The weather is turning out to be quite typical, if a little cold, for autumn in the Netherlands. It will be rainy and windy throughout the week. Temperatures around 15C during the day. Bring an umbrella.
Amsterdam has a network of trams, buses, and metros operated by the municipal transport company GVB. The national railway service NS operates several train lines in and around the city. A trip planner that combines all options is 9292.nl.
All public transport in The Netherlands is covered by the OV-Chipkaart card system. There are several variants of these cards, but thanks to Western Digital we have secured anonymous pre-paid cards with €40 credit for all HEPiX participants.
The system requires the traveler to check in when boarding and to check out when disembarking; a fee (€4 for tram, bus, metro; €20 for train) is deducted from the credit on check-in, which is returned (minus the fare) on check-out. Failing to check-out means you don’t get that money back. Check-out-and-in is required when changing mode of transport, or transport company.
The card can be recharged (if needed) at any train or metro station as well as many other places throughout the city.
Amsterdam, like any major city, is dealing with congestion. To battle air pollution and endless traffic jams, the city actively discourage travel by car to the centre. The Science Park lies on the outskirts and reasonably close to the A10 motorway.
Most of the locals get around on bikes, speeding along the many bike paths which are often marked with red pavement—but not always. Pedestrians beware!
Getting around is fastest by bike, and there are plenty of rental options, but inexperienced bicyclists should reconsider before joining the madness of city traffic, where getting to your destination sometimes involves cutting across two lines of bikes, cars and trams. It is a little quieter outside the centre.
A recent law was enacted that forbids holding a mobile phone in one’s hand while riding a bicycle. Since the introduction a few months ago about a thousand citations were handed out and this will set you back €95, so be mindful to stop before you text.
In many places the use of (electric) motorized scooters is becoming popular and Amsterdam is no exception. Be mindful that nearly all of these modes of transport are illegal for use on public roads. Electrically supported bicycles are allowed and very common nowadays.
Mopeds and scooters are not allowed to ride on the bicycle lanes in Amsterdam; they have to use the car roads and riders have to wear a helmet. This is a regulation local to Amsterdam.
Food and Drink
Amsterdam is popular with tourists—perhaps a little too much so. While the locals complain that the general livability of the city is in decline, and the government is instilling ever stricter measures to reduce the influx of visitors, much of the centre itself is transforming into a conglomerate of tourist traps. Bars, restaurants and cheese shops are best avoided in the busiest areas.
There are plenty of excellent restaurants (and cheese shops) within walking distance; ask the locals for advise.
Needless to say, the busy streets are also the domain of pickpockets. Carry your valuables close to your body.
Customs and laws
The Netherlands, and Amsterdam in particular, are known for their fairly liberal attitude. That is not to say that you can get away with everything. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind.
The inhabitants of Amsterdam are generally friendly, but they have a very direct way of addressing issues. The language can be quite colourful, which, combined with a rather abrasive sense of humour, may come across as crass. Keep this in mind when a bicyclist starts shouting expletives at you for walking on the bicycle paths (marked with red pavement); it is not meant to be rude but rather to be taken as a gentle reminder to be careful so as not to get hurt.
Many tourists visit Amsterdam for the great variety of hallucinogens and psychoactive substances, available from ‘coffee shops’ all over town. While the use is allowed it is strictly speaking not legal, but it is unlikely to land you in trouble with law enforcement unless you otherwise misbehave at the same time. Avoid buying anything from pushers in the streets; the quality is not guaranteed and mistaking one substance for another has happened before, with deadly results.
Another (infamous) law recently went into effect, forbidding the wearing of garment or headwear that entirely covers the face in public buildings and public transportation. Dubbed the burqa ban, the law is seen by some as an anti-muslim measure, although it also pertains to motorcycle helmets with dark visors. There has not been any clear indication how and when it will be enforced.