Travelling to Amsterdam has been on my radar for a long time and WestJet just started direct flights from Calgary to Amsterdam. Although travel is a little more complicated than it was before COVID-19, and most of us haven’t travelled at all for the past year and a half, I have been itching to travel ever since restrictions have been slowly loosening. A week ago last Sunday, I found myself packing for a last-minute trip to Amsterdam with my best friend! The trip was everything I imagined it would be and more…all in good ways. Since I’ve been back, I received quite a few DMs on Instagram asking for recommendations and about what the current travel restrictions are like. So, here is what you need to know regarding travelling to Amsterdam from Canada in 2021, during this era of COVID-19, along with my recommendations for experiencing the city itself.
- Travelling to Amsterdam from Canada During COVID-19
- Public Transit in Amsterdam
- Where to Stay in Amsterdam
- What To Do in Amsterdam
- Where To Eat in Amsterdam
Travelling to Amsterdam from Canada During COVID-19
First of all, download the following apps on your phone, you will need them:
Your next step is to check the websites of the Government of Canada and The Netherlands Government for travel advisories. As we all know, rules change quite often regarding COVID-19 restrictions so these sites will be updated with the most current information for you:
As of my departure, and the writing of this post, the only requirement to enter Amsterdam from Canada are the following:
- Proof of complete vaccination OR a negative COVID-19 test (Please read The Netherlands Government website for what types of tests and proof are acceptable.)
- Signed Vaccine Declaration
- Signed Health Declaration
I prefer to get forms filled out beforehand and have them as pdfs on my phone so that I don’t have to shuffle papers and my passport along with everything else when boarding and going through customs. If you are the same, I would suggest searching your airline’s travel requirements as they often have a concise list of requirements and forms that you can use. WestJet has a great information page here: https://www.westjet.com/en-ca/travel-info/advisories#boarding-req Scroll down to “Entry requirements by destination” and select “Netherlands”. You will find both the Vaccine Declaration and the Health Declaration which you can download on your phone and then fill and sign with an app like JetSign.
Your vaccine records and negative Covid-19 test results can be found on the MyHealth Records app (Google Play /Apple). If you don’t have this yet, you will need to bring paper copies of your vaccine records or test results.
To return to Canada, you will need:
- a negative COVID-19 PCR test within 72 hours of your departure from Amsterdam. This can NOT be an antigen test, it must be one of the following types of tests: PCR, RT-LAMP, LAMP, NAA. Until October, 2021, the Government of the Netherlands is offering free tests, you can find more information and the link to book your test here: https://www.government.nl/topics/coronavirus-covid-19/tackling-new-coronavirus-in-the-netherlands/travel-and-holidays/free-coronavirus-test-for-travellers
- Proof of vaccination documents to be uploaded into the ArriveCan app (Google Play / Apple). If your proof of vaccination for both doses is on the same pdf, you need to upload the same document twice, once for the proof of the first dose and then again for proof of the second dose.
HOT TIPS ABOUT GETTING TESTED FOR COVID-19 IN AMSTERDAM
- This test is free IF you book it online. However, to book your test, you need to submit your phone number and your Canadian phone number will not work. Trust me, I tried many times before figuring this out. I ended up buying a Vodafone SIM card from an Albert Heijn grocery store in order to have a local phone number.
- There are many locations and you will probably have several options within a short distance from you. The Snelkliniek was one block away from the hotel I was staying at. The clinic was clean and well-organized and the staff were kind and efficient. It was my first test where the swab went up my nose into my sinuses and I was very pleasantly surprised at how quick and painless it was.
- Your test results will be sent as a link to your phone (local number only) and you will need the Corona Check app to access them. You will use the QR code in this app at the airport in Amsterdam and at customs in Calgary. You can see the results by clicking the little question mark about the QR code.
Public Transit in Amsterdam
If you are visiting Amsterdam for the first time, like I was, I would highly recommend taking the bus or train from the airport (Uber if you have a lot of luggage) and then spend a couple of days taking in the city on foot. I googled directions for transit from the airport to the Marriott and then asked for help from someone working in the transit area of the airport. They directed me to purchase an OV-chipcard (ov-chipkaart) and then to a yellow ticket machine to add funds to the card. I opted for the bus since there were no transfers. Depending on where you are staying, Google Maps and the attendant selling the OV-chipcard at the little book kiosk, are very helpful in answering any questions you may have.
Cyclists have the right of way in Amsterdam — there are MANY of them and they are not messing around. If you are a confident bicycle rider, you may want to rent a bike to get to a further destination but you should plan and know your route beforehand so that you don’t get into an accident. I found walking everywhere was not only easy but so enjoyable because we wandered every charming street, stopped to take pictures of every picturesque canal, and stumbled into unexpected shops and eateries. If I had been on a bicycle, not only would I have missed seeing so many things, I would have definitely caused and been in a few accidents!
Bikes in Amsterdam
There are over 800,000 bikes in Amsterdam. Sometimes, it feels like they all want to teach you, the pedestrian a lesson in humility, rule-following, and “staying-in-your-own lane”. I think I nearly missed a collision twice when trying to cross a lane with poor visibility AND when inadvertently found myself stuck walking in a bike lane due to construction, the cyclists rode as close as possible when they passed me just to make their displeasure known. Kinda funny…kinda scary!
The streets are shared by pedestrians, cyclists, trams, scooters, mopeds, and more. On the larger streets, you will see multiple lanes and each one has it’s own crosswalk light. I still don’t quite understand the system because you can’t always cross an entire street at the same time based on the “walk” and “don’t walk lights”.
