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A Quick Guide to Amsterdam

I fell in love with Amsterdam as soon as I stepped out of Centraal Station. The city is picture perfect all around. The beautiful, and sometimes crooked, brick houses and canals are incredibly charming. Amsterdam is not just instagrammable though, it’s also a really cool place to explore. The thing that I thought was really cool about Amsterdam was that there were all kinds of tourists, all there for many different reasons. Amsterdam has raunchy attractions for the more rambunctious traveler like the Red Light District, Head shops, and Cannabis Coffee Shops but also has incredible museums like the Anne Frank House and Rijksmuseum.

Amsterdam combines the beauty of its 17th-century architecture with plenty of best museums and art galleries in the world. Dutch culture is also incredibly laidback, making Amsterdam one of the most offbeat and appealing cities in the world. 

Things to do.

things to do in amsterdam

This biographical museum is dedicated to telling the story of Anne Frank, a young Jewish girl growing up in Amsterdam during WWII and fell victim to the Holocaust. The museum is housed in the townhome where Anne and her family hid during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. Anne recorded her experience in her now publicized and widely read the diary, The Diary of Anne Frank. I suggest buying your tickets well in advance, like two months in advance, online. You will have to book a particular time to visit the museum.

As per the name, this museum is dedicated to the life and work of Vincent Van Gogh, a well-known Dutch artist. Here you can view his most famous works like; SunflowersAlmond Blossoms, and The Bedroom.

If you want to really learn about art and history in the Netherlands pay a visit to Rijksmuseum. Considered one of the best museums in the world, this is sure to be something you put on your list.

Biking.

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A common phrase I heard thrown around is that there are more bikes in the Netherlands than there are people. I say when in Amsterdam, do as the locals do. Rent a bike and explore the city. Just watch out, many locals do not have patience for amateur bikers clogging the streets.

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Just a short day trip from Amsterdam, Keukenhof Gardens attracts millions of people when its tulips are in bloom. The best time to see the tulips is in April-May. 

Red Light District.

The Red Light district possesses some of the city’s most rambunctious nightlife. It is home to a legal and regulated prostitution industry and a variety of sex shows, sex, and head shops. The streets are lined with glowing red windows indicating where an available sex worker is. In the evening, locals and tourists alike roam the streets, all visiting the Red Light district for different reasons. Some are looking for a good club to grab a drink, some are on their way to smoke at a local coffee shop, and others are there, for whatever reason, to take a peek at the ladies in the windows. The sex workers in the Red Light district act as their own boss. They pay rent for space where they conduct their business and set their own prices and standards for customers. The legalization of prostitution in the Red Light is one of the ways the Dutch are attempting to deter human trafficking in Europe.

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Canals.

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A system of gorgeous canals span the entire city of Amsterdam. There are plenty of canal tours throughout the city. I personally recommend an open top classic boat.

Cannabis Coffee Shops.

Legal marijuana is a huge industry in the Netherlands. Marijuana is sold only in licensed coffee shops. The coffee shops are easy to find despite there being a law against advertising in the shop windows. The shops typically have several strain options and the choice to buy by the gram or as a pre-rolled joint (pure or with tobacco). The vibe in many of these shops is very relaxed, for obvious reasons and many have snacks to help with your munchies.

Jolly Joker Amsterdam
Jolly Joker Coffee Shop Amsterdam

When to go.

Because of the tulips fields, I recommend visiting in April-May while the flowers are in bloom. The weather is best in the summer months but can be crowded. Even if you go in May-June, still expect some chilly days.

Where to stay.

As always I recommend getting a hostel when traveling solo. Hostel prices can vary depending on the time of year. I found most were about $35-50 a night.

Book your stay now with Booking.com

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Amsterdam Travel Guide

How to Create Your Travel Budget

So, you have to create a travel budget.

If you’re anything like me, this is something you have probably been avoiding.

Preparing a travel budget can be a daunting and overwhelming experience, with endless estimates, and often erratic or doubtful results. You can never truly know if the budget is going to work out until you actually embark on your journey. But they are important so that you can be better prepared for the unexpected. So, with that in mind take a deep breath. It’s ok, everyone else hates making a travel budget too.

The budget is one of the most dreaded things a person must create to effectively travel. No one wants to think about how much money their spending or try to find ways to cut their expenses. However, it is necessary. Some women (myself included previously) don’t believe they need a travel budget because they will be alone and will only be tracking the expenses of one person. Or they will think planning is pointless because travelling alone is cheaper than traveling in a group. Being whimsical and positive about your upcoming trip is fine but the reality of travel and unexpected costs will add up if you don’t do your research and at least loosely plan how you plan to spend your money.

