Getting around Amsterdam
Getting around Amsterdam is very easy: there are efficient, cheap and integrated trams, metros and buses, and in the centre most places can be got to on foot. Locals tend to get around by bike, and there are also boats and water taxis. Public transport provision for those with disabilities, however, is dire. GVB Stationsplein CS, Old Centre: New Side (0900 8011 premium rate/en.gvb.nl). Tram 1, 2, 4, 5, 9, 13, 16, 17, 24, 25, 26. Open Phone enquiries 9am-7pm Mon-Sat. In person 9am-7pm Mon-Sat.The GVB runs Amsterdam’s Metro, bus and tram services, and can also provide detailed information and departure and arrival times on all of them, as well as sell tickets. Fares & tickets An OV-chipkaart (‘chip card’) system operates across trams, buses and metros. An OV-chipkaart has a one-time cost of €7.50 and can be purchased at ticket vending machines at stations, various tobacco specialty shops, at many supermarkets and at GVB Tickets & Info. The card is valid for four to five years. You can load the card in the ticket vending machine, paying with cash or a cash card, and use it immediately. You can also load the card in a yellow add value machine you’ll find at tobacco specialty shops and various other shops. An unlimited 24-hour chip cards for one day cost €7.50. You can also buy unlimited 48-, 72-, 96-, 120-, 144- and 168-hour cards (ranging from €12 to €32). With any type of OV-chipkaart, you have to check in or check out when boarding or disembarking a tram, bus or metro, usin
Amsterdam essentials: information for visitors
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: locals have a relaxed attitude, but use your discretion. 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.SEE OUR DIRECTORY OF BUSINESS VENUES AND SERVICESDikke MaatjesPostbus 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.Mama CashPO 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.NetherbearsPostbus 15495, 1001 ML (www.netherbears.nl). A hairy men's club. Check website.Sportclub TijgertjePostbus 10521, 1001 EM (06 1024 9026/www.tijgertje.nl). Tijgertje
Amsterdam drug laws and etiquette
If every drug were removed from the planet, humans would probably grab the nearest hard object and bang themselves on the head to escape reality. The savvy Dutch realised this in 1976, when hash and marijuana were decriminalised - but never technically made legal. Sound confusing? That's because it is. Though Amsterdam's coffeeshops - and there are some 250 of them - were legalised in 1980, they're never quite on safe territory, and are under constant watch by the law. Unlike elsewhere in the Netherlands, it's not necessary to provide proof of Dutch residency to enter coffeeshops here, but there are stringent rules relating to their location (basically: well away from schools and playgrounds) which continue to tighten as Amsterdam positions itself as a destination for high culture rather than, well, the other kind of high culture. But what to do when you actually get through the door of a coffeeshop? Here are Time Out's top tips for navigating Amsterdam's cannabis cafés... Etiquette: when you first walk in, ask to see a menu: it will list available drugs with prices, and staff can explain their effects. You're welcome to see and smell everything before you buy. Prices vary: expect to pay upwards of €10 per gram for a decent bud or a chunk of hash. For better quality, bring more currency. The menu: hash is typically named after its country of origin (Moroccan, Afghan, Lebanese), whereas cannabis names refer to an element of the strain (White Widow, Super Skunk, Silver Haze
LGBT services and support in Amsterdam
COC AmsterdamRozenstraat 14, the Jordaan (626 3087/www.cocamsterdam.nl). Tram 13, 14, 17.OpenPhone enquiries 10am-4pm Mon-Fri.The Amsterdam branch of COC deals with the social side of gay life in and around the capital. Gay & Lesbian SwitchboardPostbus 11573 (623 6565/www.switchboard.nl). Open Telephone 2pm-6pm Mon, Wed, Fri.General information and advice on safe sex, from friendly English-speakers. Dikke MaatjesPostbus 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. Mama CashPO 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. NetherbearsPostbus 15495, 1001 ML (www.netherbears.nl). A hairy men's club. Check website. Sportclub TijgertjePostbus 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.
The best hotels in Amsterdam
Outrageous elegance are the key words here. Guests are made to feel like superstars - even the odd bona fide star drops in from time to time too - and lodge in colour-coded chromatherapy rooms designed to enhance the mood, like zingy raspberry, Zen-like black or toasty turmeric. Every detail, from chef Dennis Kuipers' North African-inspired menu to the careful alignment of the cushions in the public areas, is well thought through by the owners.
Another hidden gem near museums and upmarket shopping opportunities, this thoroughly chic place is covered with art and boasts a lovely decked garden. Rooms, ranging from small to huge along with a junior and family suite, are thoroughly designer driven, with Burberry-checked blankets, chandeliers and swanky bathrooms. Unusually for such a trendy hotel, families are positively encouraged, which marks it out from snootier establishments.
Planning on immersing yourself in cannabis culture? Then this is just the place to rest your addled head. Perched above the coffeeshop of the same name on the fringes of the Red Light District, there are plenty of druggie draws in the area. Some rooms have shared facilities; several are kitted out in suitably trippy style with appropriate crazy names, like Mary Jane, Outer Space and Red Man, while others are just plain, old-fashioned nice, and overlook a canal. To take the edge off sore heads, breakfast is served until midday, and the attached bar has an all-day happy hour and arranges drum 'n' bass, reggae and also rare groove nights. Good if you're young and into smoking weed.
Convenient for Centraal Station, the docklands and hops across to Noord, this a good bet if you're looking for good, clean accommodation with the odd frill, like free in-house movies. Unless you are fooled by their 'luxury' rooms boast and come expecting the QEII, you'll be perfectly satisfied. The bar has long opening hours (from 9am to after midnight) and games like pinball and pool, plus a jukebox - ideal for pacifying youngsters on rainy days. Be warned that major renovations in the area mean that views aren't quite as watery or relaxing as they have been.
Mövenpick Hotel Amsterdam City Centre
Big, tall and glamorous, this stripy, stone-coloured hotel is brand spanking new and a great base for exploring the Waterfront and Noord on the banks opposite. Rooms are decorated in soothing greys and woods; pricier ones grant access to an executive lounge - free cocktails included - and have great views over the cruise liners ploughing through the waters, or over the city's rooftops.
Amsterdam Marriott Hotel
Right next to the green lungs of Amsterdam - the Vondelpark - the Marriott has just been given an overhaul, so it's goodbye to the dowdy green and brown gentleman's club styling and hello to soothing yellows and modern furnishings. All 392 rooms now come equipped with Revive beds, six pillows plus luxurious linen and duvets. Bathrooms have gone similarly upmarket too, with cherry wood and granite surfaces and cascade showerheads.