Amsterdam addresses take the form of street then house number, such as Damrak 1.
In the Netherlands, only those over the age of 16 can purchase alcohol (over 18 for spirits), while you have to be 16 to buy cigarettes (18 to smoke dope). Driving is limited to over-18s.
Amsterdam's reputation as a relaxed city is well-founded, as anyone will find out after even the shortest of wanders around the famous Red Light District. However, not everything goes. Smoking dope is not accepted everywhere: spliffing up in restaurants is usually frowned upon. And while most of its restaurants don't have dress codes, many nightclubs ban sportswear and trainers.
The construction of a new Metro line linking north and south Amsterdam is indicative of the city's status as a big business centre. The south of Amsterdam is where most of the action is, with corporate hotels rubbing shoulders with the World Trade Center and the RAI convention centre. www.amsterdampartners.nl is a mine of useful information.
Conventions & conferences
Congrex Convention Services
AJ Ernststraat 595, Southern Canal Belt (504 0200/www.congrex.nl). Tram 5/Metro 51. Open 9am-5.30pm Mon-Thur; 9am-5pm Fri. Credit AmEx, DC, MC, V.
Specialists in teleconferencing. Phone for information and prices.
Europaplein 8-22, Zuid (549 1212/www.rai.nl). Tram 4, 25/NS rail RAI Station. Open Office 9am-5.30pm Mon-Fri.
A congress and trade fair centre in the south. The building contains 11 halls and 22 conference rooms that can seat up to 1,750 people.
Stichting de Beurs van Berlage
Damrak 277, Old Centre: Old Side (530 4141/www.beursvanberlage.nl). Tram 4, 9, 14, 16, 24, 25. Open 9am-5pm Mon-Fri.
Used for cultural events and for smaller trade fairs. Berlage Hall is a meeting and conference venue for between ten and 2,000 people.
Couriers & shippers
0800 022 2333 freephone/500 5699/www.fedex.com/nl_english. Open Customer services 8am-6.30pm Mon-Fri. Credit AmEx, DC, MC, V.
0800 1234/www.tnt.com. Open 24hrs daily. Credit AmEx, DC, MC, V.
Office hire & business services
Many tobacconists and copy shops also have fax facilities.
Stadhouderskade 156, the Pijp (671 9909/www.acsavcompany.com). Tram 3, 4, 16, 24, 25. Open 8am-5pm Mon-Fri. Credit AmEx, MC, V.
Slide projectors, video equipment, screens, cameras, plus overhead projectors, microphones and tape decks hired out or sold.
Euro Business Center
Keizersgracht 62, Western Canal Belt (520 7500/http://eurobc.nl). Tram 1, 2, 5, 13, 14, 17. Open 8.30am-5pm Mon-Fri. Credit AmEx, DC, MC, V.
Office leases from one day to two years, virtual offices, meeting rooms and secretarial services.
World Trade Center
Strawinskylaan 1, Zuid (575 9111/www.wtcamsterdam.com). Tram 5/NS rail Amsterdam Zuid-WTC Station. Open Office & enquiries 9am-5pm Mon-Fri.
Offices let for long or short term and assorted business services available, including secretarial.
Translators & interpreters
Ouderkerkerlaan 50, Amstelveen (645 6610/www.avb.nl). Bus 65, 170, 172. Open 9am-5pm Mon-Fri. Credit No credit cards.
Translation and interpreter service for most languages.
Mac Bay Consultants
PC Hooftstraat 15, Museum Quarter (24hr phoneline 662 0501/www.macbay.nl). Tram 2, 3, 5, 12. Open 9am-7pm Mon-Fri. Credit No credit cards.
Specialists in financial and legal document services.
American Chamber of Commerce
Schiphol Boulevard 171, 1118 BG Luchthaven Schiphol (795 1840/www.amcham.nl). Open 9am-5pm Mon-Fri.
Commercial Department, Lange Voorhout 10, 2514 ED, The Hague (070 427 0427/fax 070 427 0345/www.britain.nl). Open 9am-5.30pm Mon-Fri. Enquiries 2-4pm Mon-Fri.
Commissariaat voor Buitenlandse Investeringen Nederland
Bezuidenhoutseweg 16A, 2594 AV, The Hague (070 379 8818/fax 070 379 6322/www.nfia.nl). Open 8am-6pm Mon-Fri.
The Netherlands Foreign Trade Agency: the first port of call for businesses relocating to Holland.
Euronext (Stock Exchange)
Beursplein 5, Old Centre: New Side (550 5555/www.euronext.com). Tram 4, 9, 14, 16, 24, 25. Open free tours; email to book.
Stock for listed Dutch companies is traded here, plus Nederlandse Termijnhandel, the commodity exchange for trading futures, and Optiebeurs, the largest options exchange in Europe.
EVD: Economische Voorlichtingsdienst
Juliana van Stolberglaan 148, 2595 CL, The Hague (070 778 8888/www.hollandtrade.com). Open 8am-5pm Mon-Fri.
Dutch Agency for International Business and Cooperation which incorporates the Netherlands Council for Trade Promotion (NCH), both handy sources of information. You need to make an appointment in advance; don't turn up on spec.
Weteringschans 28, Southern Canal Belt (625 5195/fax 624 7902/www.homeabroad.nl). Tram 6, 7, 10. Open 10am-5.30pm Mon-Fri.
Assistance with all aspects of life and business in the Netherlands.
Kamer van Koophandel (Chamber of Commerce)
De Ruyterkade 5, the Waterfront (531 4000/fax 531 4799/www.kvk.nl). Tram 1, 2, 4, 5, 9, 13, 16, 17, 24, 25. Open 8.30am-5pm Mon, Tue, Thur, Fri; 8.30am-8pm Wed.
Lists of import/export agencies, government trade representatives and companies by sector.
Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken
Bezuidenhoutseweg 67, Postbus 20061, 2500 EB, The Hague (070 348 4787/fax 070 348 4787/www.minbuza.nl). Open 9am-12.30pm Mon-Fri for the legalisation of documents.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Detailed enquiries may be referred to the EVD (see above). You can also obtain public information from the Postbus 51 infoline, which is available via the free telephone number 0800 8051 on working days from 9am to 9pm. You can also send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ministerie van Economische Zaken
Bezuidenhoutseweg 30, 2594 AV, The Hague (070 379 8911/0800 646 3951/fax 070 379 4081/www.minez.nl). Open 9am-5.30pm Mon-Fri.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs can provide answers to general queries concerning the Dutch economy. Detailed enquiries tend to be referred to the EVD (see above).
