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To go Dutch is a native practice indeed, but don't think your host country will be footing half your vacation bills. The Netherlands is an expensive place to visit. Here, however, are ways to save.
To save on airfare, book your trip in the fall or winter (except around Christmas) when neither tulips nor tourism are abloom.
Lodge Like a Local
You may well find many Dutch hotels to be overpriced and underwhelming. If you're used to American luxury, be ready to recalibrate your rating system by at least one star, meaning a five-star Amsterdam hotel feels more like a New York City four-star, and even fancy suites tend to be space challenged. Particularly if you're staying over two nights, consider a more affordable, more personal short-term apartment rental. While you're at it, go for that canalside home or houseboat you've always dreamed of.
Move Like a Local
If your hotel is away from the city center or you plan to cover lots of ground, rent a bike. Visitors less comfortable on two wheels should take public transportation. If you plan to ride more than once, buy a refillable OV-chipkaart.
For a country that's spent centuries diking and damming, getting a drink of water should be no biggie, right? Think again. To prevent an extra €2 (or more) from being added to your restaurant tab, be sure to ask specifically for glaasje kraanwater ("a glass of tap water"). Some ignoble establishments will refuse, but if you find a compassionate server, a small (even shot-size!) glass of lukewarm liquidity will appear. In any case, BYO H2O in your travel bag.
The electronic I amsterdam Card provides free or discounted admissions to many of Amsterdam's top museums, a free canal cruise, unlimited public transport use, and 25% off lots of star-turn attractions and restaurants. A one-day pass costs €40, a two-day costs €50, and a three-day costs €60. It can be purchased at the Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions at Schiphol Airport's Arrivals Hall 2, the Centraal Station branch of the Netherlands Board of Tourism (VVV), various City Transport Company (GVB) points, at some hotels and museums, and online (www.iamsterdamcard.com). The Last Minute Ticket Shop offers tickets for comedy clubs, the ballet, opera, symphony, and theater at a 50% discount. Though you must make your purchase on performance day in person at the office, you can preview the daily selection online (www.lastminuteticketshop.nl). Sales begin at noon.
If you travel to the Netherlands frequently or plan on visiting several museums within a year's time, consider investing in a Museumkaart (museum card). This gives you 365 days of free entry to more than 440 museums nationwide. It can be purchased at participating museums and online (www.museumkaart.nl) for €44.95 or, if you're under 25, for €22.50.
Last Minute Ticket Shop Centraal Station (Stationsplein 10, Amsterdam, 1012AB. 020/201–8800. www.vvv.nl. Mon.–Sat. 9–7, Sun. 9–5. Leidseplein 26, 1017PT. www.amsterdamsuitburo.nl. Mon.–Sat. 10–6, Sun. 12–6.).
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