Solo travel can be unpredictable and expensive. Drawing up your budget ahead of time will help you realize the true cost of your trip and allow you organization and peace of mind if something unexpected happens. If you have a budget, you can easily refer to it and adjust your plans accordingly.

Travel can be expensive – but there are ways to bring costs down. You just have to take the time to research and be open-minded with cost saving tips.

Where do I begin?

Things to think about before you even start

Remember that in addition to budgeting for your actual travel, there’s also what you’ll spend getting ready to leave – the startup costs, the upfront expenses. Here are just a few examples of the kinds of things you’ll have to keep in mind:

  • You’ll have to choose a backpack or a suitcase which can set you back anything from $30 to $300 and more. The type of travelling you are doing will determine if you need a pack vs. a suitcase.
  • Then there’s the rest of your travel gear and accessories: clothes, good boots and shoes, and the various products – creams, toothpaste and other toiletries.
  • Do you need medical attention before leaving? International travel vaccinations can be quite steep if your insurance doesn’t pay for them. You also should be sure you have filled all prescriptions you plan to bring with you before your trip. Check with a clinic or your doctor.
  • Have you gotten a passport? If you will be travelling outside your own country you will need one of these. In the US you can wait up to 6-weeks before traveling to apply for passport and receive it before your trip. Depending on how close your trip is you may even have to pay for expedited shipping. You also will have to pay for the passport photo to be taken.
  • Do you need a visa? The visas for some countries can cost hundreds of dollars.
  • You’ll have to factor in the cost of comprehensive travel insurance, especially if you come from a country like the United States, like me, where health insurance is private and costly. Travel insurance is a MUST. Imagine breaking your leg in the middle in Belize and having no way to afford medical treatment or surgery out of pocket there.
  • And finally, there’s the cost of international transport, your flights, trains, buses, lodging, entertainment etc.

This is a brief and general list. Not all of these will apply to everyone but, this list does give you an idea of what you need to try to keep in mind when planning your adventure.

So, now that you’ve covered the basics, it’s time to make your budget.

Talk to other travelers about their experiences. Ask friends for tips and advice from people who have travelled to your destination before.

To make your research easier I’ve compiled a list of some great tools, sites, and blogs that can help you plan both your budget and your itinerary.

Budget Calculator

You have to start by laying out what you think you’ll be spending. I find excel spreadsheets to be the most helpful. If you’re like me, and are extremely bad at math you will appreciate a ‘plug and chug’ excel template for budgeting.

A Ginger Away Travel Budgeter

Cost of travel in countries: figure out how much things cost abroad

There are plenty of resources on the web that provide information on the cost of travelling. Do you research and use multiple sources. It’s important to remember that some sites are paid to display certain information and can be misleading. Below I have compiled some useful sites that can help you determine how expensive a country or region can be.

  • XE.com: can help you determine currency exchange rates and will help you calculate your money exchange.
  • Travel Independent: a guide to some of the world’s most popular travel destinations. This site gives you simple and relative information on country highlights, ratings, and expenses.
  • Budget Your Trip: View typical and average travel costs for thousands of cities and hundreds of countries around the world to help you plan your next trip’s budget.

How to actually plan your travel budget

What do you actually include in your budget? What proportion should go to accommodation, and how much should you set aside for food? Is there anything you can do without, or substitute? What steps do you actually have to take to get your budget done? I’m not going to go into specifics on searching for flights and lodging. I will address finding affordable travel and accommodation in a later post.

  • Nomaic Matt: staple travel blog is a must to follow for any traveler. It is full of extensive information on countries and the ins and outs of planning a trip.
  • Lonely Planet: extensive online travel guide to nearly every part of the globe.
  • Bootsnall: an amazing planning resource. While it tends to be angled at longer-term travel, that doesn’t matter. This is the gold standard and wildly useful.
  • World Travel Guide: online guide that offers information on what to do to before travelling, what to do while there, and even gives historical and cultural information.
  • Wild Junket: a step-by-step process that shows you exactly what you have to do to end up with a travel budget.
  • Maphappy: this article shows you how to prioritize high-ticket items and isn’t aimed at the backpacker crowd.

Travel Budgeter

Where do I begin with planning a round the world trip?

The first thing to figure out would be how to finance it. No money, no travel.

Taking a trip around the world is not something that just happens to you. You have to be the one to make it happen. I have searched far and wide on Google and travel forums to find any tricks and tips to bring in extra dough. The truth is, you have to be willing to put in that extra work. You have to be willing to work an extra job or do other things that bring in cash. There is no ‘easy way’ as much as I have wanted there to be. Here is what I’m doing to save and my idea of how much a trip like this will cost.

So how am I saving money?