Netherlands-British Chamber of Commerce
Oxford House, Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 328L, Old Centre: New Side (421 7040/fax 421 7003/www.nbcc.co.uk). Tram 1, 2, 5, 13, 14, 17. Open 9am-5pm Mon-Fri.
EU nationals over the age of 17 may import limitless goods into the Netherlands for their own personal use. Other EU countries may still have limits on the quantity of goods they permit on entry. The import of meat or meat products, fruit, plants, flowers and protected animals to the Netherlands is illegal. Check www.holland.com (look under Practical Info) or call the toll-free Customs Information Line (0800 0143).
For citizens of non-EU countries, the old customs limits still apply when travelling. These are:
- 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250g (8.82oz) tobacco
- 2 litres of non-sparkling wine or one litre of spirits (over 22 per cent alcohol) or 2 litres of fortified wine (under 22 per cent alcohol)
- 60cc/ml of perfume
- 500 grams coffee or 200 grams coffee extracts/essence
- 100 grams tea or 40 grams tea extracts/essence
- other goods to value of €175
The most obvious difficulty people with mobility problems face here is negotiating the winding cobbled streets of the older areas. Poorly maintained pavements are widespread, and steep canal house steps can present problems. But the pragmatic Dutch can generally solve any problems quickly.
Most large museums have facilities for disabled users but little for the partially sighted and hard of hearing. Most cinemas and theatres have an enlightened attitude and are accessible. However, it's advisable to check in advance.
The Metro is accessible to wheelchair users who 'have normal arm function'. There is a taxi service for wheelchair users (see Taxis). Most Trams are inaccessible to wheelchair users due to their steps. The AUB (various outlets; www.aub.nl) and the Amsterdam Tourist Board has brochures on accommodation, restaurants, museums, tourist attractions and boat excursions with facilities for the disabled.
The locals have a relaxed attitude to soft drugs, but smoking isn't acceptable everywhere, so use discretion. Outside Amsterdam, public consumption of cannabis is largely unacceptable. More information on drugs in Amsterdam.
Foreigners found with harder drugs should expect to face prosecution from the authorities. Organisations offering advice can do little to help foreigners with drug-related problems, although the Jellinek Drugs Prevention Centre is happy to provide help in several languages, including English. Its helpline (408 7774, 3-5pm Mon-Thur) offers advice and information on drugs and alcohol abuse. There's also a 24-hour crisis/detox emergency number: 408 7777.
The voltage here is 220, 50-cycle AC and compatible with British equipment, but because the Netherlands uses two-pin continental plugs you'll need an adaptor. American visitors may need a transformer.
American Consulate General
Museumplein 19, 1071 DJ (575 5309/0900 872 8472 premium rate/www.usembassy.nl). Tram 3, 5, 12, 16. Open US citizens services 8.30-11.30am Mon-Fri. Immigrant visas 1.30-3pm.
Carnegielaan 4, 2517 KH, The Hague (070 310 8200/0800 0224 794 Australian citizen emergency phone/www.australian-embassy.nl). Open 8.30am-5pm Mon-Fri. Visa and immigration info 9am-noon Mon-Fri.
This embassy cannot issue you visas or accept visa applications. The nearest Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs outpost is over at the Australian Embassy in Berlin, Germany. Note that only general visa information is available via the Visa Information Officer.
British Consulate General
Koningslaan 44, 1075 AE (676 4343/www.ukinnl.fco.gov.uk). Tram 2. Open Passport and consular services 9am-1pm Mon, Tues, Thurs & Fri. Phone enquiries 9am-1pm & 2-4.30pm Mon-Fri.
Lange Voorhout 10, 2514 ED, The Hague (070 427 0427/www.ukinnl.fco.gov.uk). Open 9am-5.30pm Mon-Fri.
For visa and tourist information, contact the Consulate (see above).
Sophialaan 7, 2514 JP, The Hague (070 311 1600/www.canada.nl). Open 9am-1pm, 2-5.30pm Mon-Fri. Consular and passport section 10am-1pm, 2-4.30pm Mon-Fri.
Dr Kuyperstraat 9, 2514 BA, The Hague (070 363 0993/www.irishembassy.nl). Open 10am-12.30pm, 2.30-5pm Mon-Fri. Visa enquiries 10am-12.30pm Mon-Fri.
New Zealand Embassy
Eisenhowerlaan 77N, 2517 KK The Hague (070 346 9324/visas 070 365 8037/www.immigration.govt.nz). Open 9am-12.30pm, 1.30-5.30pm Mon-Fri.
In an emergency, call 112, free from any phone (mobiles included), and specify police, ambulance or fire service.
Dutch police (www.politie-amsterdam-amstelland.nl, some English), are under no obligation to grant a phone call to those they detain – they can hold people for up to six hours for questioning if the alleged crime is not serious, 24 hours for major matters – but they'll phone the relevant consulate on behalf of a foreign detainee. If you are a victim of a crime, require practical or medical support, or have lost your documents – anything really that might go wrong as a tourist - the Police Station on Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal has a special Amsterdam Tourist Assistance Service (ATAS, see below). There is also a 24-hour police service line 0900 8844 for the Amsterdam area. You can also call 0800 7000 to report a crime anonymously.
Hoofdbureau van Politie (Police Headquarters)
Elandsgracht 117, the Jordaan (0900 8844). Tram 7, 10. Open 24hrs daily.
Amsterdam Tourist Assistance Service (ATAS)
Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 104-108 (625 3246). Tram 1, 2, 5, 6, 13, 17. Open 10am-10pm daily.
Help & information
Rozenstraat 14, the Jordaan (626 3087/www.cocamsterdam.nl). Tram 13, 14, 17. Open Phone enquiries 10am-4pm Mon-Fri.
The Amsterdam branch of COC deals with the social side of gay life in and around the capital.
