The Netherlands, while a very popular destination in Europe, it certainly isn’t the most cheap destination. Many of the sights in the Netherlands have quite steep entry fees, for both locals and foreigners, add that on top of the cost of your accommodation and food, and you will see that even a budget traveller needs at least €40 – €60 per day to travel around the Netherlands. However, budget travel is not completely impossible, as with any country there is the possibility of minimising your cost to make the most of your budget. As someone who has been born and raised in the Netherlands for the first 21 years of my life (and lived here on a small student budget) I have did my best to compile a list of tips that could help you save as much money as you can during your travels in and around the Netherlands. You don’t have to be a budget traveler though, because any of these tips will help you to cut down cost, and will allow you to leave more room in your budget for delicious food, sights and most of all unforgettable experiences. So without further ado, here are 22 tips for traveling the Netherlands on a budget.
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The Netherlands on a Budget
Save money on accommodation in the Netherlands
Book in advance. With Amsterdam being one of the most popular destinations in Europe there is undoubtedly a large amount of accommodation to pick from, however, to find the best deals you should book your hotel a couple of months in advance if you have the option. While last minute bookings will be available, expect to pay premium prices and a lot less hotels to pick from. Nonetheless, we understand that for many people city trips and vacations can be planned last minute, so perhaps the next couple of tips might help you out.
Stay in a dorm room. Backpacking through Europe? Solo traveler exploring the city of Amsterdam, or perhaps backpacking with friends? Forget about expensive hotels, book a bed in a dorm room instead. During my years of solo travel this has always been my preferred option of accommodation. Not only are dorm rooms a great way to save money, they are also a great way to meet new people. Amsterdam has a large amount of hostels available, from party hostels to more relax hostels, there is something for everyone. Not sure where to start? Check out all the hostels in Amsterdam here on Hostelworld!
Stay outside of Amsterdam. While Amsterdam is known as the place to be in the Netherlands, there are actually a lot more destinations to discover. From Maastricht and Den Bosch in the South of the Netherlands to Rotterdam, Dordrecht and Kinderdijk in the West of the Netherlands. While all these cities can be visited as part of a day trip from Amsterdam, you could also save money actually staying in these cities for a couple of days as you are already paying for the transport. While still expensive, staying outside of Amsterdam can cut your cost as accommodation in less touristic cities is often a lot more affordable.
Get an Airbnb. Airbnb is known for offering a large variety of accommodation, suiting (almost) everyone’s budget. This option is great especially if you are visiting with a family or a group of friends and prefer to stay in an apartment over separate hotel rooms. Airbnb is also a great resource for those looking for unique places to stay in Amsterdam, such as houseboats, tiny houses and more.
Avoid the high season. While Amsterdam can be visited all year round, I would personally recommend to visit Amsterdam in the months of March/April or September/October. In these months you have the best chance on having some decent weather (although the reality is that it rains all year round in the Netherlands) but avoiding the summertime high tourist season. Prices during the summer months will often be a lot higher, for both dorm rooms and private rooms, so avoiding these months could save you a couple of bucks. For example, a dorm bed in the month of August averages about €40 to €50 a night, that same bed goes for an average of €20 – €30 in March.
Visit Amsterdam during the week. As with most cities in Europe prices of accommodation (especially hostels) in the weekend rise, sometimes even doubling in price compared to week nights. So, if you have the possibility try to visit Amsterdam during the week days, not only will you avoid the larger crowds, it will also save you a whole lot of money on accommodation.
How to get around the Netherlands on a budget
Get an OV Chipkaart. The OV Chipkaart is the public transport card that will let you easily pay for trains, buses, ferries and any other form of public transportation in the Netherlands. Paying for public transport with the OV Chipkaart is a lot cheaper then by separate tickets, saving you roughly €0.50 to €1 at a time. So if you are planning to use the public transport frequently when traveling the Netherlands then getting an OV Chipkaart might be the right tool for you to stay on a budget. The OV Chipkaart costs €7.50 and can be bought at the yellow/blue ticket machines at the train stations. On top of that it requires a €20 minimum balance if you plan on traveling by train, or a €4 balance for buses and trams in Amsterdam. You can find more info on the OV Chipkaart here.
Or don’t get an OV Chipkaart. However, if you are not planning on taking public transport, then the OV chipkaart might not be worth the money as you won’t get the €7.50 back in the future. So it all depends on your itinerary for the Netherlands if the OV Chipkaart is worth your money or not.
Walk, walk, walk. The Netherlands is a great place to explore by foot. Distances are relatively small and when visiting cities you will find that most sights are within walking distance of the central train stations. Besides it being the most affordable option, it is also the greatest way to get lost and to simply explore and discover the cities and different neighbourhoods. Stroll through small alleys and streets to find those cute cafes and the most scenic views.
Rent a bike. Prefer to bike over walking? No problem! The Netherlands has the highest amount of bikes per citizen in the world, and with bike lanes being available almost everywhere it is one of the best ways to explore the Netherlands. However, don’t forget you are not the only one on the bike lanes and on the road. If you don’t feel comfortable riding a bike, you might want to look at other options instead, but for those who are ready to conquer the road head over to your nearest rental shop to find the perfect bike for you. Bike rental often costs around €8 – 12 a day, but don’t forget to get a sturdy lock with it as getting your bike stolen is definitely a possibility in the Netherlands.
