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In Amsrerdam...feeling overwhelmed..

Hello all,
Female, early 50's, traveling alone. Arrived a short bit ago.
Staying near Jordaan district.
Feeling a bit overwhelmed. As I got lost just getting from bus to apartment. Ugh!
Any advice/thoughts/suggestions?
Thank you!

Posted by
1352 posts

We've felt overwhelmed in Amsterdam as a couple so I totally get it. My advice is slow down. Most big cities people are moving fast to get to/from. Just force yourself to slowdown. Sit down and people watch. Take time to look at a map without feeling self conscious about it. Try to find a site that would not be too crowded - possibly a church where you can sit and enjoy the peace (I loved the church in the attic). We are going to Amsterdam for the 3rd time next month, and I also have this concern. The first time we went we stayed in Haarlem and it was much better, but too late for that now:(. Go to Winkel 43, sit and enjoy a slice of apple pie:)

Posted by
5934 posts

Amsterdam is not one of Europe’s larger cities but I got confused when ever I left our hotel. Maybe it was the canals, not sure, but I still loved it. Perhaps if had your hotel book you a walking tour, you would get your bearings. I think that would be helpful. Best wishes and I hope you are able enjoy Amsterdam.

Posted by
27 posts

Thank you! I'm staying at an Airbnb. Lovely folks, but now I realize that's not such a good idea traveling solo and not staying close to center in a city such as this.
Again! I'm off to take a walk and I'm sure I'll get lost.

Posted by
9454 posts

I have to admit that in some cities -- Amsterdam being one -- I found GPS on my phone invaluable. Is that an option for you? Helped me get my bearings.

Posted by
1804 posts

We always look for landmarks, and in Amsterdam, the easiest for us was the tall tower of the Westerkerk (adjacent to the Anne Frank house). It's located on the Prinsengracht canal -- one of the four main canals, which are laid out in half-circles around the city center. Whenever we got lost, we'd either look for (or ask for directions to) the Westerkerk. Since you're in Jordaan, I'd guess the Westerkerk is visible to you, but if not, pick something else on a main canal. And then figure out how to get to your apartment from that landmark.

Are you staying in an Airbnb? Is your host available to spend a few minutes with you and a map, and maybe a short walk outside, to orient you? If not, a walking tour is a brilliant idea.

And for next time, consider taking a taxi to your apartment when first arriving. We used to try to find our hotel/b&b on our own, but when we're tired from traveling, that can be so frustrating and made us feel overwhelmed from the start. Although after a good night's sleep, a fresh eye on the maps and guidebooks, we always recovered. And you will too.

Posted by
17145 posts

Aside from the fact that you're dealing with a street plan that is innately confusing, if this is your arrival day after a transatlantic flight, just remaining awake is a victory. Navigational skills are not to be expected.

Posted by
3340 posts

Sounds like you need a map and a nap.

I'm assuming you have wi-fi in your apartment. Have you tried using Google Maps to find ways to walk, take public transportation, etc.? I found Google Maps to be the best for finding my way around Rome and Venice last summer.

I do not use data when I travel. With wi-fi I use the directions option to find out how to get from where I am to where I want to go. I make written notes.

Next month I'll be using a combination of Google Maps, the RS Pocket Amsterdam book and an old (2011) Streetwise Amsterdam map. Based on my Italian experience, I bet I'll use Google Maps the most.

Having said that, I'm sure you can find a map of the city. I do find an advantage to seeing the big picture as opposed the the small bit you see on a phone screen. You can probably get a transport map when you buy transit tickets.

Personally, I don't mind getting lost. It gives me a chance to ask for help. BTW, I'm 72 and will be traveling solo.

Posted by
17 posts

If I'm not on a tight itinerary, I find getting that getting lost in a new city can be a rewarding part of the travel experience. If you are used to navigating a strict grid layout, cities like Amsterdam, Venice, etc. can be very disorienting and confusing. It can be overwhelming if you let it get to you...but if you try to embrace getting lost as part of the adventure, you just might stumble across something really neat that you might have missed if you stick to the one path you know and feel safe on. Of course, do be aware of your surroundings and be aware of any seedier areas of cities (to potentially avoid) when exploring.

A general thought to orient yourself with your immediate surroundings in a new city: walk around the block once in each direction, making note of stores, signs, landmarks, etc. A quick look at a map before starting should show whether a circuit of right turns and/or left turns will get you back to your apartment. If possible, do the trip once each way so you familiarize yourself with how things look when approaching from different directions. A little repetition should help get your bearings in the direct vicinity of where you are staying.