Rozenstraat 8, the Jordaan (623 4596/textphone 620 7541/www.coc.nl). Tram 13, 14, 17. Open 9.30am-5pm Mon, Tue, Thur, Fri; 9.30am-1pm Wed.
COC's head office deals with all matters gay and lesbian.
Gay & Lesbian Switchboard
Postbus 11573, 1001 GN (623 6565/www.switchboard.nl). Open noon-10pm Mon-Fri; 4-8pm Sat, Sun.
Whether it's general information or safe-sex advice you're after, the friendly English-speakers here are well informed.
Homodok-Lesbisch Archief Amsterdam (Gay and Lesbian Archives)
Nieuwpoortkade 2A, Westerpark (606 0712/fax 606 0713/www.ihlia.nl). Tram 10, 12, 14. Open 10am-4pm Mon-Fri.
A non-lending library of books, journals, articles and a large video collection. The collection is due to move to the city's brand new Centrale Bibliotheek.
Obiplein 4, Oost (665 0820/www.iiav.nl). Tram 3, 7, 10, 14/bus 15, 22. Open noon-5pm Mon; 10am-5pm Tue-Fri.
This women's archive moved to Berlin during World War II, where it vanished. In 1992, it was found in Moscow, but the Russians are still refusing to return it. The current collection, started after the war, is officially an archive, but there are a lot of other resources, including several online databases.
Het Vrouwenhuis (The Women's House)
Nieuwe Herengracht 95, Southern Canal Belt (625 2066/fax 538 9185/www.akantes.nl). Tram 7, 9, 14/Metro Waterlooplein. Open Office 10am-5pm Mon-Fri. Library, internet café noon-5pm Wed, Thur.
There's a well-stocked library here (membership is €12.50 per year), free internet facilities (see hours above), courses (mostly in Dutch) and women's events (check website).
Other groups & organisations
Postbus 15456, 1001 ML (www.dikkemaatjes.nl).
'Dikke Maatjes' means 'close friends', although its literal translation is 'fat friends'. And that's what this gay club is for: chubbies and admirers.
PO Box 15686, 1001 ND (689 3634/fax 683 4647/www.mamacash.nl). Open 9am-5pm Mon-Fri.
Helps to fund women's groups and women-run businesses, and has sponsored countless lesbian organisations and events.
Postbus 15495, 1001 ML (www.netherbears.nl).
A hairy men's club. Check website.
Postbus 10521, 1001 EM (06 1024 9026/www.tijgertje.nl). Tijgertje organises a wide variety of sports activities, from yoga to wrestling, for gays and lesbians, plus an HIV swimming group.
c/o COC Amsterdam, Rozenstraat 14, the Jordaan (071 512 8632/www.wildside.dds.nl).
Group for woman-to-woman S&M, which holds workshops, parties, and publishes its own bilingual newsletter. Check the website for information on getting involved.
As with any trip abroad, it's of course advisable to take out medical insurance before you leave. If you're a UK citizen, you should also get hold of an E111 form to facilitate reciprocal cover. For emergency services, medical or dental referral agencies and AIDS/HIV info, see below.
Afdeling Inlichtingen Apotheken
A 24-hour service that can direct you to your nearest chemist.
A 24-hour English-speaking line for advice about symptoms.
Accident & emergency
In the case of minor accidents, try the outpatient departments at the following major hospitals (ziekenhuis), all open 24 hours a day year-round. The Dutch emergency number is 112.
Academisch Medisch Centrum
Meibergdreef 9, Zuid (566 9111/first aid 566 3333). Metro Holendreschp/bus 59, 60, 120, 126.
Boven IJ Ziekenhuis Statenjachtstraat 1, Noord (634 6346/first aid 634 6200). Bus 34, 36, 37, 39, 171, 172.
Onze Lieve Vrouwe Gasthuis
's Gravesandeplein 16, Oost (599 9111/first aid 599 3016). Tram 3, 6, 10/Metro Weesperplein or Wibautstraat.
St Lucas Andreas Ziekenhuis
Jan Tooropstraat 164, West (510 8911/first aid 510 8161). Tram 13/bus 19, 47, 80, 82, 97.
De Boelelaan 1117, Zuid (444 4444/first aid 444 3636). Metro Amstelveenseweg/bus 142, 147, 148, 149, 170, 171, 172.
Contraception & abortion
Note that morning-after pills are available over the counter at pharmacies.
Amsterdams Centrum Voor Seksuele Gezondheid Sarphatistraat 618-626, Plantage (624 5426/www.acsg.nl). Tram 6, 9, 10, 14/bus 22. Open 9am-4pm Mon-Fri; 6-9pm Tues.
An abortion clinic. Besides giving information on health, the staff at this family-planning centre can help visitors with prescriptions for contraceptive pills, condoms, IUD fitting and cervical smears. Prescription charges vary. You must make an appointment.
Oosterpark 59, Oost (693 2151/emergencies after hours 592 3809/www.oosterparkkliniek.nl). Tram 3, 6, 9. Open Advice 9am-5pm daily.
Advice on contraception and abortion. Non-residents will be charged for an abortion based on the term of the pregnancy. The website is comprehensive and also contains information in English.
For a dentist (tandarts), call 0900 821 2230. Operators can put you in touch with your nearest dentist; lines are open 24 hours. Alternatively, make an appointment at one of the clinics listed below.
Wilhelmina Gasthuisplein 167, Oud West (616 1234). Tram 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 12. Open 9am-noon, 1-4pm Mon-Fri.
Emergency dental treatment. They also have a Dutch-language recorded phone service on 686 1109 that tells you where a walk-in clinic will be open at 11.30am and 9.30pm that day. Ask staff at your hotel to call if you're not confident of understanding Dutch.
570 9595/0900 821 2230.
A 24-hour service that can refer callers to a dentist. Operators can also give details of chemists open outside normal hours.
For details of opticians and optometrists in Amsterdam, look under 'Opticiens' in the Gouden Gids.
See all opticians in Amsterdam
For pharmacy hours, see below.
See all pharmacies in Amsterdam
All chemists (drogists) sell toiletries and non-prescription drugs and are usually open between 9.30am and 5.30pm, Monday to Saturday. For prescription drugs, go to a pharmacy (apotheek), usually open from 9.30am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday. Outside these hours, phone Afdeling Inlichtingen Apotheken (see above) or consult the daily Het Parool, which publishes details of which apotheken are open late that week. Details are posted at local apotheken.
