cars - driving
cost of living
cars - parking
getting a job
studying from abroad
policy on drugs
Accommodation, especially low budget accommodation, can be hard to find during summer and around Easter and Christmas. It pays to think ahead. Not much of the low budget hotels or hostels have a web presence, so you'll have to contact them directly by phone or fax; all numbers are listed in the sleep section. Not all low budget hostels will take reservations, in some cases the vacancies are filled each morning on a first-come first-served basis. Some of the budget hotels and most of the more expensive hotels can be booked online. If you go to the bookings page you can enter your period of stay, and you will be shown the available options.
Schiphol Airport is located about 15 km from city center, and can be easily reached by train (20 minutes from Central Station at €4 or taxi (about €45 depending on time of travel). Several of the major hotels operate a shuttle bus service. For general inquiries you can call Schiphol Airport at +31 20 794 08 00.
Just like in any other busy city traffic in Amsterdam can be hectic. There is a hazard that needs to be pointed out to first time visitors though: bicycles! Though cycling around town seems a friendly and relaxed way of transportation, cyclists are unforgiving when it comes to pedestrians standing in their way. When you hear a bicycle bell behind you, STEP ASIDE FAST! To be on the safe side, remember that most of the time trams and taxis are in a hurry as well. Especially trams have a long braking distance, and during recent years there have been quite a few accidents involving tourists. The tram's warning sound is that of a bell ringing urgently; again, if you hear that sound, GET OUT OF THE WAY!
|Cars - Driving
Cars are driven on the right-hand side of the road. Newcomers may find driving in town a little disconcerting because of the many cyclists who often ignore traffic lights, make unexpected turns and must be passed at close range. Right-of-way is that of the vehicle entering from the right unless the vehicle is coming out of a driveway. Roads posted with orange diamonds do not have to yield the right-of-way. The speed limit in cities is 30 miles (50 km) per hour and on highways 60 miles (100 km) or 75 miles (120 km) per hour.
Tourists are allowed to drive in the Netherlands on a valid state license, preferably in combination with an International Driver's License. In the US this may be obtained through AAA.
Cars - Parking
Amsterdam's historic center wasn't build for the modern means of transportation and as a result has become quite congested over the years. Due to the municipal policy to ban cars from city center it is difficult nowadays to reach the center by car, and even more difficult to find a parking space. At rates of €5 per hour parking your car in city center is something best avoided anyway, so if you're traveling into Amsterdam by car, ask your hotel about parking possibilities. Don't even think of parking your car in an illegal spot - even for 5 minutes with warning lights flashing - and don't forget to buy a parking ticket: Amsterdam parking police enforce a zero tolerance policy when it comes to parking offenses, with steep fines that have to be paid on the spot if you're from a foreign country.
A 'coffeeshop' can best be described as a café which does not sell alcoholic beverages and in which, under certain circumstances, soft drugs may be sold. Although the sale of soft drugs is an offense, low priority is given to the prosecution of coffee shop owners, provided they meet the following conditions:
- no more than five grams per person may be sold in any one transaction;
- no hard drugs may be sold;
- drugs may not be advertised;
- the coffee shop must not cause any nuisance;
- no drugs may be sold to persons under the age of 18,
nor may minors be admitted on the premises.
Since the ban on smoking tobacco in public areas came into effect, smoking joints containing tobacco is allowed in separate smoking rooms only. Bongs and pure cannabis joints are allowed though, and in most coffee shops the vaporizer is quickly becoming popular as well.
See also: policy on drugs.
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