In the past few years, the Netherlands has been one of the safest countries in the world, with murder rates below 5.27 per 100,000 people. As a whole, the Netherlands has a relatively low crime rate, ranking in the 35th percentile of all countries for safety. Overall, Amsterdam is a safe city to visit, but anyone traveling in an unfamiliar area should keep some precautions in mind.
Several crimes are not uncommon in the Dutch capital of Amsterdam. Specifically, petty thieves and pickpockets are common in the Netherlands, particularly in crowded areas, on trains and trams, and around tourist sites.
Due to the prevalence of petty theft, it is important to be smart when traveling with your belongings, especially if you’re alone, in an unfamiliar area, or commuting via public transport.
If you are planning to travel to Amsterdam and need guidance on remaining vigilant during your stay, please keep reading.
How Safe Is Amsterdam Compared To Other Cities?
Compared to other major European cities, Amsterdam is very safe. In fact, the “Economist Intelligence Unit” has recently released its Safe Cities Index which ranks 60 cities around the world across 5 pillars: personal, health, infrastructure, digital, and environmental security.
According to the Safe Cities Index, Amsterdam placed 2nd compared to other European cities and 6th globally in terms of personal safety.
Although Amsterdam is generally regarded as a very safe city, it is not without its fair share of hazards. As a tourist, you need to be cautious when walking or cycling alone at night, particularly in tourist-heavy areas.
See Related: Best Cities in the Netherlands to Visit
Are There Unsafe Areas in Amsterdam That I Should Avoid?
Most of Amsterdam is considered safe to explore, but there are a few neighborhoods where you should be extra cautious. Not to say that crime doesn’t flow over the boundaries, but if you’re deciding on where to stay in Amsterdam or you’re visiting alone, it’s important to understand the risks.
Bos en Lommer and Nieuw-West
The less developed areas of the city and the most notorious neighborhoods (Bos en Lommer and Nieuw-West) are known for their higher crime rates, drug use, and other risky activities.
The Red Light District
In addition to the Bos en Lommer and Nieuw-West neighborhoods, the Red Light District can attract shady characters and business dealings that may be tied to organized crime and gangs trafficking illegal drugs. Despite the guide book cautions, my personal experience living in Amsterdam and being in this area is that I’ve never felt unsafe here at all.
All of the scandalous activity makes the Red Light District a little more dangerous for tourists, so be careful if you’re in this neighborhood after midnight. Unfortunately, tourists are often the targets of pickpockets and robberies, so it’s important to be aware of your surroundings.
How Is Crime and Safety Handled in Amsterdam?
The authorities in Amsterdam take a holistic approach to crime and safety. This means that they work hard to make sure people in Amsterdam are safe and feel comfortable through a series of social initiatives.
For example, in addition to the police and municipal services, authorities in the Netherlands work with local businesses and associations to encourage responsible behavior. This is especially true in nightlife areas where the aim is to prevent underage drinking and excessive alcohol consumption while working together to ensure nightly events go smoothly.
Despite the synergy between the authorities and local businesses, petty crimes such as robbery and pickpocketing are still common in Amsterdam, so as a tourist you have to remain vigilant.
Thieves love to target tourists because they are often distracted and carry a decent amount of cash with them. A hidden money belt can do wonders to foil the plans of any pickpocket and helps keep your money pretty safe.
Are there any scams or common tourist traps in Amsterdam?
Amsterdam is a popular destination for tourists, but it’s also important to be aware of crime risks when visiting. There are some things to keep in mind, such as staying safe at night, being aware of your surroundings, and avoiding areas with a high concentration of drug dealers.
Scams in Amsterdam
One of the most common tourist scams in Amsterdam is the white van scam. This is when two men in a white van approach you and offer discounted products in exchange for cash, but the boxes are empty. Another common scam involves fake or used transportation tickets or attraction tickets, often said to be discounted. Be sure to buy your tickets from official vendors. Other scams involve fake taxis, so only accept rides from legitimate companies, and ask your concierge or transportation hub officials for help if you’re unsure.
Drinking at Night
It’s always a good idea to stay in populated areas when drinking at night, especially if you are traveling alone. Taking this simple step can save you from getting mugged or falling victim to drink spiking by someone with bad intentions. Never accept drinks from strangers or leave drinks unattended.
