Top tips for saving money in Amsterdam

money expat tips amsterdam

Amsterdam by Patrick Clenet BY-SA 3.0

Amsterdam is a cosmopolitan, open-minded city and has become a popular expat destination. With its picturesque canals and streets, old merchants’ villas, packed cafés and the endless stream of festivals, parades and art events you will find it easy to fall in love with this city. Unfortunately there is a downside – Amsterdam can be frighteningly expensive and before long you might be wondering where all your money has gone!

According to expatistan, Amsterdam is number 20 on the list of most expensive cities in the world to live in! Although living in the Netherlands isn’t going to set you back as much as living in some other European countries – Switzerland, Norway we’re looking at you – certain aspects of Amsterdam are expensive. So with our expert knowledge this article provides some useful money-saving tips for all expats living in Amsterdam.


Transportation is Amsterdam is a combination of trams, buses, bicycles and the underground rail system that extends out to the suburbs. If you want to be smart and save money you could ignore most of these and simply walk through Amsterdam, as the city centre is definitely small enough to do so.

Ov chipkaart

If you do want to make use of the public transportation (maybe because it’s one of those not-unusual rainy days) try not to buy a disposable ticket but rather buy an anonymous (can be used by multiple people) or personal (individual use) OV-chipkaart.

A disposable ticket can be bought on the spot at the counter but is only valid for a limited period, such as one week, day or hour of travel. A disposable card is usually much more expensive.

Buying an OV-chipkaart is the cheaper solution. In comparison it will cost you a lot less money per ride than the disposable ticket and for the personal card you will receive an automatic age discount (for children under 12 and people over 65). Before you can travel you just need to load credit onto the card and after that you can use it for every type of transportation in Amsterdam.

You can purchase these cards at the transport company counter, the machine at the station, at a newsagent or at a supermarket. It will cost you €7.50 to get an OV-chipkaart. Additionally, if you live in Belgium, Germany or Luxembourg, you can apply for a personal OV-chipkaart online. This card will then be sent to your home address.

Needless to say, try to avoid taxis wherever possible. As in many big European cities, they are overpriced and unnecessary. Do as the Dutch do and bike or walk home!

Things to do

Although Amsterdam might be known for its famous Red Light District and “coffee shops” selling products which are illegal elsewhere, you will come to realise, during an excellent Indonesian meal, a twilight canal-side stroll or a shopping excursion through the boutiques of Nine Streets, that there’s so much more to this city than you might’ve thought. There are lots of fun and cultural things to do and see in Amsterdam, sadly some of which can be pretty costly.

If you like going to museums, Amsterdam is the perfect place for you. The cheapest options for visiting more than one of the famous museums like the Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum or Anne Frank’s House is getting the Iamsterdam Card or the Museum Card. A single ticket to one of these museums will cost you between 10 and 20 euros.

The Iamsterdam card will cost you between €47 – €67 and allows you free use of all public transportation, free entrance to more than 40 museums and a free canal cruise, among other perks. There is only one catch. You buy your card for 24, 36 or 72 hours and can only access the deals within those time periods.

The museum card on the other hand is valid for a whole year and costs you €44.95. You will get free entrance or discounted rates for almost every museum in Amsterdam and the rest of the Netherlands!

Luckily there are also many low cost or free activities (especially during summertime) around Amsterdam that will keep you entertained. See here the calendar.

Food and drink

There are a few simple things we can advise you to do in order to save money on food and drinks.

Of course a home cooked meal is the cheapest option, but if you are going out to eat or have some drinks, try not to go to the busy squares or the tourist areas as restaurant prices there are way too high! If you search in the smaller streets where it is less busy you can find some nice restaurants and bars where a beer won’t cost you a fortune.

Another cheap option is to prepare a picnic and go to the Vondelpark or Westerpark for some eating and drinking with great ambience. You will see in summertime absolutely everyone does it.

If you keep these money-saving tips in the back of your head and I am sure you will have a great time (with a bit of extra money in your pockets) living in Amsterdam!

You may also like...