STDs, HIV & AIDS
The Netherlands was one of the first countries to pour money into research once the HIV virus was recognised. But though the country was swift to take action and promote safe sex, condoms are still not distributed free in clubs and bars as they are in the UK.
As well as the groups listed below, all of which can provide assistance, the AIDS Helpline (689 2577, open 2-10pm Mon-Fri for personal assistance), part of HIV Vereniging (see below), offers advice and can put you in contact with every department you need. Also, the city's health department, the GGD, runs its own free STD clinics that are both completely anonymous and open to everyone.
Weesperplein 1 (555 5822/www.ggd.amsterdam.nl). Tram 9,14/ Metro Waterlooplein. Open 8.30-10.30am, 1.30-3.30pm Mon-Fri.
Examinations and treatment of STDs, including an HIV test, are free. Walk in or call to book an appointment.
1e Helmersstraat 17 B3, Oud West (689 3915/www.hivnet.org, www.hivsite.nl). Tram 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 12. Open 9am-5pm Mon-Fri.
The Netherlands HIV Association supports the interests of those who are HIV positive, including offering legal help, and produces a bi-monthly Dutch magazine, HIV Nieuws (€38 per year). There's an HIV café every Sun (4-8pm), a buffet on the first Sun of the month (5.30pm, call by Fri to reserve, cost €5), Tue dinners (from 6pm, cost €5); and Wed lunch (from 12.30pm, cost €2.50). Checkpoint is located here. You can get HIV test results in one hour. Call 689 2577 (2-6pm Mon-Fri) to make an appointment for the Friday evening clinic or walk in Fridays between 7pm and 9pm.
Schorer Gay and Lesbian Health
Sarphatistraat 35, Southern Canal Belt (573 9444/fax 664 6069/www.schorer.nl). Tram 7, 10. Open 9am-5pm Mon-Fri.
This state-funded agency offers psycho-social support, education and HIV prevention for gays
and lesbians in Amsterdam. The staff are all very well informed and speak excellent English.
Stichting AIDS Fonds
Keizersgracht 390-392, Western Canal Belt (626 2669/fax 627 5221/www.aidsfonds.nl). Tram 1, 2, 5. Open 9am-5pm Mon-Fri.
This group runs fundraisers and channels money into research and safe sex promotion. It also runs a AIDS/STD info line for gay and lesbian-specific health questions (0900 204 2040, 2-10pm Mon-Fri) and runs workshops on anal sex. Parts of its website are in English.
625 6057/www.aa-netherlands.org. Open 24hr answerphone.
A lengthy but highly informative message in English/Dutch details times and dates of meetings, and contact numbers for counsellors. The website is in English and you can locate meetings per day or per town. The 24-hour live service is a pilot program and may not extend beyond summer 2007.
662 6307. Open 24hr answerphone in English/Dutch with contact numbers of counsellors.
SOS Telephone Helpline 675 7575. Open 24hrs daily.
A counselling service – similar to the Samaritans in the UK and Lifeline in the US – for anyone with emotional problems, run by volunteers. English isn't always understood at first, but keep trying and someone will help you.
Everyone is required to carry some sort of identification, especially when opening accounts at banks or other financial institutions, job seeking, applying for benefits, if found on public transport without a ticket, when going to a professional football match or if caught riding a bicycle without a light. You have to register with the local council, which is in the same building as the Aliens' Police.
EU countries have reciprocal medical arrangements with the Netherlands. British citizens will need form E111, which can be found in leaflet T6 at UK post offices or obtained by filling in the application form in leaflet SA30, available from the Dutch Post Office. Read the small print so you know how to get treatment at a reduced charge: you may have to explain this to the Dutch doctor or dentist who treats you. If you need treatment, photocopy your insurance form and leave it with the doctor or dentist concerned. Not all treatments are covered by the E111 form, so do take out private travel insurance covering both your health and personal belongings. Citizens of other EU countries should make sure they have obtained one of the forms E110, E111 or E112; citizens of all other countries should take out insurance before their visit.
Among Amsterdam's ISPs are Xs4all (www.xs4all.nl) and Chello (www.chello.nl). All global ISPs have a presence here (check websites for a local number). Local hotels are increasingly well equipped, whether with dataports in the rooms or a terminal in the lobby.
Easy Internet Café
Damrak 33 Old Centre (no phone/www.easyeverything.com). Tram 16, 24, 25. Open 9am-10pm daily. Rates from €2.50/unit. Credit No credit cards.
The amount of time one unit buys depends on how busy the place is: it can be as little as a half-hour or as much as six hours. Passes for one to 30 days are also available.
Nieuwendijk 30, Old Centre: New Side (620 0902/www.freeworld-internetcafe.nl). Tram 1, 2, 5, 13, 17, 20. Open 9am-1am Mon-Thur, Sun; 9am-3am Fri, Sat. Rates €1/30min. Credit No credit cards.
You surf, you drink: refreshments are compulsory for customers.
Martelaarsgracht 11, Old Centre: New Side (no phone/www.internetcafe.nl). Tram 4, 9, 16, 20, 24, 25. Open 9am-1am Mon-Thur, Sun; 9am-3am Fri, Sat. Rates around €1/30min. Credit No credit cards.
Compulsory drinks are offered frequently by the staff.
There is a staffed left-luggage counter at Schiphol Airport (601 2443, www.schiphol.nl) where you can store luggage for up to one month, open from 7am to 10.45pm daily, (€5/item/24hrs, €3.50/item/each 24hrs after).
There are also lockers in the arrival and departure halls, while in Amsterdam there are lockers at Centraal Station with 24-hour access (from €4/24hrs).
Herengracht 472 2nd flr (423 3217/www.access-nl.org). Open Helpline 10am-4pm Mon-Fri. Visits by appointment only.
The Administrative Committee to Coordinate English Speaking Services provides assistance in English through an information line, workshops and counselling.
Vijzelgracht 21-25, Old Centre: New Side (0900 8020/www.hetjl.nl). Tram 1, 2, 5. Open 9am-5pm Mon-Fri; 9am-8pm Wed.
