Amsterdam on a Budget [Backpacking the City of Canals]

Exploring Amsterdam on a budget can be a challenge. This city is not exactly backpackers paradise, however, if you bank on the various passes and discounts available, backpacking in Amsterdam, is very much possible.

Things to do in Amsterdam on a Budget

canals in a'dam

Sitting pretty by the canal doesn’t cost a penny 🙂

With these tips and tricks plus various free things to do in Amsterdam, you can still enjoy the city on a shoestring budget. Here’s how –

Get the Holland Pass

This is an absolute MUST if you are backpacking Amsterdam and want to enjoy all major attractions. Holland Pass gives you discounts and free access to over 200 attractions in and around the city. The basic pass (small pass) allows 1 Gold + 2 Silver tickets. They also offer medium and large passes.

amsterdam on a budget

To see the museums and attractions covered under gold & silver tickets, check out their official site.

My friends and I purchased the large Holland pass which was sufficient for enjoying 3 days in Amsterdam and 6 free attractions. We got free entry to the Amsterdam Dungeon (which was honestly my favorite attraction), bike rental, canal cruise and more. Basically, you can pretty much chalk off the best things to do in Amsterdam with this single pass.

Pro TipIf you purchase this awesome pass via KKday, it will cost you approx USD 5 less than the official site. So, what are you waiting for? Buy your discounted Holland Pass now to enjoy Amsterdam on a budget. 

Buy a Public Transport Pass

It is much better to pay a full day , or several day pass for public transport and airport shuttle, based on your length of stay in Amsterdam. Choose from 1-7 day unlimited public transport tickets and buy them online beforehand for best deals.

Click here to buy public transport tickets in Amsterdam online. 

Free Walking Tour

This free walking tour of Amsterdam with an experienced local guide, lasts around 3 hours and gives you interesting insights on the city. You will be covering all main sights as your guide narrates the city’s history.

For a guaranteed spot, you just need to pay a small €2 booking fee. Click here to book now. 

Make Your Own Souvenirs at the I Amsterdam Sign

No need to spend money on souvenirs when you can take pictures with the iconic I-Amsterdam lettering. All you need to do is head to Rijksmuseum to find the sign. Then you can opt to stand next to it, or if you are more adventurous like us, then climb up one of the letters, to take pictures.

You can always print these pictures out on key rings, book marks or postcards later, for your friends back home. Gift them these personalized souvenirs and give them a reason to turn green with envy.

i amsterdam sign

Beware – it can get quite busy.

TipNote the lettering can be extremely slippery and we almost fell off once. The letters are quite high up as well and a bad fall can literally spoil your entire trip. So, don’t do this when you are high

You can even relax by the fountains nearby and lay on the grass watching other’s climb up and take pictures too. It’s a fun summer day hangout.

Photograph the Canals

With over 100 kms of canals in Amsterdam, there is no dearth of photo opportunities. If you are feeling touristy, you can opt for one of the canal cruises or simply walk around taking pictures of the most beautiful canals in Amsterdam.

Beautiful canals of amsterdam

Beautiful canals of amsterdam

Buy a Pre-Paid SIM card

Buying a pre-paid multi country sim from your home country (In my case, India) can really help you to cut costs. For example, this “Unlimited Europe SIM card by TSIM” which works in 43 countries, gave me thousands of minutes of local calls, India calling plus 12 GB data. This was all I needed for  my entire Euro trip.

MUST TRY When in Amsterdam – On Budget or Not!

Get High

If you are in stoners paradise of Amsterdam, getting high is on most tourists agenda. From magic mushrooms to an array of strains – You have it all in the amazing coffee shops of Amsterdam. Budget around €10 – 15 for a day’s high – after all, this is the place to get tripping.

tripping in amsterdam

Magic mushrooms are a good way to start your Amsterdam “trip”

Remember at most coffee shops and bars, cigarette smoking is strictly prohibited, you can only smoke joints. So be sure to ask before you light one up.

Amsterdam Lookout and Swing

For the best bird’s eye view of the city of Amsterdam, visit the 360 degree observation deck at A’dam Lookout. You can use the free ferry to cross the river to reach the top of A’dam tower for this lookout.

