may be other better ticket options if you plan to travel outside Amsterdam during your trip to the Netherlands.

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