You could rent a car in Amsterdam if you wanted to drive and explore other cities, but I do not recommend trying to drive in Amsterdam. Use your feet, get your steps in and enjoy this incredible city.
Where To Stay in Amsterdam
As mentioned above, I stayed at the Marriott in the city centre. It is at the end of Leidseplein right beneath the canal zone. If you prefer a hotel to an Airbnb, this is a fantastic location and the beds were extremely comfortable. Within easy walking distance to all of the museums, the famous Red Light District, boat rentals and many restaurants, I can easily recommend this Marriott hotel.
My parents, who have visited Amsterdam many times, have always had incredible experiences at Airbnbs within the canal district. Most of those listings have expired since they were there pre-Covid but I have found a few that I would like to check out when I make a return trip. Maybe you would like to check them out too:
Canal Boat City Centre
Great Luxurious Boutique in City Centre
Weber Collection Luxurieus Design Studio 6
What To Do in Amsterdam
Take a free walking tour! https://freewalkingtoursamsterdam.com/ Our guide, Wendelin, was knowledgeable and entertaining. We covered a lot of ground and learned a lot about the history of Amsterdam. We also discovered spots that we wanted to return to on our own time. The guide collects a €1.55 tax before the tour which can be paid by debit or credit when you meet up, and then after the tour, it is customary to tip what you think it was worth.
Choose a museum and book your time slot before you go. The Anne Frank house was completely booked and due to COVID-19 restrictions, they are no longer releasing day-of tickets. We found that early morning and late afternoon reservations were cheaper than midday. Our museum choice was the Moco Museum — if you love modern art, this is a must-visit. They have an extensive Banksy exhibit, along with Keith Haring, KAWS, Andy Warhol and more. You will need about an hour to see everything.
Take a canal tour! My parents loved the Blue Boat tour which runs about 75 minutes and cost between 15 to 20 euros. Ryan and I decided we wanted to skipper our own boat, so we rented from Boats4Rent Amsterdam Boat Rental and spent two joy-filled hours on evening exploring the canals of Amsterdam. This was by far my favourite thing to do in Amsterdam. We picked up some bottled Aperol Spritz cocktails and some picnic necessities from Albert Heijn grocery store and I think my happy grin almost split my face in two. Based on our experience, I would recommend a minimum of three hours which will cost you around €89. The boat can seat up to 6 people and is easy to navigate…I only crashed into another boat once.
Navigating Your Own Boat in The Canals of Amsterdam
You MUST have GPS or it is very likely that you will get lost. Boats4Rent will supply you with a map and highlighted route options but, it is challenging to keep track of which canal you are in and where you are supposed to turn. Street signs at the intersections above the canal are not always easy to see and canal signage is minimal and difficult to decipher.
My final recommendation is to walk all day, every day. Explore Jordaan, The 9 Streets (shopping district), turn down a different canal every time. There is so much to feast your eyes on!
Where To Eat in Amsterdam
- Sampurna – This Indonesian restaurant is right next to the flower market at Singel 498. We ordered the Kuning Rice Table at €27.50 per person and left with enough leftovers for a late night dinner (eaten cold out of the fridge in our hotel room) after the canal boat tour. This meal was by far the best meal of our trip and easily the best meal I have had in the past two years. I am now craving all of it and will be trying to find a good Indonensian restaurant at home in Calgary!
- Crispy Smoked Bacon Sandwich House – This was one of the spots we stumbled on and decided on the spot that it was time for lunch! If you love bacon, you have to try this place. If you don’t like bacon, maybe you haven’t tried bacon this good before. It is perfectly crispy, smoky, meaty and piled on the sandwich of your choice.
- Bakkerij Egstorf – This bakery was making fresh stroopwafels and they were DELICIOUS! Stop in for a sample and you are guaranteed to buy a whole one to eat!
- Heertje Friet – We had mouthwateringly-delicious french fries here, and a SCALDING hot croquette. When you are in need of a large portion of carb snacks and all the delicous toppings you can imagine, this is a great choice! (Ryan had peanut sauce and basil mayo on his fries and I had sriracha mayo.)
- Foodhallen – This is a great spot for a fun, casual lunch and cocktail. Especially great if you have a group who all want to try different things but still eat together. The food hall has about 20 different concepts from Mexican to Dutch and several balls in the middle between the food stands. I had a vermicelli rice bowl that was very satisfying. More than anything, this place gets major points for atmosphere.
- Cannibale Royale – They say they are a cross between a chic French brasserie with a macabre mancave. Cannibale Royale has 5 locations in Amsterdam so you are sure to see one when you are there and they are usually open very late. The decor is fun and very interesting but the food is really good. Portions are large – you order a main and sides are optional…we ordered an appetizer to share, two main courses and two sides to share. It was way too much food and I was sad not to finish my rotissierie chicken as it was one of the best I’ve had.
- Cheese – One of the picnic items we picked up at Albert Heijn was Roombrie, a very mild, creamy brie. A comparable cheese wedge in Calgary would cost you around $10 and we paid €2.50. So good!
- Fresh-pressed juice – Another great find at Albert Heijn, are the fresh-pressed juices. We stocked up on these and stashed them in our hotel fridge for mornings and quick refreshers during the day.
- Dunkin Donuts – Okay, I would normally never recommend a North American donut chain in a European city food guide, but…the Dunkin Donuts at Leidsestraat 45 had Stroopwafel donuts that were amazing and tasted like they were baked fresh every morning. I may have bought a half dozen to bring home on the plane with me.
Tips on Tipping in Amsterdam
It seemed to me that our servers were a bit surprised and very thankful for tips. Most guides to tipping in Amsterdam say that it isn’t expected but if you receive good service then it is nice to tip 5% – 10%.