Qualified lawyers offering free or low-cost legal advice.
You'll need to show proof of residence in Amsterdam and ID to join a library (bibliotheek) and borrow books. It costs €23 (23s-64s) or €13.50 (19s-22s, over-65s) per year and is free for under-18s. However, in public libraries (Openbare bibliotheek) you can read books, papers and magazines without membership. For university libraries, see Study.
Oosterdokseiland 587, Old Center (523 0900/www.oba.nl). Tram 1, 2, 5. Open 1-9pm Mon; 10am-9pm Tue-Thur; 10am-7pm Fri; 10am-5pm Sat; Oct-Mar also 10am-5pm Sun.
Set to open its doors at time of going to press, this huge buildingwill be the largest public library in Europe, complete with countless mod cons. Anyone can use the main public library for reference purposes. There's also a variety of English-language books.
A cross that Amsterdammers sometimes have to bear is the rabid – and often stoned – ravings of visitors who are so bowled over by Amsterdam's mellow vibe that they want to move here. One word: don't. If you feel this urge overcoming you, read the Irvine Welsh novels Filth and Porno, or spare a thought for what happened to Theo van Gogh.
The housing situation in Amsterdam is so dire that students are actually living in revamped containers. That's right, people are literally living in boxes. So if you do manage to get your hands on one of those rare apartments, the only result will be to piss off long-suffering Amsterdammers. In short: we don't want you here.
However, stubborn expat-wannabes do have access to Access (Herengracht 472, 423 3217, www.access-nl.org), a new, volunteer-driven organisation founded to answer any of the countless questions you may have about life in the Netherlands. The website www.amsterdampartners.nl can also be very helpful when it comes to setting up a business. But to find a flat, you will also need friends, money and loads of luck.
There are two main price bands at work: below €450 per month and above €450 per month. Anything above €450 is considered free sector housing and can be found through agencies or in newspapers (in particular, the Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday editions of De Telegraaf and De Volkskrant), and every Tuesday and Thursday in the ads paper Via Via. Unfortunately, flatsharing is not common, and agency commissions are high.
If you're looking for properties under the €450 mark, you have two main choices; both require a residents' permit (see Living in Amsterdam). If you're studying here, register with Woning Net (0900 202 3072, www.woningnet.nl), which charges a €60 one-off fee that allows you to react to any vacancies available via all the big housing co-ops. However, this method can take for ever given the huge shortage of properties and surfeit of clients. The other alternative is to register with one of the many non-profit agencies that hold their property lotteries among would-be tenants.
This may seem bizarre, but they do at least give you a chance of eventually getting a room, which you might not get otherwise. Telephone ASW Kamerbureau (Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 32, 523 0130, www.steunpuntwonen.nl). Holders of residents' permits can also apply for council (public) housing. Alternatively, register with the Stedelijke Woning Dienst (City Housing Service; Jodenbreestraat 25, 680 6806, www.wonen.amsterdam.nl).
Whatever you do, you can bank on a very long wait before moving into that quaint canalside apartment you'd set your heart on.
Report lost property to the police immediately. If you lose your passport, inform your embassy or consulate as well. For things lost at the Hoek van Holland ferry terminal or Schiphol Airport, contact the company you're travelling with.
Stationsplein 15, Old Centre: Old Side (0900 321 2100/www.ns.nl). Tram 1, 2, 4, 5, 9, 13, 16, 17, 24, 25. Open 8am-6pm Mon-Fri; 7am-5pm Sat.
Items found on trains are kept here for three days (it's easiest to just go to any window where they sell tickets and ask) and then sent onwards to Centraal Bureau Gevonden Voorwerpen (Central Lost Property Office), 2e Daalsedijk 4, 3551 EJ Utrecht (030 235 3923, 8am-5pm Mon-Fri). Items are held for three months. To pick up costs €10, posting costs €15 and up.
GVB Lost Property
Arlandaweg 100, (0900 8011/460 6060). Tram 12. Open 9am-4pm Mon-Fri.
Wait at least a day or two before you call, describe what you lost on bus, Metro or Tram, and leave a number. They will call you back if it is found. Alternatively, there is an online form at www.gvb.nl (in Dutch) that a friend or hotel staff can help you fill in.
Police Lost Property
Stephensonstraat 18, Zuid (559 3005). Tram 12/Metro Amstel Station/bus 14. Open In person 9.30am-3.30pm Mon-Fri. By phone noon-3.30pm Mon-Fri.
Before contacting here, check the local police station
Newspapers & magazines
De Telegraaf is the country's biggest-selling paper, the nearest it has to a tabloid. Het Parool is a hip afternoon rag and rates as the Amsterdam paper (its own Saturday PS supplement also has easily decipherable entertainment listings). De Volkskrant's readers are young liberals while NRC Handelsblad is the highbrow national.
For Anglophones, the Amsterdam Tourist Board publishes the monthly Day by Day, a basic listings guide available at VVV Tourist offices (€1.95), but the only local English-language paper is Amsterdam Weekly.
Foreign magazines and papers are widely available, but pricey; British papers are around €2 for a daily, €4 for a Sunday. Athenaeum is a browser's dream; 100 metres away, Waterstone's stocks UK publications, and the American Book Center is nearby. For all see Books.
Besides the national basics (Ned 1, Ned 2 and Ned 3), Amsterdam also has its own 'city CNN' - the really quite cool AT5 (its site www.at5.nl has some English) - as well as Salto, which broadcasts typically local and low-budget culture/cult stuff. There are also about a dozen national commercial stations; they include Yorin and Veronica (both painfully commercial); and NET5, RTL4 and RTL5 (mostly series and films from the US). There are now about 30 extra channels on cable, including stations in German, French, Italian and Belgian, various local channels, and multinationals such as BBC World, CNN and National Geographic.
The basic deal includes BBC1 and BBC2, so no need to miss out on an episode of EastEnders. The wall-to-wall porn is largely an urban myth, so don't expect any late-night thrills unless your hotel has the 'extended service', which usually also features films, Discovery, Eurosport and other cable stalwarts. Dutch radio is generally as bland as the TV, but at least Radio Netherlands (www.rnw.nl) often has some interesting programming in English.