  1. Working Two Jobs

For the past 10 months I have been working two jobs, averaging 65 hrs. a week. I’m a private Nanny for a family in Chicago and on Saturday and Sunday I serve at a brunch restaurant downtown. Working two jobs has not been glamorous but it has been vital a necessary to get me out of debt and has allowed me to be independently financially stable for the first time in my life. Believe me, I’m exhausted most of the time, but I power through. One thing that is helpful is that I have a lot of friends at my serving job. Working with friends makes the time go by much faster and gives you more of a reason to go to work than just for the money. My suggestion is, if you have to get a second job to help finance your life or travel try to make friends there or try to get a job at a place a current friend works. Even though I have worked 50 hrs. already by Friday night, I don’t really mind getting up a little early on the weekends to see/hang out with friends and make some money. Thankfully, my weekend gig is understanding of my work schedule. Of course, there are days where I need a day off for my sanity. For this reason, I have asked the restaurant to only schedule me if needed. I still work every weekend but might be the first one sent home if its slow or they sometimes will only schedule me for one day a week, but that’s rare. Additionally, if I try to trade shifts or request off with short notice, they try to accommodate me. I’m very grateful for the flexibility and it’s one the reasons I’ve been able to keep up both jobs. Having two incomes has been vital to making this possible and has taught me a lot about good work ethic. I can’t even begin to describe how rewarding and comforting it is to know that I’m doing something every day to earn money.

  1. Using a money saving app

One way I’m also saving money is by using an app on my phone called Qapital. It’s a money saving app that saves money for you according to rules you have set up for your bank account. You can also set multiple goals to work toward and have different rules for each goal to save money. I personally have goals titled ‘Get Outta Here,’ ‘Emergency Funds,’ and ‘Travel Gear.’ I have different goal amounts for each one and rules for saving money. Your rules basically move money into a saving account based on your bank account activity. For example, every time I order Pizza Hut, my Qapital app moves $10 into my savings account called ‘Get Outta Here’ because I bought a ‘guilty pleasure.’ This is one of many modifiable rules within the app to help you save. The savings and transfers are automatic as long as your bank account shows at least $100 in it. I’ve been saving a lot of money with the app because you set and forget the rules and it forces you to save.

  1. Trying not to spend money on unnecessary things.

This is obvious. Everyone has different things they do to try to cut back on spending. It will never be the same for anyone. This also won’t be applicable to everyone because not everyone spends money on unnecessary things. Some people just don’t have money to spend in general. Fortunately I’m at a point in my life where there are unnecessary things I spend money on occasionally, that I can cut out of my budget.I have no hard or fast rule for trying not to spend. What I’ve been doing is taking a day to think about what I want to buy or only bringing a certain amount of cash with me if I go out or shopping, etc.

  1. Selling stuff

Fortunately, I live a block from Plato’s Closet. I’ve been consistently taking old clothes there to earn extra cash and have been buying my clothes there as well. I’ve also listed things on craigslist and Facebook Marketplace.

How much do I have to save?

My current goal is to have $2,000 USD saved before traveling. This number might change as I continue to research. My goal amount for the entire trip is to keep it below $17,000 USD. Meaning each day on average will cost an average of $50 a day. There will be some days that are more expensive than others and there will also be days where I won’t have to pay for accommodation (i.e. WorkAway, volunteering).

Why is my savings goal so low?

  1. Remote work

Well, I’m hoping to be able to work remotely from my computer while traveling. While searching through the Girl LOVE Travel Facebook group I came across a recommendation to teach English via video chat. The company is called VIPKid and pays between $14-$22 per hr. I have signed up but still have to schedule my video interview. My thought is, that if I can work remotely, I can finance the trip with that income while also having my savings to fall back on

  1. Earning amount > Cost of living while traveling

If I average 25 hrs. per week with this job, I will be bringing in approx. $350 USD weekly and that’s low-balling my income potential. So if I make $350 per week or $1,400 per month I believe I can comfortably get by. Again, that’s if I low-ball my earning potential. It’s also important to remember that while traveling I will not be responsible for rent or any bill other than my student loan payment, which is what makes this earning amount doable.

  1. Working for Accommodation

I’m also not planning on having to pay for all my accommodation. While researching, I found a site called Workaways.com. The goal of the site is to connect travelers to people or organizations that will host people in exchange for work. The type of work varies, and includes farming, house work, or immersive volunteer opportunities that allow you to learn about a subject or an injustice. There are Workaways in almost every country! This site will be vital when I’m planning my trip. Not only will I receive accommodation and save money, but I will be able to interact with locals, and volunteer my time to a worthy cause.

Sounds good on paper…

Hopefully this pans out in real life…

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