Let’s talk about traveling with very little money to spend, or as Caleb liked to call it “Europe on a shoestring.” Of course, this doesn’t mean that the traveling has to unpleasant, it just means that the travel isn’t going to be necessarily luxurious. By the time we got to Amsterdam, finances were running a little low. Unfortunately for us, Amsterdam is definitely one of the more expensive places I have been to. Most of the museums hovered around 10 – 17 euros. Eating out was pretty much not an option, besides some surprisingly good take out Chinese that we had twice (Wok to Walk). Our hostel, albeit a cheap one with six flights of stairs that I chose over a very sketchy elevator (we almost got stuck in it at one point), was in a great location– a 15 minute walk from the city center, next to a grocery store, a huge park, and a couple museums. In case someone reading this is also a student who likes to travel, I have a couple tips learned from my own experiences.
1. Hostels will 9/10 be your cheapest option. You might be in a dorm with 10 other beds and a teeny-tiny bathroom with weird stains on the tub, but c’mon, how often are you actually going to be in the room? If you’re squeamish bring a sleeping bag and sandals for the shower. Earplugs and an eye mask can also help a ton — especially with those roommates who turn the lights on in the middle of the night, or sleep yell (rather than sleep talk), or stay up all night furiously typing on their laptop while sighing heavily. Not kidding, all three of those examples are from personal experience. And, I promise, just having a shower and dry place to sleep feels like a Godsend after traversing a city after taking a wrong turn. Hostels are also great places to meet fellow young travelers.
2. Always ask about student discounts/carry your student ID. Amsterdam wasn’t so on board with the student discount thing, but most other places sure are. It never hurts to ask.
3. Avoid eating out as much as possible. Seriously, I know it’s a bummer (I, too, have gazed longingly at menus where an entree is a paycheck), but you will save a lot of money if you reserve eating out for maybe once or twice during the trip. Other than that, hit up your neighborhood grocery store or market. I LOVE grocery stores because you can find all the local oddities that are unique to that part of the world, along with your necessities. My favorite item found in Dutch grocery stores: stroopwafel, cookies that are like small, sweet waffles. They’re amazing. Once your done perusing the grocery aisles, I highly suggest a picnic at a park. Vondelpark, one of the largest parks in Amsterdam, was right near our hostel and so we enjoyed a couple picnics there. Sandwiches, cheese, juice, fruit, etc. were the usual. Not too bad, considering we only spent around 3-5 euros each. I should also mention that I carried around a jar of couscous and pesto to all three cities we visited. It was super easy to boil some water and have a quick, carb-y meal if needed.
4. Scope out free/cheap events and places to visit. I have found that a lot of National Galleries are free or very cheap.
I hope that helps anyone who is looking to have a great time, but with a budget!
While in Amsterdam, we were able to see a lot of really nice places, despite the prices being rather high. On one day, we went to the Dutch Resistance Museum, where we could have spent a lot longer learning about the efforts by the Dutch people to fight the Nazi Regime. The museum itself, appropriately, is in the Jewish quarter of the city, along with a really beautiful park and botanical garden.
We also visited the Dutch National Museum (Rijksmuseum), which was very close to our hostel. I was simply overwhelmed by the massive amount of art and history in a single museum. I highly recommend the impressionism section, and also, of course, seeing the several Rembrandts on display. However, even with Rembrandt and van Gogh, I almost enjoyed the paintings of Jan Havicksz Steen the most — he definitely had a good sense of humor. There are always drunk people, weird looking kids, or yes, dancing animals in his paintings. I was laughing out loud viewing them, and received a couple strange looks from people who were sternly observing the art, having a much more serious time at the museum.
Amsterdam, I will forgive you for being expensive if I’m allowed to visit again one day. Caleb wisely pointed out that our experience in these cities would have been very different if we could afford hotels/taxis/restaurants etc. And it’s true — we wouldn’t of had as much fun if we were in a hotel room, calling in room service all day. I’m incredibly thankful for our time in the Amsterdam; the view of trees heavy with leaves, bowed over canals, is forever imprinted on my memory.