Amsterdam has a lot to offer for tourists – but how do you see everything Amsterdam has to offer while on a budget?
Prior to arriving in Amsterdam, I had heard of the I Amsterdam card from many websites; see everything Amsterdam has to offer a tourist in a limited amount of time. It sounded like tourist hell to me; kind of like getting the value meal and then supersizing it. I wasn’t sold on the card, as I didn’t think it sounded like fun running around trying to see all of the popular tourist attractions in one day. Like most things, bigger and faster doesn’t necessarily mean better; but I was willing to give it a shot since I am a budget traveler and from an economic perspective, the card can be a good deal.
Actually – let me rephrase that – the card can be a good deal if utilized correctly.
For 38 Euro, you have access to over 40 free attractions, some 50 odd discounts on other attractions, and free transportation…all for 24 hours. I was intent on getting the absolute most out of my 38 Euro, and I discovered some strategies that will help you get well over 70Euro worth of value.
The Fine Print
The most important thing to realize is that the 3 things the card offers (free entrance, free transportation, and discounts) are not tied together. Once you realize this – it opens up many more possibilities. The free entrance card (it’s plastic and looks like a credit card) is used to get into the museums and attractions free. Once it’s scanned the first time the clock starts ticking down on your 24 hours. The transportation ticket is a paper card that is separate and once it is first scanned, the clock starts ticking on it too. However – they are completely separate. Meaning if you want to use the Amsterdam card one day and the transportation card a week later – you can. Finally, the discounts can be used at any time with no time restrictions. They are simply coupons that you can use when paying for something any day you choose.
Don’t use the public transport card. Yes, you read that right. Tuck the card away and use it another day. Instead, use the bike rental discount coupon to rent a bike from Mac Bike. Public transportation is good in Amsterdam and takes you many places, however getting around by bike is even easier and faster. You can simply ‘park’ the bike right next to the building you are going to and there is no waiting time when it comes to biking, you just hop on and go. The Mac Bike rental is located all over the city and the coupon is good for 25% off your rental.
Plan your strategy before initiating the card. The day before, research the map in the pocket guide which comes with the card; read up on what places you want to visit. Try to pick places that are in the same areas. This will allow you to utilize your time the best. You can park your bike in one area and visit 3 museums within a few houses of each other. Then go on to the next location where there are clusters of sites to see.
Timing is everything
Strategizing your location though certainly isn’t enough – you need to combine that with the knowledge of opening and closing hours of each place you’d like to visit. Most museums open at 10AM and close at 5PM; so even though you have 24 hours….you mainly only have 7 hours honestly. Some things like the canal cruise runs later than 5PM, so plan that for the end of your day (after 5PM when the museums close) instead of taking up an hour of museum time in the middle of the day.
This is when the strategy might need to actually be put down on paper…combining the sites you want to see with the closing times and geographical locations is key. You can maximize your value by having this carefully planned.
Save the biggest for last
Listen up – even though the museums open up at 10AM, don’t go at 10AM! Wait an 30 minutes and go at 10:30AM. Trust me…there is method to this madness! If you want to go to the Van Gogh Museum (which you definitely want to do since a normal ticket costs 14 Euro), then leave that for the next day in your 24th hour. The Van Gogh museum (or other large museums) is a place where you will want to spend significantly more time in; maybe even 3 or 4 hours. If you start your 24 hour card at 10:30 and go to smaller, quicker museums on the first day, then the next day you can go to the Van Gogh museum at 10AM when it opens, bypass all of the people standing in line because you have an I Amsterdam card, and get right in. Your 24 hours will run out as you are comfortably inside taking your time seeing the Master’s work.
Using this strategy and riding a bike, I was able to see 7 sites/museums the first day in about 7 hours, and then saw the Van Gough Museum the next day – that’s 8 sites in 24 hours…not bad. Yes, I even had time to stop for a leisurely lunch for an hour in the middle of the day!
On your mark…get ready….set….GO! with your I Amsterdam card!