Visiting Amsterdam

Dear foreigners: Please don't visit Amsterdam until you've read these 5 facts

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Amsterdam is estimated to attract 30 million tourists by 2025, but what impact do all those visitors have on the lives of locals who have to live there?

The point isn't to scare you away from travelling to Amsterdam, but to simply help make you more informed, be conscious and know what impact you have as a traveller visiting Amsterdam.

1. Your interest in our sex industry may be funding human trafficking

Sex tourism is big business in Holland: it brings in one billion dollars annually. But it also has a dark side: the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime lists the Netherlands as the number one destination for human-trafficking victims.

Even though prostitution is legal in Holland, organised crime is firmly embedded in the Amsterdam Red Light District. Since it’s not possible to obtain a work visa for prostitution for foreigners, many come here illegally through organised crime networks. It is estimated that 80 percent of the prostitutes in Amsterdam are not EU-citizens. Accounts of forced labor and sexual exploitation through networks of violent pimps and loverboys are grueling.

To combat human trafficking, the Dutch government has increased scrutiny and reduced the number of brothels, but the number of tourists visiting the Red Light District keeps on growing, encouraging human trafficking. Meanwhile, most locals prefer to avoid the area.

2. Your Airbnb rental may be driving up rental prices for locals

The number of tourists in Amsterdam has grown and will keep growing massively. More than eight million tourists visit Amsterdam every year. Projections say that the city will attract 30 million visitors annually in 2025. That’s quite something for a city with 800,000 inhabitants.

Most tourists prefer a place to stay with a local host, offered by the many online platforms like Airbnb. Even though this brings some extra money in the bank for the locals renting out their place, it also contributes to the massive housing shortage and drives up the rental/buying price for locals.

3. You may be causing danger on the road

Tourists on bikes in the centre of Amsterdam not only make the roads in the city centre a lot busier, but also makes them less safe. Most tourists are not used to riding a bike and don’t know that they can be a danger to themselves and to locals. I’ve seen them suddenly stop in the middle of the road to take a picture of a canal, ride next to each other in small streets blocking all other traffic, take the wrong way on the cycling path and get stuck in the tram rails.

Between 2000 and 2011 the number of cyclists who were severely injured increased by 50 percent. There aren’t any official statistics on the number of bike accidents involving foreigners because the police doesn’t record the nationality of the offender and/or the victim, but the emergency room of a hospital in the city centre confirms that about 200 cases per year involve tourist-cycling accidents

4. You may be driving out the shops and products locals need

For reasons locals will never understand, many tourists buy tons of trashy souvenirs and products in Amsterdam. This has steeply increased the number of shops in the city center selling fake Delfts Blue, weed-related products, smoking accessories and wooden shoes.

This comes at the expense of shops offering products and services for locals. Ever wondered why there’s so many waffle and ice cream shops in the centre of Amsterdam? That brings me to the next point.

5. You may be contributing to drug-related crime and nuisance

It is estimated that a significant part of the eight million tourists that visit Amsterdam every year comes to consume drugs such as weed, cocaine, mushrooms and more. Even though it’s not illegal to smoke pot, tourists often have little prior experience with drugs and are not aware of how strong it can be here compared to other countries. There have been several (deadly) incidents involving drugs, and a disproportionate share of those incidents involves foreigners.

Meanwhile, hard drugs are illegal in Holland, and hard-drug dealers include well organised, often violent gangs. Those waffle and ice cream shops? They are often suspected to be used for laundering drug money.


Cindy Kroon / Reprinted with permission of Matador Network.

Cindy Kroon

Cindy is a curious traveller, expat, Netflix addict, and food lover (the eating part, not the cooking part). When she isn't practising ashtanga yoga or dancing it with friends, she is probably making travel plans. You can follow her adventures, including neat travel tips and tricks, on The White Rabbit.

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3 Comments To This Article

  • Henri posted:

    on 3rd August 2016, 18:58:32 - Reply

    a bit shortsighted article!!
    The red light district is a major tourist attraction that is kept going by the Dutch government for obvious reasons. is there human trafficking? sure! does that need to be taken care of? yes!! by the government!
    There has been a massive housing shortage in Holland and also Amsterdam for 20/30 years!! that is not something since airbnb was introduced and I fail to see how locals renting their spare rooms drive up rental/buy prices!! there are a lot of maybe's and could be in this article which basically translates into: we have no clue!! also, most nuisance, noise and violence is due to alcohol or alcohol related incidences! there is no evidence that supports that all the violence and nuisance is drug related!
    furthermore, IF and I say IF waffle shops are fronts for money laundering, that is not an issue you can pin on the tourists! that is a job for the government! also, driving out the local shops? ask the big AH and DIRK stores why they are doing that!!
    again, in my eyes, as a dutch passport holder living abroad, a very simple, inaccurate and shortsighted article! not what I would expect from Expatica!!
  • Griffin posted:

    on 3rd August 2016, 18:11:32 - Reply

    How to cut 8 million visitors down to a more manageable amount, say less than a million.
    Seriously. I've been several times now, always stayed in a hotel, never patronized the red light district (although I've passed by parts of it), never had a smoke in a "coffee" house, and never bought a typical souvenir. But in Delft, of course I bought a vase. I did try to drive down a bike path once and was quickly corrected by everyone nearby. What do I go for--museums, great food, and visions of canal life.
    Sure, there is a criminal element, but it extends all over Europe.
    The more people who visit and the more people live there, the more accidents and problems. Be thankful for what is there now.
  • Douwe posted:

    on 3rd August 2016, 15:04:27 - Reply

    Seriously, what a trashy article, all the worlds ills will be solved if only we impose our particular moralities on aspects of Amsterdam that we don't like.

    True that there are problems in the sex industry, the drug industry and tourists, but maybe if we work at fixing the problems without eliminating the entire business we would be considerably better off, still allow those things that people enjoy and still have tourists who can enjoy the wonders of Amsterdam. Clearly she may have travelled much but understood little