Is Amsterdam safe to live or visit alone? An expat insider explains how safe Amsterdam is at night and in the red light district, plus areas to avoid and types of crime tourists should watch out for.
Is Amsterdam safe to travel? Yes, Amsterdam is a safe city to visit. In the last Safe City Index (2015), Amsterdam ranked fifth position in the list of safest cities in the world.
Though you can buy marihuana freely in coffee shops, smart drugs in smart shops and prostitution is legal, Amsterdam is not a dangerous city.
For crime, Amsterdam is also safe. The risk of violent assault in Amsterdam is pretty much absent, in all parts of the city. Also, crime rates in general in Amsterdam are going down every year.
Still, most of the crimes such as robbing and pickpocketing in Amsterdam happen to tourists. Tourists are targeted more often than Amsterdam residents because they are easily distracted. Tourists still need to be careful of petty thieves, such as pickpockets, and getting your bag, jacket or things from your car stolen.
Here’s a list of tips for keeping safe in Amsterdam.
- How to avoid getting your bike stolen
- Car theft in Amsterdam
- Getting pickpocketed, robbed or mugged in Amsterdam
- Chances of assault, robbery, violence or murder in Amsterdam?
- Is the red light district safe in Amsterdam?
- Unsafe neighbourhoods in Amsterdam
- Is it safe in Amsterdam for women to travel alone?
Unsurprisingly, in a city with more than 800,000 bikes, bike theft is the biggest crime in Amsterdam. Most Amsterdam residents lose on average two bikes a year.
8 tips to avoid a stolen bike in Amsterdam
- Always use two different locks.
- Get at least one really good bike lock. A good bike lock should have a steel chain and will cost at least EUR 30.
- Don’t use U-shaped locks.
- Always attach the frame to a bike rack or pole.
- If you have two bikes, don’t attach them to each other, unless you really want to help out the thief.
- There are many bike parks in the city where your bike is safe and dry (and many with the first 24 hours free).
- The thief follows the market: popular bikes (like ‘grandpa style’ bikes, shiny new bikes or bikes with accessoires) are easy to sell and so more popular among thieves.
- And, oh yeah, try to remember what your bike looks like to describe to the police or get a frame number.
Leaving your car in parking in Amsterdam is already expensive, but if you do please empty out the car completely. Any visible objects in the car (especially if it’s rental or a foreign number plate) will let a thief know there’s something worthwhile inside. Any car is very easy to open. Even ‘secure’ park&ride car parks will not guarantee that your car is safe.
In any city where there are tourists, pickpockets try their luck. Though Amsterdam is no Barcelona or Rome (true pickpocket havens), Amsterdam, with its high density of tourism, does attract thieves and so pickpocketing happens a lot, especially in summer.
That’s because thieves know tourists carry a lot of cash with them and are easily distracted.
5 tips to avoid pickpockets in Amsterdam
- Always keep your bag close to your body and closed.
- Don’t use a big wallet. Don’t carry more money than you need.
- Don’t leave your bag or jacket with a wallet unattended in the dressing room of a shop, a fast food restaurant, bar or club (all clubs offer paid cloak rooms) or hanging from a baby stroller.
- Places with high pickpocketing rates in Amsterdam: Central Station, Damrak (between Central Station and Dam Square), Kalverstraat shopping street, (getting in and out of) trams, buses and metros, hotel lobbies, restaurants and bars.
- Pickpockets either try to get into your bag or pocket when you are distracted or they try to distract you. Be very careful when someone asks you direction at Central Station – you probably look like a tourist and information stands are everywhere, so why would anyone approach you to ask directions? Or they point out a ‘spot’ on your clothing. Or when they exit the tram, they ‘fall’ and, while you help out, they take your wallet out of your bag. Usually they work in teams, so if one person is talking to you, the other has probably already robbed you.
Getting robbed or mugged in Amsterdam
How big is the chance you will be robbed or mugged in Amsterdam? Not very big. In average there are five robbings in the streets of Amsterdam per day (by comparison: just in Paris Nord station, there are 30–40 suitcases stolen everyday!).
In almost all of these cases, people were robbed of their mobile phone. Basically it was just taken out of their hands while talking on the phone. In most of the cases, the victims were teenagers and not tourists.
If anyone confronts you violently, just give away your belongings without hesitation. Please remember: it’s only stuff that can be replaced. Your health is more valuable.
In Amsterdam most of the assault, with violence or arms, happen to people at their business, such as shops and at their homes. So that’s one area where tourists are safer.
Rates of violence and murder in Amsterdam
There are not a lot of murders in Amsterdam and, if they happen, they are usually carried out between criminal groups operating in organised crime. In 2014, 25 people were murdered. In 10 cases the victims were known by the police and active as criminals themselves. The famous year is 2003, when criminal groups started murdering each other, resulting in 15 deaths.
In the Netherlands, homicide is not very common. In the United States, every year 5.27 in 100,000 people are murdered. That’s higher than countries like Iraq and Iran. With 0.9 murders per 100,000 people, the Netherlands is surely one of the safest countries in the world.
The Amsterdam red light district is full of crime, but you will never notice! Organised crime is high here, with women trafficking, prostitutes working for pimps (which is illegal), white washing of money in shady snackbars, dirty sex clubs and dodgy coffee shops.
But, for people just walking around, the red light area is not dangerous at all. There is not much street crime in the Amsterdam red light area, probably because it’s always so busy and there are a lot of police cameras.
Still, naming the red light district as the safest area of Amsterdam is taking things too far. The centre of Amsterdam is still the unsafest area for tourists, mostly due to all the pickpocketing.
As always, the poorest neighbourhoods in a city are usually the most unsafe. This is also true in Amsterdam. Most crimes are recorded in the West: Bos & Lommer and Nieuw-West. These are areas with a lot of social housing, low-income families, immigrants, poverty and social problems. Still, it’s not necessarily dangerous to be around there – most of the crime comes from burglaries.
The only famously ‘dangerous’ area in Amsterdam is Southeast (Amsterdam Zuidoost), an area rather separated with some distance from the city. No chance you will wander around here by accident!
Southeast, also called Bijlmer, was built in the 1960s as a new haven for young families. Since the 1980s, the area is home to a huge number of immigrants from all over the world. The Bijlmer is a poverty stricken area. It suffers from more crime than any other part of the city, though things are looking much better since a huge renovation operation of the area.
Still, the Bijlmer is safe and a lot of fun to visit during day time (it’s not a ghetto like Paris, or somewhere with gangs like Los Angeles).
The Amsterdam council has made an interactive map that shows the safety of different neighbourhoods in Amsterdam.
Amsterdam is safe for all people but as a woman travelling on your own, I advise you to take the normal precautions: don’t wander alone in deserted areas such as parks after dark and don’t trust just any stranger! Other than that: Amsterdam is safe, also for women travelling alone.
Click to the top of this article: Is Amsterdam safe?
Reprinted with permission of What’s up with Amsterdam.
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