Because I live here, I do not notice street dealers. I don’t know if it is because I do not get approached by them or I subconsciously ignore them.
I do remember I once visited Amsterdam before it became my home in 2012 and there was a person randomly whispering ‘coke, coke’ in my direction.
So I know street dealers are a thing, but I didn’t know they are a serious problem for Amsterdam and its tourists until last year.
How big is the drug dealer problem?
Amsterdam is often associated with drugs by foreigners, there are many coffee shops and hard drugs are easy to find. Even when you don’t really want to find it apparently.
The people who live in the Red Light District can easily point out the street dealers and for months in the city huge warning signs were put up for tourists. Someone was dealing white heroine on the side walks instead of cocaine and it got people killed.
So I guess it is safe to say street dealers have become a big problem. And according to the neigbors and appearing street signs, they still are.
Amsterdammers about street dealers
The locals seem to never be bothered by the aspirin, heroin or detergent selling guys. ‘I know who they are, but I think they don’t bother me because they see I am not a tourist’ Nadia explains. She lives in the east, but works in the city center. ‘I have seen the signs everywhere, I believe that’s a good way to warn oblivious tourists who believe Amsterdam is a Sodom and Gomorrah kind of place.’
Thomas knows street dealers are mostly found on the bridges, saying ‘pssst’. ‘I live right there so I see them from my window. Amsterdam is more than drugs, maybe the tourists shouldn’t come here for it. If they make stupid choices and buy drugs from strangers, it is their own responsibility. I hope the signs and stickers help though.’
What can you do against Amsterdam street dealers?
So if it is difficult to recognize them and they only approach tourists, there must be some way you can pretend to be an Amsterdammer to avoid the whole street dealer ordeal. So here are some tips:
- Try to blend in and don’t look too much like a tourist, so leave your camera out of sight.
- Look confident, not like you’ve lost your way. Pretend you know where you’re going even if you don’t. Especially in this area.
- Have some keys in your hand, as if you live nearby and need to open your bike or front door.
- Try to ignore that ‘stereotype guy’ with his hoodie who comes up to you, the old man walking his dog is not a threat 😉
- Keep away from the dark and empty side alleys, stay on the main streets so they can’t harass you.
- Stay sober enough to make sensible choices or have someone with you who can do this for you.
- If you do decide to buy some from the street, have it tested before you use it.
- Remember: even though weed is ‘legal-ish’ in Amsterdam, other drugs are not.