Nuts-and-bolts information to plan your trip, plus a checklist of essentials to include when you pack and a list of links to local media

Planning

Entry Requirements: U.S. citizens need a valid passport to enter the Netherlands and can stay 90 days without a visa.

Security: While the city’s policies of legalized prostitution and soft drugs help keep crime rates relatively low, Amsterdam is not as safe as it was a decade ago. Be particularly wary of using ATM machines in crowded public areas, like the Centraal Station, and be careful on crowded trams. The Red Light District also has become increasingly rowdy. Avoid the area after hours.

Time: Amsterdam is six hours ahead of U.S. eastern standard time

Money: The currency of the Netherlands is the euro. For current conversion rates, go to OANDA Currency Converter: www.oanda.com/convert/classic

Phone Calls: To make call to Amsterdam from the U.S, dial the international access code 011, country code 31, city code 20, and then the local number. If calling within Amsterdam, dial 020 before the local number.

When to Go: Winter months, though not as snowbound as they once were, can still be frigid; temperatures often stay below freezing from December through February. While the temperature can rise into the 70˚Fs (low- to mid-20˚s C) by July, the city is also swamped with visitors during the summer months. The best times to visit are late March through May, when the flowers are blooming, and early autumn (September through October), when the town quiets down and the pearly Dutch light is most dramatic.

Getting There: KLM (www.klm.com) and its alliance partner Northwest offer the most daily direct flights from U.S. cities to Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport (www.schiphol.nl), located just outside the city. The Schiphol Rail Link runs directly to the Centraal Station, 24 hours a day. A cab from the airport will easily run more than $60.

Getting Around: Most of the central city can be navigated on foot or by rental bike (though first-timers should be cautious when biking the central city; oncoming traffic, trams, and other bikes can make riding the narrow streets dangerous). A well-funded public tram system makes getting to outlying districts easy and cheap. Taxis are numerous but prices have escalated recently; even a relatively short cab ride can run $15.

Checklist

Raincoat: Bring a waterproof jacket with a hood for the summer and a heavier, water-resistant coat for the other seasons; the rain in Amsterdam, which can come at any time, is driven by wind off the harbor, and you will need protection.

Hat, Gloves, and Scarf: While temperatures have moderated a bit in recent years, the winds and frigid damp make even moderate cold feel bone-chilling.

Sweaters: Pack both thick and thin sweaters. The weather can move from rain to sun to drizzle in a matter of minutes, so you will need to layer things up and back down.

Bike Helmet: The Dutch are surprisingly indifferent to safety equipment (partly because they were born on a bike), so if you plan to rent a bike best to bring your own protection.

Walking Shoes: Amsterdam is a walking city but bring comfortable shoes with thick soles; the cobblestones can be brutal on footwear.

Extra Book: While English-language books are common in most bookstores, they are double the price they would be at home; bring an extra title for the plane ride home.

Waterproof Camera: Amsterdam is so photogenic you will constantly be grabbing your camera, though the rain, fog, and drizzle can wreak havoc on delicate digitals. Pack an extra memory card as well.

Converter and Adapter: The electrical current in Holland is 220 volts; outlets require continental plugs with two round prongs.

Web Links

Amsterdam Tourism & Convention Board

This well-subsidized, efficient organization offers accommodation guides, theme itineraries, and event calendars. The I amsterdam card sold by the Board covers admission to major museums, plus city tram and bus fares, and discounts at many local restaurants. www.amsterdamtourist.nl

Specialbite

A comprehensive website guide to Amsterdam dining, offering current reviews of the city’s restaurants. www.specialbite.nl

Expatica

This useful English-language website features insider information on life in the Netherlands. www.expatica.com

Museums

For information on 37 major Amsterdam museums, check www.amsterdammuseums.nl.

Sarah de Mul - Living in Dutchland

Written by a British expat, this engaging blog conveys a sense of daily life in the city. sdemul.blogspot.com

Local Media

Rush

Glossy, quarterly English-language magazine distributed largely by hotels; features visitor-friendly articles on local history, shopping, and attractions; overview of seasonal events. www.rush.nl

Day-by-Day Amsterdam

English-language monthly produced by the Amsterdam Tourism & Convention Board; offers handy daily calendar of months’ events (theater, music, dance, exhibits, and fairs) and a useful address book for city’s major attractions.

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