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How to avoid tourist traps and scams in Amsterdam

Amsterdam has roughly 20 million tourists visiting the city every year. As with many other tourist destinations, there are several disappointing experiences and scams that visitors should be aware of. A short blog about the 5 most common Tourist Traps and Scams in Amsterdam.

 

Tulip Bulbs on the Amsterdam Flower Market

The flower market and many of the tourist shops have tulip bulbs for sale all year round. Many people buy these bulbs to take home with them to have a little bit of the Netherlands in their own garden. Months later, they are disappointed when the tulips fail to grow, and assume that they must have planted them wrong. This is not the case. The majority of the bulbs you buy from places like this are old or dead bulbs! The Amsterdam council recently (2022) tested the bulbs from all the shops at the Amsterdam Flower market and found over 90% were very old and would not grow if planted!

 

Just like tulip flowers, the bulbs have a season too. Tulip bulbs are not ready for sale until September at the earliest. Reputable companies will allow you to pre-order your bulbs, and then ship them to you when they are ready. If buying bulbs to take home with you, you should also check the regulations for your country. Many countries require the bulbs to be cleaned, in a sealed bag and certified.
Amsterdam Flower Market Scams

The ‘Golden’ Tourist Cheese Shops

There are many amazing cheese shops in Amsterdam, but also quite a lot of not so good ones too. Tourists are drawn to these shops with their large displays of big cheese wheels (wooden or plastic) and their ‘ready to take home’ wrapped in plastic cheeses. We call them the ‘golden’ cheese shops and locals will never buy their cheese over there.

The cheeses in these shops are very expensive, sometimes more than double the price that they should be. So it is ‘golden’ business for the owners of these shops. Next to that they are also not as fresh as the cheese you get in traditional cheesemongers. If the cheese is already sealed in a package, it is very hard to know how old it is. Plus the plastic impacts on the taste and can make the cheese sweat.

Another common problem is that some cheeses (such as the black Old Amsterdam) are artificially aged using chemicals, and are not old cheeses at all. These cheeses are mass-produced in factories and artificial ingredients are added to try to recreate the same tastes you get from farm produced cheese.A cheese labelled as being 2 years old, can in fact be as young as 8 months old, it has just been chemically altered.

There are some fantastic cheesemongers in Amsterdam who will let you sample their cheeses and happily vacuum pack them for you so that they are safe to travel with. So always buy cheese that is freshly cut from a cheese wheel. Most cheeses sealed this way are good for 2 to 6 months if left unopened.

Hop-on, Hop-off Bus to see Amsterdam?

Many cities have hop-on, hop-off buses, which tourists like to use to explore a city when they visit. Amsterdam is no different and has several routes available. However, due to the restrictions on vehicles entering the city centre, these buses do not go where most tourists wish to be. They take tourists on a circle around the edge of the centre, totally missing many of the popular sites and attractions.

A better option is to buy an all day tram ticket and take several lines in Amsterdam. Or try to see if you can find one of the historical trams going every weekend from the Dam Square.

Amsterdam instagram

Over-hyped Instagram and TikTok locations

When walking around the centre of Amsterdam, you may come across lines of people queuing for up to an hour at a time. These lines of tourists often have their own security, to keep things in order.
The queues are for certain shops that have appeared on social media, and are now seen as ‘hot spots’ and ‘must do’ locations.

The problem is, the product they are selling is no different to what you can buy elsewhere, and usually much cheaper. It has just been hyped on places such as Instagram and TikTok.

For example, one ‘Insta-Famous’ shop is selling a single stroopwafel for €13, when you can buy the same thing at a local market for €3, and not have to queue for an hour to get it 🙂 Best is to go to for example the Albert Cuyp market to get the best warm stroopwafels. 

Ticket Scams with Anne Frank and Van Gogh tickets

Amsterdam is the perfect location for a last minute, spontaneous city break. However, some of the most popular attractions sell out weeks in advance, which means people are unable to buy last minute tickets.

For example, to get into Anne Frank House, you need to book your ticket 6 weeks in advance. Many tourists do not realise this, and are then susceptible to ticket scammers selling fake tickets or tickets for triple the price.

Do not buy tickets for Anne Frank house via 3rd party resellers. Anne Frank House’s online ticket office is the only place you can buy legitimate tickets, and there are no waiting lists or ‘on the day’ tickets released.

It is also good to remember that the Anne Frank Foundation is a charity and the ticket sales go towards the work the foundation does around the world.

If you are struggling to get tickets for the house, you can find tips here and even an alternative if you did not find tickets in time, https://amsterdamexperiences.nl/the-secret-to-get-anne-frank-house-tickets

As your local Amsterdam travel adviser, and owner of a local tour agency we like to ensure guests leave our city having had the best experience and wanting to recommend The Netherlands to their family and friends.

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