Passport: You must have a current passport; give the passport process plenty of time. The Netherlands requires your passport have two blank pages for stamps. Currently, for US citizens, The Netherlands does not require a visa for short visits, but you should check requirements for updates.
Lodging: We’re staying at The Student Hotel Amsterdam City, Wibautstraat 129, 1091 GL Amsterdam, Netherlands, phone +31 20 214 9999. Note: do not confuse this with their Amsterdam West location.
Hotel services: Self-serv laundry, €3.50 per wash and €1.50 per dry, including detergent. Iron & ironing board. Fitness room. Bike rental €9/day (you’ll need to rent at least two days for class activities).
What to pack: Walking shoes are critical; bring something with support. Weather will be fairly cool, highs only in the mid-70s, lows in the 50s, so you’ll want something a tad warmer, esp. at night (e.g., long pants/skirt, long-sleeve shirt). In can be windy, and there’s always a chance of a shower (a light rain jacket is fine). We’ve been invited out to a dinner club; for that, you should wear something nice but still casual (e.g., I’m bringing a light sportcoat, but no tie). You can do laundry, but you probably won’t want to do that more than once. Pack sunscreen and any medications/supplements you need (keep all meds in their original bottles).
Print/copy: Copy down all your credit card information and keep that separate, incase it gets stolen. Carry photocopies of your passport and leave the real one hidden in your hotel room.
Air travel: You’ll need to fly Monday June 19 (there are many overnight flights from the US east coast) to arrive before 8:00 am Tuesday June 20 at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. To start your Dutch experience early, you might try KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (though it’s now owned by Air France).
Meet up: We’ll meet in Schiphol Airport at The Meeting Point (aka, The Cube) at 8:00 am (maybe earlier if all our flights are in by then). We’ll then buy one-use OV-chip cards (kiosks in station, about €5) and travel together to the hotel.
If you miss the group meetup: Take an NS train—the Sprinter or the Intercity—to any of these stops: Duivendrecht, Amserdam-Zuid, Amsterdam RAI, or Amsterdam Arena station. Then transfer to GVB line M51 or M54 (tds Centraal), and get off at Wibautstraat, right in front of The Student Hotel Amsterdam City. This should take under 30 minutes. Transfers are free, but always swipe your OV-chip card in and out (like on DC Metro) on each train, bus, metro, or tram, even when transferring (fines can incur otherwise). Here’s some info on transfers. If your transfer doesn’t work, you can use your Iamsterdam card (after I give it to you) for the Metro; it’s covered.
Other options: The Connexxion Schiphol Hotel Shuttle is €17 one-way (€27 round-trip) and takes you directly to The Student Hotel Amsterdam City (remember: not their West location; you want City.) A taxi will cost you €40-€50; use only licensed taxis—see taxi details here. GW prohibits students from using Lyft, Uber, or other ride-shares while abroad in this course.
Note: all other public transportation—except your return trip to the airport & the side trip to Utrecht—is covered on your Iamsterdam card, part of your GW package (make sure to save cash for your return to the airport).
Money: You can buy Euros at the Schiphol Airport once in Amsterdam, but you may want some on hand when you arrive. In the US, you can buy Euros at AAA offices and many banks (call first and ask about fees). Read advice here on where to exchange money in Amsterdam: http://www.dutchamsterdam.nl/160-amsterdam-currency-exchange. Our Amsterdam Itinerary (Weeks 5-6) indicates when you’ll need cash to pay for some items; otherwise I cover it from your GW fees. Many places take credit cards, but many don’t! Credit cards can charge conversion fees for cash advances; some offer international cards with no conversion fees. Call to find out.
Safety: While Amsterdam is a friendly and manageable city, there are places you probably don’t want to go alone at night. Exercise normal awareness and always travel with at least one classmate. In case of any emergency separating us while we are out on a field trip, call/text me and at least one peer, and regroup back at The Student Hotel lobby. If that location is not safe, meet in front of Albert Heijn supermarket just north of the hotel at Wibautstraat 80. Also: watch out for pickpockets.
Phone numbers: You’re probably best buying a Dutch SIM card, but make sure your phone is unlocked before you go (you’ll have to call your provider). More phone info here. I’ll have a new cell once I get a Dutch SIM card, but you can try my email. Put these numbers in your phone or write them down: Amsterdam police/fire/ambulance, call 112. Police non-emergency: 0900 8844. Emergency doctor on-call: 088 003 0600. The US Consulate General is at Museumplein 19, 1071 DJ Amsterdam; phone: 31-20-575-5309; emergency after-hours phone 31-70-310-2209.
Public transit & museum fees: your Iamsterdam card is included in the cultural package—it’s good for all public transportation (except to/from the airport) and most museum entries. Treat it like cash; it is non-refundable.
Fitness: We’ll be walking a lot and biking a bit. But otherwise: The hotel has a small gym. There are good running routes nearby–ask at the hotel desk; they may have a map. Swim laps at Flevoparkbad, an outdoor pool in a beautiful park, M-F 6:30-9:30 am & M-Th 6-10 pm; you have to join the Association for €10 +€33.50 for a 12-pack swim ticket, cash or credit card at the front desk: Insulindeweg 1002, 1095 DH Amsterdam: walk to Oosterpark & catch the 7 tram (or 37 bus) and get off at Flevopark (20 min.). Further away (35 min.) is Sportplaza Mercator, with lap swim indoor & outdoor M-Th 7:00-9:00 am and other times, €6 each entry. Both pools also have open recreational swim times as well (no membership needed).