Hope this helps! Enjoy the freedom of your solo travels!

Posted by
920 posts

OP, I’ve been like this and sometimes asrtment stays can be lonely for solo travelers as theirs no front desk or people to ask. Regarding getting lost, as I’m also directionally challenged I usually try to find a landmark, whether building or strange named shop, where I know how to get back from. Also you are probably jet lagged- sleep can do wonders. I also feel a little lost traveling to new cities alone and have wondered why I came. It will pass

Posted by
286 posts

Here’s another recommendation for Google Maps. I’m in Amsterdam right now (also an older female solo traveler) leaving tomorrow, and I use Google Maps for just about everything. Trams, buses, walking. It’s 10 times better than the app 9292 for figuring out public transportation. Just do a search for the place you want to go to, click on Directions, then click on the little bus icon for public transportation. It will take you from your current location and show you exactly what tram or bus or metro vehicle you need to get on, how long it will take you to get there, and show you a map for when you have to walk. It has never failed me.

For what it’s worth, I am staying in an outlying area as well – the De Pijp neighborhood and I’ve not had any problems.

Posted by
27 posts

Wow! You guys are great. Someone else told me to just wander and do get lost.
I have taken screen shots of directions. I have a map. But alas, everything looks the same. I'm actually travel weary as I am coming from Brussels via Paris- trains delayed by hours.
I found a restaurant. A market. And my way back. After asking 7 people for directions.
Thanks so much!

Posted by
286 posts

One other thing. I don’t know if you will read this in time, but if you would like to meet someplace tomorrow in the center, I would be happy to meet up with you and show you some tips about public transport, and using GPS on your phone, etc. If you don’t have GPS on your phone, I can show you some other ways to get around.

I have to leave for the airport about 3 PM but will be around all morning until then. If you get this in time and want to do this, send an email to mardee (at) gmail.com.

Posted by
27 posts

Hi Mardee!
I got your message thanks!!
I'm not quite sure I'll be able to. I am visiting the Anne Frank House at 10:30. I don't want to schedule a meet up then not be able to meet you.
You are so wonderfully kind and thoughtful!
Thank you!

Posted by
1878 posts

Don't panic, it's normal to be disoriented when arriving in a new city. Many is the time when I have gotten all frustrated myself upon first arrival and say, I hate this place. A day or two later once I have learned the ropes, it's "I love this place." Slow down, get plenty of rest. Use your smarts and not your feet when in doubt. Spend thirty seconds more thinking about which way to go rather than wasting 1,000 steps by heading in the wrong direction. (Easy for me to say, I break this rule all the time). Get a good map and use it. I am really good at reading maps but I make mistakes all the time, so be patient with yourself. I have never been to Amsterdam but I am pretty sure people speak great English there. Don't hesitate to ask for help. A solo traveler it's especially important to not get distracted, pay attention to your surroundings, and be mindful in the moment. There is no travel partner to tell you you are going the wrong way, so it is a bit of extra pressure. There is plenty of upside to traveling solo as well though, enjoy! Reading your follow up post I see you have already figured a lot of this out yourself, well done!

Posted by
996 posts

I see that others have given you great advice. Let yourself get lost. And you said you're taking photos of landmarks to help you navigate your return, right?

I've yet to visit Amsterdam, but I have been lost in every city - no exceptions - that I've ever visited. It always happens, at least once a trip. I used to panic about this. Now I have come to accept that it's part of the travel process for me. Some of my best trip memories have been while I was lost in [fill in any city here]. And even when there have been huge language barriers, I have always made it safely back to my hotel.

-- I have discovered wonderful restaurants while lost and tired and hungry.
-- I have met incredible locals while wandering.
-- I have discovered wonderful photo ops and scenic views.
-- And if all else fails, I tell myself that I've seen more of [wherever I am] than the average tourist. ;-)

I am sorry that your arrival was so overwhelming. Tomorrow will be better! Enjoy your trip!!!

Posted by
286 posts

CTB, no worries - and enjoy the Anne Frank house. I certainly did – it’s a very emotional experience. One place you might enjoy is a café called De taart van m'n tante (The Cake of my Aunt). They have the most delicious cakes there, along with wonderful tea and coffee. And the decor is very charming. I’ve gone there twice now and it’s a nice place to get away from the bustle and just relax. http://www.detaart.com/

To get there, you can take tram 4 from Centraal to the Marie Heinekenplein stop (5 stops). When you get off the tram, the shop is right there on the side across from the square.

