Amsterdam is known as an open, creative, innovative and tolerant city where a lot is possible and allowed. The city is known worldwide for its freedom. This freedom arose under an important condition: respect for each other.
Amsterdammers live in every neighbourhood, including the Red Light District and Leidseplein. Limit noise and drunkenness, clean up your mess and don't pee in the canals. Keep in mind the locals and they will welcome you with open arms.
Alcohol and drugs
The consumption of alcohol is prohibited in the majority of public places in the city centre, but you are of course welcome to visit one Amsterdam’s many bars. Never combine alcohol and drugs. For more information about health matters in the city, contact the Public Health Service of Amsterdam.
When it comes to soft drugs such as cannabis, a tolerance policy ("gedoogbeleid") is applied in the Netherlands. This means that although the possession and buying of soft drugs are recognised as a violation of the law, you will not be prosecuted if it concerns a maximum amount of five grams of cannabis, and coffeeshops can sell cannabis. To enter a coffeeshop, you must be 18 years of age – your ID will be checked. Visitors should keep in mind that most venues other than coffeeshops do not allow soft drugs to be consumed on their premises. In other words, you may not smoke cannabis in most clubs or bars, even in smoking areas. Find out more about the policy on coffeeshops and drug safety here.
As in the rest of the world, drugs are officially illegal in the Netherlands. Possession, dealing, selling, production and most other acts involving any drug are punishable by law. Bringing drugs into a club, bar or festival is prohibited. If you choose to use drugs, it’s good to be aware of the risks. Find a number of useful tips and information on our dedicated Be smart, be safe page.
For serious drug and alcohol-related emergencies, seek immediate medical assistance. If someone is not feeling well, don’t be afraid to ask for help or call medical services at 112. In the Netherlands, you cannot be prosecuted for offences related to taking drugs subsequent to visiting the emergency department.
Prostitution and Red Light District
Window brothels, sex clubs and escort agencies can operate legally if they have been granted the relevant permits by the City of Amsterdam. Everyone is welcome to visit the Red Light District, although if touring the area, be respectful and don’t take photographs or record videos. If you decide to visit a prostitute, practise safe sex and never deal with prostitutes under 21 years of age.
Forced prostitution is an extremely serious crime. Remain vigilant to indications of forced prostitution (such as anxiety, bruises or willingness to have intercourse without a condom) and report any suspicions to the police by calling 0900-8844 /+31 343 578 844 or anonymously on 0800-7000 (from a Dutch phone). Learn more about exploring 'De Wallen.'
Traffic and road safety
Amsterdam's narrow 17th-century streets and canals were not built with cars in mind. In the popular districts, crowds of pedestrians and cyclists also make driving conditions difficult for those new to the city. It is recommended to make use of the parking garages and park & ride facilities outside of the city centre, which offer excellent public transport connections. Read more about parking your car in Amsterdam and be sure to stay on the right side of the road.
Put together, Amsterdammers own about 850,000 bicycles and cycle an impressive two million kilometres a day. There are a number of policies and measures in place – such as new bike paths and bicycle parking solutions – that are designed to maintain Amsterdam’s reputation as one of the world’s most bicycle-friendly cities. Read more about the City’s policies here.
Sleeping in cars
Sleeping in a vehicle is not permitted in Amsterdam for your own safety. A fine of € 140 can be imposed.
The majority of foreign nationals wishing to stay in the Netherlands for up to three months require a short stay visa or Schengen visa (Schengenvisum). Foreign nationals from the EU, EEA or Switzerland as well as some other countries are exempt from the visa requirement. Read more about the visa specifications on our dedicated visa requirement page.