I've been to the Netherlands a good few times – it's always a pleasure to land at Schiphol airport, which is so big it's almost a city in its own right. Amsterdam is a great place for the budget traveller – it's easy to get to, and when you're there there are loads of options for staying entertained. In terms of accommodation, Amsterdam's always got a good range of places to stay in the budget category. I normally book a room and flight online but on my next visit I'm planning on using Airbnb, which has some amazingly cheap accommodation. If you're a first-time visitor, then there are a number of must-do things you'll want to check out:
The Van Gogh museum.
15 Euro is the entry price but it's well worth it and you come away from the experience with the feeling that you're more deeply acquainted with the great artist and his amazing work.
There's a really nice cafe in there too – so if you want to make an afternoon of it you can get some coffee and relax before going on to see more art.
The Rijksmusem – more top quality Dutch culture here. I love Vermeer so it's amazing to see one in real life!
Ann Frank House. The queues are long but it's worth the wait. Situated on quite an ordinary street by one of Amsterdam's many canals, this has to be one of the world's most visited places – so it's a definite Amsterdam must-do. Admission is fairly cheap at less than 10 Euro.
The Old Town. This is probably one of the best historic areas in Europe. In my view it's up there with Venice or Athens for amazing architecture and a feel.
Of history so strong that it almost looks like it's a film set. There's more info and a free walking route here.
Eating and drinking.
Endless options here. Some of the best meals I've ever had have been in the Dutch capital. While not famed for its food in the same way Paris is, Amsterdam deserves lots of tourist credit not just for the quality of its eateries but also its friendly customer service. The centre of town has loads of good places – I usually seek out Italian food wherever I go, and there are a fair number of Italian restaurants in town. Most recently the one I went to was in the trendy Jordan area – and very good it was too.
Street food in Amsterdam is not to be missed – they do a kind of speciality herring sold from stands on the pavement. Fast food that's also healthy! No wonder the Dutch nation is on average taller than most others, with all that protein.
The trams are fairly cheap – you can get various day and two day tickets that could save you money if you plan on zipping round the city a lot. Amsterdam is an endlessly beautiful city, maybe not seen at its best out the window of a crowded tram – so I often rent a bicycle. Loads of options here, and well worth considering.
Staying healthy, staying safe.
It's true that Amsterdam does have crime, so I always take a few sensible precautions and have never had my wallet or phone nabbed. I've also been out and about in the city late at night and have never experienced any problems. Of course it's true that you need to be careful in any big city, and this one's no different. Health cover is advised – and for people travelling from other countries within the European Economic Area, there's the option of getting an EHIC. These are free but they don't guarantee free treatment so it's probably best to shell out for the travel cover.