Since January 2002 the Dutch currency has been the Euro.
It's hard to believe, but so far cash machines are only found at banks here: as yet, no bank has been resourceful enough to set any up in shops or bars, as is increasingly the case in the UK and parts of the US. If your cashcard carries the Maestro or Cirrus symbols you should be able to withdraw cash from ATMs, though it's still worth checking with your bank a) that it's possible and b) what the charging structure is.
The branches listed below are head offices. Most do not have general banking facilities, but staff will be able to provide a list of branches that do. For information about currency exchange, see Money matters.
Amsterdam is a capital that clearly boasts more than its fair share of enormous banks. There's usually little difference between the rates of exchange offered by banks and bureaux de change, but banks tend to charge less commission. Most banks are open 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, with the Postbank opening on Saturday mornings as well. Dutch banks will buy/sell foreign currency and also exchange travellers' cheques, but few of them will give cash advances against credit cards. For a full list see Banking, or check Gouden Gids under 'Banken'.
Vijzelstraat 68-78, Southern Canal Belt (628 9393/0900 0024/www.abnamro.nl). Tram 6, 7, 10, 16, 24, 25. Open 9am-5pm Mon-Fri.
Locations all over Amsterdam.
Singel 548, Old Centre: New Side (624 9340/0900 8172/www.fortisbank.nl). Tram 4, 9, 14, 16, 24, 25. Open 1-5pm Mon; 9.30am-5pm Tue-Fri.
Full facilities in 50 banks.
Bijlmerplein 888, de Amsterdamse Poort (563 9111/0800 7011/www.ing.com). Metro Bijlmer/bus 59, 60, 62, 137. Open 9am-4pm Mon-Fri.
Incorporates Postbank (see below).
Postbus 94780, 1090 GT (591 8200/www.postbank.nl). Open Enquiries 8.30am-5pm Mon-Fri.
One in every local post office.
Dam 16, Old Centre: New Side (777 8899/www.rabobank.nl). Tram 1, 2, 5, 9, 13, 14, 16, 17, 24, 25. Open 9am-6pm Mon-Fri; 10am-6pm Sat; noon-5pm Sun.
Some 30 locations in Amsterdam.
Bureaux de change
A number of bureaux de change can be found in the city centre. Those listed offer reasonable rates, though they usually charge more than banks. Hotel and tourist bureaus cost more.
Centraal Station, Old Centre: Old Side (0900 0566 €0.25/min/www.gwktravelex.nl). Tram 1, 2, 4, 5, 9, 13, 16, 17, 24, 25. Open 8am-10pm daily (Sun from 9am). Telephone enquiries 8am-11pm daily.
Other locations: Leidseplein 107-109 (8.30am-10pm daily); Schiphol Airport (7am-10pm daily); Damrak 86 (10am-10pm daily); Dam 23-25 (9.15am-7pm Mon-Sat, 10.15am-5.45pm Sun); Damrak 1-5 (9am-8pm daily); Leidseplein 31A (9.15am-5.45pm daily).
Credit cards are widely used. The majority of restaurants will take at least one type of card; they're less popular in bars and shops, so always carry some cash. Chip and pin is more and more prevalent. The most popular cards, in descending order, are Visa, Mastercard (aka Eurocard), American Express and Diners Club. If you lose your card, call the relevant 24-hour number immediately.
504 8666, freephone 0800 023 3405.
030 283 5555 if card was issued in the Netherlands; otherwise, freephone 0800 022 5821.
Sales tax (aka VAT) – 19 per cent on most items, six per cent on goods such as books and food, more on alcohol, tobacco and petrol – will be included in the prices quoted in shops.
If you live outside the EU, you are entitled to a tax refund on purchases of up to €137 from one shop on any one day. At shops with the Glob al Refund Tax Free Shopping sign get the assistant to give you a Global Refund Cheque (export certificate), and then, as you leave the country, present it to a customs official who'll stamp it; you can then collect your cash at the ABN-AMRO bank at Schiphol Airport or via post at a later date (ask the official for information).
660 0611 if card was issued in the Netherlands; otherwise, freephone 0800 022 3110.
For all our listings in this guide we give full opening times, but as a general rule, shops are open from 1pm to 6pm on Monday (if they're open at all; many shops are closed Mondays); 10am to 6pm Tuesday to Friday, with some open until 9pm on Thursdays; and 9am to 5pm on Saturdays. Smaller shops are more erratic; if in doubt, phone. For shops that open late, see Night shops.
The city's bars tend to open at various times during the day and close at around 1am throughout the week, except for Fridays and Saturdays, when they stay open until 2am or 3am. Restaurants generally open in the evening from 5pm until 11pm (though some close as early as 9pm); many are closed on Sunday and Monday.
For post destined for outside Amsterdam, use the overige bestemmingen slot in regular letter boxes. The logo for the national postal service is TNT Post (orange letters on a white background). While orange is their main branding colour, many post boxes remain red. Most post offices (recognisable by their orange and blue signs) are Open 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. The national postal information phone line is058 233 3333. Housed in all post offices is a Postbank, a money-changing facility. It costs €0.67 to send a postcard to anywhere in Europe; €0.89 to send it to coutries outside of Europe. As well as in all post offices, stamps (postzegels) can also be bought from tobacconists and souvenir shops across Amsterdam.
For all the post offices in the region, look in Gouden Gids under 'Postkantoren'. One of the handier central branches is Waterlooplein 10 (Jodenbuurt, 0900 767 8526, 9am-6pm Mon-Fri, 10am-2pm Sat).
Main Post Office
Singel 250, Old Centre: New Side (0900 767 8526). Tram 1, 2, 5, 13, 14, 17. Open 9am-6pm Mon-Fri; 10am-2pm Sat.
Post restante/general delivery
Hoofdpostkantoor, Singel 250, 1016 AB Amsterdam.
If you're not sure where you're going to end up staying in the city – and some visitors remain unsure throughout their visit – people can send post to the above address. You'll be able to collect it from the main post office; take along some picture ID when you're collecting your mail.
