Is It Safe in Amsterdam?

Lovely canal houses and arched bridges in the center of Amsterdam.

George Pachantouris / Getty Images

Amsterdam, the beautiful capital of the Netherlands, may be famous for its Red Light District and abundance of cannabis, but it is actually one of the safest cities in Europe and the world. Violent crime is not common here, but tourists should be aware of petty crimes, terrorist attacks frequently being planned, and occasionally violent demonstrations.

Travel Advisories

  • The U.S. Department of State suggests visitors reconsider travel to the Netherlands due to COVID-19 and exercise more caution because of terrorism.
  • Canada's government states travelers should have a high degree of caution due to terrorism and follow COVID-19 guidelines to avoid fines. Anyone age 13 and up must wear a face mask in closed spaces and on public transportation.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says travelers should avoid all visits to the Netherlands due to very high levels of COVID-19.

Is Amsterdam Dangerous?

Most Amsterdam neighborhoods are safe for walking—even alone—with a few exceptions. One place to avoid come nightfall is the Red Light District. While it's filled with all types of people during the day, the area attracts seedier visitors and vagrants at night. These can include people discreetly (but persistently) peddling illegal, "hard" drugs. Violent crimes are not common, but tourists should also watch for pick-pockets and bag snatching. Always pay attention to your surroundings and be careful on trains where thieves operate, particularly around the time the train stops.

A big safety issue in the Netherlands is the continually plotted terrorist attacks, which may come with little or zero warning. Everywhere from tourist locations, airports, and transportation hubs to shopping malls, local government facilities, and restaurants can be targeted. It is wise to be careful even in places of worship, markets, parks, educational institutions, and other public areas. Be especially cautious at sporting events and other public celebrations, as well as during religious holidays.

Another thing to watch out for is organized groups of thieves. One person will usually distract someone by asking for directions or spilling something on the victim, who gets robbed by others in the group.

Is Amsterdam Safe for Solo Travelers?

Amsterdam is a popular and overall safe place for solo travelers. It is easy to get around the city, which offers effective public transit and bike rentals as well as plenty of bicycle routes. Many locals speak English, in case people traveling on their own may be in need of assistance. There are various hotels and hostels that cater to individuals exploring the country. Though travelers will usually have a trouble-free visit, it is a good idea to follow safety precautions, such as not walking alone at night and avoiding uncrowded areas.

Is Amsterdam Safe for Female Travelers?

Female tourists are typically safe in Amsterdam, whether traveling alone or with others. Public transportation runs late into the night and usually has enough passengers to provide a safety net; sitting as close as you can to the driver is one way to avoid most issues. Local women are often seen riding bicycles, even at night. Harassment in the streets or in other locations is not a frequent problem but it does happen, especially to women walking alone in the Red Light District. To steer clear of danger, female tourists should avoid dark and empty streets and choose accommodations with properly functioning locks on the doors and windows.

Safety Tips for LGBTQ+ Travelers

For LGBTQ+ visitors, the Netherlands is generally a positive place. Amsterdam has often been referred to as one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world, offering welcoming bars, clubs, hotels, restaurants, and other venues, along with cruising areas. A great majority of the locals support gay marriage. Even though it's a liberal climate, homophobic incidents of violence and discrimination have taken place, so it is a good idea to still be cautious and limit public displays of affection.

Safety Tips for BIPOC Travelers

Despite it being a progressive place, Amsterdam has longtime racial tensions that may affect BIPOC travelers. With locals primarily from Dutch and other European backgrounds, it is not the most ethnically diverse city. Steps are being taken to educate the public and make amends regarding Amsterdam's involvement in the transatlantic slave trade. A Black Heritage Tour starting in Dam Square is available, which includes stops at major historical landmarks and the Maritime Museum.

Safety Tips for Travelers

There are various general tips all travelers should consider following when visiting:

  • Should you have an emergency, call 112 to reach the police.
  • Major cities like Amsterdam may have demonstrations, which can transform from peaceful to violent, leading to traffic and public transportation issues. Avoid areas with large gatherings and monitor the local media.
  • Secure your personal belongings and travel documents at all times. Do not carry valuables or large amounts of money.
  • Use caution in businesses selling soft drugs. These establishments are referred to as coffee shops. Visitors who underestimate the effects of cannabis—especially the potent varieties sold in the Netherlands—are at risk of overdoing it, which can lead to unpleasant physical sensations.
  • It is not recommended to swim in Amsterdam's canals. Besides it being illegal to swim, the water quality is not great. 
  • Roads are generally in good condition, but cyclists and vehicles coming from the right side have priority unless signage says otherwise. Always drive and walk carefully near tram rails.
  • Bike safety is an important consideration in Amsterdam, a city where pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists share the streets, and tourists are eager to cruise around. Learn the rules of the road and common Dutch street signs and signals before you encounter them on the city streets.
Article Sources
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  1. U.S. Department of State. "Netherlands Travel Advisory." August 6, 2020.

  2. Government of Canada. "Official Global Travel Advisories." December 1, 2020.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "COVID-19 in the Netherlands." December 2, 2020.