Take the bus. With the rise of Flixbus in Europe it has become cheaper then ever to travel within Europe by bus. Flixbus offers bus tickets from city to city in the Netherlands, but also to destinations out of the Netherlands. You can take the bus to nearby countries such as Germany, Belgium, Denmark, France and Luxembourg. While you can buy tickets at the bus itself, it will cost you a lot more money. Be sure to book a week or two in advance during the high season to make sure you still have a seat for a decent price. Check out Flixbus here to find the most recent prices!
Use day tickets. Planning on sightseeing outside of Amsterdam? See if there are any day tickets available to cut your costs for the train. While the train is the most efficient way to explore the Netherlands, it is definitely not the most affordable. For example, a one way ticket from Amsterdam to Rotterdam costs €16.10, which is just a 41 min train ride. Going back and forth that way for a day trip can get quite expensive. However, quite often different stores such as Kruidvat and Hema offer day tickets (which can be used the whole day except for rush hour times). These tickets often cost a rough ± €15 and will allow you to travel wherever you want to go for the day. The only downside, the websites that sell them are often in Dutch. So ask a Dutch friend or someone working at your accommodation if they can help you out!
Avoid the taxis. With the access to an extensive public network transport it really is not necessary to get a taxi, unless you of course don’t think the hassle is worth your time and money. Taxis in the Netherlands are expensive, and locals will try to avoid them for as much as they can.
Save money on food and drinks in the Netherlands
Go for fast food. Restaurants can get quite expensive in the Netherlands, so your best bet for getting food on a budget is by getting some fast food. Head over to a Dutch snackbar such as Febo or Smullers to have a delicious kroket, frikandel or perhaps some fries. Of course you will find the world famous fast food chains such as McDonalds, Burger King and Subway in the cities as well. And while perhaps the cheapest, this might not be the healthiest option.
Go shopping at a supermarket. Nothing will be cheaper then simply cooking your own food at your hostel or airbnb. A simple pasta you can eat for lunch and dinner, sandwiches, scrambled eggs, there are so many affordable foods that will be a lot cheaper and healthier if you cook it yourself. Besides cooking, you can also have a look at the ready to eat section from the supermarkets. You will often find a large amount of salads or snacks such croissants and breads at the supermarkets, cheap and convenient if you are on the go!
Bring a reusable water bottle. The tap water in the Netherlands is safe to drink, so bringing a reusable water bottle could easily save you a couple of euros a day. Fill it up at your accommodation and you’ll be ready for the rest of the day! Check if your ho(s)tel offers free coffee/tea for your daily doses of caffeine, to save you another couple of euros right there.
Have a beer, but not too many. If you are planning on having a drink or going partying, you might want to leave your credit card at home before you break the bank. While wine and beer are often some of the most affordable alcoholic options (especially compared to cocktails and mix drinks), it does add up. So have a beer, enjoy it, just perhaps don’t have too many if you are trying to stick to a budget.
Have breakfast at HEMA. Don’t feel like cooking? Or is the breakfast at your hostel to expensive? Find a HEMA with a restaurant to enjoy their “pick & mix” breakfast. You can pick 5 items for €2 between 9am – 10am, every extra item costs €0.50, so you can be sure you can fill your belly up ready to explore. Choose from coffee or tea (but only one hot drink per breakfast), bread, croissants, boiled eggs, and different kind of bread spreads or even yogurt with granola to create your perfect breakfast. If you are staying in the city centre of Amsterdam you will find a Hema with restaurant located at Nieuwendijk 174 – 176.
How to go sightseeing in the Netherlands on a budget
Get an I Amsterdam Card. If you have many museums and other sights on your Amsterdam bucket list then you might want to consider getting an I Amsterdam Card. This Card offers free entry to many sights, and the price is dependent on the time frame you pick. You can purchase the card and find an overview of what the card exactly offers here. However, if you are not keen on museums, it might save you the most amount of money by simply not purchasing it at all.
Go for a walk. Instead of spending your time inside, go for a walk, enjoy the park and have a budget picnic with snacks from the supermarket. As long as the weather is good, this is not only the most budget option of sightseeing, it also a great way to explore the city. Admire the architecture, enjoy the view while sitting along a canal in Amsterdam or Utrecht and have your camera ready to take those beautiful shots, what else do you need?
Be selective of the sights you want to see. If you are planning on sightseeing, perhaps do some research in advance to see which sights are worth your money. If you are a museum lover you might like the Rijksmuseum or the Van Gogh Museum. But perhaps art isn’t your thing and you prefer to find the best viewpoints over Amsterdam. Everything is possible, but doing them all is expensive. So don’t waste your money on sights that aren’t worth it to you!
Opt for free activities. Not everything has to cost money, there are plenty of free activities to do in and out of the cities. So create a balance of sights that cost money and don’t cost money to stick to your budget. Join a free walking tour to learn more about the city, hang out at the beach, take a stroll at the local market or go and admire the local street art. The options are simply endless!
Money Saving Tips for the Netherlands
And there you have it, our 22 money saving tips for the Netherlands so you, just like us, can explore the Netherlands on a budget. And while these tips will help you a great deal with staying on a budget, don’t forget to check out our Amsterdam guide for first timers, including 55 things to know before you go to the Netherlands! Do you have any money saving tips for the Netherlands that we haven’t shared yet? Be sure to tell us in the comments down below! And don’t forget to pin it.