Boom! a free guide to Amsterdam
Boom! is a quarterly guide published by Boom Chicago in conjunction with Holland Casino. The guide is not shy about promoting their interests but it was surprisingly very helpful. The guide includes general information on the city (trams, restaurants, clubs), dutch customs, mini guides to the red light district and drugs, and other misc. tips. We had success with the souvenir shop and 3 restaurants that were mentioned in the booklet. A map is also included on the back with all their points of interest marked. I actually ended up using it more than the map I paid for. I picked up my copy in a coffeeshop but I saw them all around town.
A Tale of two cities
There are two sides to Amsterdam:
The traditional old town full of canals and winding streets AND the modern version consisting of pubs clubs and the red light district.
Amsterdamers are very tollerant of different ideas and opinions and much here is overlooked
Ann Franc's house. Everyone...
Ann Franc's house. Everyone should realise and understand what racial hatred can do. Amsterdam is a city for ordinary people, it isn't grand, the buildings don't overawe, everything is to a human scale. Drinking in ordinary Dutch pubs and bars, talking to ordinary Dutch people and finding yourself accepted by them is my best memory.
The main post office ('postkantoor', 'PTT') is on the corner of the Singel near the Dam, but there are many other smaller post offices; most are closed Saturdays, the main post office is open Saturday morning. The Dutch Telephone Book is online (fill in the name and city of who you want to look up).
Phoning from a hotel room can be expensive (ask first). There are two main types of telephone boxes on the streets: cash and phone-card. Phone cards can be bought in various denominations from railway stations, tobacconists, post offices and other shops. They are typically good for long distance calls. With cash phones you should insert money before dialling; unused coins are returned at the end of the call. Because of telephone liberalisation, there are now two different companies with telephone boxes on the street; their phone cards are alas not interchangeable. Most cafés have a public phone or will let you phone locally.
To make an international call, dial 00 followed by your country code, then the national area code (usually leaving off an initial 0) and then the local number.
Many countries have a 'Call Direct' service, where a free call in the Netherlands puts you in touch with an operator in your own country where you can then arrange a reversed-charge or credit call. To dial these services, you dial 0800-022 and then a 4 digit code for the country you want. A list of these codes is in the Amsterdam Yellow Pages ('Gouden Gids').
on the canals
There are numerous tourist boats doing the rounds, and it's also possible to rent a pedal boat, if you're feeling energetic. Of course, if the canals freeze over in winter, the boats get stuck and there's skating to be had