Our tips for staying safe as a tourist in Amsterdam.
For many people, especially solo female travellers, safety is a concern when abroad. With Amsterdam’s reputation for drugs and prostitution, this is a question that can be found in numerous forums and online discussions and is something that should be cleared up.
Amsterdam is, largely, a perfectly safe city (in fact it often ranks very highly on the world’s safest capitals) and if you take the same precautions as you would in any other major city, you will be absolutely fine. This is not to say that Amsterdam is totally crime-free and the city is home to the same low-life petty criminals that can be found anywhere in the world – pickpockets have been known to prey on tourists (particularly around the centre of the city and the Red Light District) but most of the crime that hits the headlines takes place outside of areas that tourists are likely to inhabit.
By taking a few simple steps, you’ll be sure to have a safe and enjoyable stay in the Dutch capital.
Amsterdam is well known for its liberal drugs policies but you should bear in mind that this tolerance only extends as far as ‘soft drugs’. If you do wish to partake, head to a coffee shop where the staff will be able to give you advice and ensure that you enjoy yourself in a safe environment. Harder stuff is illegal in Amsterdam as it is in most countries and buying cocaine or xtc from street dealers is not without its risks. Although most of the time these ‘drugs’ are simply sugar, cafeine or dental numbing agent, there have been incidents where tourists have been deliberately sold white heroin before overdosing. Stay safe and don’t take the risk.
The Dutch people have one of the highest rates of trust and faith in the police in the world. Police in Amsterdam, in particular, are extremely used to dealing with tourists and there won’t be a language barrier – all the police in the city will be able to speak perfectly in English (and often in German, French or Spanish as well). If you need help, don’t be afraid of them – they're here to keep us all safe.
Pickpocketing can be an issue in Amsterdam just like in other European capitals but this can be avoided by using a bit of common sense. Don’t walk with your phone in your hand and keep your valuables in inside pockets – never on the back pocket of your jeans. Avoid advertising the fact that you have a large amount of cash on you, especially in the Red Light district or the area around central station (two major pickpocketing hubs).
This must be the cause of the majority of tourist-related minor injuries in Amsterdam. It may seem unnatural if you’re from a country without much of a cycling culture but you must look carefully before crossing a bike path. For visitors from Britain or Commonwealth countries, you will also need to remember that the Dutch drive on the right!
Imagine the scene. After a few drinks, you start the long walk (or stagger) back home. It’s 3am and you’re so desperate for a piss that you’re about to have an unfortunate accident – you don’t have a 50c coin to use the nearest café toilet but have an idea... the canals are just like giant urinals, right? Well don’t. 15 people, on average, die each year after falling into a canal whilst pissing. In addition to the danger, it’s quite disgusting and you risk a hefty fine. Better to use one of the many public urinals (you can recognise them by their green paint and distinct aroma) or shell out the fifty cents.
In the unlikely instance that you do find yourself in need of help, you can call the emergency number 112 or simply go to the nearest police station. If you’re looking to keep safe on a night out, why not consider joining a group of others on a Pub Crawl – our guides will be sure to make sure that you all have the best and safest night possible!