Amsterdam is by no means inexpensive. Clearly, whether you agree with this statement will depend on how much you can bring to bear -- or bear to bring -- in the way of financial resources. If you are used to the prices in New York and London, it won't seem too out of whack. But opportunities for scoring genuine bargains run a thin gamut from few-and-far-between to nonexistent. Remember, the Dutch have for centuries been consummate traders and middlemen. You need only look at how well-appointed their country is to appreciate how fair a job they've done extracting money from foreigners.
In your favor is that the Dutch themselves display an almost proverbial reluctance to unnecessarily part with a euro. A sound rule of thumb is that if you lodge, dine, and entertain yourself in the same places where "ordinary" Dutch do, you can limit financial damage.
The European euro (€) is the currency in the Netherlands. There are 100 euro cents to each euro. The euro coins are: .01€, .02€, .05€, .10€, .20€, .50€ (1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 euro cents), 1€, and 2€. The euro notes are 5€, 10€, 20€, 50€, 100€, 200€, and 500€.
Holland does not produce its own 1 and 2 euro cent coins (except for commemorative issues), and prices in the country are rounded to the nearest 5 cents. The 200€ and 500€ notes are pretty much unusable because few businesses accept them.
Frommer's lists exact prices in the local currency. THowever, rates fluctuate, so before departing consult a currency exchange website such as www.oanda.com/convert/classic to check up-to-the-minute rates.
The Cirrus (tel. 800/424-7787; www.mastercard.com) and PLUS (tel. 800/843-7587; www.visa.com) networks span the globe; look at the back of your bank card to see which network you're on, then check online for ATM locations in Amsterdam. Be sure you know your personal identification number (PIN) and daily withdrawal limit before you depart. Note: Remember that many banks impose a fee every time you use a card at another bank's ATM, and that fee can be higher for international transactions than for domestic ones. In addition, the bank from which you withdraw cash may charge its own fee. For international withdrawal fees, ask your bank.
If you have a five- or six-digit PIN, be sure to obtain a four-digit number from your bank to use in Amsterdam. Some cards with five- or six-digit PINs might work, but this depends on which bank you're with. The best advice is still to get a four-digit number from your bank.
Credit cards are not as commonly accepted in Amsterdam as they are in the U.S. and Britain. Many restaurants and shops in the city -- and some hotels -- don't accept them at all. Some establishments tag on a 5% charge for card payment. Visa and MasterCard (also known as Eurocard in Europe) are the most widely used cards in Holland. American Express is often accepted, mostly in the middle- and upper-bracket category. Diners Club is not as commonly accepted as American Express.
Beware of hidden credit card fees while traveling. Check with your credit or debit card issuer to see what fees, if any, will be charged for overseas transactions. Recent reform legislation in the U.S., for example, has curbed some exploitative lending practices. But many banks have responded by increasing fees in other areas, including fees for customers who use credit and debit cards while out of the country -- even if those charges were made in U.S. dollars. Fees can amount to 3% or more of the purchase price. Check with your bank before departing to avoid any surprise charges on your statement.
In Holland, you'll rarely (perhaps never) come across a business that uses the old swipe system for authorizing credit card payments. Instead, payments will either be authorized by a chip system in the card and the cardholder's signature, or by chip-and-PIN, with a four-digit personal identification number replacing the signature. An additional complication is that many card-accepting machines and businesses in Holland, in particular those like parking machines, train ticket machines, self-service gas (petrol) stations, and small shops, take the local Chipknip stored-value cards. Foreign visitors may be obliged to use their cards to a certain extent just for withdrawing funds from bank ATMs, and paying with old-fashioned cold, hard cash.
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.