Some people may think that frequent travelers like me is already an expert in this trade. However, they may be surprised to know that I am far from being one.
I probably am one of the most unorganised travelers. I like to take things easy and let the situation surprise me when I get to my destination. As a result, I have missed several opportunities and sometimes spent unnecessary purchases because of this laissez-faire attitude.
When I went to Amsterdam with my hubby I thought we would just go there, relax, and enjoy the place. Somehow it made us believe that it would be similar to the UK where we could just pop in a shop and buy stuff with our cards. As long as we have informed our banks that we are going abroad it’s all going to be all right. Wrong move!
Here are things I wish I knew before going to Amsterdam.
1. Most shops especially small ones didn’t accept card payments.
I like buying from small shops and I would have thought that as a popular European destination, Amsterdam shops would be high tech’ed. However, I found myself in a dilemma when I couldn’t use my cards for paying. Once you’re in the city centre, things are a bit easier though.
Lesson learned: Always carry your euros.
2. Van Gogh museum didn’t have the paintings I wanted to see.
For €17, the entrance fee, I think was a bit to much considering it didn’t have the paintings I would have loved to see, i.e. Starry Night. The Louvre entrance fee was only €15 in comparison.
Anyway, I was hoping a replica of my experience in Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge) where I stood and gaped at Van Gogh’s painting. I guess I set my expectations too high and was disappointed.
However, I love the experience of learning about his life, albeit rather sad.
3. You needed to book online to visit Anne Frank House in the morning.
If I wasn’t lucky, I could have missed this opportunity. If I knew it earlier, it could have saved me the stress I went through. Nevertheless, I’m glad I made it.
4. Water from the tap was safe to drink.
Arriving at our hotel, my husband and I hesitated to drink the bottled water in our room. We walked for 30 minutes to find a restaurant to buy water and it cost 25% more than the hotel’s. It was too late to realise we had come to a posh restaurant.
5. Corrie Ten Boom House was just 20 minutes by train from Amsterdam.
The Ten Booms were Dutch watchmakers who hid Jewish refugees in their house during the Nazi occupation.
6. Schiphol Airport had exhibits of Van Gogh’s paintings and probably Rembrandt.
Coming back to Norwich, I called my Dutch friend, Marty and told her how exciting my trip to Amsterdam had been. I narrated my experience about visiting Anne Frank House and Van Gogh’s museum. She then asked me if I went to see Corrie Ten Boom’s House and if I saw the paintings of Van Gogh at the airport.
I wish I had asked her what to do and see in Amsterdam before going there.
7. Amsterdam hotels had FREE airport shuttle services
When I booked the hotel, I had to consider the transportation from the hotel to the airport at dawn. Thinking that it would cost a fortune to take a taxi from the central, I opted for a hotel close to the airport.
I only found out about the Free airport shuttle when we arrived in Amsterdam. As my hubby and exited the building, a shuttle passed by and by chance it had the name of our hotel. We followed it and discovered all the vans servicing the hotels right to the heart of the city.
As a result, my hubby and I had to walk 20 minutes from our hotel to the train station plus 40 minutes to get to the city. That’s 2 hours lost in transportation everyday.
Well, mistakes are there to glean a lesson from. They make us wiser and smarter the next time around.
Bonus info: Flights from from Norwich to Amsterdam via KLM only takes 30 minutes plus 20 minutes taxi to the airport building.