While I am continually amazed at the history, architecture, and beauty of Amsterdam (this is my fifth trip to the city), February is not the nicest time to visit. And since no one else would think of going to Amsterdam this time of year, they scheduled one of the biggest shows in the tech industry, drawing in 45,000 of us to stimulate the economy. Here’s a quick guide on surviving the cold, traffic, bicyclists, and more, if you’re headed to Integrated Systems Europe, February 4-6.
Prepping for Weather
Bring warm and windproof clothing. If you don’t, the North Sea wind and rain will make you feel like you took the polar bear plunge. If we’re lucky, it won’t rain. Even without soaking rain, temperatures will be cold enough to have you jogging to and from the RAI. It’s very possible that Amsterdam will have the coldest and most humid winds on record. Also consider bringing a sun lamp or some vitamin D, as the sun comes up around 8:15 a.m. and sets around 5:00 p.m.
Navigating Schiphol Airport
Schiphol is a great airport. It’s the fourteenth busiest in the world, is 11 feet below sea level, and is a hub for both KLM and Delta. Navigate the International Terminal once, and you’ll have it down for a lifetime. Get there early the Friday morning after the show to allow for longer customs lines. Also, make sure to eat and drink your water before you get to the gate. Once they do security screening, no concessions are available, and you aren’t allowed to take water in. Last year, the airport added a filtered water station in the boarding area, which was a welcome addition.
Avoid Jet Lag
Jet lag stinks, but what can you do? For one, keep hydrated on the plane and stretch your lower legs—they will love you for it. If you arrive during the day, don’t nap. I’ve found that it negatively affects my sleeping pattern for the entirety of the trip. For example, even though I get into Amsterdam this year at 8:00 a.m., I won’t go to sleep until a normal bedtime.
Bring no less than 200 euro, and exchange your dollars for euro at a bank in the U.S., not a mall or airport, which will gouge you with fees.
As much as I like the Dutch, their food is only slightly less bland than the British (though according to a recent study, it’s the freshest and healthiest on earth). There are two exceptions: chocolate and cheese. The Dutch have those down pat. When it’s time for a bite, seek out ethnic food, which is everywhere. There are some great Italian and Thai places, as well as several exquisite steakhouses.
Don’t be surprised to see Mercedes, Infinity, and Renault cabs on the street. While cab models are nice, most smell like the cigarette the cabbie just put out, and they can add up. Be prepared to pay 60 euro from Schiphol to your hotel. From the RAI to dinner during rush hour will cost 20 to 30 euro. Not all cabbies take credit cards, and the ones that do will let you know they prefer not to via their body language and heavy sighs. They also don’t carry a lot of change, so you have a variety of bills and coins on hand. Finally, you will find that most drivers have a lot of disdain for bicyclists, and will voice their opinion with colorful phrases and driving maneuvers.
If you plan on taking one of the ISE busses to the RAI, catch an early one. Rush hour is terrible, so you’ll need the extra time. Long lines after the show mean it will take a while to get a bus (or cab).
The Dutch are especially nice people and will help you find your way when you turn down the wrong street. (This is very helpful if you have been drinking with them at one of the quaint little bars around every corner.) The majority of people speak both English and Dutch, which also makes things easier. Most people in Amsterdam get around on bikes and will not stop for you if you happen to wander into their path. So look out!
With these travel tips under your belt, we hope you make it safely to Amsterdam and, more specifically, to the RAI. We look forward to seeing you at the Home Cinema Europe stand # 1-N53. Stop by for a demo of the ultimate home theatre and a cappuccino!
John Milton is director of sales for BitWise Controls.