Amsterdam Coffee Shop Etiquette: Dos and Don'ts

Amsterdam coffeeshop
••• Iain Masterton / Getty Images

Keep these tips in mind when visiting Amsterdam coffee shops. Some of them might surprise you! Once you're comfortable with these dos and don'ts, make sure to check out our picks for the best coffee shops in Amsterdam as well.

To become even more educated about proper cannabis etiquette in Amsterdam, visit the Cannabis College.

  • 01 of 05

    DON'T: Confuse 'Coffeeshop' with 'Koffiehuis' or 'Cafe'

    Amsterdam coffee shop
    ••• tunart / Getty Images

    First-time visitors to Amsterdam or its coffee shops may be confused by the terms used for different establishments. A licensed seller of cannabis products is always referred to as a coffee shop. A koffiehuis (coffee house) sells coffee and light meals. A café is a casual restaurant and/or bar. If you're still confused, look for a green and white sticker in the window (pictured at left), a license which designates the establishment a coffee shop.

    Visitors should also be aware that coffee shops do not sell alcohol. Since 2007, Dutch laws have dictated that a shop may sell either alcoholic or cannabis products.

  • 02 of 05

    DO: Ask Questions About the Menu

    Marijuana and hash selections on an Amsterdam coffeeshop menu
    ••• Bruno Ehrs / Getty Images

    Every coffee shop has a menu, either on tables, behind the bar or in a manned stall usually in a corner. Selections are typically divided into weed, hash, pre-rolled joints and sometimes "spacecakes " (sweet cakes baked with marijuana in them). Prices vary by quantity (grams, bags, individual joints) and quality.

    But don't just point to a funny-sounding name like "White Widow" or "Bubblegum" and hope for the best. Ask the staff what they recommend and what effects each type has. If you're intimidated, don't be—coffeeshop employees are friendly, knowledgeable and very accustomed to tourists who don't know exactly how to go about the whole process.

  • 03 of 05

    DON'T: Buy Too Much

    A small bag of weed goes a long way in Amsterdam
    ••• A small bag of weed goes a long way in Amsterdam. Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

    One of the biggest mistakes coffee shop visitors make is buying too much of whatever they've chosen. A little goes a long way. Buy small quantities.

    For example, if you're with a group of three, you don't need to buy three bags and three joints. Cannabis is meant for sharing! These cannabis products are likely much more intense than others you've tried; and if you've never tried them before, you should certainly start off slowly! People who over-buy end up wasting money, dumping leftovers in a trash can on the way to the airport.

  • 04 of 05

    DO: Buy Something

    amsterdam coffeeshop
    ••• Andrij Bulba / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    It's perfectly fine to visit a coffeeshop and smoke weed, hash or a joint that you've already purchased somewhere else (which is another reason you shouldn't feel compelled to buy at every shop).

    However, it is considered rude not to at least buy a drink or snack if you bring in your own supplies. You'll want to anyway, as coffeeshops are known, unsurprisingly, for having some of the best coffee and fresh juices in the city. So don't forget to sample the delectable desserts or hapjes (little bites serving during happy hour).

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    DON'T: Underestimate the Effects

    amsterdam spacecake
    ••• "Spacecake". Rikva / Wikimedia Commons

    Even if you've tried cannabis products in the past, you should still be warned that selections in Amsterdam coffee shops are quite strong. If you're brand-new to it all, educate yourself by asking the staff about effects and just ease in slowly.

    Pre-rolled joints are often rolled with tobacco to cut the strength of the weed or hash. Pure weed joints are sometimes available, but aren't meant for enjoying solo!

    A final word of warning: beware the spacecake! Many people don't understand that the effects of cannabis when eaten are much stronger than when smoked. The results -- which many people describe as more of a "trip" -- can be overwhelming, especially if you don't know what you're in for.