One thing I wanted to mention. The customer service in Amsterdam is different than what we are used to in the states - especially in places outside of the more touristed sections. So you may sit there at a table for a while and no one will come over to ask you what you want. Not always, but in some cases. If that happens, just get up and find somebody and ask them if you can be helped.

Posted by
1773 posts

Stop after a block or two and turn around to see what it will look like on the way back. After a few days you'll have it figured out. Take a bike tour North of the city. They've had great weather lately!

Posted by
1803 posts

If I'm in an unfamiliar city, I'll use the GPS on my phone - but do bring a backup portable charger with you if you are going to rely on that because I've worn my battery down and had to top it off while on the go. Failing having a portable charger, at least bring your charging cord and you can often find a place to plug in your phone while having lunch or a coffee.

Other methods I've used are to develop some semblance of a sightseeing plan for the next day. Then the night before at the hotel I will study Google street maps and make notes on the directions in a small notebook - what streets am I walking on, turning on, etc. what landmarks, retail stores or restaurants am I going to be passing (so I know I'm heading in the right direction), where are the nearest public transit stops to where I am headed, etc.

Amsterdam is pretty compact, you'll get it down in a day or so.

Posted by
484 posts

Please know that I/we have traveled and lived so many places around the world and we got in a big fight in amsterdam, because we disagreed what way to go back to our ab & b. A very lovely gentleman(btw who was a very very tall man) offered to help us.
You are not alone!

Posted by
7 posts

Based on my experience, I suggest you Uber to a site you want to see and then work your way back, knowing you can uber if necessary. An afternoon at the Rijksmuseum is also a centering experience. With Uber, language isn’t essential to get where you want to go, and you can watch on the app and learn your way around.

Posted by
2109 posts

Some cities just take more effort to get familiar with--for me, Prague was difficult, couldn't find things with my map for a few days. Then it was time to go home. Amsterdam was easy, though I stayed near the Museumplein. If I find myself out and about somewhere and just overwhelmed--by whatever, logistics, too many people, etc--I find a place to sit and readjust my mental state and/or orient myself with my map. There's getting pleasantly lost, and then there's annoyingly lost--that's when I start asking for directions.

Posted by
1169 posts

Hope you had a wonderful time! How did it go, your solo stay in Amsterdam? Did you like the city, enjoy the museums, find nice places to have a meal? Were you able to find your way around? Did you go on any day trips and if so where? Hope to go to Amsterdam in the future and may go solo, so very interested in your thoughts and experiences and suggestions.

All the best,
Ann

Posted by
27 posts

Hello all,

I'm so sorry for the late reply. Just wanted to update.
You all gave such wonderful sound advice. A lovely lady at the Anne Frank house gave me a terrific map. She had asked how I was getting around the area and I told her I was trying to find my way and figure things out. She was super nice and gave me an excellent map. It did not take long to figure out the lay of the land! Maps are your friends! Oh, and I used landmarks as well (I stayed in the Jordaan area).

I would sit, have a bit of chocolate and some water, and just take a moment.

Amsterdam is a beautiful place. Lovely folks. I had some great meals. I also found this great dive bar- it was later afternoon and I was a bit tired and needing an adult beverage. Stumbled upon the bar playing Steely Dan so I stopped and had a local dark beer. Sat at the bar and enjoyed the warm weather, my beer, and Steely Dan. Bartender was terrific.
Before leaving the US I had purchased an I Amsterdam card which I picked up at the train station upon arrival. This is an excellent way to go as it covers many museums and transportation. No fumbling with money etc.
A bit of advice- I stayed away from Dam square except to go to the World Press Photo exhibit at Nieuwe Kirk and another museum. That area is insanely crowded with tourists!
I hope to go back one day!
And thank you all for your wonderful ideas, thoughts, tips, etc.
Candace

Posted by
2491 posts

For future reference, in a new place, make sure you have enough money stashed in a safe place(money belt) to taxi back to your hotel if necessary. Find out from your hotel how to call a taxi if you can't find one. In a new place, taxis can be your friend-accept that you may need to spend the money instead of using cheaper forms of transportation, such as your feet, bus, subway, tram. Be sure to carry the hotel's card with its address. Then you can enjoy being lost/wandering without fear.