St John and St Ursula
Begijnhof 30, Old Centre: New Side (622 1918/www.begijnhofamsterdam.nl). Tram 1, 2, 4, 5, 16, 24, 25. Open Chapel 1-6.30pm Mon; 9am-6.30pm Tue-Fri; 9am-6pm Sat, Sun. Adoration of the Eucharist 4-5pm, 5.30-6.30pm Mon-Fri; 5-6pm Sat, Sun. Services 9am, 5pm Mon-Fri, 9am Sat; 10am (in Dutch), 11.15am (in French) Sun. Phone for details.
Check out the Begijnhof Shop tourist information and also religious books and souvenirs.
Dutch Reformed Church
Oudekerksplein, Old Centre: Old Side (625 8284/www.oudekerk.nl). Tram 4, 9, 16, 24, 25. Open 11am-5pm Mon-Sat; 1-5pm Sun. Services in Dutch 11am Sun.
Based at the stunning Oude Kerk (Old Church).
Liberal Jewish Community Amsterdam
Jacob Soetendorpstraat 8, Zuid (540 0120/office rabbinate 540 0136/www.ljgamsterdam.nl). Tram 4. Open Rabbi's office call for appointment. Services 8pm Fri; 10am Sat.
Orthodox Jewish Community Amsterdam
Van der Boechorststraat 26, Zuid (646 0046/www.nihs.nl). Bus 69, 169. Open 9am-5pm Mon-Fri by appointment only.
Information on orthodox synagogues and Jewish facilities. Website also has English content, including a list of places where you can buy and eat kosher.
THAIBA Islamic Cultural Centre
Kraaiennest 125, Zuid (698 2526). Metro Gaasperplas.
Phone for details of mosques, prayer times and cultural activities.
English Reformed Church
Begijnhof 48, Old Centre: New Side (624 9665/www.ercadam.nl). Tram 1, 2, 4, 5, 9, 16, 24, 25. Services in English 10.30am Sun.
The main place of worship for the local English-speaking community.
Safety & security
Amsterdam is a relatively safe city, but that's not to say you shouldn't take care. The Red Light District is rather rife with undesirables who, if not violent, are expert pickpockets; do be vigilant, most especially on or around bridges, and try to avoid making eye contact with anyone who looks like they may be up to no good.
Take care on the train to Schiphol, where there's been a recent spate of thefts, and, if you cycle, lock your bike. Otherwise, just use common sense, keeping valuables in a safe place, not leaving bags unattended, and so on.
Smoking is common, though an impending law (currently set for 2008) that aims to guarantee a smoke-free work environment for cafés, restaurants and bars may change that. Meanwhile, you'll have almost no problems sparking up. For information on dope laws, see Drugs.
Amsterdam's two major universities are the UvA (Universiteit van Amsterdam), which has around 27,000 students, and the VU (Vrije Universiteit), with 14,000. Many UvA buildings across town are historic and listed (recognise them by their red and black plaques), whereas the VU itself has just one big building at de Boelelaan, found in the south of Amsterdam.
Students are often entitled to discounts; presenting an ISIC card is usually enough.
A number of UvA departments offer both international courses and programmes at all levels. Details are available from the Office of Foreign Relations (Binnengasthuisstraat 9, 1012 ZA, 525 8080).
Amsterdam-Maastricht Summer University
Felix Meritis Building, Keizersgracht 324, Southern Canal Belt (620 0225/www.amsu.edu). Tram 1, 2, 5. Courses mid July-early Sept.
AMSU has a summer programme of courses, workshops and also seminars in the arts, economics, politics, sciences, European studies, plus classes in Maastricht.
Turfdraagsterpad 17, Old Centre: Old Side (525 1400/www.crea.uva.nl). Tram 4, 9, 14, 16, 24, 25. Open Office 10am-5pm Mon-Thur. Crea I 10am-11pm Mon-Fri; 10am-5pm Sat; 11am-5pm Sun.
Inexpensive creative courses, lectures and also performances, covering theatre, radio, video, media, dance, music, photography and fine art. Courses are not in English. They've also got a new second branch to expand their offerings:
Vendelstraat 2, (525 4889). Open 10am-11pm Mon-Fri, 10am-5pm Sat.
UvA Service & Information Centre
Binnengasthuisstraat 9, Old Centre: Old Side (525 8080/www.english.uva.nl). Tram 4, 9, 16, 24, 25. Open In person 10am-5pm Mon-Fri. Telephone enquiries 9-10am Tue-Thur. Free appointment 11am-noon Tue-Thur.
Personal advice on studying and everything that goes with it.
VU Student Information
De Boelelaan 1105 (Office 598 7777/www.english.vu.nl). Open 9am-5pm Mon-Fri.
Courses and accommodation advice. Foreign students call the International Office (598 5035).
De Boelelaan 1105, Zuid (598 4000/www.vuboekhandel.nl). Tram 5/Metro 51. Open 9am-7pm Mon-Fri; 10am-3.30pm Sat. Credit AmEx, MC, V.
Vendelsstraat 2, Old Centre: Old Side (525 2496/www.aegee-amsterdam.nl). Tram 4, 6, 9, 24, 25. Open 2-5pm Mon-Fri.
The Association des Etats Généraux des Etudiants de l'Europe organises seminars, workshops, summer courses and sporting events.
De Boelelaan 1083A, Zuid (598 9424/www.srvu.org). Tram 5/Metro 51. Open 1-4pm Mon-Fri.
SRVU is the union for VU students. It can help foreign students find a place to stay, and offers advice. Membership is €10 per year.
Both libraries listed below hold many academic titles and also provide access to the internet. There is also an Adam Net-pas that allows you to use the UvA, VU libraries and public libraries (Openbare bibliotheek)‚ €35 a year with passport ID.
UvA Main Library
Singel 425, Old Centre: New Side (525 2055/www.uba.uva.nl). Tram 1, 2, 5. Open Study 8.30am-midnight Mon-Fri; 9.30am-5pm Sat; 11am-5pm Sun. Borrowing 9.30am-6pm Mon-Thur; 9.30am-5pm Fri; 9.30am-1pm Sat.
To borrow books you need a UB (Universiteit Bibliotheek, University Library) card (€22.50): foreign students can get one if they're in Amsterdam for three months or more. Cards can be issued for one day, one month or one year. Day (€20) and week (€7.50) cards will enable you to read books on the site but not withdraw them.
