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Amsterdam Safety

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For it’s size (700,000 people), Amsterdam is a very safe city. That being said, taking a few precautions to ensure your safety from crime or misfortune can go a long way to ensuring that your trip is memorable for all the right reasons.

Violent crime is all but nonexistent in the city, but petty theft, as in most major cities does exist, especially in areas frequented by tourists. Take normal precautions against pickpockets and theft, don’t leave your bags un attended, and keep your wallet jun your front pocket. Trams and trains, stations, and places tourists congregate are all locations where pickpocketing can occur.

Street begging is no longer very common in Amsterdam because the police take a hard line on it. Some beggars are addicts, some are homeless, and some are both, but seeing them is becoming more and more unusual.

What looks like a footpath, especially along a canal bank, may be a bike lane. Bike lanes are normally marked by red/purple tiles or asphalt, and a bike icon on the ground. However, the color fades over time, so you might miss the difference. Don’t expect cyclists to be kind to pedestrians: some consider the sidewalk an extension of the road, to be used when it suits them. Never stay or walk on the bike path or street for extended periods of time, as you will only be greeted by angry bell ringing. Keep in mind that for many Amsterdammers, the bike is their main means of transportation, and the ringing bell serves the same purpose as a car horn.

Watch out for trams when crossing the street. Taxis are also allowed to use some tram lanes, and even if not allowed, they often use them anyway.

Visitors from outside the Euro zone should also take care they are not short-changed in shops. Unscrupulous vendors sometimes try to take advantage of those who are not familiar with the currency.

Groups of women visiting the Red Light District at night might feel harassed in the aggressive environment, though this is said to be the safest area because of the police presence. Keep to main streets and groups.

In addition, while in the Red Light District, do not take photographs of the prostitutes! Doing so will result in a confrontation with angry bouncers and some rough attention. For more information on the neighborhood, see our section on the Red Light District.

Cannabis and Other Drugs

Many tourists come to Amsterdam to visit the city’s famous coffeeshops. Coffeeshops (for coffee you should visit a cafe) only marijuana and hash, considered soft drugs. These shops are very heavily regulated and monitored, and asking for any other kind of drugs is pointless.

Quality varies! Coffeeshops aimed at tourists are more likely to have overpriced and poor quality products. A simple rule of thumb is: if the place looks good and well-kept chances are their wares will be good as well. Don’t just enter a coffeeshop being overwhelmed that it’s possible at all to buy and consume cannabis openly – be discerning as to the quality.

If you’re not a smoker, and you really want to try it, start with something light, make sure you don’t have an empty stomach, and don’t combine it with alcohol. It is ok to be honest with the counter person if you are an inexperienced smoker, they see it all the time. Go with an experienced person if you can. Regardless of the strength, your first experience can be quite a sensation at first, but will quickly decrease in intensity. If you feel nauseous, light headed after smoking, drink some orange juice or eat something sweet, and go outside. Dutch weed is a lot stronger than you might expect, even if you are an experienced smoker.

You might be approached by people offering to sell you hard drugs in the street, especially as you are walking through the Red Light District. Ignoring them is usually enough, and they will not bother you. Selling drugs on the street is illegal in amsterdam and buying them is often dangerous. Te drugs you buy will always be fake. Don’t buy drugs off the street in Amsterdam.

Smartshops do not sell cannabis, drugs, or any other illegal products. They often stock a range of dietary supplements such as herbal ecstasy, psychedelic truffles and other “grey area” substances.

Keep in mind that all cannabis products (except the seeds) are still illegal. Many tourists think hemp products are legal since they are sold in coffeeshops. They are “tolerated” under the Dutch Opium Act. Read more about the legalities in the article about the Netherlands.

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