See Related: Best Breweries in Amsterdam
Food Safety in Amsterdam
Of course, the food that you eat is an important part of your vacation, and it is not always possible to eat at restaurants—as such, eating only food from street vendors that meet hygiene standards is crucial. It’s also a good idea to steer clear of vendors that serve raw or undercooked food, as this can increase your risk of contracting a foodborne illness.
Cultural or Social Issues In Amsterdam
Amsterdam Tourism and the Local Economy
Unfortunately, over-tourism has had a negative impact on the quality of life in Amsterdam’s residential neighborhoods. Over-tourism has resulted in many Amsterdam residents’ displacement as apartments have been turned into short-term rental spaces for tourists.
Short-term rentals drive up housing prices and make affordable housing harder to find for locals. Disruptive behavior by tourists has also been a cause for concern, particularly among stag and hen parties.
The Amsterdam “Enjoy & Respect” Campaign
According to Amsterdam’s “Enjoy & Respect” campaign, typical offenses committed by disruptive tourists include public urination and vomiting, littering, drunkenness, and loud noise.
In recent years, Dutch politicians have taken a more active approach to tackle tourism and its impact on Amsterdam, adopting several ordinances that prevent souvenir shops from displacing local businesses, developers from turning residential space into holiday rentals, and new hotels from being built.
The measures aim to curb the worst byproducts of tourism by increasing taxes paid by visitors, punishing common dishonorable behaviors (i.e., littering and public urination), and re-examining some attractions that have proven disruptive.
See Related: Spots for the Best Views of Amsterdam
Is It Safe To Use An ATM In Amsterdam?
When traveling to Amsterdam, you will have access to an extensive network of ATMs. However, it is important to know how to use them safely and effectively.
First, only use ATMs connected to large banks like HSBC, BNP Paribas, and Credit Agricole. These banks are less likely to pull tricks that could cost you a lot of money.
Second, avoid taking money out of independent ATMs in quiet areas, because these ATMs often charge high fees and are easy targets for thieves.
Third, make sure to ask your bank about ATM fees before traveling. European ATMs usually only allow you to withdraw cash from your checking account and not your savings accounts.
Lastly, you can use your Maestro debit card in most Dutch ATMs and stores. If you’re not sure, give your card issuer a call to find out whether your card works in a Dutch machine.
Is Amsterdam Safe for Solo Travelers?
While Amsterdam is perhaps one of the safest cities in Europe, that doesn’t mean you should go out at night by yourself or wander around unfamiliar areas without having your guard up.
It’s important to remember that you are in a foreign country, so be aware of your surroundings and take normal safety precautions when traveling at night or by yourself. In other words, it is vital that you use your common sense and keep your belongings close to you at all times.
The good news is that the majority of crimes in Amsterdam are minor and can be avoided by following normal precautions day and night. For example, you should always be careful on trains and in public areas.
One way to exercise caution is by using a front or crossbody sling instead of a backpack while walking in Amsterdam. This simple step can keep your bag close to your body and prevent petty crimes like bag snatching.
See Related: Best Places to Travel Alone in the World
Is Amsterdam Safe Enough For Me to Stay in a Hostel?
While Amsterdam is one of the most expensive cities in Europe, hostels can provide you with some monetary relief as they offer a safe place to stay for a reasonable price. While you can find hostels in a variety of locations across Amsterdam, make sure that you choose one that is located in a safe area.
Try to choose a hostel in Amsterdam that is close to the main attractions and public transport. This will make your life easier and it will keep you from spending a fortune on taxis and buses to get around.
ClinkNOORD is a modern, clean hostel in Amsterdam with plenty of room options to suit solo travelers or groups looking to stay together. ClinkNOORD is located just minutes from the central station and features plenty of amenities, including a bar, breakfast buffet, guest kitchen, and laundry facilities.
Another great option for solo travelers in Amsterdam is Hostelle, which is specifically designed for women traveling alone or in small groups, making travel a lot safer.
Hostelle offers women’s dorm rooms in different sizes and a social environment that allows you to meet other women travelers from all over the world. There’s also a bar, self-service kitchen, library, and more to make it the perfect place to stay for budget-minded travelers.
Additionally, Durty Nelly’s is a fun Irish pub and hostel with dorm rooms and private rooms with great staff, a convenient location, and an awesome vibe. Located right in the middle of downtown Amsterdam, it’s perfect for those who want to go sightseeing during the day and party at night.
Here are a few tips when choosing a hostel in Amsterdam:
- Look for positive reviews from previous guests, and don’t be afraid to ask questions or get help from the staff.
