The problem with simultaneously constantly wanting to travel and being a fairly broke student is that sadly seeing waterfalls in Thailand, lakes in New Zealand or sunsets by the beautiful beaches of Sri Lanka just isn't going to happen on a termly basis! But just because a student budget isn't going to happily stretch to expensive plane tickets, doesn't mean that travelling to insanely amazing places isn't possible, it just means that picking a slightly nearer location and hunting down hidden bargains is necessary, as well as picking up as many overtime shifts as you can in my case! So here is how to spend 4 days in Amsterdam for under £200 including everything!
Whilst getting an overnight bus to somewhere like Sri Lanka or Thailand is not even a possibility, for a lot of places in Europe it is. By coach London Victoria to Amsterdam is roughly 12 hours and £13. Yep, £13 to travel 330 miles across 4 countries. Ironically I paid more to get to London from Reading (a 40 minute journey) than I did to get from London to Amsterdam! I got overnight buses both ways leaving at half 9 at night and arriving at 9 in the morning, and was able to grab a few hours sleep. But honestly the excitement of going to a completely new place means that tiredness just doesn't have the same effect as it would at home. Going overnight also means you get an extra days holiday without having to pay for another night in a hostel or hotel.
Where to Stay
As such a lively city and tourist hotspot Amsterdam is packed with lovely hostels and hotels, but if you're looking for a safe, clean and affordable room then I honestly can't recommend the hostel I stayed in enough! When booking hostels trip advisor is such a life saver, and in my experience the average rating is generally pretty accurate. Its always best to double check a second source as so many hostels will gloss over any problems and you'll only realise when you've arrived and paid that the pictures aren't quite the same as reality! The hostel we stayed in, Wow hostel Amsterdam, cost £12 a night for a bed in a 12 bed dorm including breakfast. The dorm may sound daunting but I found this hostel really safe, with friendly room mates who gave us fab advice on what to do and a big lockable box under the bed to store all your stuff. They also have smaller dorms and private rooms if you have a bit more money to spend. The wifi was also working the whole time and the free breakfast (I had toast with chocolate spread and a cappuccino every day) was such a money saver!
Where to Eat
Amsterdam is brimming with delicious restaurants to try, but for me it was all about the street food!
My absolute favourite has to be Yo-Tella, a nutella themed waffle and frozen yoghurt shop. I was completely sold by the massive nutella sign in the window, but I also really loved the way the shop operated, after choosing a base of either waffle or frozen yoghurt you can choose from a huge array of toppings, with everything from fresh fruit to vats of dark, milk and white chocolate to mini marshmallows and smarties. They then weigh your creation and charge according to weight, my friend and I paid 5 euros each and we (mainly me) went crazy with the toppings! As a vegetarian I had no problem finding a wide variety of food to try, and the amount of cheese may have made the holiday for me!
What to Do
Being the exciting, busy city Amsterdam is you're honestly spoilt for choice for what to do! Here are a few of my highlights!
Bloenmenmarkt. I loved this floating flower market, although I am slightly obsessed with taking pictures of flowers so of course I loved it! Its a really cute area full of endless brightly coloured tulips and sweet little souvenirs. I'd really recommend going there on the last day as its such a good place to buy presents. It was fairly affordable with cute little 'grow your own' packs of sunflowers or tulips selling for only a couple of euros and also had a Christmas shop packed with baubles, reindeer and Christmas music and with a countdown chart til Christmas outside!
The Anne Frank Museum. This was such an emotional and thought-provoking experience. Seeing beautiful quotes from Anne's diary lining the walls was so inspiring but heart breaking at the same time, and in my opinion this isn't to be missed if you're visiting Amsterdam.
The Free Walking Tour. This was recommended to us on our second day by one of our lovely room mates and I'm so glad we went! The 3 hour tour of the city is led by a freelance local with so much knowledge about Amsterdam and its history. It was amazing to be able to see the whole city from the red light district to the beautiful, serene canals of the Jordaan to Dam square while also hearing about the history and culture of each area.
The Ice Bar. This was really fun! I've never been to an ice bar before but I'd definitely go again. For 18 euros you're given 3 tokens to get 3 different cocktails and entry to the famous ice bar! We tried the Amsterdamned, a strawberry cheesecake and nougat vodka served in ice glasses. Before entering the -10 degree ice bar we were given huge coats and gloves which seemed to be straight out of the film Frozen. To any readers used to really cold weather -10 might not seem that extreme, but we found it freezing!
The Film Museum. We visited this museum on our last after realising that we had about 10 euros left for the day and that the film museum is free! It had loads of really interesting old film methods as well as green screens you could use to make your own videos. It also had this really cute little film booths you could use, which we may have ended up staying in for over an hour watching Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone!
Amsterdam Royal Palace. This is one of the most beautiful and interesting places I've ever been, full or ornate detailed ceilings, stunning statues and decadent gold themed rooms. What I loved most about this visit though, was the Greek mythology behind the decoration and theme of the building. The audio guide gave magical back stories to the design of the building and its many room as well as its breathtaking history.
Amsterdam Dungeons. This is definitely one of the most thrilling, scary and fun things I did in Amsterdam! You're locked in a prison with a load of other people (my group were all around my age but with a massive mix of nationalities) and then begin the tour. It has 9 live action shows ranging from being held captive on medieval pirate ships to trials convicting us of being witches and leading to some of us being burnt at the stake complete with fake fire. Its similar to the Saw Maze at a Thorpe Park fright night with actors jumping out at you in the dark and endless twists and turns!
Thanks for reading lovelies and let me know in the comments if you've ever been to Amsterdam or have a European city that you've either loved visiting or would like to visit!