I can promise you this is the best sunset viewing point in Amsterdam, hand’s down. Ticket’s cost JUST €13.5  and you get a €1 discount by booking online. It is totally worth the money.

a'dam lookout

Surreal views from the observatory

Be prepared to shell out more dough once you are at the top though. The surreal views and good music , lovely bean bags and open air lounge area, would surely make you want to grab a few drinks at their bar.

open air adam lookout

Chilled out open air lounge with peppy beats playing

Plus the open deck has is surely the best sunset view point in Amsterdam, hands donw.

amsterdam sunset view point

Best A’dam sunset view point – ever!

sunsets amsterdam

Enjoy the setting sun while chilling on a beanie

What’s more? The highlight is surely “Over the Edge” – Europe’s highest swing. Its perfect for adrenaline junkies as you swing at 100 meters over the edge of the tower, looking over the city of Amsterdam. Honestly, I had goosebumps all over and luckily, my friend and I tried it around sunset, when the sky was absolutely magnificent. Costs you just €5 extra and its worth every cent.

over the edge

Do you dare to go “Over the edge”?

Click here to buy tickets online and save €1

Escape Room

Escape room games are all the rage around the world lately. However, I experienced one of the best escape rooms in AmsterdamSherlocked! This game was intriguing, fun and extremely challenging. My friends and I had the best time raking our brains to crack the mystery and escape. We failed in this endeavor but it turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip to Amsterdam.

escape room amsterdam

The “in”famous Five Trying to Crack The Architect

Even though it can break your budget, I would highly recommend checking it out. Plus you can use this discount code for €10 off your first game with Sherlocked “wanderwithjo”.

Where to Stay in Amsterdam on a Budget?

In Amsterdam, cheapest dorm beds in a hostel would start from €10 and go up to €40 depending on hostel’s location, how many people you share the dorm with, cleanliness, decor and several other factors. For example, I found Amigo budget hostel to be one of the most cost effective ones in A’dam. However, I choose the popular backpacker friendly Flying Pig downtown hostel for my stay at three times the price. This hostel had great vibes (though a lot of stairs and small double beds for sharing in the dorm).  This was during my previous Euro trip.

However, this summer, one of my friends had a lovely campervan so we just decided to park it at Park & Ride RAI Amsterdam.

campervan life

Chilling in my friends cool campervan

This area is just 15 min by car or 30 min by public transport from main city center. Costs just €20 per day if you book online and we could easily fit three adults in our campervan. So, renting a campervan could be a good idea especially if you want to visit several cities and make a road trip off it.

Important – One of my readers informed me in comments here that – “It’s illegal to sleep in your car, van or camper if it’s parked in a regular parking spot. It’s only legal on official campsites like Zeeburg or Amsterdamse Bos.” So, I would recommend sticking to designated spots to avoid getting into trouble.

Couchsurfing is always a great option too as you can cook your own food and easily backpack Amsterdam. In fact, my friend and I Couchsurfed extensively this summer in Europe and made amazing new friends. However, in A’dam,  most Couchsurfing hosts are not in the main city so you will still end up spending a bit on trams/ trains to commute back and forth.

Where to Eat in Amsterdam on a Budget?

You pretty much have to live off road side pizzas, burgers and noodle boxes if you want to eat for cheap in Amsterdam.

eating in amsterdam

NOT a budget burger in A’dam

Here’s a great guide on over 19 places where you can find good food for under €5.

Amsterdam Tours to Enjoy for Under €15

Amsterdam is flocked by tourists so guided tours and skip the queue tickets are quite popular. If you have some dough to shell out during your budget trip to the city of Amsterdam, be sure to try these top rated tours, which won’t break the bank.

A'dam on a budget

We have done Amsterdam on a budget – have you?

So, have you tried exploring Amsterdam on a budget? Share your tips in comments below.

3 Comments

  1. Nice to read you had a nice time here. Your tip about sleeping in a campervan is not a good one though. It’s illegal to sleep in your car, van or camper if it’s parked in a regular parking spot. It’s only legal on official campsites like Zeeburg or Amsterdamse Bos.

  2. I always love the way you compile the entire list and this is such a great help for all travellers

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