Inevitably, after raving about one of the greatest cities in the world, I’m asked, “Is Amsterdam safe?”
It’s a knee-jerk reaction that always catches me off-guard. Maybe it’s the quasi-legal pot, tolerated hallucinogens, legal prostitution? Or could it be the rising sea level constantly imperiling the city’s future? I don’t know! (I bet it’s not the climate change one.)
But I do know you may be a little apprehensive about seeing Amsterdam because of its liberal reputation (whores, weed and whatnot). However, Amsterdam is actually one of the safest big cities to visit in the world. In fact, Amsterdam is considered the sixth-safest city in the world, according to the 2017 Safe Cities Index, the highest-ranked European city. Even though Amsterdam is safe, we will share a few tips to ensure you remain as safe as possible.
Pickpockets & tourist scams
A big part of Amsterdam safety is being aware of Amsterdam pickpockets and Amsterdam scams. One tip to avoid pickpockets is to keep your personal belongings in front of you at all times. Avoid carrying backpacks or large shoulder bags that someone could easily open without you knowing. Don’t put all your cash into one pocket. Instead, split it into a couple (front-facing, preferably) pockets and your day bag/money belt/document holder.
Avoid the Amsterdam Red Light District after nightfall, when pickpockets like to make their profit. Another place to watch out for Amsterdam pickpockets is, of course, on the tram or train since you may be in close proximity to a lot of people.
One Amsterdam scam aimed at tourists is fake taxis at the airport. Do not grab a random taxi when you get off the plane because it could be someone who wants to take you out-of-town to rob you or, worse, OVERCHARGE you. Use Amsterdam’s fabulous public transportation or hire a taxi from the official stand in front of Schiphol Plaza.
Street smarts are important no matter what new city you decide to explore. Specifically, to stay safe in Amsterdam you should be wary of canals, especially if you’ve been imbibing. Even though it may be tempting to cool off in a canal, it is actually illegal…and disgusting. Don’t get too close or lean over bridge railings if you’ve had a few too many.
You should also be careful crossing streets in Amsterdam. Traffic across six or more lanes can be heavy and come in all forms — bike, tram, train, car, moped. To avoid irritating commuters and for your own safety, only cross at designated areas when the crosswalk signals indicate it’s clear. And even then, look both ways and keep an eye on the bike lanes.
Red Light District etiquette
While we mentioned that you should watch out for pickpockets in the Red Light District at night, the scene is totally different during the day. During the day you will find large tourist crowds and great places to shop and dine. Of course, there are still unwritten rules you should abide by in the RLD:
- As rollicking as it seems, people actually live in Amsterdam’s Red Light District. Don’t yell in the streets or drink and smoke outside late into the night.
- Do not take pictures of the prostitutes. This is a big no-no.
- Refrain from riding your bicycle on the sidewalks. This goes for all of Amsterdam, but is especially important in the crowded and narrow Red Light District.
- Don’t purchase drugs off the street. There are plenty of drugs available in the shops.
Is Amsterdam safe for travelers?
So, is Amsterdam safe? The answer is yes, a million times yes. As long as you use common sense and are aware of your surroundings you should be safe in Amsterdam. Having knowledge of areas in the city will help to boost your feeling of safety as well as traveling with another person or a group of people. Tourist safety in Amsterdam does not have to be something you are worried about on your next trip.
Get more indispensable Amsterdam advice in Rory’s forthcoming book, 53 Amsterdam Travel Tips.