Know It before you go - Amsterdam's red light district

The Netherlands can seem like a wonderland for adult pleasure, depending on what you are into. From the liberal drug policy to the sex for sale in the windows, you can find a party here if you want to.

However, some travellers may misunderstand what really is OK and not OK to do in this Dutch locale.

(One of the famous "coffee shops" of Amsterdam.)

Locals Only

Amsterdam, known for its Red Light District planned to ban foreigners from its (in)famous "coffee shops", where you can order dope straight up or cloaked in a milkshake. Just as the new "locals only" laws came into effect there was a change of government. Although technically speaking you need a "weed pass" to purchase, the government has ordered that the police not enforce the law.

Just watch out when you're in other parts of the Netheralnds, some local councils have gone ahead with the crackdown and have city by-laws which restrict sales to foreigners.

Many people find Dutch cannabis to be stronger than forms sold in other countries in Europe and elsewhere so if you do partake, don't over-do it.

Drugs in Netherlands

To be clear, all drugs in the Netherlands are illegal, but in the Red Light District of Amsterdam, it is not uncommon for drug dealers to approach you and offer more illicit substances. Even if it were sanctioned, there are reports that the drugs being pedalled are fake. If you are invited to check the quality of the drugs, you run the risk of being robbed.

There are other substances available in "smartshops," such as so-called herbal ecstasy and magic mushrooms. The latter were banned nationwide in December 2008 after two tourists died from ingesting whatever the heck is in there!

Seedy But Safe

In general, you might find your whole experience in the Red Light District to be seedy. Bijlmer and Slotervaart were once regarded as especially bad areas for violence, but they've cleaned up their acts over the years.

The city in general is normally very safe thanks to heavy police presence and security officials. Run-of-the-mill thievery and pickpockerting occur, especially in the middle of Amsterdam, near train and tram stations and on public transport. Be especially wary on the line running to and from Schiphol Airport.

The style of thievery in this city involves pairing up and distracting you with inane questions while one of the duo snatches your purse, bag or other belonging. This often happens at train stops, where the criminals swiftly jump off the train.

Red Light Rules

Drugs and scantily clad prostitutes can make for an interesting environment. Never take pictures of women posing or doing other activities in the red windows unless you want your camera taken from you.

(A whole new kind of window shopping.)

Also don't focus on drugs at the expense of monitoring your alcohol. Travellers to Amsterdam and other cities in the Netherlands have reported possibly being drugged at hotel bars and nightclubs. Many of these drugs are colourless and odourless, but produce fatigue, nausea and confusion. Do not leave your drink unattended or let a stranger buy you a drink.

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  • Ben said

    The rules on drugs have been set for some of the Netherlands, but according to Amsterdam's official website, visitors have as much right as anyone else to visit the coffee shops and partake, as the mayor decided against banning non-residents from using them.
    Details here: http://www.iamsterdam.com/en-GB/experience/about-amsterdam/facts-and-figures/coffeeshops

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