Standard Amenities -- A major element in upgrading low-cost hotels is squeezing bathrooms into guest rooms in the city's canal houses and older buildings. The term bathroom, by the way, is used whether the facilities include a tub, tub/shower combination, shower stall, or even one of those silly shower/toilets in the same space that inevitably results in lots of soggy toilet paper. If having a full bathroom is important to you, verify in advance that all you need is included.
Dutch TV channels air American and British programs in English with Dutch subtitles. Cable TV offers CNN International, BBC World News, MTV, Sky, and others. If you're traveling with kids, be warned that some Dutch, German, and Luxembourg stations broadcast soft (and some not-so-soft) porno shows late at night.
Reservations -- Should you arrive without a reservation, VVV Amsterdam tourist offices will help you for 4€, plus a refundable room deposit. They can find you something, even during the busiest periods, but it may not be exactly what, or where, you want. To reserve ahead of time, contact the Amsterdam Tourism & Convention Board, P.O. Box 3901, 1001 AS Amsterdam (tel. 020/201-880; fax 020/201-8850; email@example.com; www.iamsterdam.nl). Online reservations are free; those made by phone, fax, and e-mail cost 14€ and it costs an additional 14€ to change a reservation.
Rates -- Many moderately priced and budget hotels now copy expensive hotels by varying their rates from day to day for both online and phone reservations, according to the level of demand, and whether it's an advance-purchase or a last-minute reservation. A particular hotel reviewed in this guide might be categorized as "Expensive" or "Very Expensive" even when its lowest possible rate would fit into the "Moderate" or even "Budget" range. If you manage to secure a room at that rate, rejoice in your luck or acumen, but be aware that plenty of your fellow guests will be paying at the higher end of the range.
Taxes -- Value-added tax (BTW) of 6% and service are included in hotel bills. In addition, a 5% city tax applies to rooms at all Amsterdam hotels. Most hotels add this tax separately to the room rate; others include it in the rate. Be sure to check this when reserving.
Vexations -- Mosquitoes, which thrive in the damp conditions on and near the canals and on marshy reclaimed land around the city, can be a major nuisance. You can buy various plug-in devices to hold them at bay, and a fly-swatter to bring 'em down, but it's best not to let them into your room in the first place.
The lower down the price scale you go, the more likely you are to find yourself subject to "amenities" such as tiny sinks in which you can just about wash one hand at a time, no soap or shampoo in the bathroom, or a supplementary charge for orange juice at breakfast -- talk about being nickel-and-dimed (or dollar-and-pounded).
Gay & Lesbian Hotels -- Though by law no hotel is allowed to turn away same-sex couples -- in Amsterdam, such a thing is unimaginable anyway -- service will be better-tailored at gay-run hotels, and Amsterdam has gay hotels aplenty. Prices and facilities are pretty unexceptional -- the innkeepers' knowledge that most guests will be out enjoying themselves is probably why these hotels don't turn up the luxury level.
Complaints -- Standards of service can be, aah . . . "relaxed" . . . in Amsterdam. That doesn't mean you won't get good, friendly service -- you will -- but there's a subtle subtext: Dutch service providers just naturally assume they're doing you a favor, rather than their job. This attitude surfaces most clearly when you make a complaint. You may be astonished to discover that if you have a problem, you might be blamed for not being satisfied with what's provided.
If you dare to make a heated complaint -- such as rearing up on your hind legs and hollering until the staff person gets his or her butt into gear -- your effort goes down like the Titanic. In big international hotels, where staffers are accustomed to the demanding "foibles" of global business travelers, the response is likely to be glacial but correct. But in a hotel farther down the financial food chain, watch out: You may have a stand-up fight on your hands.
Breakfast -- If breakfast isn't included, expect to pay 5€ to 25€ for a continental, buffet, or full breakfast, depending on the hotel category. A typical morning begins with a selection of breads -- whole-grain, nutty, or rye -- fresh from the warme bakker; rusks (crunchy toasted rounds, like Zwieback); ontbijtkoek (spicy gingerbread cake); a platter of cheese and sliced meats (ham, roast beef, salami); coffee (thicker and stronger than American or English coffee, and often served with koffiemelk -- gunk similar to condensed milk) or tea. Some hotels throw in a boiled egg, yogurt, fruit juice, or all three.
This, at any rate, is the ideal spread, but cheap hotels may present only a few sorry-looking, curled-up-at-the-edges cheese slices, assorted cold meats of indeterminate provenance, and eggs boiled hard enough to sink an enemy sub.
Summer Stays: Reserve Ahead -- July and August are tough months for finding rooms in Amsterdam; you're advised to reserve as far ahead as possible. If you have problems getting a room, contact the VVV Amsterdam tourist office, which will find you one somewhere, though it might not be in the kind of hotel you want. It can be particularly hard to find hoteliers willing to give away rooms for a single night when that might cost them a longer booking. In this circumstance, a last-minute search might be called for, since a hotel that's had a last-minute cancellation is more likely to consider single-night occupancy. This is a possible exception to the rule that a last-minute search is the wrong way to go about finding a hotel room in Amsterdam.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.