Welcome to Amsterdam! (and some bicycle tips)

Whew! I finally got the time to create a WordPress site to document my experience here in the Netherlands, with the hope for future students and visitors to find valuable resources that would make your trip to Amsterdam as smooth-sailing as possible 🙂

This is my 10th week in Amsterdam, and the 2nd week of my 2nd block in the University of Amsterdam (UvA). In my next post, I will tell you more about the education system here in UvA, so that undergrads will have a better understanding and make informed decisions about applying to the university. I wrote a really detailed blog post that spoke about my experience in the first block of the semester, and my experiences in the various courses. Do check it out!

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A common view of the rows of houses and canals in Amsterdam

In subsequent posts, I will slowly unravel my travels in and around Amsterdam, especially within the Netherlands, and some trips that I will be making beyond Netherlands! In addition, I would also include posts on food, museums, and places to visit, so that you can plan your itinerary before arriving in Amsterdam!

I’ve pretty much settled down in Amsterdam, leading life like a local – cycling around the city, purchasing my groceries in the ubiquitous Albert Heijn supermarket, enjoying their cheese and milk here (mmhhmmm). Except for the first day (finding my way to Amsterdam from Schipol Airport, going through all the necessary procedures to register myself with the Town Hall, checking in to my residence, etc.), I was eased into the culture of the Dutch, thanks to the introductory sessions organized by the Psychology department in UvA.

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Thanks to this welcome session, I was not that lost on my first week in Amsterdam.

I have to share my experience with bicycles here. My first bike was stolen over my first weekend here. It was parked in my residence, and I was so disappointed – and sad – that I barely got the chance to cycle on it. That first bike, although 2nd hand, cost me €100! I lowered my expectations for the second bike, and got it at €60. My second bike was stolen in the 4th week here. And then I got my third bike for €80 with a back-wheel lock as deterrence and it has served me well till now. All in all, I spent a total of €240 on bikes, which could get me a pretty decent new one =(

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That’s not my bike. If I could choose, I would love an orange bike! =P

In my first post here, I shall share some tips on buying/renting bikes in Amsterdam.

As it was my first time here, I did not know where to get cheap and good secondhand bikes. The staff in the UvA Psychology department recommended Waterlooplein Market for secondhand bikes, and she said that €50 could get you a decent bike, and you usually pay more for a good lock to keep your bike safe. That made me think that bikes should be priced around that range, but when I was at the market, the first offer I got was for €80. Keep your expectations low when you go to Waterlooplein. The dealers there have tons of experience with tourists and students, and they know how to squeeze the most out of you. Some dealers look “shady”, but I trusted them all the same. I’m not good at the haggling game, I’m sure you can do a better job than me!

If you prefer new bikes, there are plenty of shops that sell new ones. They are pricier, and cost at least €150 to a few thousand.

For students, you may choose to rent your bike as recommended by UvA. I thought it was pricey then, but on hindsight, it was much cheaper than having my bike stolen and buying it again and again. Some rentals cover bike thefts and you do not have to pay for the loss of bikes. If you are a tourist who wish to travel around Amsterdam in the fastest and most eifficient way, there are many bike tours/rental shops, and the common ones that I see are: Yellow Bike, MacBike, Mike’s Bike, Green Budget Bikes – all of them with very touristy-looking bikes that shouts “I’M A TOURIST!”

Rules on cycling (which differentiates you from the tourists)

  1. A “Dutch” bike is a fixie with no gears and utilizes back-pedal. It was unnerving at first, but you will soon get the hang of it!
  2. Always keep right, unless you wish to overtake the front cyclist
  3. Be polite and don’t hog the bicycle lanes by cycling next to your friend
  4. Use hand signals to indicate whether you are turning right or left
  5. Don’t ride your bikes on walkways meant for pedestrians
  6. Bike lights are a traffic requirement – a white one at the front, and a red one at the back. You can easily buy them in HEMA (a departmental store that sells everything cheaply) or from the dealers when purchasing your bike, if the lights on your bikes are not working.
  7.  Pay attention to tram tracks and don’t ride parallel to it. Your bicycle tyre could ride into it and you can easily get your wheel stuck and fall.
  8. ALWAYS – I stress – Always lock your bike, even for a short while! Best to have a back-wheel lock on top of the regular metal chain lock that you would have. Reject the thin plastic kinds of locks as they are easy to cut through.

That’s all for now, and look forward to my upcoming posts! Let me know what else you wish to know about Amsterdam, and I will write in my subsequent posts!

Cheers!

Waterlooplein Market, @Waterlooplein 2, Amsterdam

Opens daily, 9am – 6pm, except Sundays

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