- The staff should be available to answer any questions or concerns you have about your safety and the hostel’s security.
- It’s also important to check if the hostel has a 24-hour reception, as this will ensure that you have someone looking out for you, thus deterring crime.
- You should also carry a copy of a valid passport with you in case anything happens and you need to seek emergency assistance from the embassy or police.
Finally, it’s a good idea to avoid visiting Amsterdam during the peak tourist season. The city tends to be very crowded during the summer months, and it can be difficult to navigate or find your way around.
See Related: Best Family-Friendly Hotels in Amsterdam
Are There Any Safety Concerns For LGBTQ+ Travelers in Amsterdam?
Discrimination and violence against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community are persistent problems worldwide. Fortunately, Amsterdam is one of the most progressive cities in the world for LGBTQ+ rights laws and is a safe city for the community. Amsterdam is a major center of gay tourism, with a large annual gay pride festival and plenty of options for LGBTQ+ travelers to explore for a safe trip.
However, if a person experiences mistreatment, discrimination, or hate crimes, seeking emergency assistance is important. A great resource for LGBTQ+ travelers is the International SOS Assistance App and member portal, which offers a wide variety of LGBTQ country guides to help them navigate their way around the world. These guides include information on LGBTQ laws, customs, and culture, as well as reports of official mistreatment or discrimination by law enforcement or government officials.
If you’re planning to visit Amsterdam, consider doing research ahead of time to find coffee shops, hotels, restaurants, and bars that specifically cater to the LGBTQ+ community.
Safety Tips For Visiting Amsterdam
While Amsterdam is one of the safest cities in the world to visit, it’s still important to be aware of safety issues and take precautions while traveling. Whether you are traveling alone, with friends, or in a large group, there are many ways you can stay safe while in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
1. Avoid Late Nights
If you are going to be spending time in Amsterdam, avoid extreme late nights areas near large train stations and other groups of people that sit around drinking alcohol. These areas can be dangerous and can pose a risk of robbery or another crime, especially after dark.
2. Be Wary of Pickpockets
Even though Amsterdam is one of the safest places to travel, it is still important to be vigilant when walking in crowded areas. Once again, bag snatching is a common crime on the streets of Amsterdam.
Even if you plan to travel to the Schengen area border-free travel zone, you should still carry your passport. Having your cash or passport safely tucked away in a money belt will make you less likely to be a target of theft.
3. Take Care of Your Health
While eating street food in Amsterdam, it is important to check that it is hygienic. Be careful of cross-contamination, especially if you have allergies. Fortunately, should you encounter any health concerns while in Amsterdam, you can count on global travel medical insurance with a provider like SafetyWing or VisitorsCoverage to cover your medical expenses.
4. Engage in Safe Tourist Activities
Go on a Canal Cruise
One of the best ways to get a feel for the beautiful capital is to take a canal cruise tour. This way, you can view Amsterdam’s iconic architecture from the water. Stroll through the picturesque waterside communities and see landmarks like dancing houses and bridges up close.
Visit a Museum
When you’re in Amsterdam, don’t forget to check out some of its top museums. From quirky art exhibitions to eye-catching displays, you’re bound to find something that suits your interest. I mean it, there are a ton of different types of museums here — there’s even a museum dedicated solely to cat art. See what I’m saying now?
Explore the Royal Artis Zoo
Whether you’re traveling with kids on a family trip or out to party with the boys, Amsterdam’s Royal Artis Zoo is worth a visit. It’s one of Europe’s oldest and boasts a plethora of animals in a beautifully landscaped setting.
Learn About the Dutch Resistance
For a look at how Amsterdam residents fought back against German occupation during World War II, head to the Verzetsmuseum (which means “Resistance Museum” in Dutch). Neatly designed with lots of multimedia, this exhibition recounts the efforts made by the local people to resist the Germans.
Safety Resources In Amsterdam
112: For Life-Threatening situations for ambulance, police, or fire department response. This number is a Europe-wide emergency line, like the UK’s 999 or the USA’s 911. You can call 0800 8112 for the text equivalent for the deaf or hard of hearing. Dutch operators also speak English and may be able to respond in other European languages as well, usually French or German.
For Non-Emergency Help, call 0900 8844. To anonymously report crimes, call 0800 7000.
Embassies or Consulates
There are over 100 embassies or consulates in the Netherlands. Before you travel, save the contact information for your embassy or consulate so that it’s easy to access should you need it.
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