VU Main Library
De Boelelaan 1105, Zuid (598 5200/www.ubvu.vu.nl). Tram 5/Metro 51. Open Study 7am-11pm Mon-Fri; 8.15am-4pm Sat. July, Aug 8.15am-11pm Mon-Fri. Borrowing 9am-6pm Mon-Thur; 9am-5pm Fri. Membership (€20/year) is open to foreign students.
We list Amsterdam numbers without the city code, which is 020. To call within the city, you don't need the code: just dial the seven-digit number. To phone Amsterdam from elsewhere in the Netherlands, add 020 at the beginning of the listed number. Numbers in the Netherlands outside Amsterdam are listed with their code attached.
In addition to the standard city codes, three other types of numbers appear from time to time in this book. 0800 numbers are freephone numbers; those prefixed 0900 are charged at premium rates (€0.20 a minute or more); and 06 numbers are for mobile phones. If you're in doubt, call directory enquiries (0900 8008).
Dialling & codes
From the Netherlands
Dial the following code, then the number you're calling:
To Australia 00 61.
To Irish Republic 00 353.
To UK 00 44, plus number (drop first '0' from area code).
To USA & Canada 00 1.
To the Netherlands
Dial the relevant international access code listed below, then the Dutch country code 31, then the number; drop the first '0' of the area code, so for Amsterdam use 20 rather than 020. To call 06 (mobile) numbers from abroad, there is no city code: just drop the first '0' from the 06 and dial the number as it appears after. However, 0800 (freephone) and 0900 (premium rate) numbers cannot be reached from abroad.
From Australia 00 11.
From Irish Republic 00.
From UK 00.
From USA 011.
Within the Netherlands
National directory enquiries 0900 8008 (€1.15/call).
International directory enquiries 0900 8418 (€1.15/call).
Local operator 0800 0101.
International operator 0800 0410.
Making a call
Listen for the dialling tone (a hum), insert a phonecard or money, dial the code (none for calls within Amsterdam), then the number. A digital display on public phones shows credit remaining, but only those coins that are wholly unused are returned. Phoning from a hotel is pricey.
International calls can be made from all phone boxes. For more information on rates, phone international directory enquiries (cost €1.15) on 0900 8418.
Found in post offices. When phoning for information services, taxis or train stations you may hear this recorded message: 'Er zijn nog drie /twee /een  wachtende(n) voor u.' This tells you how many people are ahead of you in the telephone queuing system.
Public phone boxes are mainly glass with a green trim. There are also telephone 'poles', identifiable by the KPN logo. Most phones take cards rather than coins, available from the Amsterdam Tourist Board, stations, post offices and tobacconists. You can also use credit cards to make calls from many phones across the city.
Amsterdam's mobile network is run on a mix of the 900 and 1800 GSM bands, which means all dual-band UK handsets should work here. However, it's always best to check with your service provider that it has an arrangement with a Dutch provider. US phone users should always contact their provider before departure to check of any compatability issues that may arise.
Amsterdam is an hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). All clocks on Central European Time (CET) now go back and forward on the same dates as GMT.
Though a service charge will be included in hotel, taxi, bar, café and restaurant bills, it's polite to round your payment up to the nearest Euro for small bills and to the nearest five Euros for larger sums – though a standard 10% is becoming more and more common – leaving the extra in change rather than filling in the blank on a credit card slip. In taxis, most people tend to tip ten per cent.
For men there are the historic green metal urinals and some weekend conveniences over at places like Leidseplein. For the ladies, it's a sadder story: public loos are rare, and you may also be forced to buy something in a bar or café. Note that urinating into canals is now an offence (see Water, water everywhere).
Amsterdam Tourist Board (VVV)
Stationsplein 10, Old Centre: New Side (0900 400 4040/www.iamsterdam.com). Tram 1, 2, 4, 5, 9, 13, 16, 17, 24, 25. Open 9am-5pm daily.
The main office of the VVV is right outside Centraal Station. English-speaking staff can change money and provide details on transport, entertainment, exhibitions and day-trips in the Netherlands. They also arrange hotel bookings for a fee of €15 by phone or €3.50 at a VVV office, and excursions or car hire for free. There is a good range of brochures for sale detailing walks and also cycling tours, as well as cassette tours, maps and, for €1.95, their monthly listings magazine Day by Day. The info line features an English-language information service (€0.40/min).
Other locations: Leidseplein 1 (9.15am-5pm Mon-Thur, Sun; 9.15am-7pm Fri, Sat); Centraal Station, platform 2B 15 (8am-8pm Mon-Sat; 9am-5pm Sun); Schiphol Airport, arrivals 2 (7am-10pm daily).
Citizens from the rest of the EU, the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand only need a valid passport for a stay up to three months. Citizens of other countries should apply in advance for a tourist visa. Confirm visa requirements well before you plan to travel with your local Dutch embassy, or consult www.ind.nl (which has a 'residency wizard' that walks you through all the info you need for your country).
For stays longer than three months, apply for a residents' permit (MVV visa), generally easier to get if you're from one of the countries listed above. (Technically, EU citizens don't need a residents' permit, but they will be required for all sorts of bureaucratic functions.)
When you have an address, take your birth certificate to Dienst Vreemdelingenpolitie (Aliens' Police Station; Johan Huizingalaan 757, Slotervaart; 559 6161/www.ind.nl), pick up or download a form and wait for an interview.
Aside from some pockets of the Red Light District late at night, central Amsterdam is fairly safe for women, as long as usual common-sense safety precautions are observed while wandering around alone.
De Eerstelijn and Meldpunt Vrouwenopvang
611 6022. Open 24hrs.
Call this number for support if you have been a victim of rape, assault, sexual harassment or threats. In cases of immediate threat or violence you will be referred to a safe house.
EU nationals with a residents' permit can work here; non-EU citizens will find it difficult to get a visa without a job in place. Jobs are hard to come by; more so with no visa.
While every effort and care has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this guide, the publisher cannot accept responsibility for any errors it may contain. Before you go out of your way, we strongly advise you to phone ahead and check the particulars.
Getting to Amsterdam
Getting around Amsterdam
When to go to Amsterdam